Election 2022, Manhattan Beach Council: Time-tested leadership — Amy Howorth promises experience and collaboration
by Mark McDermott
Amy Howorth served on the City Council for eight years, ending in 2019. She was proud of what she, and her colleagues accomplished, and had no intention of ever running for office again.
During her two terms, Manhattan Beach emerged as an environmental leader among cities, enacting bans on plastic bags in local stores, and plastic utensils at restaurants, as well as a ban on public smoking. She was a founding member of the Clean Power Alliance, which enabled the city to switch to renewable energy. That council also created a new position, a sustainability manager, intended to coordinate all the City’s environmental efforts, with a particular focus on preparing for the impacts of climate change.
That council, Howorth said, prized functionality over ideology. She believes the current council is in danger of reversing those priorities, and that is why she is running again.
“This was not always in the plan,” Howorth said. “I had a consulting business. I’d like to travel, and see my two sons, who don’t live in Manhattan Beach. But it seemed critical to step up because I am concerned about the direction in which the council seems to be moving.”
Environmental concerns are at the forefront of Howorth’s platform.
“I’m very concerned that with the makeup of the current council that our community will turn away from focusing on the environment,” Howorth said. “This includes really crucial issues like environmental resiliency and sea level rise mitigation. I’m worried that they will disband the Environmental Sustainability Task Force. Manhattan Beach has been a leader in environmental issues, and this is critical to me. Do we have plans for elderly people who do not have air conditioners? Do we need to budget cooling centers? This is a time we cannot afford to not pay attention to these issues. A lot of things that relate to the environment are public safety issues.”
Howorth said she has watched in dismay as the council squabbled over CPA’s (California Power Alliance’s) offer to install solar panels at the Joslyn Center over aesthetic concerns.
“We turned down an opportunity for free solar panels on a very specious kind of excuse,” she said. “It’s irresponsible.”
The City also recently saw its sustainability manager leave. Howorth can’t help but wonder if the increasingly politicized atmosphere surrounding City Hall will make Manhattan Beach less attractive to talented city employees.
“I think people need to keep in mind that there’s an incredible brain drain out there right now,” she said. “We have to be really careful. I think it was the pandemic, but it is also the partisan nature of what so many people are bringing to their positions, whether it is city council or school board. It takes a toll on those people who are subject matter experts. Their jobs become political; they depend on these five elected people. It’s kind of a problem that is bubbling under the surface.”
Howorth also points to a long list of things the councils she served on were able to get done beyond environmental initiatives. They coordinated, with LA County on the building of a new public library, oversaw the rehabilitation of the Roundhouse Aquarium, and the construction of the Skate Spot at Marine Avenue Park, and approved a new Fire Station #2. They also gave MBPD a valuable new tool, automated license plate readers.
This is what happens, she said, when the council focuses on the practical, day-to-day issues of city governance rather than political spectacle.
“I remember a time when our council members were collaborative and civil,” she said. “We sat down together and we got things done. We didn’t stake out a position and decide, ‘Well, this is where I am going to stay.’ It was, ‘Let’s hash this out, talking to each other, and to the public.’ This is no longer the case and we have all suffered for it.”
Among Howorth’s priorities are to increase police presence downtown, and in the North End, push the planned new Scout & Senior Community Center over the finish line, and to replace Begg Pool with a new and improved pool.
“I voted early on to support the Scout & Senior Community Center. I want to see that thing built on time and on budget,” Howorth said. “And I have thought for years that we need a new pool. Begg Pool is beyond its useful life. We are a community that values swimming, both for safety and for sport. There’s a non-profit group forming that wants to help get this done. So let’s build on that. I think we can do it.”
Howorth stresses collaboration. She proposes establishing a task force to address the frayed relationship between the City and its firefighters. She served eight years on the MBUSD Board of Education, and intends to rebuild that relationship as well. That relationship likewise suffered after current council members were outspokenly critical of district leadership and policies. She said that if elected, she will strive to serve all residents, not just those who voted for her.
“What we are talking about is tested leadership,” Howorth said. “It’s not just experience. I served on the school board and city council for 16 years, and I can promise you a bunch of things that I will do. But you’ve seen what I did. While there are a number of candidates running, no one, not even the incumbent, comes close to my experience in governing Manhattan Beach. Sixteen years of experience and relationships allow you to make good common sense decisions for the common good. That may sound like political-speak, but that is what I believe.” ER