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The Council will be considering the recommendations of the Commission tasked with studying establishing districts (as a response to the ACLU suit that, if it is stupid enough not to settle, Anaheim will surely lose.) You — yes you — should attend. If you’re up to it, you should speak. We want eight districts, with candidates actually living in the district and only residents of the district voting on those candidates. Offer that sort of representation and many of the city’s problems — including the ACLU suit — will take care of themselves.
Now to the matter at hand: if you haven’t read part 1 of this essay, published on May 28, please do. Originally, this was to be one long piece, but the first part got long enough on its own. The subtitles — “Theories of Cause” vs. “of Solutions” — suggest a crisper distinction between the essays than has turned out to be the case, but I’m sure that the discerning reader can look past that.
1. A Quick Review
Part 1 of this essay dealt primarily with a seeming contradiction that I still find surprising. Anaheim is deeply identified with Disneyland, but Disneyland is likewise deeply identified with Anaheim. While Disney Co. does do a lot of good work in the community, something that its defenders are quick to point out and that I readily acknowledge, it also seems to be taking a paternalistic view of the city where in exchange for its being an economic engine it gets to demand that (1) the city subsidize its profits and (2) the population be placid.
So Disney gets subsidized for a big parking garage on its property, for a hotel (not money going to it directly, of course — but if Disney didn’t want it to happen then it wouldn’t) and Anaheim’s citizens get subjected to a police crackdown featuring a series of questionable shootings of Latino youth, reviews of those shootings that do not inspire the citizenry’s confidence, and — who could have predicted? — rioting and non-violent resistance. The response of Disney, if one can put the actions of SOAR and the City Council on its tab, seems to be: crack down harder. And that approach — I hate to be the one to tell them this — is not going to work.
There aren’t enough jail cells in the state, for one thing, nor enough money in Anaheim’s budget to cover the costs of losing lawsuits. But in a sense, those considerations are secondary. It’s not going to work for Disney because an Anaheim with its population roiled along ethnic and economic lines is bad for business. Those national news reports of shootings and protests and the occasional riot — they’re datelined “Anaheim.” They might as well, from the perspective of the rest of the world, be datelines “Disneyland’s backyard.” And they are going to keep making the news, because of the “man bites dog” aspect of such unhappiness in the shadow of the “Happiest Place on Earth.”
Some people reading this may just want to tut-tut at the “rabble” — “gang members and bad mothers!”, goes the cry — and ask “why oh why can’t the poorer people in the Anaheim flatlands act more like the good people up in Anaheim Hills?” This, not to put too fine a point on it, is stupid. Despite the high unemployment, those working poor and working-class people in the flatlands keep the “Anaheim Resort Area” of which Disneyland is the behemoth running. Far from being parasitic, they are the part of the city necessary to Disneyland’s success. Anaheim Hills could sink into the ground — note that I am not recommending this — and Disneyland would be fine. Take away the workers who live around the resort area, even if the resort area is fine itself, and Disneyland is in deep chowder.
And what do these workers demand in exchange for the work they do? A living wage. Not getting rousted and shot by the police. Political representation. Nothing, despite what you may hear, particularly radical. It’s the plans of the so-called “pro-Disney” forces — and I say “so-called” because my sense is that they are largely working for their own personal interests rather than, as they’d claim, for Disney’s — that are radical.
Shoveling public money that could be used for schools and social services into the coffers of people associated with one of the most profitable corporations on earth? That’s radical.
Shooting people (and doing a half-assed job of investigations those shootings) and suppressing protests with paramilitary equipment and zeal? That’s radical!
Cobbling together a political system that prevents the poorest (and, not incidentally, most Latino) areas of the city from a fair share of political representation? That’s RADICAL!
And yet — and how appropriate that Disney has essentially won the franchise to depict Alice in Wonderland — in the through-the-looking-glass world of Anaheim politics, it’s the modest requests of the flatlands that are made to seem “radical” and the violence, expropriation, and suppression by those wrapping themselves in the flag of Disney that are made to seem “normal.”
