The brewing authoritarianism in Anaheim. Update – Anna Drive Forum TONITE!


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WAND Anaheim City Council Forum from Save Anaheim on Vimeo.

Thanks to Save Anaheim for filming this Sept. 26 candidate forum (against the wishes of the sponsors) and to Duane for first posting it on this blog.  There are three more forums coming up in quick succession this week:

  • TOMORROW MORNING, Tuesday at 11, at the FoxFire Restaurant in Anaheim Hills, 5717 East Santa Ana Canyon Road  Anaheim, CA 92807 – hosted by the OC Federation of Republican Wimmen!  Each candidate will get seven minutes to talk. [Update - only Republicans were invited.  So no Duane, no Jordan.]
  • TUESDAY NIGHT at 6, Oct. 15, on ANNA DRIVE!  That’s 702 North Anna Drive, brought to you by … the folks who live on Anna Drive!  NOTE – this was originally Monday night, but it’s changed to Tuesday night!
  • And most importabt, Monday Oct. 22, 6pm, at Betsy Ross elementary school, hosted by OCCCO, Los Amigos, and several other worthy groups.

But back to the WAND Forum above.  Obviously a couple weeks have passed since that forum;  Adam E and Gabriel SR (who get paid) filed their reports right away, and our commenter Ricardo Toro sent me his thoughts which I’ll reprint below, but I’ve been thinking about it for a while now.  What jumped out to me and others at that event, those of us who were more concerned with the issues of corporate welfare, district elections, and police violence, was the strong currents of authoritarianism coming from some of the candidates, particularly the two retired cops who are running:  Steven Albert Chavez Lodge and Linda Linder.

Lodge, Linder, Brandman, Kring

Lodge, who radiates a tense and brooding anger, tended more than the others to bring most questions back to the problem of GANGS, which he claims HE knows how to “eradicate,” or “at least get rid of the worst of the worst.”  He knows how to do this, supposedly, because of his 30-year record of getting rid of gangs in Santa Ana.  Unfortunately the more of his record that comes to light, the more he looks like a dishonest violent dirty cop, and it’s also kind of hard to say that he or anybody had any success ridding Santa Ana of gangs.  His insistence that he knows how, and that Anaheim gangs would just disappear if only he were on Council, seems somewhat disrespectful of the current Anaheim Police Department and Chief Welter.

Key to Lodge’s master plan for Anaheim ganglessness is hiring FIFTY-FOUR NEW POLICE OFFICERS.  Responding to audience worries of how expensive that would be, he answers that it’s something “We can’t afford NOT to do.”  Obviously such an investment would come at the expense of the sorts of things the more liberal or populist candidates proposed – more investment in neighborhoods, schools, after-school programs etc.  But most telling was Lodge’s explanation for WHY Anaheim needs 54 new cops – to protect Disneyland and the resort area, which is the town’s lifeblood.  Remember, Lodge along with Brandman is the corporate-backed candidate, and here he shows the always-disturbing nexus between corporatism and authoritarianism.

“Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.” — Benito Mussolini

Linder, a retired LA deputy, also took time emphasizing how she would get rid of gangs, which lead to narcotics, which lead to the big prostitution problem on Beach Blvd.  Brandman, more polished and “liberal” of a corporatist, did announce in a reckless moment that he would “get prostitution under control and ERADICATE drug use,” but mostly focused on combating gangs by bringing “jobs, jobs, jobs,” and more educational programs.   Grafitti was another great concern of the audience, and Lucille Kring‘s solution to that is to go after the parents of tagging kids, as they apparently do in LA.

(Lucille mentioned, as she always does, her enthusiasm for “community policing” – getting the cops “out of their cars” so they get to know the people of the neighborhood and vice-versa.  Some folks were snorting and shaking their heads when they heard that.  Apparently “community policing” is a wonderful idea from a couple decades ago, but it just doesn’t work any more in the context of the Drug War.  Meanwhile, Duane Roberts was the only candidate to speak of the need for a Citizens Review Board to actually protect the people from the excesses of the cops.)

Well, these candidates were telling this audience what they wanted to hear – the audience being the West Anaheim Neighborhood Development Council (WAND) – a group of frightened elderly white property owners in the mainly minority west side of town.  If I sound a little contemptuous, there’s reason. Well, let me start here:  Why were there only fifty audience members in attendance that night – a dozen political junkies and reporters like me, relatives of the candidates, and maybe two dozen WAND people?  Because the group purposely did no publicity for the event, and also moved the location at the last minute.  (They also tried to prevent it being taped, until Cynthia Ward and Save Anaheim convinced them that they COULDN’T do that.)

And WHY did they refuse to publicize the forum?  The answer is absurd:  They were terrified that there would be a RIOT like there was TWO MONTHS EARLIER on July 24 in the Colony area.

Really, why would there be a riot at their little candidate forum?  Everyone knows why there was a riot July 24 – two fleeing youths had just been fatally shot, and their neighbors, after having been encouraged to come to the council meeting and make their voices heard, were – as far as they could tell – locked out of the meeting.  THAT makes for a riot.  But in the minds of the terrified folks of WAND, there’s danger of a riot any time the underclass knows that white folks are gathering together.  Apparently.  Why even bother having a forum if you don’t want people to know about it?

