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Hermosa Oil Drilling Project Discussion Lively at Meeting

Wednesday's joint City Council and School Board meeting was the first public discussion about the project since E&B submitted its oil drilling project application in November.

A joint meeting between the Hermosa Beach City Council and the Hermosa Beach City School District Wednesday saw unintended lively discussion on the hot topic of a proposed oil drilling project within Hermosa Beach city limits.

The meeting marked the first time official public discussion has occurred since E&B Natural Resources Management, Inc. filed an application to drill for oil at the city's maintenance yard in November.

Before opening public participation on the agenda item titled "report on information sharing on E&B oil project," Hermosa Beach Mayor Kit Bobko told the packed council chambers that no action would be taken on the project Wednesday night.

"We are not going to talk about money; We are not going to talk about oil; We are not going to talk about pollution; We are not going to talk about drilling; We are not going to talk about fires, disaster, the four riders of the apocalypse," Bobko told the standing room only crowd. "All we are going to talk about right now is where we are in the process and how we can facilitate information flow between the city council and the school board."

But while the two organizations only hoped to discuss how to share information on the oil project, discussion was anything but that as many residents used the opportunity to publicly express their strong opposition to oil drilling and frustrations over the lack of information that has come out since November.

"I don't know anything about what is going on... Did I get an update on this (meeting) tonight? No," said resident George Smeltzer, who expressed frustration that the city sent out advance email notification about a casino trip to Palm Springs but did not send an email about Wednesday's meeting.

"Not notifying people about this...is a misplacement of priorities," Smeltzer said. "This was important and I think you failed the first test of getting people out there."

Others, including new Hermosa Beach resident Stacey Armato, expressed outrage that oil drilling was even being considered in a beach town like Hermosa Beach

"When I heard this was coming into our backyard, I was shocked," Armato said. "It is deplorable; it is disgusting... All of your names will be behind it," she said, pointing to the councilmembers.

South Bay resident Chris Miller also expressed her strong opposition to the drilling project and called it dangerous to the health of Hermosa Beach residents and the environment.

"What lies below the ocean out there has some value," Miller said, referring to the oil E&B would drill for. "But what lies above is priceless and if it endangers any one of us, I don't see why we are going down this road."

In response to public comments – all of which were against the oil project – Mayor Pro Tem Michael DiVirgilio acknowledged that the city could have done a better job of getting word out about Wednesday's meeting and the oil project information sharing agenda item.

"This is the first time we are trying to start talking about it," DiVirgilio said. "Your point that we did not do a sufficient job letting folks know that this item was available – even if just for process – is duly noted and you have my promise that we will get it better the next time."

Although some thought the city could have done a better job getting word out about the meeting, city manger Tom Bakaly confirmed that the meeting was fully noticed in compliance with the Brown Act.

Councilman Jeff Duclos added that because there has been a lack of information coming out about the oil project, residents have been left to draw their own conclusions about the project.

"Obviously when there is a void of concrete information, that void will be filled," Duclos said. "I just want to let everyone here tonight know that this was not an intended conversation, but it was a needed one... We are here to listen and we do."

Currently, the city has received E&B's application and has requested additional information from the company on the project. Once the city deems the application complete, it will work on finding a consulting firm to perform the environmental impact review on the project required by the California Environmental Quality Act.

"The earliest that we would see a vote of the people would be spring of 2014," Bakaly said.

As promised, neither the school board nor city council took any action or official stance in regards to the oil project during Wednesdays meeting. However, both promised an open and transparent process in the coming months.

Moving forward, Bobko proposed that the city council receive monthly updates during meetings on the status of the oil project application. Bobko also promised the city council would remain neutral and promote plenty of dialogue in the months ahead.

"I want to make sure that this city council does everything in its power to facilitate your ability to make an informed decision," Bobko said. "We want to be the unbiased clearinghouse of fact for this project... When you come looking for something, you know that you are getting straight information from us."