Too bad for the latter that the population isn’t fooled. So that will mean more riots, more resistance, and more black eyes for the image of Disney — because SOAR’s theory of a solution to the problems of Anaheim simply doesn’t work.
Players and Solutions
I’m going to go through various political players and review how they seem to want to solve Anaheim’s problems. Note that I’m dealing with Disney and it’s “supporters” separately.
Walt Disney Corporation: I don’t know if the Walt Disney Corporation, the real people running the company, not the people on the ground here in OC making decisions on the ground, really has a solution in mind. I don’t know that they really note that there is a problem. After all, they have a business to run.
They have hired managers to deal with the local political scene, and those people have done the usual things that make for good reports to their own managers and executives — cozy up to the local power players, suck money into Disney’s bank accounts, do public good deeds for good PR and get recognized for it, support the local police, try to control the local government. Do they people running the company have a good idea of what their underlings are doing and why it may not truly be in Disney’s interests? I suspect that they don’t. Much of their information about what’s happening on the ground is probably filtered through these same managers, these allies of Pringle and the local Chamber of Commerce, and I doubt that they really have a sense of how bad Disney — as the suspected puller of the levels of power — is starting to look.
So let’s move onto those well-compensated local figures, whom I’ll list as “SOAR,” without losing sight of the fact that most of them are not directly employed by Disney and even that the ones that are may feel more true loyalty to the people around them, telling them how to handle their city, rather than to the corporation. Why is that important? Because it may be possible somehow, someday, to catapult some messages past the filter of middle managers who want their bosses to assume that everything’s OK. It’s theoretically possible.
SOAR: Whether it’s supposed to represent “Save” or “Support” “Our Anaheim Resorts,” the “S” in SOAR most clearly stands for “Subjugation to.” “Anaheim Resorts” may just seem like a delicate way of not using the name “Disneyland,” lest it be seen as (or even have the legal status of) special pleading for a single private corporation. There’s a sense in which that’s true. But there’s another sense in which the use of the vague term “Anaheim Resorts” is even more appropriate: this is an organization largely to support the interests of those making money off of the presence of Disneyland in the Anaheim flatlands.
I should clarify: most all of us in Orange County are, to some extent, making money off of the presence of Disneyland in that it does stimulate our local economy — and that’s a good thing! (Thanks, Disneyland!) However, some people are making a lot of money in ways that involve sucking resources from the commonweal. A classic example of which is the $158 million Gardenwalk Giveaway to build a four-star hotel where a three-star hotel — perfectly sufficient to the needs (if there’s a need at all) of the area because unlike most three star hotels this one would be right near Disneyland — which enriches someone who isn’t Disney and the existence of whom doesn’t actually matter that much to Disney. (Ask Disney’s Board of Directors if they’d rather have a four-star hotel plus riots and shootings or a three-star hotel without riots and shootings. I’ll bet that they’d give the right answer. Don’t route that question through the middle-managers here in OC, though; it might not get to them. Oh, and of course, the tradeoff is not that clear — but that $158 million could be going for services that would make Anaheim a better place for its working-class and poor residents to live, which helps.)
Aside from the major developers and the Disney middle-managers who have become one with SOAR, the people really doing well as the making money off the presence of Disneyland game are in politics. Take Curt Pringle. (And if you missed my story on him last week; please give it a read — it’s pertinent.) Once you decide that you want to secretly — and yes, the Brown Act violation that scuppered the initial vote was because it was in effect secret given that such an action wasn’t agendized — forfeit public money to rich developers who don’t actually need it, you need to be able to control the political process, which means that you can’t allow the poorer sections of town to choose their own representatives. So, people start to get money to prevent that from happening — or, more likely, just to fend it off long enough so that it will take effect two years later than it could. SOAR is not exactly transparent, but it’s a fair inference that Pringle and his minions are running a good part of that show — and getting paid well for it.
