Huntington Beach City Council candidates talk business at forum – Los Angeles Times

Huntington Beach City Council candidates talk business at forum – Los Angeles Times

A grandfather, Ken Inouye, who has lived in Huntington Beach for nearly five decades, sat in the middle of the stage on Wednesday night.

A few seats to Inouye’s left sat a student, Gabrielle Samiy, who plays basketball at Orange Coast College.

This year’s Huntington Beach City Council race has certainly brought a wide variety of ages, experiences and viewpoints with its 18 candidates.

Sixteen of them attended a forum at the Senior Center on Wednesday night, put on by the Chamber of Commerce. Questions largely related to business in the city.

David Clifford speaks during a Huntington Beach City Council candidates forum at the Senior Center on Wednesday.

David Clifford speaks during a Huntington Beach City Council candidates forum at the Senior Center on Wednesday.

(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The 100-minute forum, moderated by Sheik Sattaur, found commonalities and differences between the candidates, who are vying for four vacant seats this November. Only two, Jill Hardy and Billy O’Connell, have served on the council in the past.

The other candidates who attended include, in alphabetical order, Bobby Britton, Brian Burley, Pat Burns, Gina Clayton-Tarvin, David Clifford, Vera Fair, Amory Hanson, Casey McKeon, Oscar Rodriguez, Tony Strickland, Gracey Van Der Mark and Mike Vogler.

Most agreed that homelessness is a key issue that the city needs to address.

Gabrielle Samiy speaks during a Huntington Beach City Council candidates forum on Wednesday night.

Gabrielle Samiy speaks during a Huntington Beach City Council candidates forum on Wednesday night.

(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

“I pledge that if I’m elected, I’m going to work with the city attorney as an attorney myself to develop comprehensive municipal ordinances that are going to address this problem,” Vogler said. “I don’t want to intrude on anybody’s civil liberties or civil rights, but we do have to get serious about this. We don’t want Huntington Beach to become Venice Beach.”

Crime was an issue that seemed related to homelessness to some, including Burns, who worked as a police officer in Long Beach for 30 years. Burns, Van Der Mark, McKeon and Strickland have been campaigning together to try to capture the four open spots on the dais.

McKeon noted that some businesses flee to neighboring cities that offer fewer restrictions.

“We bleed sales tax dollars to other cities,” McKeon said. “It’s unacceptable.”

A candidate gets a 10-second warning during a Huntington Beach City Council candidates forum.

A candidate gets a 10-seconds warning during the Huntington Beach City Council candidates forum on Wednesday.

(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Clayton-Tarvin identified inflation as a major issue, not just nationwide but specifically in Surf City. As the Ocean View School District Board of Trustees president, she has seen the realities of the economy firsthand.

“We’ve seen our construction costs for rebuilding our schools through Measure R literally triple,” she said. “It is damaging the school district and it’s damaging Huntington Beach.”

Samiy said she has seen labor issues firsthand as an employee at a local hotel.

“I have discussed with a couple of businesses what they feel the issues are, and a huge one is labor, especially in this post-COVID economy where no one wants to go back to work,” she said. “I work at Hyatt Hotel in Huntington Beach, one of our most beautiful hotels. They are paying the most minimum job $22 per hour, and they can’t get anyone that would want to work right now.”

Jill Hardy speaks during a Huntington Beach City Council candidates forum at the Huntington Beach Senior Center on Wednesday.

Jill Hardy speaks during a Huntington Beach City Council candidates forum at the Huntington Beach Senior Center on Wednesday night.

(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Sattaur also asked the candidates about industry sectors the city should pursue, beyond tourism and car sales revenue.

Fair and Clifford pointed out that the population of Huntington Beach is aging, making medical services even more vital.

“I think we need to bring closer-to-home medical care to our seniors,” said Clifford, a business owner in the transportation industry. “Those are more high-paying jobs. I also agree with Brian that we need more manufacturing, bringing in good blue collar high-paying jobs.”

A crowd listens during a Huntington Beach City Council candidates forum on Wednesday in Huntington Beach.

A crowd listens during a Huntington Beach City Council candidates forum on Wednesday in Huntington Beach.

(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

O’Connell said revitalizing downtown Huntington Beach is important.

“Families do not want to go to downtown Huntington Beach,” he said. “We’ve got to invest. I’m all about free and fair trade, but when you don’t have free and fair trade, we have to step up and support small business and American workers. If we don’t start encouraging our supply chains from being overseas to come back into the United States, that’s going to be a huge challenge in the future.”

Strickland, a former state Assemblyman and state senator, said he will listen to community input if he is voted onto Council.

“God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason,” he said.

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