M Charles Fogg January 25, 2013 at 11:39 PM
OK, here's clean: I call your lie that the City would be better off financially, and your lie that Rosamond interfered -- one person doesn't have that power -- the people of Hermosa Beach spoke, and oil drilling is illegal in HB, as said by the California Supreme Court. You want to go the the US Supreme Court to try to invalidate a California People's Initiative? Yes, it applies to YOU. The one fact that cannot be denied is that the oil project could NOT have been financially good for HB. No tiny wellhead royalty could ever make up for the loss in property values of the citizens. Again the ignorance of the Tidelands law, or the intent to not drill the Tidelands and go for fracking. Which is it Mr. Drilling Company? What is your real intent, and why have you not disclosed to the city or the voters that there is no financial gain, only risk to life and property that does not exist now? I guess that you think a lie repeated over and over eventually becomes truth? There was no potential financial gain for oil, and there was no liability to McPhearson -- or you, since your contract with the City is illegal on at least two counts that I can think of. Gary Bruch sucker punched you by not providing the background of what you're up against.
BradleyEJones January 26, 2013 at 01:13 AM
What a show! There were 4-5 people, and one admitted to investing in oil properties in North Dakota (the place where Fracking the Bakken is all the buzz), but spat at Hermosa Beach's attempt to save our City's financial crisis by drilling for oil. Sitting at this meeting and watching the furor and the fever, I left thinking that as a 25 year former resident and owner of more than 15 million dollars worth of collective property in the Southbay, I have certainly witnessed worse staged fear-fests. But I'm too old and wise to take a lead from the fear-mongers that showed up at Weds School Board Meeting en force. I am a former commercial project manager and developed some of the largest facilities in LA. Living here part time, I have only paid some attention to this project. But even I knew enough to know there is a full and detailed project application on two websites for my personal review! I was shocked that council members acted as if there was no information or didn't stand in support of it. Do they not read their own website? With 5 grandchildren in the schools and as the parents of significant $$ donors, my wife and I came to participate regarding school safety. We stayed because a bus unloaded a well-rehearsed group of charlatans who were busy comparing notes on who would say what. My fellow property owners and long-time friends who built this town are too smart to be swayed by an uneducated non-industry group. Especially a theater troupe! Bradley E. Jones, Sr.
Paul Andersen January 26, 2013 at 01:39 AM
Rosamond orchestrated a second vote AFTER the city had already entered into a contract with McPherson,so,the people had already spoken, Property values would have probably gone up,no one can say for sure.To say definitively that this project could not have benefited the city financially is ludicrous,again,all hypothetical.The one fact that can't be denied is,this city would have saved millions in legal fees, but for, the second vote AFTER the people had already spoken and entered into a contract.
Jeff Cohn January 26, 2013 at 02:42 AM
Mr. Bobko is the smartest and most manipulative City Councilmen I have ever seen in my life. It is obvious he is taking advantage of so many people and organizations. Mr. Clean is a fear mongering politician in order to manipulate people to get what what might benefit him, his law firm or political career.. Why do you think that Kit Bobko organized the first E&B oil information meeting as a joint meeting with the School Board? This meeting was supposed to be about school safety alone. Not a shocker that he wanted to scare us with how much money we don't have and bring in E&B Mr. Money Bags. I have kids in the school system and Kit doesn't have any kids or own property in this town. Lets not forget the charade that Kit Bobko pulled back in the Spring of 2012 bringing Steve Layton to the Hermosa Beach Ed Foundation Fundraiser immediately after the deal was signed. Highly inappropriate and poor timing! Someone needs to investigate Bobko's political campaign funds because right now it is smelly a little "trashy" as well. Why doesn't someone ask if he gave preferential "deal" treatment to Athens Disposal for their new Hermosa trash contract?
M Charles Fogg January 26, 2013 at 06:11 AM
Lie on and on. There was no "second vote"; there was a FIRST and ONLY Initiative Ordinance, and yes, helped in part by Rosamond’s great service to the community. Why do you think you can get away with lying that blatantly? Property values going UP?? Now you descend to making silly statements that don't even need to be countered. McPhearson had the option to make a special kind of contract in which his promises for safety and environmental concerns could be legally bound for the people. In a blatant attempt to bypass such rights, he chose to rush a simple contract into place. The California Supreme Court determined that contract was not “the people speaking”, but was subject to the force majure of the People's Initiative to legally cancel. Legal fees didn't need to be spent. That continues due to strategists and liars like you as a blackmail strategy to make drilling happen, which you seem to be at the core of. Those with institutional memory will call you out on every lie. You might have some traction with those that weren't here and don't remember the sequence of events, but with no one else. Finally, despite your lying history tour, the fact still remains that the People's Initiative IS the law backed by the California Supreme Court. There is no lie you can make that will counter the fact that oil drilling is illegal in Hermosa Beach. To try to make a contract to do so is as illegal as the last attempt was. Even more so now that the law is crystal clear.
