The Argument AGAINST recalling Tito Ortiz.


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Love him or hate him, there’s no denying Huntington Beach Mayor Pro Tem Tito Ortiz made a splashy entrance into local politics (and I’m not just talking about his boating accident). His antics make national headlines, thrusting our city into an often unflattering spotlight. A proposed ‘vote of no confidence’ elicited over 500 emails, three hours of public comments, and a violent crowd outside City Hall.

In the 112 year history of the City of Huntington Beach, no recall petition has ever qualified for the ballot. We couldn’t even manage to successfully recall Dave Garofalo, who went to prison for crimes he committed while in office. These new petitioners have the impossible task of convincing at least 13,000 HB residents– who are, mere months after the most controversial and divisive national election in living memory, currently voting in a special election— to voluntarily participate in yet another election. 

I love democracy, but this is a little much.

As we rapidly approach March 7th, the end of his 90-day grace period, it’s worth exploring the arguments both for and against recalling Tito Ortiz. I’d like to believe my writing for ‘Tito Watch’ presents a compelling case in support of the recall petition, including his traitorous friends, his conflicts of interest, his disinformation campaigns, and his general incompetence. The time has come for me to do the unthinkable, and write in support of keeping Tito Ortiz on city council until his current term expires. 

Ocean View School District Trustee Gina Clayton-Tarvin publicly stands against the recall petition, and has for some time, so let’s begin with her official statement on the matter: 

“Although I believe in voters’ rights to redress, I do not support recall elections. I am, first and foremost, a conservative fiduciary, entrusted with preserving tax dollars. Whether the threat of recall is to a local elected official like Tito Ortiz, or a powerful statewide official like Gavin Newsom, I know that recall efforts are a massive waste of public funds. If we truly care about saving precious tax dollars in the midst of a pandemic, then we must oppose any recall effort. Recalls are typically just misguided partisan attacks. We need to allow voters to decide at the ballot box in the next regular election. If not, we stand to waste more than $700,000 for a citywide recall of Ortiz and over $81,000,000 to recall Newsom. Exacting political revenge at the expense of taxpayers is wrong on all levels. It’s time to have a moratorium on recalls.”

It certainly seems like the financial burden should matter more to the petitioners, who criticized Ortiz for accepting over $30,000 of taxpayer-funded COVID relief. If bailing out his dinky little gym is a waste of money, why aren’t they opposed to spending more than 20 times that amount on the unlikely possibility of removing him from office? 

“Elections are expensive, Miss Stella!”

But the city’s finances are not the only issue overlooked by Ortiz’s recall petitioners. While Republicans like Richard Grenell and Major Williams have already expressed their interest in running for the (still TBD) gubernatorial recall election, the ‘Recall Tito’ movement has yet to propose a candidate to replace him on city council. 

If Ortiz campaigned to keep his seat, he would almost certainly win– he has the support of the local MAGA outrage machine, his wealth gives him a fundraising advantage over most challengers, and depressed turnout due to election fatigue could work in his favor. In short, Ortiz stays for at least four years (and more likely eight) unless he decides City Council isn’t for him. Without offering a strong, progressive, grassroots alternative, the recall effort is doomed– and I don’t like our odds for replacing him in 2024, either. 

PLEASE GOD NO (endless internal screaming)

There are two things that keep me hopeful. 

The first is our next regular city council election in less than two years. Three of the four council members whose terms expire in 2022 are ineligible to run again (Delgleize, Peterson, and Posey). While we can’t remove Tito Ortiz from office in that election, we can make sure none of his friends join him on city council– especially “Proud Girl” Gracey Van Der Mark, the first runner up in the 2020 election. 

The second thing that keeps me hopeful is, perhaps surprisingly, Ortiz’s voting record! More often than not, items pass with a 6-1 vote, and Councilmember Peterson is the sole ‘no.’ Take, for example, the vote to condemn the Capitol riots. Ortiz got a lot of flack for his abstention, and he admittedly deserved it, but most of his critics forget the crucial vote that preceded it. Despite Erik Peterson publicly denouncing the city’s Declaration of Human Dignity as “not who we are,” Ortiz voted to affirm the statement, and direct the Human Relations Task Force to update the language and make it more inclusive. 

In our imaginations, Tito Ortiz is a terrifying force of nature; in reality, he’s an awkward fish out of water who, as far as I can tell, still hasn’t put an item on the agenda. We should absolutely take a stand against the hateful things he’s said, but recalling him is a waste of resources when we could easily encourage council members to censure him, or try again for a vote of no confidence. 

Or perhaps we should spend our time and energy proposing new progressive policies for Tito to unwittingly approve. After all, it’s better by far to build up our city than to tear down one man. 


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