And Lodge and Linder are just the kind of candidates to speak to the fears of these sorts of voters.  Afterwards, organizers were heard to say that they were most impressed with Lodge and Brandman.  Fortunately, given the abysmally low numbers that Lodge at least is getting (in polls I’m not supposed to discuss), this politics of fear and authoritarianism doesn’t seem to be what most Anaheim voters are looking for.

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Well, enough from me!  I’m happy to have in the studio with me tonight Mr. RICARDO TORO, a frequent commenter on this blog, and someone who worked in his spare time with gangs.  What did you think of the Forum, Ricardo?

(Ricardo at top left)

Buenas tardes, Vern.  Well, I did attend that forum, to continue learning about my city’s politics. The mostly white and elderly composition of the audience called my attention. Their concerns about the quality of life in this part of the city, West Anaheim, were framed by the frustration of being affected by gang activity, and prostitution along Beach Boulevard.

I had been warned that the gang and graffiti issues make some candidates viscerally react, causing them to come across as almost irrational. One of these candidates, Linda Linder, a retired LA deputy sheriff stated that gangs did not exist in Anaheim a few years ago, that they are taking a toll in the community and she is determined to move them out. Not to be outdone, Steven Lodge jumped in with his police pedigree including tackling the Mexican Mafia. He is also determined to exterminate the gang problem, narcotics and prostitution. Lucille Kring will go after the parents of children who get involved in graffiti and tagging.

Their statements lack the historical perspective, and disregard the contemporary factors causing these social ills. Gangs are not just a phenomenon of modern times. A powerful testimony on gangs is the life and literary work of chicano writer, Luis J. Rodriguez. One of his books, “Always Running”, has become a cult book among latino youth in our schools, according to teachers who attended his recent lecture at the Fullerton Library. In his most recent book “It Calls You Back” Mr Rodriguez states that he helped to create the Guide for Understanding Effective Community Based Gang Intervention. The LA city council approved this guide in 2008, and it has been introduced to various municipalities, counties, states and urban peace organizations, as well as Congress.

Overcrowded, densely populated, low-income areas, commonly known as barrios, are often blamed for generating much of these problems, without considering the negative impact of policies generated not only at the local level, but nationally and nowadays at a global level. It is not a coincidence that the Anaheim Police Department classified mostly Mexican working class neighborhoods as “hot zones” in its “Incident Action Report”, during the riots. The best accounts on our city’s troubling issues have been done by the Anaheim born and raised prominent social observer, Gustavo Arellano. He and his colleagues in the OC Weekly have produced eloquent reports, and one of them should be a must read for all the candidates: Anaheim’s Tragic Kingdom.

Crime indeed takes a toll on our community. The high rate of home foreclosures has taken a terrible toll in the 92801 area, and throughout the cities. Motels, many in West Anaheim, have become homes for displaced families and their children. High unemployment takes a toll in our community. High cost of college fees, leaving many young people highly in debt or unable to pay the fees and continue their education, also takes a toll.

There are many explanations of the current crisis and the negative impact affecting our communities. One is by the economist Robert Reich. Another economist, Richard Wolff, offers a different explanation on www.capitalismhitsthefan.com. The challenge for us is how to address the root causes of these problems, and mitigate the social ills as much as possible. A sensible step agreed by all the candidates was earmarking 1% of the revenues from the hotel’s bed taxes (TOT) to neighborhoods improvement.

On the district election proposal, Linder, Lodge and Kring appeared as a bloc opposing it. As they were making the argument that voting at large allows for diverse representation, Reuter News released this information:   “New voting laws in 23 of the 50 states could keep more than 10 million Hispanic U.S. citizens from registering and voting, a new study said on Sunday, a number so large it could affect the outcome of the November 6 election.” Districts may not be the perfect, but it is a worthwhile attempt to address the disfranchisement and lack of representation felt by many.

On the business interests and SOAR , there were very slick answers by the candidates linked to these groups. Lodge in a rather meek way defended the subsidy to the hotel developers. Brandman took his time on this question to dance around and avoided mentioning his support for the developers. Leos made a strong reference to the political insiders and king -makers in the city, and repeated his commitment to transparency. Roberts stated that he would not approve developer projects without reducing or eliminating their impacts on residential areas, parks, schools and traffic.

I found amusing that the moderator addressed Lodge without the Chavez name attached to him.  I am looking forward to the next debates, to learn from others neighbors about our common problems. In the meantime, I participated in a Citizenship Fair at the North Community College. Future citizens were eager to exercise their rights and responsibilities of participating in a democracy, by registering to vote, voting, being informed about the issues and involved in civic affairs. I was also deeply impressed by the number of volunteers, and by the organizers. They were young, mostly young women born to immigrants. Hopefully these young people will take over the leadership of our democratic institutions, with a more compassionate approach to solve the community problems.


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist in Orange County. Performs regularly with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem, and at regular concerts at the Huntington Beach Central Library.