Better Late Than Never – the HB Council Mask Showdown.


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“ALL THIS NOISE ABOUT A STUPID PIECE OF FABRIC”

At Monday evening’s special meeting of the Huntington Beach City Council, City Manager Oliver Chi reported we were headed toward the state’s “Orange Tier”– and by Tuesday afternoon, we made it. Orange County’s COVID case rate is rapidly declining by every metric, and our test positivity rate is already in the “Yellow Tier.”

This is welcome news for a county that has lost nearly 4,800 loved ones and neighbors to the pandemic. However, until the number of active cases declines further, we will continue to be subject to at least some of the state’s COVID safety protocols … and that includes wearing a mask over our mouths AND NOSES

Councilmember Michael Nosey– oops, I mean Posey!

According to Mayor Kim Carr, the special meeting on COVID protocols at City Hall was initially requested by Councilmember Erik Peterson, who has long opposed common sense public health guidelines. He ultimately chose not to attend, and snarked disdainfully about the discussion on a local community forum, calling it, “A meeting to discuss a meeting prompted by a memo… government at its best.” 

Unfortunately, as we all know, Councilmember Peterson isn’t the only local official known for his anti-mask stance. Mayor Pro Tem Tito Ortiz joined Peterson in his “objection” to mask-wearing at City Hall, and even went the extra mile for his constituents by actually showing up to express his disapproval… 

It did not go well!

Look upon their miserable faces and feel their suffering.

Mayor Carr had announced a return to in-person meetings at the end of the last regular city council meeting on March 15th, but this was reversed Monday by a 5-0 vote (Peterson was absent and Ortiz left early before the vote.) Concerned citizens of all stripes are confused and angered by the city council’s decision to continue meeting over Zoom for the foreseeable future, and I’m here to tell you that Tito Ortiz deserves every ounce of blame he receives. 

Statewide COVID regulations mean the council currently has two options for meetings: remote, or in-person with masks, social distancing, and reduced capacity. The latter option requires complete compliance and enforcement in order to effectively keep people safe– no one can be exempt. When directly asked if he would be willing either to attend remotely or wear a mask for in-person meetings, Tito Ortiz responded, “I am going to show up and do my job… I mean, if I get escorted out by the police for not wearing a mask, that’s your choice.” 

“But you don’t understand, officer– I paid Lenka Koloma like $500 for this card! It’s legit!”

While it would admittedly be satisfying to see Tito escorted from City Hall by the cops, this is not a practical way to run a city government. By my estimation, we’ve already wasted about eight hours — an entire work day! — of our city council meetings on Tito’s shenanigans since he was sworn in last December. If the point of reopening meetings is to get more done for the city, giving Ortiz multiple opportunities to derail our democratic processes is hardly a solution. 

A city council meeting in San Clemente was disrupted in a similar fashion when Councilmember Laura Ferguson refused to wear a mask in the chambers. They were forced to call a recess in the middle of the meeting so council members could return to their homes and hold the meeting online. Luckily, Councilmember Ferguson isn’t famous, and the news of her noncompliance didn’t travel further than the Los Angeles Times. But Tito Ortiz isn’t an unknown politician, he’s a national celebrity and a leader of the Orange County alt-right. Removing him from chambers would, at least politically, martyr him. 

Ferguson’s San Clemente skirmish.  C’mon, lady, is this really the hill to die on?

It’s all well and good to say that the press surrounding mask enforcement could only be good for our city, and that holding in-person meetings and punishing Tito for ignoring the rules is the morally righteous thing to do. We only have to look at the Dr. Seuss estate, or Kyle Rittenhouse’s mother, or any of OC’s half-a-dozen native insurrection leaders to see the problem: today’s “conservatives” hurl cash at any perceived victim of “liberal” or “leftist” ideology.  Thus Ortiz would stand to personally profit from any public action taken against him, and a big enough spectacle could even catapult him into higher office. 

In-person meetings are indeed an important part of government transparency. Our physical presence in council chambers and boardrooms is one more way we can hold our elected leaders accountable, and ensure our voices are heard. 

But there are no shadowy cabals or smoke-filled rooms here. The City of Huntington Beach has done an admirable job of making remote council meetings accessible to the public — particularly when compared to Mission Viejo’s secret property acquisitions, Anaheim’s secretive giveaways, and the dumpster fire that calls itself the OC Board of Supervisors. Is the risk to our city’s elected officials, staff, and police department worth the appearance of increased transparency? I’m not convinced. 

Vegas Baby! Melvin Fowler (former NFL player/current exec at TAO Group), Amber (obviously), Jason Craig (“Nightlife Visionary” who works for Clique LV), Tito (obviously), and Jason Strauss (partner at TAO Group)

Every council member in attendance mentioned their personal values at some point during this meeting. Councilmembers Moser and Posey spoke at length about mutual respect, Councilmembers Delgleize and Kalmick asked questions about reducing wastefulness, Mayor Carr waxed poetic about the equality of elected officials and their constituents… and Mayor Pro Tem Ortiz ranted and raved about his freedom of choice, insisting his opposition to masks was a core belief for him. 

I could almost respect that if it were true. But when Tito’s corporate friends in Las Vegas asked him to wear a mask for his birthday weekend in their hotel and club, he did

He’s willing to wear a mask, he’s just not willing to do it for Huntington Beach.

[Medley of masked Tito shots c/o Twitter’s Borrachinha Depot]


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