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It was bizarre, surreal, all those types of adjectives. As the Wednesday August 8 mega-Council meeting at Anaheim High School’s Cook Auditorium got closer, all the local merchants began to nail protective boards over their windows, and closed early. WHY? Nobody who’s been following the news in Anaheim, no-one who’s slightly in touch with the place, was expecting any trouble at all. But SOMEBODY, as one frightened merchant told my friend Cynthia Ward, was going around warning all the local businesses that there would be a RIOT Wednesday afternoon on account of the meeting.
What utter nonsense! The only reason there HAD been a riot on the night of July 24 was 1) two fatal police shootings had happened just days before, and 2) after being encouraged to come to the July 24 council meeting, the Anna Drive neighbors were [as far as they could tell] locked out of the meeting, and so felt helplessly enraged. But THIS meeting, the August 8 one, was intentionally located by Mayor Tait in a 1000-seat auditorium where they were guaranteed entry and guaranteed to be heard. Not to mention, tempers had cooled after two weeks and the bereaved were just grieving by now. So anyone who knew anything saw all this terrified preparation for a riot, scratched their heads and said “Huh?”
As with most things evil in today’s Anaheim, the manufactured fear of Wednesday’s meeting can be tracked back to the Council majority of Murray, Eastman and Sidhu, who had brought up phony safety concerns the previous week in an unsuccessful attempt to derail the meeting. You may remember how relieved they were when the July 24 riots aborted THAT meeting so they wouldn’t have to cast a vote on two very popular measures that they preferred to just let die on their own: districting, and putting future hotel subsidies to a popular vote. (You may remember Eastman’s exulting over having those measures die “without a shot fired.”)
Well, with Mayor Tait calling this special August 8 meeting, the two measures were not dead after all, and the three corporatists would actually have to kill the measures themselves, in public view, with their bare hands. How to prevent this meeting from happening? Feign fear of a riot, was obviously their best and only idea. Kris Murray quickly called an emergency closed session, to (among a couple other things) discuss with the police chief “the safety of public buildings.” In the public comments allowed before the closed session, dittohead supporters of the Terrified Trio lined up to bray out a quivering chorus of trepidation: the “school district would be in jeopardy” somehow, the meeting must be cancelled for safety’s sake! The closed session following was marathon-length, but the Mayor kept his meeting – smart money sez Chief Welter refused to humiliate himself by saying he couldn’t keep Cook Auditorium safe.
So, one byproduct of this shameful kabuki was this unnecessary wasteland of boarded-up shops and lost business. Outsiders should never underestimate “the hive mind of the Mother Colony” – and this WAS the Colony neighborhood, whose groupthink is legendary and whose rumor mill and propaganda machine – driven by Councilmembers Eastman and Murray and errand-boy/council hopeful Jordan Brandman and usually traceable back to uber-corporatist Curt Pringle – would make FOX News jealous. In this week’s exercise they successfully scared themselves shitless. [*Update – see comments section below for example from Anaheim Neighborhood Association.]
And now, there was no way out. The meeting was going to happen. And if Anaheim was not going to see districting and popular votes on hotel subsidies – an unthinkable outcome! – Murray, Eastman and Sidhu would have to do the dirty work themselves and have the whole public see what assholes they are. And in this they did not disappoint. But let’s examine exactly WHAT KIND of assholes they are.
The Wednesday August 8 Mega-Council Meeting.
Okay, everybody’s written about the meeting already, all the little eager-beaver journalists WHO GET PAID and get a lot wrong, but you already know the basics. Hundreds came, as expected, brushing past friendly youth giving out free “No Violence in Anaheim” teeshirts and glancing quizzically across the placid street at all the newly boarded-up shops. Nearly a hundred spoke (for over four hours of public comments) and most were there because of the police killings and police overreaction to the subsequent protests. Chief Welter sat stoically through multiple calls for his resignation (and is fully wiling, he tells me, to discuss a citizens’ oversight Board, and is not leaving any time soon either.)
