Again, since none of us were able to attend last night’s Anaheim Council Candidates Forum, we reprint commentary from our frequent Anaheim commenter Ricardo Toro. I should make him an account here one of these days, you think? – V.
I missed at least half of tonight’s forum at Betsy Ross School, hosted by OCCCO and other community groups. It was the largest and most diverse audience so far. I heard that it was also the most animated, with some candidates parading into the hall accompanied by their supporters. I am looking forward to Gabriel San Roman’s report, describing the flavor and highlights of the meeting.
What I heard from the candidates did not vary much for what I have learned so far.
There are four viable candidates in the Anaheim council race: Leos, Kring, Brandman and Roberts. That’s based on the endorsements of two local major news media organizations, the OC Register and Weekly, and by political figures and organizations. Politics could be non-partisan, but the values or dogmas of the candidates reflect visions of the society as a whole: conservatives, liberal or progressive.
John (Leos) breaks through the dogma held by many conservatives. A working man, at certain point he was a member of the executive leadership of an employee association. He’s supported by this labor group, and has shown that he can represent average neighbors regardless of ideological or political allegiances. He has been one of most solid, reasonable, consistent candidate in the forums.
However, at the Anna Drive forum, he used the GOP party line of the “market forces” in reference to the hotels project in the Garden Walk area. The market forces may be appropriate in this case, but it should not be a mantra to determine policies. The rundown, blighted condition of the Rio Vista shopping center in the neighborhood where John and I live, is the result of the market forces. The Miraloma Community Center could not have been developed if the recession had not occurred; city officials would not have applied public domain on the only property suitable for the center. Sometimes, the active role of city government may be needed, especially when the market forces are not getting the desirable results.
Ms Kring is an enigma. She does not favor elections by district, although she accepts that it is inevitable. She does not apply a “holistic” approach to the crime and gang problems and she is stuck with the formula of community policing. She is the standard bearer of conservatives bent on taking down the unions’ leverage, and not just in lowering their pensions. These conservatives go to the extreme of indirectly ridiculing the police and firefighters unions, by pointing out that their backed candidates refer to them as “public safety heroes.” The irony is that these conservatives laud the police’s repressive behavior during the riots, but they are proud of complying with the Baugh Manifesto, of not accepting funds from labor organizations. Her commitment to allocate 1% of the TOT revenue for neighborhood improvement is commendable though.
Leos and Kring, endorsed by Mayor Tait, are expected to curtail the influence of developers and corporate lobbyists, and to support the election by districts sooner than the current commission timetable. They appear as the pragmatic choice as many people vote along party lines, and the GOP is still the dominant political force in the city.
Jordan Brandman has an impressive record serving as a public official, is an excellent public speaker. He is a well-groomed young politician. In the first debate he was so polished, it was too good to believe. He gave the right answers, and avoided the ones linking him to the developers. In the second one he showed a more human side, and had the guts to bring up the positive aspects of Obamacare. It’s shrewd of him to run as a Democrat in a city that is still predominant Republican, but whose significant demographic change will soon have registered Democrats outpacing Republicans. His support for developers and ties to former mayor Pringle, his unwillingness to recognize police brutality, and his pairing up with Steve Lodge, who has a very negative image, may cost him the race.
Duane Roberts is a long-shot candidate. He was the first one to propose a civilian police review commission. His criticism of corporate welfare resonates well with the average resident, and it is worth repeating:
“The Anaheim Resort Area’s success is solely based on corporate welfare. This economic engine couldn’t exist without more than a half billion dollar of direct and indirect public subsidies over the past decade. The Walt Disney Company, for example, has benefited from all sorts of taxpayer assistance, everything from a free $90 million parking garage to expansion of the Anaheim Convention Center.
“The burden of the impacts of Anaheim Resort Area expansion has been shifted to surrounding communities, most notably West Anaheim. Increased employment of low wage workers not only caused overcrowding of apartments, schools, and parks, but traffic congestion. When Disney proposed its California Adventure Theme park, they argued against paying for impacts of their pending development on local schools, saying it wasn’t their responsibility. What they did, in essence, was shift the burden onto the backs of thousands of workers and homeowners, who now pay increased property tax assessments to pay off bonds floated to pay for construction of new facilities”
He draw applause at the Anna Drive forum, from the mostly Latino audience, when he stated his commitment to advance the causes of the workers , documented or not. This is an indication of the potential impact of this segment of the population. As more working class and young Latinos register to vote, the better progressive candidates like Duane will fare.
District elections WILL become a reality. Some of the other pressing issues these candidates need to address if elected are:
1) The resort industry.
Limiting /eliminating the corporate influence in city government.
It is a fact that the resort area / tourist industry is a major source of revenue and employment. The question is how to avoid excessive subsidies, if any at all, and effectively address the negative impact of developments in the surrounding communities. Living wages and full application of green technologies should be pursued. The pollution from fuel-powered equipments used at Disneyland needs to be curtailed even further. A protocol of transparency between the industry and the city needs to be established.
2) the Crime and Gangs problem.
Nobody likes crimes and gangs. Allocate the earmarked funds from the resort industry primarily to neglected areas. The Anaheim Police have already identified these areas as the “hot zones” in its Action Incident Report. Establish a task force to implement a comprehensive gang intervention program. As Luis J. Rodriguez states in his newest edition of Always Running: “Expand the conversation about why people join gangs, are violent, lose their imagination and their hopes, and to explore what we can do as creative and caring communities to truly see and address these ongoing and deepening concerns.”
3) Police brutality.
We all appreciate the police mission to “serve and protect”. The police should not be acting as a militarized force, or fatally shooting people in a pattern that is questionable. It is the failure of the civilian institutions and policies that put the police in an undesirable role. It may probably be a culture problem in the police force, rather than a few rotten apples. A civilian police commission could also explore how to improve the police and community interaction.
Finally, I wish that Brian Chuchua could have a chance to make every neighborhood in Anaheim as beautiful as the resort area!
– Ricardo Toro, Anaheim citizen.