Reflections on Anaheim’s City Council Elections


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I have described my transformation from a passive Anaheim resident, to one actively learning about the problems of the city, in previous essays in this blog. The riots of the July 24th and the images of Anaheim looking like a place in Iraq, when the police were deployed as a militarized force, made me look for explanations.   Riots had recently occurred before the July 24th, in other places of the world. In a Paris suburb, minority youth had battled with the police. In my native earthquake-prone country, businesses were looted after the last powerful earthquake.   People who feel marginalized sometimes react in desperate violent ways during crisis.

The August 8 council meeting at Anaheim High School, at the aftermath of the riots, woke me up to the city politics.  The majority of the council members blocked the reforms overwhelmingly requested by the people attending the meeting. These council members embodied the political, social and economic power in the city.   I attended most of the council candidates ‘debates, got to know the main issues and the people running for office. There was a wide agreement about the pressing issues, such as the resort area being a major source of revenue and employment, but corporate  subsidies were questioned. Crime and gangs were another concern. Some proposed a comprehensive intervention approach, emphasizing social programs; others proposed an increased repressive police response.

The former mayor Pringle, who had become a lobbyist to the local tourist industry, is alleged to have substantial influence on the city council that approved subsidies to the resort industry and Disney. He was demonized by some of his critics, and apparently rightly so. He endorsed and funded the candidate openly identified with supporting subsidies to hotel developers. Disney financed this candidate campaign, attacking the main opponent advocating transparency and fair deals for the city.

In this council election, I did not vote along party lines, or based on ethnicity or gender. Now that I know about the local issues and the players, I knew the difference between the Pringle/Disney candidate Brandman, and the other candidates. I knew who almost singlehandedly run on the fear of crime, ex-cops Lodge and Linder. I got to know those who represented the average residents and proposed sensible solutions: Leos, Roberts and to a certain extent, Mr Chuchua. I did not get warmed up or impressed by Ms Kring, I barely got to know the almost invisible candidates Gaona and Rivera.

The election results are disappointing, but they must be taken in the context of the transformation of the city politics.

CITY OF ANAHEIM Member, City Council
Number To Vote For: 2
Completed Precincts: 165 of 165

Vote Count Percentage
LUCILLE KRING

20,126

19.4%

JORDAN BRANDMAN

19,933

19.2%

JOHN LEOS

14,412

13.9%

STEVEN ALBERT CHAVEZ LODGE

10,863

10.5%

LINDA LINDER

10,296

9.9%

JENNIFER RIVERA

9,961

9.6%

BRIAN NEIL CHUCHUA

7,331

7.1%

RODOLFO “RUDY” GAONA

5,686

5.5%

DUANE ROBERTS

5,090

4.9%

Self-identified “conservatives” got at least 60% of the vote (Kring, Leos, Lodge, Linder, Chuchua).  The candidates with Latino-sounding names, with unknown political identification, Gaona and Rivera, got 15.1% . Adding Leos 13.9, the Latino candidates got 29% of the vote. Roberts, the lonely progressive running for the first time got a significant 4.9. The Pringle/Disney candidate Brandman got 19%.

Anaheim is still a conservative city. Republicans got 60.8%, and Democrats 19.2% of the vote. The candidates who based their campaigns on fear of crime got an impressive 20.4%. The 15.1% of the two low-key Latino candidates shows that ethnicity alone, probably devoid of information about the issues, is a significant factor.

I am puzzled about the role of the Disney corporation in this election.The stakes must be very high for Disney.  Taking over the failed subsidized Garden-Walk hotel projects, and having the subsidized street cars/Artic project, must be vital stocks in their business empire. The influence of former major Pringle is also amazing. Rather than being demonized, the question is to understand how he rose to this level of power, to avoid future similar occurrences. Did anybody in the council, or in the community, notice his ambition when he was the mayor?

To unify the city, the causes of the riots must be addressed. The under-representation and inadequate services provided to significant sections of the community are some of the causes. Replacing the current system at large of electing the council members, which favors the most affluent sections of the city, is an important step to heal our city.


About Ricardo Toro

Chilean native and Anaheim resident for several decades, who just recently got drawn into the great fray!