Their theory of Anaheim? “Let’s keep the gravy train going for as long as we can — and to hell with everyone else.” Not very Disney of them, is it?
The Anti-Police-Practices Purists: You’ll find on these pages a link to a recent story on Anaheim by Duane Roberts, a Green Party figure who ran for City Council last year and one of work with their more libertarian colleagues to hold the feet of the police to the fire. Their “theory of Anaheim” seems to be that the main problem to address is police misconduct — and the “soft target” that Duane has focused on recently is Rusty Kennedy, head of OC’s Human Rights Commission, which has accepted money from the police in exchange for providing training and mediation services. (Our own Ricardo Toro wrote a piece about this last weekend that more people should read.) As usual, I have some sympathy for Duane’s perspective — but, as usual, a lot less sympathy than Duane would probably like.
Finding an easy and soft target has its advantages as an organizing tool, but it’s not really that helpful. Retroactively blink Rusty Kennedy and his group out of existence and the events that played out last year don’t much change — and are as likely to have changed for the worse as for the better. Yes, going onto Anna Drive and gathering intelligence used to finger suspects for the police would be horrible — but that case against OCHR is not really made. Trying to keep people peaceful and to foster communication, which is what the OCHR seems to think (or want us to think) it did seems pretty reasonable; Duane and I were both advocates of non-violent resistance and local control of tactics. Duane’s position with regard to Kennedy seems to be that “if you’re paid, you’re bought.”
I disagree that that’s necessarily so. One sure thing is that if you’re not paid — by someone — you’re not going to be able to provide much service. (If you’re lucky, maybe you can blog….) But being paid by someone for a legitimate service, so long as you are willing to walk away from the money rather than doing anything unethical — that’s just one of the compromises of life. (This is the difference in willingness to compromise with compromised people and interests that puts Duane in the Green Party and me in the blue one.) More to the point, I — like the Los Amigos/OCCORD Axis of Activism — see the problem of Anaheim as being one of political structure rather than of political culture. I don’t think that the problem is that Rusty Kennedy is sending out people to pacify Latinos so they don’t become revolutionary; I think that it’s that their city does not want them to elect their own representatives — and is willing to go a substantial distance to impede it.
Speaking of compromising with the compromised…
Jordan Brandman: Jordan is slated, pretty openly, to be the eventual replacement to Tom Daly and/or Jose Solorio and/or Lou Correa in the Central County “business friendly” line of succession. (I hear that he has his own little buddy now, whom he’s grooming as the next generation. Hi, Jordan’s little buddy!) Jordan’s Theory of Anaheim is that it can get him ahead personally. It’s a pretty clever theory: presume that low-information Democratic voters can be turned out to vote for you based on your party label while high-information Republican voters can be turned out to vote for you because your substantive policies on the City Council make you an ally of Republicans Kris Murray, Gail Eastman, and Lucille Kring.
Might work! But Brandman — who, I’ve been told, was a very good school board member, and who I’ve heard give excellent speeches on educational policy — is courting a huge fracture within the Democratic Party. Far from playing “good cop” — with Kring on board with the coalition, he can cast a liberal vote anytime he wants to, but he doesn’t want to — he’s taking a vociferous lead in leading the charge against Mayor Tom Tait, who is standing fast against SOAR. What Brandman doesn’t seem to get is that the more Anaheim heats up, the more pressure is exerted on the party to either rein him in or cut him loose. If he has further political ambitions — note: that “if” was a joke — then he really has to buckle down and work for social justice before he finds himself without a base. District elections are coming — and as a Democrat he’ll trounce Gail Eastman in any district centered on the Colony. But if he’s not much of a Democrat, then he may not be able to rally support. Districts will mean that Anaheim’s poorer voters will become better educated about politics, after all. That may not be good for him.
