Posts Tagged With: Mary Urashima

Opinion: Huntington Beach City Council needs to hold Wintersburg Task Force Chairperson Mary Urashima accountable for ethics violations

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In Huntington Beach, all city or elected officials, employees and members of boards, commissions, committees and task forces are required to take the following pledge:

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The red arrows I have added indicate the parts of the pledge that I believe Wintersburg Task Force Chair Mary Urashima violated by apparently targeting work relationships of mine via an attack she made on Twitter.

Some background: For a number of years, I (along with many others in the community) have grown suspicious of Urashima’s actions as task force chair. She stopped calling meetings more than one and a half years ago, she blocks and bans many community members from even engaging with the Wintersburg Facebook page and she will occasionally attack members of the community for daring to question or criticize her over her tactics in attempting to “acquire” a privately owned piece of property (the former Furuta family farm located at Warner and Nichols, purchased from the family by Republic Services). Many people, myself included, have questioned why the city ever created a task force to help negotiate/navigate a private land matter, and we have stated as such.

In the last week or so, the city appears to have re-evaluated its relationship with Urashima and the project because the task force has all but disappeared from the official city web site, and a source within city hall has confirmed to me that the task force has in fact been dissolved.

But that does not absolve Urashima of the egregious attack made upon myself and my livelihood in early March of this year, while she was still very much the Chair of the Wintersburg Task Force. Writing under her Twitter account “Surf City Writer” (which I am blocked from even seeing), Urashima posted the following, tagging the REELZ TV channel which air a TV show I co-host and executive produce, “It Happened Here” –

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For  the record, I have NEVER “incited disruption” at one of Urashima’s (or anyone’s) events in my life. That is an absolute lie. I have also not “targeted a Japanese American historic preservation project for five years with online harassment.” That is absurd. I have simply called out the behavior of Urashima, who in this very tweet of hers validates essentially what I and many others have accused her of: lying, attacking and worst of all, using race as a leverage to support her false claims.  What’s most telling is the “evidence” that Urashima includes in her attack to support her wild claims. It is a statement of mine simply commenting on the fact that she has not had a task force meeting in more than one and a half years. What does it say about a person that uses something so innocuous to support her lies, all while targeting a company I do business with? Despite my numerous disagreements with Urashima, I would never even think of contacting established business relationships of hers to drag them into this mess. I don’t even know what she does for a living, nor is it any of my business. Yet for some reason she felt comfortable doing this. And she didn’t stop there.

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I reached out to Urashima privately to ask her to explain why she did this, and was ignored.

The First Amendment is, without doubt, one of our most cherished institutions. But even the First Amendment has limits, and Urashima’s false statements about me cross the line. This is especially true with respect to the statements intended to interfere with my business relationships with Reelz, and others. Merely because she disagrees with me on political matters, she has set a course intended to completely disrupt my livelihood by preventing me from making a living. The First Amendment does not protect this conduct.

By willfully and deliberately posting false information about me, and directly contacting a company that I am involved with, I think her intent was clear. I believe that the Respondeat Superior legal doctrine can be invoked in this situation. This doctrine holds an employer or principal is legally responsible for the wrongful acts of an employee or agent, if such acts occur within the scope of the employment or agency. And I think that holds up here. All that said, these are legal matters that will be left to the experts to sort out and make decisions against.

For now however, I think it is crystal clear that Urashima violated all of the points highlighted above and even if the task force is now disbanded, I still think the city has an obligation to admonish Urashima for her willful and destructive actions. And example needs to be set so that all future representatives understand how serious the code of conduct pledge is. She was a city representative when these actions occurred, and I am calling on city council to take a stand against this behavior.

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City of Huntington Beach quietly erases all mentions of the Wintersburg Task Force

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In the last several days, all mentions of the controversial “Historic Wintersburg Task Force” have been removed from the official Huntington Beach city web page. As task force Chair Mary Urashima notes on the official Wintersburg Wikipedia page, “In July 2012, the Huntington Beach City Council created the Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force.” Recently, many questions have been raised regarding the task force, primarily, why they had not held a meeting in more than a year and a half. I myself have posed the a number of times on social media but never received a clear or coherent reason as to why the meetings had ceased. Many in the community are becoming divided over the proposed purpose of the task force, in effect, to “acquire” a piece of public property. Some see the project as an unfair, calculated land grab vs. a legitimate historic preservation project. Urashima herself has raised the ire of some in the community by blocking many community members from being able to engage on the Historic Wintersburg Facebook page, creating an impression at least that the project lacks openness and transparency.

In a letter obtained through the city, former Huntington Beach councilman Devin Dwyer wrote the current council a blistering letter outlining with a variety of concerns regarding the task force in general and Urashima specifically, whom he accuses of playing the race card.  Some excerpts from his letter:

” I was on Council when Mary Urashima first brought to our meeting her idea to save the Wintersburg Buildings. She spoke of the history of the building at what she felt it represented. To no shock to anyone I was not supportive of the idea since she was not the owner of the property nor did she represent the current property owner. I think you all know I am a champion of individual property rights. What was shocking was after the meeting Mrs. Urashima came up to me and told me that my not supporting this project could be seen as being a racist.”

“Mrs. Urashima worked out a deal with Rainbow to withhold doing anything with the property for a period of 2 years. In that time she promised that she would fundraise to have the buildings moved to another site. She also promised that she would have this done at no cost to the City. Not only did she not come through with her promise to move the buildings but she conspired on the side to have the State declare it a Historical Monument without the Property Owners knowledge.

I see this as an ethical breach of the deal she made with Rainbow and her intent as vocalized at the City Council Meeting. Couple this with the fact that the Original Japanese family that sold the property for fare value has not publicly come forward and explained why now? Why has their feeling changed after they were paid millions to sell the property? Why have they not used some of the money that they were paid to help save the building? Why did they allow the building to fall in such disrepair if it meant so much?

In the mean time you have an Owner that has continued to pay property tax on an asset that they have not been able to use. They paid a large amount of money and have seen no return just expenses. Their company name has been disparaged instead of receiving accolades for putting up with this trampling of their right to own property and do with it what is permitted by our City Code.

It’s time! It’s time to disband any City sponsored help in keeping this property owner from doing what he/she has the legal right to do. It’s time to publicly state that the City was wrong in allowing this fiasco to continue as long as it has. It’s time to dissolve any relationship the City has with Mary Urashima and her unethical leveraging of anyone brave enough to disagree with her.”

And then several days later, all traces of the task force disappeared from the city web site. A source at city hall that requested anonymity told me, “The task force is no more. there may or may not be an official announcement but all mentions of it have been erased and it is not coming back. This should have happened a long time ago.”

Updates as they occur.

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