Huntington Beach May Eliminate Declaration on ‘Human Dignity’

Huntington Beach May Eliminate Declaration on ‘Human Dignity’

The Huntington Beach City Council conducts a meeting at the Civic Center in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Jan. 17, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

8/9/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

A Huntington Beach, California, committee and a policy both formed decades ago to ensure respect regardless of race and to raise awareness against hate crimes in the city may be on the chopping block.
The Huntington Beach City Council voted 4–3 Aug. 1 to eliminate its so-called Human Relations Committee, citing such as redundant since the city already pays $9,000 annually to the county for a similar committee, which conducts comparable functions.
The committee, which is composed of volunteers, works with city police to classify hate crimes and report such to the county’s district attorney’s office, according to the city’s website.
Councilors Natalie Moser, Rhonda Bolton, and Dan Kalmick were opposed to its demise.
According to Ms. Moser, the committee, which “promotes mutual understanding, respect, safety and the well-being of all,” in the community according to its vision statement is “custom-tailored” to the Huntington Beach community.
“They have a wonderful partnership with the Huntington Beach Police Department, and this has also been going on for over 25 years,” she said.
Huntington Beach City Councilwoman Natalie Moser speaks during a city council meeting in Huntington Beach, Calif., on May 16, 2023. (Screenshot via City of Huntington Beach)

Huntington Beach City Councilwoman Natalie Moser speaks during a city council meeting in Huntington Beach, Calif., on May 16, 2023. (Screenshot via City of Huntington Beach)

Councilors also voted 4–3 to have an ad-hoc committee—made up of Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark and Councilors Casey McKeon and Pat Burns—review the city’s so-called Declaration of Policy About Human Dignity for possible amendments or dissolution.
The declaration—which acknowledges equal treatment for everyone regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, disability status, or nation of origin—was last amended in Nov. 2021 by the city’s previous council, which expanded it to be more inclusive.
The discussion of both issues was fraught with emotion during the meeting.
Mayor Tony Strickland had to call for order after a dispute erupted over Ms. Van Der Mark’s appointment to the ad hoc committee.
Ms. Moser accused her of being a Holocaust denier, and unfit to serve on a committee that would potentially eliminate a declaration on hate crimes.
“The original document, it talks about the Holocaust. Mayor Pro Tem in the past it’s been brought up that you questioned whether the Holocaust happened,” Ms. Moser said.
Ms. Van Der Mark denied the allegations.
“I’m sick of you lying. My husband’s uncle was murdered by the Nazis in World War II. How dare you … you would have known that if you would have had a conversation with me instead of standing here making false accusations,” she said.
Huntington Beach City Councilwoman Gracie Van Der Mark listens to residents during a city council meeting at the Huntington Beach Civic Center in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Jan. 17, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Huntington Beach City Councilwoman Gracie Van Der Mark listens to residents during a city council meeting at the Huntington Beach Civic Center in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Jan. 17, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

After heated words were exchanged the mayor called the dispute between the two “totally inappropriate.”
“I move that we just vote on this item and call the question,” he urged the council.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, one of the declaration’s founders spoke against the city’s proposed changes, citing that such were created when acts of racism were increasingly of concern in the city.
“Now is not the time for changes or revisions, as the statement is strongly worded and has stood the test of time,” said former 1997 Huntington Beach Mayor Shirley Dettloff, who helped draft the declaration along with then-Police Chief Ron Lowenberg and former 1996 Mayor Ralph Bauer. “It is exactly what we should stand in for times when hate crimes and anti-Semitic crimes are on the rise.”
Elaine Bauer-Keeley, the daughter of the late Mr. Bauer, also spoke against any revisions to the document that has stood for over 20 years.
“I ask you to think about the declaration as a gift from the past. The generation before us respects the history. I do not want to see another well-intentioned ad hoc change, alter, tamper, or rewrite what was penned in 1992,” she said, citing an increase in white supremacy as a factor in her father’s role to help draft the declaration to begin with.
Councilman Burns said he agendized the discussion since the city’s laws already protect community members against hate crimes.
“We have equal laws right across the books, through our Constitution and every level of government, that protects people in this same manner,” he said.
City Hall in Huntington Beach, Calif., on June 7, 2022. (Julianne Foster/The Epoch Times)

City Hall in Huntington Beach, Calif., on June 7, 2022. (Julianne Foster/The Epoch Times)

Mr. McKeon argued the minority on the council opposed to the amendments had made their own changes to the declaration a few years prior.
“My question is, you guys amended it in 2021, right?” he asked them. “So what’s the problem with amending it in 2023?”
Ms. Moser argued the council’s conservative majority, elected recently in the November 2022 election, has wrongful intentions.
“The problem is, frankly, I don’t think that the intentions are pure,” she said.
Proposed changes or the elimination of the declaration will be brought back before the council in their Oct. 3 meeting, according to officials.
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Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

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Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.

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