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All years probably qualify as wild ones in a county of 3 million people, but 2012 fit that bill especially well. Rather than a “best of ” list, though — that’s Vern’s gig — I want to focus today on the curse of short-form amateur political blogging, a deficiency on which the targets of our attention and scorn: the short memory span.
That is: we can shine a light down a rat hole and scatter the varmints for a time, but we have many stories to cover and real lives to read and (not incidentally) real lifelihoods (such as they are) to earn. It’s easy for those we criticize to simply wait us out until our attention shifts or our resources or our readership dwindles.
To an extent that can’t be helped — but we can push back. Much of the business of 2012 is anything but settled; this is to remind us of the political battles to come. The top stories of 2013 ought to, in many cases, be continuations of the top stories of 2012. Here are the grudges that this dissatisfied writer intends to continue to nurse — or, put more nicely, the stories I don’t intend to forget. (Following that downer will come a second post later this week — a baker’s dozen of reasons for hope!)
(1) Government Persecution of Occupy Wall Street while Tolerating Right-Wingers Claiming the Right to Anti-Government Violence
One of the most horrifying stories unfolding right now is large enough that I haven’t been able to get my arms around it well enough to write a suitable piece. FBI documents have been released regarding how Occupy Wall Street — while recognized as non-violent — was nevertheless targeted from the start for infiltration, sabotage, and violent suppression by the government, working in concert with private interests. This will continue — or maybe I should stay start — to be a major story in 2013. What business does the government have trying to hobble the ability of people to complain against the crimes and abuses of reckless financial institutions? Is the FBI infiltrating corporate board rooms? If not, why not?
This is bad enough in itself; in juxtaposition to the toleration of proclamations by armed right-wingers of the constitutional right to arm oneself for the purpose of overthrowing the government, it becomes obscene. Make up your minds, people: if right-wingers get to arm themselves to the teeth and march and threaten and bring arms to public gatherings, then Occupy protesters and the poor, angry, and unemployed get to do so as well. We made sure that there were no weapons at our Occupy rallies and actions, which may be why police were so willing to wade in against us. Many of us more seasoned protesters spent a lot of time explaining why we could not mount any sort of violent resistance to offensive government and corporate (and corporate-government) policies; it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the government wanted Occupy armed and dangerous so as to justify its suppression — and if it didn’t come about naturally, it would try to make it happen. This is a putrid recent history — we can’t just let it pass.
(2) Anaheim Violence
Police use of force — whether justified or not — was a big story this year, but only in Anaheim did it actually boil over into marches, one civil disturbance, and a huge and expensive police overreaction. Anaheim’s choice is between working seriously with local groups to improve things and trying to suppress protest with riot gear and an iron fist. The iron fist is not only a bad choice morally and politically, but it won’t work.
Few people don’t want to see Disney do well, but the juxtaposition of the GardenWalk giveaway (see #7) and the lack of Latino power in the city — plus Iraq-level forces brought out for a riot control situation of a march that was not at all about to turn into a riot — suggests that they could do better by doing a little less profit-maximizing and a little more community-building. It seems to be an article of faith that Disney calls the shots in Anaheim — and the power thrown behind Jordan Brandman’s campaign does nothing to undercut that — so let’s see Disney call some better shots. Whatever police community relations were being tried out in what we later discovered were forecast as “hot spots” of resistance activity like Anna Drive failed miserably. The videos showing police activity there and reports of what came later were damning. Does the City (and the Mouse) think that we’re going to just forget it all? No thanks — we’ll hold onto this grudge and keep track of it.
(3) Racist Ed Royce
I wrote something here once called “Ed Royce is not a racist, he just wants the racist vote.” (I can’t claim to have originated that joke; I just plugged in Royce’s name.) Maybe I was being too kind. Royce has been going after Latinos and Muslims for years now. Now, having moved into a largely Asian district and facing a charismatic and decently funded Asian opponent, Jay Chen, he has started branching out. He went after Chen using hoary anti-Asian stereotypes — quite an auspicious beginning for the incoming Chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee. We’ve covered Royce’s attacks on Jay Chen a lot this year; this next year, given Royce’s new high-profile position, that grudge will take us to new heights.