Gail Eastman and Kris Murray: Their theory of Anaheim seems largely to do whatever they’re told. Murray would almost surely be the representative for Anaheim Hills. Eastman has more of a problem: she’s not really in a great district. Oddly, she might benefit the most of anyone on the current Council from having eight districts rather than six, because she could conceivably move to a highly-Republican district where she wouldn’t run against Murray. Or, she could try running for Mayor against Tait. My money would be on Tait, who still has a well-established network and, um, “makes a better impression.”
Lucille Kring: Theory of Anaheim: Follow the source of power. Sort of like a sunflower.
Tom Tait: I didn’t end up writing about it, but when I spoke to the City Council two weeks ago regarding what they were doing with respect to Speaker Forms and such, Tait ended up the public comments section giving an apparently impromptu and hella impressive speech on the importance of allowing public comment despite the anti-free-speech restrictions that are, unfortunately, part of Anaheim’s Charter. He seems really devoted to running the city well. His theory of Anaheim seems to be that there’s a market for that.
Tait could, I suppose, pull a Kring-turn and end up cozying up to SOAR again, but there are no signs that this is imminent or even likely at all. His success would come in continuing political reform of the city — made harder since the spiteful council took away his staff member — and in reaching out across party lines. He also should put down the marker right now — the positions of the Council majority in fighting the ACLU case and (if SOAR and the Chamber of Commerce have their way) devising sneaky ways to make sure that, even with districting, Anaheim Hills still decides who wins each race are going to cost the city money — just as surely as if the Council were voting for everyone of them were going to use public money to go on vacation to Tahiti with their families. That raises taxes and cuts services — ask Costa Mesa. Tait’s going to be able to run on a platform of fiscal prudence.
The Liberal Latino Faction: Not all of the Liberal Latinos are liberal, and not all of them are Latino, but in general this is a group centered around the interests of the largely Latino sections of the city: a fair political system and a fair share of city services. (Right now, they have neither.) I’m pretty much a member of this faction, though I’m not much of a joiner. I’ll disregard that membership in trying to assess its position objectively.
What this faction would like is for reform to be in effect in time for the November 2014 elections. That will probably mean approval of districts — and of their boundaries — by voters in June. That’s going to be tough; the Commission idea (the results of which the Council seems ready to ignore today) was derided when it began as a mere vehicle for delay — and that looks like pretty much what it will prove to have been. So a big part of deciding the fate of that system may lie in the hands of the courts — initial, with Judge Franz Miller, who has been waiting for the city to have the chance to solve the problem on its own before he starts issuing orders. (That chance, if it’s not clear, comes today, although I suppose it could also come later as well.) My guess is that the Council will whine and resist like a kid trying to prevent a parent from putting on their jacket — and it may succeed in a delay, at the cost of greater damages and legal fees. (Not, of course, a cost to the Council members personally, of course.)
The theory of Anaheim for these reformers is a long, hard slog. Yes, they need to win the court case — as well as any appeals. (Hey, its not the Council’s own money funding those! Again, refer to Costa Mesa.) Get district elections. Recruit candidates. Raise lots of money to fend off a slew of late mailers from SOAR and associated interests accusing their candidates of God knows what. Hope to get either a Council majority or close enough to a majority that, with a more energized local population, the Council has to modulate its behavior. Work for a more rational and, dare I say, moderate relationship with business interests. (Not a hostile, just not a subservient one.) Work with someone — OCHR? Duane? — towards police reform. Direct enough resources to the flatlands that the quality of life and quantity of hope improves. Hope, perhaps, that marijuana is legalized so that there’s not so much money for young kids to make selling it to people who drive into Anaheim for the privilege. Slowly — as quickly as possible, which will still be slowly — work to make Anaheim the sort of place where the delicious rainbow of ethnicities it contains can work together in mutual respect. And then maintain ever-vigilant that the political forces who want to return to the bad old days — these old days — of buying influence and trying to achieve social order through suppression do not return.
No one ever said that it would be easy. But, in theory, it’s possible.