A representative government chosen by vote of the citizens seemed like a good idea when Huntington Beach was incorporated in 1909. Who knew the city council was going to become a breeding ground for kooks and criminals that would degrade a funky seaside community into a cesspool of sprawl, pollution and corruption? Okay, so there were a few clues. In its earliest decades Huntington Beach was less a city than a Wild West frontier zone of unregulated oil drilling with little if any regard for "environmental protection." The city even built a hazardous waste dumpsite: Ascon-Nesi (still conveniently located across the street from Edison High School), whose toxic lagoons have yet to be cleaned up. By the early 1970s, when real estate became more valuable for building homes than producing oil, the city helpfully allowed 10 times more contamination in its soil. Speaking of contamination, the city's beaches are routinely closed each summer because there's shit in the water. Speaking of summer, the city council once arrested hundreds of people for drinking in their front yards—on the Fourth of July. Speaking of the city council, it's membership ranks as the most corrupt in OC history. Back in the good old days of the 1980s, there were genuine leaders at city hall like Earl Robitaille, a former city police chief who used to yell "Screw you and the horse you rode in on!" to gadflies. It's been downhill ever since. Dave Garofalo used to have a reputation for unparalleled sleaze by voting to award city contracts to cronies who advertised in his local newspaper. But last month he was trumped by former mayor Pamela Julien-Houchen, a furniture saleswoman who went into real estate after joining the city council and who was sentenced to three years in federal prison for wiping out the city's affordable housing stock by illegally converting apartments into condos.
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