City attorney with right-wing agenda fights for survival in increasingly blue Huntington Beach
By Steve Rubenstein
28 December 2008
During his first week on the job, Huntington Beach city attorney Mike Barnett found himself at a loss to explain where his city was with regard to a number of major pieces of city-by-city public works. The city had spent $80,000 on a new public works department over the summer. It also had spent $50,000 on a new street maintenance crew. The city had spent $100,000 on a street work crew and had put a $30,000 bond issue on the November ballot as a tax increase—to provide $60,000 for a new police department.
Barnett’s boss, Mayor Gary Cox, was at work with other city leaders on a number of other fronts, and the former University of California, Irvine, student and recent law school grad made it his mission to change the direction of the city. “I told him I couldn’t keep wasting $40,000 on street repairs, and he said ‘That’s exactly what I asked for.’ Then he told me he wanted 20 years of that spending to get rid of street crime,” says Barnett, an alumnus of the UCI School of Law. “That’s how he can say all the things he said he would do, but not do them.”
Cox is also president of the conservative California Municipal League. In his first week on the job, Barnett says, he found himself at odds with his boss, and his boss’s boss, Mayor Bob Foster. Barnett doesn’t blame Cox, who recently told Huntington Beach officials that the city could do more to raise money from taxes.
“I did, too, and he told me to shove it,” says Barnett. “He said he wanted to do something