Huntington Beach City Council members refused to discuss any charter amendments at their first special meeting called specifically to publicly talk about the changes to the charter on Thursday night. 

Some of those changes include potential voter ID laws in town – a move that some residents have heavily criticized. 

City staff gave a short presentation on how the charter works, and laid out a schedule for the meeting that included council discussion.  

“Council will discuss potential amendments, based on the feedback received,” staff wrote in their presentation, under a banner that said TONIGHT. 

Yet Mayor Tony Strickland insisted that there was never a plan to discuss any changes to the charter, and that this meeting was meant to be a “listening session,” and the rest of the meetings would be focused on discussions. 

“Next week, we’ll discuss in detail,” Strickland said. “That’s what we’re doing here.” 

Residents and the council’s Democratic minority disagreed. 

“I showed up to work tonight,” said Councilman Dan Kalmick. “You’re wasting the public’s time … we’re just going to have everyone come back next week?” 

City Clerk Robin Estanislau also publicly criticized Strickland, saying that the agenda clearly told residents they would have the chance to hear the council discuss the proposals. 

“The term on the agenda says discussion,” Estanislau said. “They were thinking you were going to have a meeting to discuss these items.” 

“That’s what I think the public expected tonight,” she concluded. 

Strickland insisted there was a “miscommunication,” between the city manager and city clerk’s office, and that he’d always intended for there to be no discussion on the first night. 

Councilman Casey McKeon also defended the council’s lack of discussion, insisting it would allow for greater public participation. 

“The goal is to maximize public participation,” McKeon said. “This is the intake meeting where we hear from all the residents.” 

Kalmick called for a vote to end the discussion on changing the charter altogether, but it failed to pass in a 3-3 vote, with Councilman Pat Burns absent from the meeting. 

The council’s next special meeting on the charter is scheduled for Thursday. 

Some of the suggested charter amendments include requiring voter ID and ballot box monitoring, which has drawn dozens of public commenters out to council meetings protesting the proposal. 

[Read: Huntington Moves to Ask Voters If They Want Ballot Box Monitors, Voter IDs

Most of the people who came out to Thursday night’s meeting pushed back on that proposal, questioning what problems it would fix and asking if it would mean the city has to run their own elections at the taxpayer’s expense, with many calling it “confusing, costly and unnecessary.”  

“Requiring voter ID will inevitably force the city to conduct its own election,” said resident Shammy Dee. “With Huntington Beach budget deficits projected well into the future, we simply don’t have that money to spend.” 

[Read: Surf City Hangs Onto Libraries After Public Outcry, Cuts $7 Million Elsewhere]

After learning the city council wouldn’t be commenting on any of the proposals, many people said they felt like they’d been duped, asking why they’d been given 90 seconds at the start and end of the meeting if nothing would be discussed. 

“You either mislead us or you had a very unprepared way of approaching this meeting. You had us split our discussion time into before and after with nothing in between. What was the point of doing that?” said David Rinerson. “You basically listened to us and said ‘that’s it, we’re done, let’s go home.’” 

“Frankly it’s a waste of time,” Rinerson continued. “You look like a bunch of junior high students conducting the meeting.” 

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at or on X @NBiesiada.


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