(4) The AD-69 Campaign, Sponsored by Chevron and Philip Morris — Prevents Latino Representation
I do not hate Tom Daly. I think that his parents, whom I know in Fullerton, are swell. He — like Lou Correa and Jose Solorio — is a “tut tut” Democrat; he professes that he’d like to give Democrats the policies we’d like, but — tut, tut — we can’t do so and win an election, or balance a budge, or any other excuse other than the real one: we can’t satisfy our campaign contributors. There are two kinds of “tut-tuts,” ones who simply contend to be conservative and act in the open (like Correa) and ones that act badly when they think people aren’t watching (like Solorio); I certainly hope that Daly turns out to be more like the former, even if the latter crafts a more liberal voting record. And the grudge will keep me and others monitoring him this year as we all consider whether to honor the requests coming down from powerful Democrats not to challenge him. (They’re nuts, by the way. Whether or not get Daly gets challenged this year, if he compiles an illiberal voting record, it’s coming. If he wants to be safe, he’ll run for SD-34, with a nice four-year term and a white, Latino, and Vietnamese electorate that won’t cotton to Jose Solorio not matter how much he shaves his mustache.
Cutting through the sheer thickness of disingenuousness and cynicism in the AD-69 race would take a machete. Anyone who contends that this wasn’t driven by a desire to keep liberal/labor firebrand Julio Perez out of office is talking garbage; all you have to do is look at the million dollars spent by corporate interests like Chevron and Philip Morris to beat Perez and it’s obvious what motivated them. (And, given the dearth of fundraising by Daly, it’s obvious that, even without illegal coordination, he knew and expected and relied upon them.) The intent may have been ideological, but the effect was racial — the most Democratic district in the country is represented by the whitest of Anglo Democrats with an agenda much less liberal than theirs. It’s just an insult to an important part of the Democratic coalition. The grudges stand. (Did I mention that he should run in SD-34?)
(5) OCTA Toll Roads Boondoggle
I was assured by “people-in-the-know” both verbally and in print that the Orange Juice Blog’s involvement in the “toll roads on I-405” proposal had absolutely nothing with the decision of the OCTA Board to vote against the proposal — which, have “before and after” memories of Vern telling me about his dealings with commissioners, I find close to hilarious. Sure, whatever. The lion’s share of the credit from off the Council goes to Diana Carey, who led lonely opposition to it for a while until Vern and I saw her at a Flag Day event and started pounding the story, which (in a way I can’t disclose) may have led to circumstances leading to her winning her Westminster City Council seat. The OCTA mischief is not yet up, though — the Executive Director is leaving and trying to hand power to a hand-picked successor, while shenanigans are taking place over who gets placed on next year’s Board, etc. We will continue to bear our grudge and watching the agency.
So a lot of people are willing to assert that Larry Agran is a dirty politician — without, so far I can tell, a shred of actual evidence. (Some of the supposed damning facts: Agran has supported no-bid contracts for certain services related to the Great Park. So, by the way, have most of his critics in government — both in the Great Park and otherwise. And in dealing in a Republican County, one reason Agran and other Democrats have hired Republicans for certain things is that Republicans may make it the price of their political support for his vision of the project — as opposed to for his campaign coffers — in which case Agran doesn’t seem like the corrupt one. That not inside information, by the way, just supposition.)
