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The following the first part of a series of excerpts from a wide ranging interview with Keith Bohr, the mayor of Huntington Beach, California, conducted by OC Voice editor John Earl last November.

Part One: Goals for the next year, New Urbanism and transportation.
Tomorrow: The proposed Poseidon desalination plant.

Q: Where do you want to lead the city and where do you see it going in the following year?

Mayor Keith Bohr, Huntington Beach, California

Mayor Keith Bohr, Huntington Beach, California. Photo/OC Voice

I will preface everything by saying that I am just one of seven. I can try to steer a little bit and set some tone but I need at least three others to agree with me.

When I came on the council it was about generating revenues. Of course, you should do everything you can to keep down costs, but with my background in development and with the city in redevelopment it’s about increasing your sales tax, your bed tax from the hotels and the property tax.

That goes to projects. So you look at the Strand [hotel]finishing here [in downtown] … You’re going to have the new retail stores. In the spring you will have the Strand Hotel, The TOT (transient occupancy or “bed” tax) to go along with the rest of the hotels that are operating now. [Get] Pacific City started again. You have 517 condos and the hotel, which is about 250 rooms, and the retail that goes along with that and restaurants.

Bella Terra Phase I has been completed since I’ve been on the council; we just approved Phase II, which they’re calling the Village at Bella Terra, which will be 700 units and about 140,000 square feet of retail.

We’re hoping to provide all the opportunities we can for people, including myself and my wife not to shop at Westminster Mall and South Coast Plaza and Fashion Island. So the more we do that the more we capture those tens of millions of dollars that leak out of Huntington Beach every year. And the extent that we can [we want to] provide something that nobody else has and that makes them come down to Huntington Beach and spend money. (more…)

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By JOHN EARL
OC Voice

Note: This article was originally published in the OC Voice Oct. 2007 print edition. It is reprinted here because it relates to Joe Shaw’s column about the banning of street signs by the Huntington Beach City Council. His column focused on the economic consequences, this article focuses on the related constitutional issues at they played  out in the city of Costa Mesa.  Also read Shaw’s column here.

Costa Mesa day laborers looking for work on street corners at two separate locations in the city, Placentia Avenue and 17th Street, and Placentia Avenue and Victoria Street, say that city police are routinely harassing them and making it difficult for them to find employment.

police-carAlmost without exception, workers at both corners who were interviewed by the OC Voice on three separate occasions during September claimed that police routinely—from once in a while to several times a week—approached them while they were standing on sidewalks or in parking lots and told them, sometimes without giving a reason, that they had to leave the area, sometimes threatening them with tickets or even arrest if they returned.

Costa Mesa Chief of Police Christopher Shawkey says that his officers are only enforcing a city ordinance that prohibits anyone from soliciting employment, commercial, or charitable transactions on public streets in a manner that distracts motorists and creates a potential safety hazard, and that prohibits the same types of solicitation in private parking lots where the owners have posted signs banning those activities. (more…)

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Part 3 of a series

By John Earl
OC Voice

Poseidon Resources Inc.’s website claims that the desalination plant it wants to build in southeast Huntington Beach, at Newland and Beach avenues, will be a “cost-effective solution to provide residents with a safe and reliable water supply by using existing structures—at no cost to taxpayers.”

NOT THE VIRGIN MARY: The OC Voice took this photo of the city's new seal and later noticed the mysterious man in the background.

NOT THE VIRGIN MARY: The OC Voice took this photo of the city's new seal and later noticed the mysterious man in the background.

Elected officials who voted to approve the desalination plant three years ago have consistently echoed Poseidon’s claim: Poseidon would privately own and operate the plant for its own profit and for its investors—a strictly free market affair with no taxpayer investment or risk, they said.

City council representative Don Hansen praised the project’s supposed free market values to a crowded city council chamber before he gave Poseidon his vote along with three other council members, Keith Bohr, Gil Coerper and Cathy Green.

“My belief is that the market is going to drive the majority of these decisions. I truly believe that,” Hansen said.

If the Poseidon desalination plant is not profitable, he added, it “will never see the light of day. And it’s purely born on private investment dollars, the risk that they [Poseidon] are going to take.”

In a candidates’ debate last year, Hansen warned that “We’re going to need the water” and reassured again that “It’s not us building the plant. It’s all private investment.”

If all goes well for Poseidon, its Huntington Beach plant will produce 50 million gallons of drinking water per day by sometime in 2011. It still needs to obtain additional government permits and must work out a franchise agreement with the city first.

Poseidon plans to build an almost identical desalination plant in the city of Carlsbad. That project is further along in the permit process and if financing comes through it could start construction this summer. Poseidon’s CEOs dream of building large desalination plants at other California coastal locations as well.

Hansen’s appeal to the free market instincts of the voters is persuasive in a city where the call for smaller government is almost a religious doctrine. But attributing either Poseidon project to to free-market karma is misleading because the company could benefit from as much as $1 billion in taxpayer supplied subsidies that would make it easier for Poseidon to attract the private sector financing that it also needs but still lacks in order to build and operate the two plants. (more…)

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By Daniel C. Tsang
Special to the OC Voice

IN RECENT years Orange County has become widely known via television and other media portrayals as “The OC,” promoting perceptions of a largely homogeneous and wealthy “white” populace.

UCI Library continues the exhibit through early May in the lobby of the Main Library.

UCI continues the exhibit through late Aprl in the lobby of the Langson (main) Library.

In reality, the county has experienced dramatic demographic change in recent decades, largely due to the impact of immigrants from all over the world.

A new UC Irvine Libraries exhibit, which opened Nov. 18, depicts the lives of immigrants in southern California, with a focus on Orange County, from the late 19th century to the present. Topics include the legacy of an often turbulent past, the changing face of the population, the contemporary debate about immigration, and issues affecting immigrant workers. The exhibit also highlights immigrants’ own stories, the plight of the undocumented, public policy issues, and the role of gender in migration. Numerous books and papers written by UCI faculty authors are included.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the state’s immigrant population increased fivefold between 1970 and 2006, from 1.8 million to 9.9 million, including those who were naturalized as U.S. citizens. Today one in four Californians is an immigrant, a higher proportion than in any other state. Most are from Latin America or Asia.

In researching materials from the UCI Libraries’ collections for the exhibit, which I am curating, I realized it was a need for foreign labor that led to the first wave of immigrants to the United States from China. Chinese farm workers were hired by German settlers in Anaheim who needed laborers to cultivate grapes on their vineyards in the mid-19th Century. Asian American Studies scholar Patricia Lin notes that the Chinese were not only “expert grape growers and pickers, but they were used extensively in the construction of irrigation ditches, wine cellars, and casks.” One hundred twenty-five Chinese would later work to extend the Southern Pacific Railroad line from Los Angeles to Anaheim in 1873 and to Santa Ana in 1877.

By the 1890s, after Orange County broke off from Los Angeles County (in 1888), anti-Chinese feelings were running high, and shacks belonging to Chinese celery workers were burned down, as was the building of the Earl Fruit Company. (more…)

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