But the people who were there for one reason had a chance to learn plenty about districting, hotel subsidies, how those two issues really affect them, which members of the council care about them and trust them, and which ones want to keep them down as long as possible. YOU already know the pre-ordained conclusion: the three corporatists killed (temporarily) the two democratic reforms. But let’s look at some details of the strangulation, and what it reveals about the uniquely despicable characteristics of each of these Three Corporatists.
There’s no secret that the imperious Kris Murray wants to be the next Mayor when that possibility opens up in 2014. She and her allies have been savaging true conservative Mayor Tom Tait nonstop for his lack of fealty to Anaheim’s corporate power structure, making him out to somehow be some kind of leftist rabble rouser. The absurdity of these attacks only seems to add to his popularity and to put steel in the good man’s spine.
In defending her $158 million bed-tax giveaway to developer Bill O’Connell – known also as the “TOT” issue, and the controversy that led us to the “Let the People Vote” initiative – she launched into a half-hour revisionist history of the entire deal, which we have no room here to fisk, but Jason has begun to. It’s true what they say – when this woman begins defending herself, you can doze off, and wake up again, and do that ten times, and each time say to yourself, “DAMN, Kris Murray is STILL talking.” One thinks of Castro, Hugo Chavez.
The districting issue had more interesting wrinkles than the subsidies did – two big ones in fact. ONE – the world had woken up that morning to a Register article claiming that Disney themselves (the main driving force behind these three corporatists) had come out in support of districting. Now, it goes without saying that you’re not gonna learn much from a Register article beyond, “Something might have happened.”
Well, being fortunate enough to have made the acquaintance of Eric Altman, the executive director of OCCORD (OC Communities Organized for Responsible Development), I was able to see Disney’s actual letter that morning, and it was much more ambiguous in its support for districting than the jejune Register bothered to notice or convey. After some platitudes about diversity and democracy, and a half-hearted nod toward putting Tait’s measure on the ballot, they got around to prescribing their real proposal: (cue “When You Wish Upon a Star“)…
…the city could begin an open and transparent, citywide dialogue with an independent, unbiased and equitably distributed group of Anaheim residents and employers to determine the number of seats, district boundaries and a new governance structure for the city – one that fairly represents residents in every Anaheim neighborhood.
May I try my hand at translating that?
…the Council majority could begin a process wherein they name a bunch of people they trust to study the shit out of districting for a long, long, fucking time; and then if they decide it’s a good idea they can decide to put it up for a vote nearly two years from now, at the sure-to-be-low-turnout June 2014 primary election, where if it passes (against whoever decides to throw money and propaganda against it, don’t look at us) it may or may not have time to go into effect for the Nov. 2014 elections. Oh, the millions Anaheim will have spent in the meantime in a losing battle against the ACLU? Oh, Anaheim taxpayers can handle that. Anything to keep our puppets in power for just a few more years. We DO love districting, diversity and democracy though, as well as ducks and dinosaurs.
Which, you may have guessed, if you didn’t already know, is exactly what passed, is exactly what Fuhrer Murray had proposed last week in the closed session, and exactly what Disney errand-boy/council-wannabe Jordan Brandman had outlined in HIS speech. (And it was strange how nervous that boy seemed, after all the public speaking he’s done.)
OCCORD Messaging Fail
I hate to bitch about my brand-new friends from OCCORD, who have been working so hard on the districting issue for so long while I’ve just been partying it up in Huntington Beach. And probably there was nothing that could have been done in any case that would have softened any of the three corporatists’ steadfast determination to suppress democracy. But still, it really muddied the waters to have them show up in force, in SUPPORT of Mayor Tait’s proposal to let the people vote this November on a SIX-district plan, and then go back to their seats waving dozens of pre-made bright yellow signs demanding EIGHT districts.