Richard Handy January 26, 2013 at 10:23 PM
I'm not sure about any of this but...Jeff, can your dad give some advice on the best "massage" spots in SoCal. Maybe he could start a blog? Let us know...thanks!
Joel Cooper January 27, 2013 at 06:27 PM
I concur with Kent Wiese and Paul Anderson. Also with you Jeff Cohn. I agree that Mr. Bobko is a very smart man and am thankful to have him on our City Council, but now lets talk about the intelligence level of another elected City official, our Treasurer, your father, David Cohn. How "smart" IS it for an elected official to pick a " masseuse" from Craig's List, travel to Maywood and pay MORE than if he had patronized one of the many legitimate businesses here in our City? How "smart" IS it to then invite this individual into your home, get naked, say you don't like where this is going, only to book ANOTHER appointment, and then have trouble remembering any of it? You have the hubris to call for an investigation of Mr. Bobko using the words "smelly" and "trashy" but how would you describe your fathers escapades? what words come to mind? Here's some, narcissistic, arrogant, sanctimonious, and for lack of a better word, stupid...oh yeah, lets throw "smelly" and "trashy" in there too.
Maury Kamens January 27, 2013 at 09:34 PM
Joel, you left out the most appropriate word....Chutzpa.
City of Bell January 27, 2013 at 10:49 PM
I am glad you reminded everyone that the Hermosa Beach City Treasurer was the victim of extortion and that these people are likely going to jail. The tax paying residents of Hermosa Beach are also victims of extortion as well. A $17.5M illegal extortion settlement + millions of bogus attorney fees to Michael Jenkins who did nothing but help himself. The illegal City activity going on in Hermosa is gradually getting exposed to the local press. Stay tuned guys because your buddy Bobko's illegal agreement and other conflicts of interest is about to hit center stage in the press.
Joel Cooper January 27, 2013 at 11:15 PM
The City of Bell didn't have anyone who rose to the level of stupidity like our treasure David Cohn, I can't decide if I'm more disgusted with him or embarrassed for him. His son Jeff rants on and on about all these crooked politicians all the while ignoring the elephant in the room, his father. I guess chutzpa is the most appropriate word. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Mark Shoemaker January 27, 2013 at 11:55 PM
Has E&B assured themselves that even if they get the oil to surface, that they will get permission from your neighbors to truck the oil, or build a pipeline, to a refinery (El Segundo, Torrance, Carson, offshore tanker, wherever....? Sorry, but I don't think us MB residents want either passing through our town.
Christine Wike January 28, 2013 at 02:24 AM
Kudos to George Schmeltzer! Beautiful message. The drilling of 35 oil wells less than 1/4 mile from here WILL be the biggest threat to the health and safety of Hermosa Beach for the next 50 years, and we have the power to stop it! I like that he pointed out that it is important to be skeptical and ask questions NOW instead of waiting while E&B misleads the school board and others while residents are kept in the dark. Thanks for posting the link, Mr. Cohn.
H. Schwartz January 28, 2013 at 03:29 PM
The double standard as exhibited by Mr. Cohn ( Jeff that is ) is as glaring as it is disturbing . To be on the constant attack for some elected officials but then totally ignore the obvious dereliction of duty of another ruins your credibility. It becomes a question of character, something that doesn't seem to run in the family.Come on Mr. Cohn ( Jeff that is ) we know its your father ( David that is ) but can you try and show a little intellectual honesty.
Christine Wike January 28, 2013 at 06:37 PM
Bullying Jeff Cohn about the actions of David Cohn is ludicrous. It is crystal clear that you are trying to deflect from the real issue…do we want oil drilling in Hermosa Beach? I am concerned about 35 oil wells ¼ mile from here…aren’t you? Landowners near oil and gas operations complain of nosebleeds, headaches, sick or dead animals and being afraid to drink the water for fear of potential contamination. Can you imagine the smell? Ugh! Those concerns weigh heavily on families looking to move to a community that allows driling.
 Densely populated Hermosa residents surround this site in every direction without a buffer…this is no place for an oil drilling operation. If we allow drilling, we will see a high inventory of homes near the site. There will be a huge number of sellers and a lack of interested buyers, leading to long turnaround times on homes in the area. Hermosa Beach's green image will forever be tainted. Say NO to oil drilling in Hermosa Beach!
Jeff Cohn January 28, 2013 at 07:41 PM
Double standard you say? Hey now you're talkin! Here is the health, safety and "Anti-Cohn" voting record of Kit Bobko & Michael Divirgilio. They are the dissenting votes in all of these . . . 1) Voted 3-2 No on Outsourcing Parking Meters 2) Voted 3-2 Yes Hiring Tom Bakaly as new City Manager 3) Voted 3-2 Yes to Ban Polystyrene 4) Voted 4-1 Yes (Bobko) Banning Smoking on Strand & Pier Plaza 5) Voted 4-0 Yes (Bobko Absent) Banning Smoking on Beaches 6) Voted 3-2 Yes Approval of Bank of American Banking contract 7) Voted 3-2 No To suspend City Treasurer who was a victim of extortion. http://www.nobpinhb.com/2012/09/hermosa-beach-city-council-voting.html