Nevertheless, critics led by the supposedly “alternative” OC Weekly have shamelessly thrown all sorts of mud at Agran and his Democratic allies — without, oddly, never making more than a hand-waving effort to do more than just insinuate that because he knows people he must be responsible for all of their actions. On this basis, I could accuse Dan Savage of abetting the defamation of Larry Agran. But the pit of loathesomeness came when Agran was accused of abetting child molesters because he supported a constitutional alternative to an unconstitutional law passed to keep even registered sex offenders whose crimes had nothing to do with children out of the park. Our DA got into trouble with Republicans for clarifying for voters that his words used in a campaign mailer to defame Agran had been taken out of context. Now they’re saying “bygones.” Big grudge here.
(7) The GardenWalk Giveaway
This is hard to separate from #2 above except for no one being directly killed as a result of it. It got slapped down in court for a Brown Act violation, though, and the Council will face some grief if it gets approved in unchanged form (or perhaps at all.) Want to prompt someone to either develop or sell? Increase the property tax for parcels of a certain size in a certain area. Don’t bribe them and make everyone else clamor for the same treat. Grudge held.
(8) Attempted Wisconsinization of Costa Mesa and Other County Cities
Of all of the places in the country where you’d have expected the attack on public employee unions (as the thin end of the wedge only — as demonstrated by Michigan’s new “right to work” law) to succeed in 2012, Orange County would have been high among them. And yet: in Costa Mesa, a charter proposal went down even as its proponents (barely) kept a Council majority. In Huntington Beach, Measure Z — aimed at employee pensions — went down. And in Fullerton, a council majority elected to tamp down police misconduct but intent on dismantling public unions generally failed to retain power by the thinnest of margins. More attempts at the same old thing are no doubt being planned right now. We retain our grudge: no Wisconsinization in OC.
(9) Homelessness — County and Councils
Occupy Santa Ana in particular made a strong effort earlier this year to focus on the problem of homelessness — and the problem of governmental non-response to it. As we’ve covered, the homelessness problem in OC is insane — there are literally no beds open at all for some categories of persons, while county and local ordinances act as if no notion of “legal necessity” had ever been developed. This is a problem that varies in public awareness — with the high points often spurred by Dwight Smith and his allies — over the course of a year. It could easily fall out of notice again. We’ll try to avoid that — because we’re holding a grudge over it. And we’re open to bringing in smart new people who’d like to volunteer to write about it, too!
Contributing to those foreclosures is the fact that people around our county keep losing their homes — in part because of terrible practices in the financial services and real estate industries in providing unjustifiable loans and in part because of the terrible practices in these same industries when it comes to foreclosing on failed loans. (Other reasons exist as well, of course. Complicated topic.) But the care and sensitivity and sensibility with which foreclosures proceed here are all highly lacking. After Occupy Irvine first started trying to help fend off a foreclosure in late 2011 — worked for a while, but ultimately unsuccessful — the mantle within the county has been largely taken up by Occupy Anaheim. Vern wrote about one notable success there earlier this year. Again, we’d love to cover this more.
(11) Santa Ana — the Pulido in Winter
When the political story of Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido is eventually written — I’m picturing something like Evita, but even more operatic — 2012 may be viewed as an inflection point. Yes, Pulido crushed Councilmember David Benavides in the Mayoral race — and while I hear Pulido partisans talk a lot about how much was spent against Pulido, I don’t hear about how much was spent for him. But he now faces term limits (if he can’t get a future Council to help him eliminate them), and a sunshine ordinance that may hamper him, and a Council majority that — despite the sort of stunning defeat of Benavides faction ally Eric Alderete by unknown Angelica Amezcua — seems intent on wresting control from the Mayorito. If one trusts other local political blogs — and who doesn’t? — the first step appears to be the removal of City Manager Paul Waters from that position, leaving him as Police Chief until he can be jettisoned. I don’t have a strong opinion on that (though I do have an intuition); it’s not my main interest, though it may make my main interest possible. I have a real simple question: how did Miguel Pulido get apparently pretty wealthy in office over the past quarter-century? Are interests buying access — or results? Does this compromise his position as an agent of the public Are the citizens of Santa Ana getting less than their due as a result? That’s what I’d like to know — and if even half of what is alleged is true, I’d like it to stop. Grudge established.
