Anaheim’s City Council has decided to attempt to preserve the ability of Anaheim Hills to determine the composition of the City Council by adopting the “Santa Ana plan.” The allure of this plan for them is that it gives the appearance of representation of all areas of Anaheim without its substance. Anaheim Hills residents would be able to use their power as a wealthy voting bloc to choose the representatives from West Anaheim, North Anaheim, Central Anaheim and South Anaheim that are most palatable to Anaheim Hills.
This was such an obvious and devious fallback position for the reactionary members of the City Council that the Democratic Party of Orange County resolution on Anaheim districting specifically rejected adopting this approach, before it was even offered. (I know that it’s in the resolution because I wrote that section.)
Anaheim’s big argument to Judge Franz Miller, who is tasked with deciding whether this remains discriminatory, will be that “if Santa Ana does it, it must be OK.”
Well, it’s not OK, but there is a fair point to be made here: Santa Ana shouldn’t do it either. Now, to be fair, it’s not nearly as large a problem in Santa Ana as it is in Anaheim. Santa Ana’s counterpart to Anaheim Hills would probably be Floral Park, in the Third Ward previously represented by Carlos Bustamante and now represented by Angelica Amezcua. But Floral Park’s hold on Santa Ana is nothing compared to Anaheim Hills’s hold on Anaheim.
One can show this with a meticulous review of various election results, or for now one can follow Cynthia Ward’s observation that in the past election Floral Park was the one harmed (if one wants to call it that) by this system, where this most conservative part of Santa Ana ended up represented by its third choice for its Councilmember, because the rest of the city preferred Amezcua — without knowing anything about her. (This may have had to do with the 2010 candidacy of Al Amezcua, to whom Angelica Amezcua is unrelated, or to the campaigns of two other Amezcua’s running much larger campaigns in other parts of the city. Local control really has its advantages, doesn’t it?)
If Santa Ana’s City Council takes this moment to take this stand, passing a resolution of intent to reform their own system of district voting in time to pass along the news to Judge Miller before the July 9 hearing, it would be a profound and striking statement that Santa Ana will not let itself be used to justify the suppression of Anaheim’s Latino population.
I’ve heard discussion over time about Santa Ana getting rid of this odd system. (Doing so may also mean that the city’s Vietnamese population may finally elect a member of Council on its own. If that’s what the numbers dictate, good!) If they have any inclination at all to do so — and to not be used as an example to justify Anaheim’s desperate grasp for continued power — now is the time to act.
Some of the members of Santa Ana’s City Council have higher political ambitions. Well, if you have higher political ambitions, you want to do things that are memorable and that gratify the public. This refusing to let Anaheim hide behind the skirts of Santa Ana would be both.
They’ll have to act quickly, of course. But they can.