H. Schwartz January 28, 2013 at 08:48 PM
Jeff, if either Bobko or Divirgilio ordered in a hooker as your father did can you just imagine how apoplectic you'd be. Here you are talking about smoking , plastic and parking meters when you should step up and tell your father to step down. As people age, sometimes they need a little guidance You should be there for him.
Jeff Cohn January 28, 2013 at 09:27 PM
Breaking News! Bobko and Jenkins extorted councilmen Duclos, Fishman & Tucker into reluctantly signing and voting 5-0 in oil settlement. Why don't you ask Duclos, Fishman & Tucker why they spoke with PERSONAL OUTSIDE ATTORNEYS before they reluctantly signed the Macpherson oil settlement agreement negotiated by Bobko? If you want details on what the extortion is then ask former City Officials and employees.
Joel Cooper January 29, 2013 at 01:29 AM
Jeff, what is it with you Cohns and extortion, tell us what you think of an elected City official putting himself in a position to be extorted? Has your father spoken to you at all about what happened. For the City Treasurer to put himself in such a compromising position is unacceptable.
Richard McHandy January 29, 2013 at 06:59 PM
Here's some advice to pass along for you Jeff...when the "massage technician" or her "assistant" say, "you still owe me $300", you pay them, say thank you, and send them happily on their way. I guess the jobs of City Treasurer and Secret Service Agent both should require more strict intelligence and common sense testing.
Christine Wike January 29, 2013 at 07:06 PM
I can't believe these posts are allowed on this site! Bullying Jeff Cohn about the actions of David Cohn is ludicrous. It is crystal clear that you are trying to deflect from the real issue…how will oil drilling affect our lives in Hermosa Beach? Do you guys even live here?
Richard McHandy January 29, 2013 at 10:06 PM
I can't believe it either Christine, because internet message boards are such a serious means of social communication. I choose to have a sense of humor...and oil drilling is a boring topic, while an old, drunk man thinking he doesn't have to pay for his hookers is hilarious. Simple as that sweetie.
Joel Cooper January 29, 2013 at 10:57 PM
Christine,the only post that should be disallowed is M Charles Fogg's second post because of vulgarity, agreed. Interesting that you used the words "crystal clear" in your post, because clarity is the issue here. I would like Mr. Cohn ( Jeff ) to please clarify why he finds fault with only certain elected officials. If he's as intellectually dishonest as it seems how can anyone put trust in anything he says. Christine, how do you feel about Mr. Cohn ( David ) our City Treasurer, the person handling our money, patronizing hookers in our City! Maybe the lack of ethics runs in the family.
Jeff Cohn January 29, 2013 at 11:07 PM
I am not sure I understand how you can discredit the Treasurer's incredible investment track record? Its the best ever in the history of Hermosa Beach? What does the Treasurer's track record of making $1M in bond investments or saving the City a few hundred thousand dollars in costs have anything to do with oil drilling? Are you afraid the City Treasurer might not write that $17.5M oil extortion sentimental check to E&B? Its never going to get that far because law suits are lining up against the City.
Liz Spear (Editor) January 29, 2013 at 11:53 PM
Hi Folks, Let's keep the topic on the subject of the article: the proposed oil project in Hermosa Beach.
Liz Spear (Editor) January 29, 2013 at 11:55 PM
Once again, please do keep to the subject of the proposed oil drilling project. I do think it's great that everyone here is presumably using real and full names, which is Patch policy.
Liz Spear (Editor) January 29, 2013 at 11:57 PM
Hi Joel, Let's keep the conversation focused on the oil drilling project, please.
Liz Spear (Editor) January 30, 2013 at 12:02 AM
Let's stick to the proposed oil drilling project, please. Name calling is not acceptable. Thanks!
Joel Cooper January 30, 2013 at 01:30 AM
First of all The City Treasurer can't write a 17.5 million dollar check to anyone, I'm surprised you didn't know that. Some of us in this town would like our Treasurer to have ethics, morals and common sense, in addition to a good investment track record or are they mutually exclusive in your world. Lets not forget your father drove to east L.A. to pay more money for a " massage" than he could have gotten from a licensed, registered, "real" massage therapist here in town. Not exactly someone who knows how to handle money,but it is, to use your word,"incredible."
Jeff Cohn January 30, 2013 at 01:39 AM
I would suggest that E&B start the process of getting their $30M back from Macpherson and tearing up the agreement. Lack of disclosures and conflicts of interest are obvious and everyone on the inside is guilty. Not to mention the Supreme Court order violation. Tom Bakaly should start looking for a new City Attorney replacement as well. Kit Bobko can rectify all of this and save his re-election hopes or political in November by tearing up the illegal agreement. If not, he will lose BIG. The entire November election will be entirely on THIS ISSUE and what the candidates will do to rectify the situation.
Teresa Cohn February 26, 2013 at 04:06 AM
Wow, I'm really confused. Is Jeff Cohn related to the treasurer? If Jeff is so self righteous, perhaps he should admit that the treasurer's behavior was highly inappropriate for a person who has responsibility for Hermosa's money. Does Jeff care about our money, or doesn't he? I guess he only cares provided that it doesn't involve the treasurer. The treasurer should have resigned.

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