Huntington Beach to Replace Some Identity-Related Celebrations With Historical Heritage Commemorations

Huntington Beach to Replace Some Identity-Related Celebrations With Historical Heritage Commemorations

Huntington Beach Mayor Tony Strickland (C) conducts a city council meeting at the Huntington Beach Civic Center in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Jan. 17, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin


Updated: 12/30/2023

City leaders in the conservative-leaning coastal community of Huntington Beach, California, are replacing some ethnic and identity-related celebrations—like those related to LBGT pride and black, Asian, and indigenous history—in favor of commemorating historical local, state, and national events.
With its new celebrations calendar, “Surf City” will honor the historic heritage of the United States, California, and Huntington Beach, according to the plan approved at a Dec. 19 meeting.
“One of my favorite things about being elected to city council so far has been learning about the amazing history of our city that I was unaware of myself,” Councilman Casey McKeon told councilors at the meeting. “As a third-generation Huntington Beach resident, I just have been amazed to learn just how much of our rich history I was unaware of, and I can only imagine that the majority of our residents are unaware of, as well.”
The proposal passed with four councilors voting in favor and three opposing it. Councilwoman Natalie Moser, Councilwoman Rhonda Bolton, and Councilman Dan Kalmick voted against the plan.
Mr. McKeon, who sponsored the idea with Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark and Mayor Pro Tem Pat Burns, said the city’s existing monthly celebrations were “fragmented, inconsistent, and relatively unorganized between the departments.”
Instead, he suggested spotlighting 12 events per year, instead of dozens of themes, which he said would help the city and staff “get on the same page” and limit staff time and resources dedicated to the celebrations.
Mayor Van Der Mark said she really liked the program and wanted to include a Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was accepted by the council.
The plan also includes creating a committee of seven to nine residents appointed by two city councilors to continue developing—with the assistance of the city’s Historic Resources Board—12-month programs starting in 2025.
The city released a list of the first three months of commemorations Friday.
According to the list, January will celebrate “Founders’ Legacy—Celebrating Huntington Beach’s Origins,” along with New Year’s Day on Jan. 1; Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 15; and International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27.
In February, the city will dedicate the month to the city’s libraries, along with recognizing Black History Month, the city’s birthday on Feb. 17, and President George Washington’s Birthday on Feb. 19.
And in March, California history will be recognized, along with Women’s history.
Councilors who voted against the proposal said it lacked planning and wasn’t inclusive enough.
“[The new calendar] is not public policy. This is an Eagle Scout project,” Mr. Kalmick said. “This is what we all learned in fourth grade, and 10th grade and 11th grade. And, I do apologize if you didn’t know some of these things. A lot of folks in town do.”
Councilwoman Moser asked why the city couldn’t continue to provide the information to the community on all different groups and months that are already recognized.
“Another thing when I look at this … I’m curious about when do you start? We have the Revolution, we have the Civil War, we have the founding of California, as well. But we didn’t talk about the indigenous people that lived here.”
She suggested putting forward a “land acknowledgment” to recognize and respect the relationship indigenous people have with it.
“I think that would be a way to include more people’s stories and history within our community,” she said at the meeting.
The city council’s new plan has already received outside criticism and was seen by some as canceling existing programs that honor LGBTQ pride, black, Asian, and indigenous history, among other issues.
Kathie Schay, chair of the city’s Historic Resources Board, resigned during the city council’s public comment period, saying she was stunned she was not included in the plan’s development.
She also said she felt it was a “stinging vote of no confidence” in her role as a historian and her 15 years of leadership on the board. She also resigned from the city’s Design Review Board.
Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin


Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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