(12) Prop 35 was Wack and Requires Reforms
As Vern has noted, my first essay on Prop 35, the Human Trafficking initiative, was OJB’s top story for the year — over 6500 hits here (which doesn’t count me or Vern) and I think it may have been pirated elsewhere as well — and was entirely ineffective in keeping that proposition from becoming law. (It may have played a role in keeping it below 10,000,000 votes, which I’m sure they’d have liked to be able to brag about, though. So that’s something.) That doesn’t mean that I’m done with the Prop 35 beat, though. Its effects need monitoring, for one thing — and that means not only arrests and convictions but plea bargains too — but that’s not all.
One thing that Prop 35 allows — as most initiatives do not — is for the legislature to revise the law it created in furtherance of its aims. Well, that’s a nice invitation — it seems that it would be wrong to turn it down, wouldn’t it? So I’m interested in seeing how that might be accomplished. I still think that the public will wake up with a hangover someday and think twice about what it did; the only way I can manage that is to hold a grudge.
We’ve had some nice swipes at the labor, environmental, consumer safety, and political practices of Walmart here this part year — tip of the hat here to our colleague Inge — and we don’t want to let them get off the burner just because interest settled down. So we are continuing to hold a grudge.
(14) Solorio and Correa on Health Insurance Issues
Solorio just got termed out of the state legislature; Correa’s about to be in two years. Why care that much about their positions on health insurance reform? Well, because both stood in the way of it — and they had help. This is a key issue for people in their districts — and it was overwhelmingly Latino and Black Democrats who stood in the way of adopting badly needed better policies. Will others learn the wrong lessons from them? Grudgeworthy.
(15) “Irvine’s” Mimi Walters
Guess what? You do not have to, in any meaningful way whatsoever, live in the legislative district that you represent — no matter what the state’s laws say. The proof? Mimi Walters was seated in the State Senate despite the district line having passed her by. We’ve tried sarcasm and other forms of humor to make an honest legislator out of her — it didn’t work. Now we get to keep seeing where she lives so we can drive home the point of how fundamentally dishonest the interpretation of legislative qualifications are — and maybe, eventually, shame someone.
(16) OC’s Sad, Dumb, and Pathetic “Galt-Weekly”
In many regions of about the size of Orange County, one can find an “alternative newspaper” or two — termed “alt weeklies” — usually writing from a relatively progressive reform direction. They’re generally iconoclasic: sometimes, in a corrupt Democratic-dominated area, they focus a lot of attacks on Democrats — although usually from the left. What they don’t do is slam progressives while cozying up to retrogressive elements. Except here.
I’ve had my own differences with our local soft-pornographers this past year, but that’s not what bothers me about the OC Weekly — I’m a blogger and I spend time on Friends for Fullerton’s Future; I’m used to people being mean. I’m used to people being prima donnas. What bothers me is journalists being fundamentally dishonest much of the time and — with honorable exceptions (yes, I mean going after Mike Carona) — comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted.
As a longtime fan of alt-weeklies, I’m sad that our county can’t do better than that.
(17) Chris Norby’s Weird Attack on Sharon Quirk-Silva — and Silence Over Domestic Abuse
I’ve belabored this. I’m still sorry that so many people were interested without wanting to be identified and yet not interested in addressing these issues up front. Politicians — even defeated ones — should not be able to get away with domestic abuse, and we should care about whether it happened or not. Grudge maintained.
(18) Gary DeLong’s Red-Baiting
(19) Prop 37
(20) San Onofre
Honorable Mentions: FFFFwads, Fullerton FPD/OCSD, Yorba Linda, Diane Harkey
My family has informed me that my free time on New Year’s Eve is now over, so I’ll expand some of these and add links later. “To be revised.”
Next: 13 reasons for hope in 2013! Happy New Year!