The city of Huntington Beach has formally started its charter revision process after a commission—formed to research how the city’s charter can be changed—recently met for the first time.
A city charter is essentially the municipality’s own constitution that lays out the fundamental governing structure and other principles that the city functions on, allowing them to have greater local authority. If a city doesn’t have a charter, it must follow California’s general law.
Huntington Beach’s charter has a provision that says the city should generally review the charter every 10 years. The city is overdue by about two years on the matter.
This charter review was convened on Dec. 1 by Huntington Beach Councilman Mike Posey, who said the city should review its process for replacing councilmembers after the council voted to appoint Councilwoman Rhonda Bolton following former Mayor Pro Tem Tito Ortiz’s resignation. Bolton’s appointment was in lieu of holding a special election or appointing the runner-up from the 2020 election, Gracey Van Der Mark.
Many Huntington Beach residents are concerned about the charter review, though, with some wondering if the council will try to change the city attorney from being elected to appointed, due to current City Attorney Michael Gates being publicly at odds with the council on a variety of legal issues, such as fighting the state on high-density housing mandates.
“Gates obviously was pushing towards fighting the state on what we think are bad mandates for 13,000 units in town,” Mike Hoskinson, a former planning commissioner for the city, told The Epoch Times. “When [the council] had enough power, they were able to stop Michael Gates from fighting that fight, which we think he would have likely won because he’s got a tremendous record.
“[The council] doesn’t want a city attorney that will ever defend himself against what they do to him. Gates is nobody’s patsy. He’s a guy that I think he deeply cares about Huntington Beach, and he’s also a winner, and he’s there in opposition to the things they want to do to this town.”
Posey said it’s not his intention to change how the city attorney is elected.
“The city attorney election is not even on my radar,” Posey told The Epoch Times. “I don’t care if the attorney is elected or not. I can tell you this, we’re the only city in Orange County with an elected attorney. The other 33 cities don’t have an elected attorney. But that’s not my motivation. I don’t care if he’s elected or not.”
He noted that when he attempted to convene a charter review two years ago, his two main changes were that the city holds a special election when a councilmember resigns and that there should be stricter term limits imposed on councilmembers.
“I convened the charter Review Commission because the charter prescribes it be done. And the two things I wanted done didn’t happen, and if they had happened like I wanted two years ago, you wouldn’t have Rhonda Bolton for 3 1/2 years,” he said.
Ultimately, the council has to approve all changes the commission recommends. If approved, all changes will be put on the ballot for residents to decide.