It gave that imperious bitch Kris Murray exactly the opening she took advantage of: “Look at you people, you’re not even united yourselves! You’re saying eight, you’re saying six. This is obviously just one more reason we need to study the shit out of this until it dies.” (My paraphrase.)
They came to the meeting in force, but they came without a clear position, since so many variables were shifting all about them. At the aborted July 24 meeting Mayor Tait was planning to propose FOUR districts (and an at-large Mayor) which I agree was not enough. OCCORD was demanding EIGHT, and according to my colleague Gabriel San Roman they didn’t want it placed on the ballot either, as that would constitute “putting civil rights up to a popular vote.” (? Don’t see that.)
And Mayor Tait, who IS a good listener, came back Wednesday with a compromise proposal for SIX districts. I asked Mr. Altman before the meeting, so what’s your position now? Will you support six? And he said he wasn’t sure, they would just play it by ear.
And play it by ear they did. A dozen-or-so of them came up to speak, just generally, in favor of districting; they were obviously rooting for Tait’s proposal to pass, and loudly boo’d the “NO” vote, even as they fanned the room with “EIGHT DISTRICTS” signs.
When Generalissimo Murray naturally pointed out the contradiction, we all started chanting (by that point I was sitting with them) “GO WITH SIX! GO WITH SIX!” But to no avail.
Smirking Harry, and a few other disgusting tidbits.
Anaheim will be well rid of Harry Sidhu soon, thanks to term limits, and we can only hope he’s not replaced by young spry Brandman. For a while I wondered, Is Harry ALWAYS smirking? Is his face just like stuck like that? Then I saw that SOMETIMES he’s not. It’s only when he is getting ready to vote against the people that he smirks, and that is only MOST of the time.
Tait is a Mayor of great forbearance, but sometimes one of his colleagues will say something of such egregious assclownery that he can’t help but set the record straight. One such example was when Smirking Harry (who fancies himself a rare business genius due to his Pollo Loco franchises) scolded the audience that if the “Let the People Vote” measure were in place decades ago, the Angels’ Stadium could never have been built. Tait couldn’t let that one go, and pointed out that the measure only applies to HOTEL BED TAXES, which are a perennial giveaway favorite of council whores everywhere.
Another thought business genius Sidhu proffered in his condescending manner was that neighboring Garden Grove had just also made a similar bed-tax giveaway “deal” with a hotel, and what’s to keep all hotel developers from RUSHING to Garden Grove for such great deals? Is that what you want, Anaheim, a race to the bottom with Garden Grove? That’s what Harry Sidhu wants for you. Would it be racist of me to point out the irony that Harry hails from our outsourcing nemesis India, a country that races us to the bottom of everything and wins? Maybe. So I won’t point that out.
Gail “no shots fired” Eastman teleconferenced the meeting from Michigan – the first guess of most was that she was too mortified to show her face after her impolitic outburst of July 24, but apparently she was burying her father-in-law, and the trip had been planned for months. (Wait – can those both be true? Never mind, moving on…) But she refused to let herself be outdone in the arrogance sweepstakes with her two corporatist colleagues, snapping at one point that she “understands all these issues better” than any of us dumb plebes sweating our asses off in Anaheim.
The Work that Lies Ahead.
To me, it’s clear what needs to be done in Anaheim, and it’s a long list. Of course I’m only an outside agitator, but … MAYBE I’LL MOVE THERE!
First, this November, we need two new Councilpeople that are NOT Pringle/Disney puppets – that quite specifically means not Jordan Brandman and not Steve Lodge.
The community needs to insist on serious investigations into the police shootings, and a Citizens Oversight Committee.
But the important grassroots work will come early next year, when Take Back Anaheim, Save Anaheim, and all our other allies need to get enough signatures to put all of this on a Spring 2013 special election ballot:
- Districting with EIGHT districts and an at-large Mayor;
- “Let the Peope Vote” on future hotel subsidies of a certain size;
- And RECALL Kris Murray and Gail Eastman.
La luta continua…