HB: the Mishegas and the Desmadre. 1) Rhonda, Tito & Gracey!

Of course it was deliciously ironic, a couple of months ago, when HB Councilman Tito Ortiz, who’d first come to power by standing guard downtown for 8 hours straight “without a bathroom break” to protect Surf City from the dread Black Lives Matter (but later couldn’t muster the stamina to serve more than six months of his term) … was replaced by actually black Rhonda Bolton (whom the whole town ASSUMED was part of Black Lives Matter.)

But Democrat Rhonda Bolton was actually the SAFE choice (for those not obsessed with race.) Swing vote Mayor Pro-Tem Barbara Delgleize, a moderate Republican, joined the Council’s three Democrats to pick Rhonda because of her “expertise and business leadership,” choosing her over three candidates that various passionate groups were agitating for. [Update – and right around the same time Barbara left the GOP to become an independent, leaving only two Republicans on the 7-member HB Council!]


  • has lived in Southeast HB for 9 years, and owns a home there (lotsa local keyboard warriors passed around the rumor that she’d only been in HB for a year, which was easy for them to believe since 2020 is the first year the town has felt inconvenienced by black folks);
  • does consulting on diversity and equity for corporations, helping ensure all their workers “feel a level of freedom and comfort”;
  • is the wife of a retired cop, and has two teenaged sons, one of whom is a Junior Lifeguard and wants to some day be Secretary of State;
  • loves to take her sons to the beach as often as possible, usually near the Pier;
  • swears by Sancho’s Tacos, PJ’s, Double Zero, and breakfasts at the Shorebreak Hotel;
  • intends to focus most, as a Councilwoman, on housing, homelessness, mental health, and economic development and growth (tho’ her ideas for addressing these issues are still in progress);
  • doesn’t yet have a position on Poseidon, having heard “good arguments” pro and con (which is troubling for someone who’s lived in Southeast HB for 9 years);
  • and had nothing to do with last year’s Black Lives Matter protests OR Critical Race Theory, two of the HB snowflake right’s most fearful boogiemen.

Again, Rhonda was the Council’s SAFE choice, because different groups were advocating strongly for THREE candidates, any of whom would have pissed off a lot of the rest of the city:

  • Progressives, many HB Latinos and Poseidon opponents wanted longtime community activist & Planning Commissioner Oscar Rodriguez, who’d come in 5th in the 2020 election.
  • The Democratic Party establishment, led by Ada Briceño, instead were, for some reason, pushing for unknown “ordained minister” Dom Jones, another black woman.
  • And most stridently, HB’s sizable contingent of rightwing extremists who had elected, loved, and were mourning Tito, demanded the notorious Gracey Van Der Mark, whom we wrote about a while back. This was a non-starter – Gracey may have come in 4th in 2020, but she was guaranteed to be as embarrassing and disastrous as Tito. Those two have a lot in common; most notably they’re both stubborn and tireless purveyors of crazy disinformation and conspiracy theories – Tito mainly about Covid (anti-mask and anti-vax) and Gracey mainly with wacky scare stories about imagined sex education programs in HB elementary schools.

So Rhonda looked like the Council’s safe choice, but when the extremists saw their Gracey passed over for an educated black woman, the shit hit the fan anyway. Certainties flew across social media: this was a BLM and CRT terrorist who’d only been in town since last year (the year of the George Floyd protests!)

Angry Gracey supporters booed Rhonda loudly at her swearing-in; speakers baselessly called her “hateful, spiteful, anti-white”; when she was asked to lead the Pledge of Allegiance one smart-ass woman shouted incredulously, “YOU know the Pledge of Allegiance?” Another brain surgeon told the Register:

“In this city, she could never have been elected, even dogcatcher. SHAME on this council for appointing a RADICAL who is going to impose her AGENDA on the innocent youth of this city.”

As usual in HB, and as usual in this century (or has it always been that way?) racial animus is cloaked righteously in white victimization and paranoia. The poor threatened white people who imagine their privilege slowly dissipating project their hostility upon a black or brown person who must, OBVIOUSLY, be anti-white, because, just LOOK at them. How many more decades can this malignant stupidity persist?

Feeling betrayed by the whole Council (except Erik Peterson) which was obviously (except Erik) working on behalf of the “Deep State,” HB’s malcontents, under the soubriquetSave Surf City,” launched what the OC Register has dubbed “The Silly Recall,” aimed at replacing the ENTIRE COUNCIL (except Peterson.) It does not seem to be going well.

We’ll talk about the Silly Alt-Right Recall in part two of this article, which is getting too long already. But before we wistfully but briefly part, I have to let you know one other thing:

HB Mayor Kim Carr has no balls.

Shayna Lathus is a fine progressive and fighter for justice who ran for HB Council in 2018. She didn’t make it that year but her fellow Democrat (now Mayor) Kim Carr did, and appointed her to the Citizens Participation Advisory Board. But then, what did Shayna go and do, to get herself into trouble? She went to a protest! Actually, it was a counter-protest to a 2019 anti-immigrant protest; Shayna showed up with Victor Valladares, wearing a shirt that read “Bridges, Not Walls,” and “joined in chants supporting the immigrant community.”

Also on the side of the counter-protesters were some folks dressed in black, who may or may not have been so-called “Antifa” but were accused of that by the anti-immigrant folks. Shayna was never seen interacting with these scary people, and claimed not to have noticed them, but standing in the same crowd as them was bad enough for great patriots like this fellow:

Yes, it was Craig Frampton who demanded that Kim Carr remove Shayna Lathus from a Board for the crime of chanting pro-immigrant slogans in the same crowd as people he considered “Antifa.” Who cares or worries about “Antifa” except fevered right-wingers who need lefty villains? But Carr snapped right to attention, and demanded Shayna immediately post a statement DENOUNCING THE SHADOWY GROUP! So Shayna posted a perfectly reasonable statement saying she supported both law enforcement and immigrants’ rights, that she was unaware that antifa members would be at the rally, and that she “never engaged with people identified as antifa.” But this was not a STRONG ENOUGH DENUNCIATION for Carr, so Lathus lost her post – congratulations Frampton, and Guilt By Association!

This shameful 2019 episode is only back in the news now because Shayna sued over violation of her freedom of speech. And this week she received an unfavorable judgment. But she is appealing, and we hope she prevails.

But even better would be if Mayor Kim Carr admits she was wrong, that she totally over-reacted out of fear of Huntington Beach’s very worst people, apologizes to Shayna and gives her her position back. Until and unless Carr does that, a lot of us are going to consider her a Craven Chickenshit.

Later this week, part two: The “Silly,” Alt-Right Recall.


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.