Cool as a cucumber and almost twice as smart, Anaheim City Council member Kris Murray put on a performance to remember at last night’s Council meeting. And by “a performance to remember,” I mean that you’ll be seeing bits of it being played over and over again in court, starting as early as next Tuesday.
While the two women who joined her in 3-2 majorities regarding fixing Anaheim’s political representation problems, Lucille Kring and Gail Eastman, both had their moments last night, it was clearly Murray’s show. And by “show,” I mean complete with choreography, as Murray danced with a demographer — who is probably intended as an expert witness for the city, but who after last night may be more likely to be called by the plaintiffs — to make it seem like Anaheim’s problems are already solved.
Whatever you do, no matter how much you skip of this piece, please be sure to read section 2 down at the end. It’ll be worth it. Also, of course, read Cynthia Ward’s well-formed cry of anguish today as well!
1. A Perfectly Executed Swan Dive
Murray gave the sort of bravura performance show that pleases clients who are supremely confident that the public will buy what they’re selling, but it’s the sort of demonstration that tends to panic their attorneys — especially if, as is the case with last night, it has been memorialized in video. Murray presented a case that can survive only if presented without contradiction, rising to greater and greater heights of self-delusion about its impregnability until she finally stepped off the diving board and executed a perfect swan dive — into an empty pool.
The court system, where the ACLU case against Anaheim for violation of the California Voting Rights Act is now headed for an hearing next week and then (absent what will likely be a painful and expensive settlement) a doomed and even more expensive trial, doesn’t work like that. You don’t get to filibuster unchallenged, the way that you can from a Council dais. There’s no protection for you if your argument is delusional. And Murray’s argument is very, very delusional. The trial will inevitably lead to an expensive defeat for the city. (That’s OK, though — Murray won’t have to pay it herself. That’s what taxpayers are for.)
This material is really too rich for just one story. I’m getting this one out early out of a desire to first document the news. I will have a follow-up later today — and more once the video is available. For now, let’s just go with the facts.
The trio of councilwomen initially voted for a package to implement a “candidate residency” requirement by ordinance, then to put that requirement on the ballot in 2014 as a charter revision, and finally to place on the ballot a proposal to raise the number of Council seats (not counting the Mayor) from 4 to 6. Under this proposal, the public will not get to vote on whether there should be 8 districts. Murray’s justification for this is that the expert witness report — which I will lovingly critique as early as today — says that that would be bad for Latinos, despite that Latino leaders (and voting rights attorneys, and courts) overwhelmingly disagree. (But who are you going to believe — them, or the woman apparently doing an extended imitation of Kristen Wiig’s supporting role in Knocked Up?)
Murray’s virtuoso performance roused the 3-2 Council majority to reject putting a proposal for actual districting onto the 2014 ballot, as requested by the Citizens Advisory Commission. The tenor of her remarks were in part a rehash of the arguments presented by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce in a somewhat desperate looking e-mail blast on Tuesday.
Action Alert: Don’t Let Them Carve Up Anaheim…
Tonight the Anaheim City Council will vote on whether to put single-member council districts on the June 2014 ballot.
The Anaheim Chamber of Commerce opposes this measure, which is supported by a coalition of radical organizations who want to divide the city into council enclaves — and Anaheim voters would lose the at-large election right they have enjoyed for 156 years: holding all councilmembers accountable by having the opportunity to vote on all council candidates.
Last month, the City Council approved reasonable changes supported by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce: electing the council from residency-based districts that are voted on at-large, and asking voters to increase the council from 4 to 6 members. These changes would ensure all areas of Anaheim are represented while holding councilmembers accountable to ALL Anaheim voters, and increasing opportunities for Anaheim citizens to serve.
It is urgent that you immediately e-mail our mayor and Councilmembers and ask them to oppose placing single-members.
Your voice must be heard NOW!
Support their June 11 vote to create residency-based council districts that are elected at-large, and to ask voters whether they want to increase the council to 6 members.
A simple message making the above points will be powerful! We need to flood our council’s inbox so we are urging you to take action now to preserve a united Anaheim!
President & CEO
Anaheim Chamber of Commerce
Note that the stench of overconfidence is palpably absent from this e-mail blast. No scent of cucumber, no spoor of Murray. I get the sense that the Chamber was actually concerned that Gail Eastman might well have voted against them yesterday — I wonder how they might have gotten that idea — which hopefully would have been accompanied by Jordan Brandman holding fast and casting a decisive vote against Team Murray.
(That statement gives me a good chance to say: I give Jordan credit for voting the right way on districting last night. Many people won’t give him much credit because he had a “free pass” to do what Democrats and Latinos — and especially a particular Latina Democrat in Congress who went out on a limb for him here — wanted him to do if he knew that Eastman and Kring were voting with Murray. I’m glad that he took the right path here and that he said some things to which he might be held. It’s helpful. His detractors will note that it’s not definitive — and they’re right about that. But still — better that this story be about Murray’s vote than about his.)
I’ll come out later with my story about the demographer’s report — you won’t believe that a story about demography could really be interesting, of course, but for now I ask you to trust in my skills — that Kris Murray made very clear was the blockbuster piece of evidence supporting Anaheim’s case. She made continual reference to it. She showed complete belief in it. (Popping that bubble will be a joy. But that’s not for now.) For now, let’s talk about something else she said.
2. Kris Murray’s Startling Admission
At one point, Murray celebrated the Council’s wonderful action of introducing a candidacy residency requirement — which I’ve come to think of as the “let’s mess with (Anaheim Hills Democrat) Lorri Galloway” provision — in these terms: it was important to have a Council Member living in a given district so that people could come to their representative with their problems. Yes — yes it is! I appreciate Murray’s admission.
Here’s the problem: what happens if that Council member does a lousy job of being available to the people in their non-voting district?
Under “real” districting — a concept that Mayor Tom Tait tried to explain to Murray at length without success towards the end — the people in a district with a representative who is doing a lousy job of representing them can simply vote the person out of office. That’s democracy, right?
But under Murray’s “residency requirement only” plan — the Santa Ana Plan — they can’t do that! They could vote unanimously against a representative who is doing a terrible job of hearing them out, fighting for them, bringing information to them, etc. — and the rest of the city could just keep voting that person right back in. Murray’s plan takes away accountability to the voters. That’s its point!
Do you know what you call it when people have a representative they can go see, but that representative is not one of their choosing and is not one that they can remove? It’s called “colonialism.” The term “Anaheim Colony” is about to get new meaning.
So, Murray’s argument that it’s great for people to have a local representative — which seems to have been really impressive to her — turns out to work against her, because a representative that is assigned to a district by the rest of the city, one that cannot be removed by the citizens of the district in an election, isn’t really a representative at all. That person is more like a colonial governor.
That sound you hear is of air escaping from Kris Murray’s balloon. She lost Anaheim’s case last night with her oblivious overconfidence — and the damages will be paid for out of Anaheim residents’ taxes. And it’s going to cost her supporters a whole lot to try to make voters forget it.