Kit Bobko watches as results roll in during the election on Tuesday night. Photo by Chelsea Schreiber
Politicians in Hermosa Beach were sent on a roller coaster ride after results for three open seats on the City Council started rolling in on November 5. Initial results placed newcomer and anti-oil activist Nanette Barragan firmly in first, while finance-focused Carolyn Petty, incumbent Jeff Duclos and second-time candidate Hany Fangary fought for the final two seats by razor thin margins. At one point Duclos, who in initial counts was in second, fell to fourth by a margin of only seven votes.
“This has been the screwiest election I’ve never seen,” said Duclos.
Petty was initially in third, but as precincts and provisional ballots were added to tallies, she eventually nudged her way to second.
“When I said before it’s going to be an emotional roller coaster, yes it’s going to be an emotional roller coaster – it’s crazy,” said Petty. “I think it’s amazing. We had a huge voter turnout. People participated in this election and it’s all good… It just goes to show every vote counts.”
After results were finalized, supporters of Duclos initiated a recount because of the minute margin of votes that ousted Duclos from the dais in the final hours. The recount at the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder County Clerk’s Office lasted one day of an expected three and was suspended after three of the five precincts were recounted – over 60 percent of the total ballots cast – and only a net change of one vote was recorded. According to Duclos’ campaign manager Larry Fox, who was involved in the recount, the process ended up costing $5,441.78. If the recount changed the results, the money would have been refunded. But since nothing changed, money was not returned.
“I’m glad it happened – it was important it happened,” said Duclos. “I think it wasn’t really about chasing a few votes here and there, it had to do with the integrity of the process and sort of this anomaly that is this election was.”
Local anti-nightlife activist Jim Lissner’s second initiative, Measure B, or “Quiet Nights,” which was intended to reduce bar hours in downtown Hermosa Beach by one to two hours over a five year period, was rejected as 72 percent of voters voting no.
“Most people I talked to said, ‘Hey, Hermosa Beach can be controlled with the law rather than taking away rights,’” said Ron Newman, Baja Sharkeez bar owner and anti-Measure B activist.
CPA Karen Nowicki beat 16-year former councilmember J.R. Reviczky by 1,103 votes with a final count of 2,578 for the recently vacated City Treasurer position. She will serve the remaining two years of the term vacated in May by David Cohn.
Sitting council member Kit Bobko – who was an outspoken, often controversial councilmember during his years on the dais – only received 13.54 percent of the votes while former Hermosa Beach Police Chief Greg Savelli received 11.42 percent. Former council member John Bowler came in last with only 958 votes, just 10.28 percent.
Nine Hermosa Beach City School Board candidates also competed in a close race for three open seats.
At the end of the night, first time candidate Mary Campbell led with 2,068 votes, or 20 percent of the vote.
Incumbent Carleen Beste gained 16.43 percent of the votes. Newcomer Margaret Bove-Lamnica clenched the third spot with 1,680 votes, or 16.41 percent.
Jim Caldwell trailed in fourth position with 1,404 votes while James Scott trailed with 1,168. Doug Gneiser received 1,135 votes and Seth Weiss and Michael Goodhue both earned less than 1,000 votes.
The school board will be comprised of all women. The city council, which was previously all men, will now have two woman sitting on the dais.
“I feel good,” Barragen said about her win the night of the election. “I’m proud of my campaign. I really got out there and talked to the residents, I couldn’t have done it without them. I worked hard, knocked on doors and asked them about their concerns and learned about what they were concerned about. That’s what really helped.”
No votes were cast for or against oil this year, but the issue clearly played a role in the election. Both incumbents who ran, Duclos and Bobko, refused to take a stance for or against oil in an attempt to remain impartial and honor the settlement agreement that brought E&B Natural Resources to town. Two of the challengers, Barragan and Fangary, ran campaigns explicitly opposing drilling.
Residents also were diligent regarding the prospective drilling project proposed by E&B — at one point uncovering unpermitted drilling activity that resulted in a violation and a fine. Local resident and founder of NoBPinHB Jeff Cohn in May collected video of the drilling and soon after sending a blast email with the YouTube video attached, phones started ringing at city hall.
“The city would never have caught this without us,” Cohn said. “I think basically what we need to do is to continue to be skeptical and ask the hard questions about why they didn’t follow the necessary steps because there’s a long history of circum venting processes that are in place to protect residents and people.”
E&B apologized for its actions and took full responsibility.
In late October, during a tense city council meeting, the Hermosa Beach City Council went a step further to be more transparent and voted to waive-attorney client privilege and release documents from a mock jury report that was used for the Mcpherson oil settlement in 2009.
“The mock jury trials have been referenced many times including at the State of the City,” said Stacy Armato, the resident who filed the public information request. “I was just trying to get it to be public record for the residents so they can look at it.”
During the meeting, Mayor Kit Bobko was accused of violating attorney-client privilege in May during his State of the City address by showing a powerpoint slide that announced that 25 out of 26 jurors who deliberated during the mock trial sided against the city, and the average jury verdict upon hearing the case was $254 million. At the time the mock jury information was not widely known.
“I’m perfectly happy to give this [information] up,” said Bobko during the meeting. “I’m dismayed that my colleagues that are looking to start a Watergate hearing don’t want to give up all the info. I say why not?”
Anti-oil activists had missteps as well. Cohn issued an apology in mid-October to E & B Natural Resources, after he mistakenly identified the company as owners of a downed rig in Huntington Beach.
Cohn sent a mass email naming E & B as the responsible party. E & B responded quickly and strongly, denying ownership and threatening Cohn with a lawsuit. E & B’s lobbying firm issued a press release “demanding the Hermosa Beach activist immediately retract blatant lies & false and defamatory public statements.”
After realizing his mistaken allegations, Cohn issued an apology.
In mid-December a citizens group presented financial findings indicating that contrary to popular belief, Hermosa will not go bankrupt if residents fail to approve oil drilling.
The Hermosa Beach Community Dialogue finance committee presented findings during a public meeting at the Hermosa Beach Community Center on December 3 by committee members Rick Sowers, an executive vice president of Bank of Manhattan and real estate consultant Justin Schnuelle. The committee based its findings on comparisons of Hermosa’s 2013-14 budgets with four other coastal cities with comparable demographics.
Hermosa Beach residents were woken up to noises in the Hermosa Beach Public Works Maintenance Yard Tuesday morning. Photo of yard shot on Thursday by Chelsea Sektnan
The committee concluded that next year’s oil vote will cost Hermosa money, at least in the short run, no matter which way it goes. If the measure passes, Hermosa will be required to pay $3.5 million to E&B Natural Resources, which hopes to drill from the city maintenance yard. In addition, the city will spend $10.8 million to $18.8 million to move the city yard to the city owned property across from City Hall, which would require eviction of the site’s current tenant, a self storage company that generates $180,000 annually for the city.
If the measure fails to pass, the city must pay E&B $17.5 million, which the city has just $6 million in insurance funds set aside for. He added that paying off the $17.5 million could reduce city services.
“Hermosa is not going to go bankrupt if we don’t vote for oil. I’ve heard that over and over and it’s just not true,” Schnuelle said. “There’s no guarantee that oil will be found and if it is, the revenue will be seven years out,” he added.
As part of the 2012 $750 million oil settlement, Hermosans are expected to vote yea or nay on an oil-drilling project in late 2014. ER
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