Huntington Beach Off & On Again Heritage Events
By Dianne Anderson
Plans to stop Black History Month, Hispanic heritage, Women’s heritage, Pride and other heritage events went over like a lead balloon recently when Huntington Beach city council voted 4-3 to shift official celebrations to its other accomplishments, like the Revolutionary War and discovery of oil.
Under community pressure, the city has since reneged its stance. Cultural heritage events are on again – for now.
As the city rethinks its policy, that kind of waffling holds other concerns for Councilmember Rhonda Bolton, who voted along with Councilmembers Natalie Moser and Dan Kalmick to keep the city’s heritage events. She said the city is breaking rules and regulations that all cities must follow.
The city’s sudden move to make heritage events on again after the majority council voted it off was followed by a press release, which she said is not the correct way to reverse council action.
“The reason why they can’t backpedal on this in the way they’re trying to do is this has to be done by council action. It has to be re-agendized. They need to explain what they’re trying to do so everyone can see it in an open meeting,” said Bolton, a former Congressional policy adviser, and civil rights attorney.
After the December 19 majority council decision, she said councilmembers received a draft press release stating the city was not going to block the previous formal celebrations, but that everything was back to normal.
She said it was erroneous information, and that the Brown Act requires the council to consider the item, and take another vote on it.
The city is also proposing an oversight committee to develop ideas for the 2025 calendar of events that she said are not clearly defined. She is concerned the committee would repeal heritage themes that the city currently observes, and substitute it with a list of new themes.
So far, several city citizen committees have been dissolved, including the Mobile Home Advisory Board, Human Relations Committee and Environmental & Sustainability Board, to name a few, with the city stating it didn’t have enough time, staff or budget.
But instead, Bolton said the majority council keeps adding on “other types” of activities.
In the past year, the city also approved a book-banning ordinance and board to determine what books can or can’t be purchased by the city’s libraries, which she said hasn’t seen any movement or next steps, to date.
“When they make some move to effectuate that, I believe we will immediately be hit by lawsuits. Clearly, it’s unconstitutional,” she said. “There seems to be their modus operandi – oh, we’ll just create a committee to provide us some political cover.”
The next council meeting is January 9.
“Legally they need to re-agendize the item, they will have to explain what it is they want to do,” she said. “If they don’t, then that’s the Brown Act. It’s a complaint someone can easily file.”
City Spokesperson, Jennifer Carey, said that the City’s plans for acknowledgment of Black History Month are still in the works for this year, as are content for all other tributes and events.
Similar to other city boards and commissions, she said that residents who want to participate in the oversight committee are invited to fill out an application, and will then be appointed and approved by the city council. The committee is expected to have between seven to nine members.
Residents can watch for updates to be published on the city’s website in the next one to two weeks.
“The overarching monthly celebration themes were determined for 2024 through the Council action, however, the committee will meet to make recommendations for these monthly celebrations for 2025. The committee will also make recommendations of other significant dates and acknowledgments for inclusion,” she said in an email.
After last month’s initial vote, Sen. Dave Min representing the 37th Senate District in Orange County, released his statement that diversity has been and always will be California’s strength.
“At a time when too many communities, especially in Huntington Beach, are feeling under attack, this proposal to try to cancel Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Pride Month and other heritage celebrations and replace them with a whitewashed revisionist history that unabashedly lionizes Big Oil and indulges Civil War nostalgia – is embarrassing and shameful,” he wrote on his Facebook.