Chmielewski and Cunningham: Dios los cria y el Diablo los junta.


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Diablos de los Angeles? Cunningham and Chmielewski.

As one fairly new to the world of local politics and blogging in Orange County, I quickly got the taste of how rough this involvement can be. I became involved after being shocked by the riots in the city I have resided for the last 25 years.  After the riot last summer I attended my first city council meeting; by then I’d read about the polarized social and political structure of the city. This first post-riot meeting [August 8, 2012] was an eye- opener for me. The testimonies of the mothers and other relatives of the murdered youngsters, and the conduct of the council majority impacted me. Their harsh, aloof reaction, ignoring the pleas for change requested by most of the people attending, was disturbing.

I went home with more questions than answers. I googled Anaheim and I came across this blog’s account of this meeting. ["Anaheim Council Majority Shoots Down Everything That is Good Except Puppies," 8/10/12]  I read the comments and related articles, and I concluded that this blog provided a good medium to discuss issues. The Weekly was another medium, but I was not ready to be called “pendejo.”  

Then I attended most of the city council candidates’ forums, and I ended up voting based on the candidates’ positions on the issues. I read about the ACLU district lawsuit, which I accepted as a reasonable solution to the fundamental problems of the city. I posted essays on this blog myself, attended and followed the electoral commission and city council meetings, spoke at some of them. I walked precincts registering people to vote.

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Other than the Chamber of Commerce, and SOAR (Disney-sponsored “Save Our Area Resorts”) representatives, and later some of the appointees to the election committee, I had not encountered the opposition to the changes I had embraced except for a few people. Then I became aware that the opposition has its own blog, Anaheimblog.net, and that I was actually a subject of one of their commentaries.

One can sometimes find interesting information about civic affairs on this “Anaheimblog,” but much more striking is the blog’s outlook on the issues.  Opposing council districts, justifying all public subsidies to developers, defending the lobbyist who benefits from the subsidies, and defending the APD from all criticism, seem to be Anaheimblog’s main themes.  It’s also notable for the way it treats its opponents.  Most of us, including Mayor Tait, are characterized in very harsh negative terms. 

Anaheimblog is where the arguments of the powers interested in maintaining the status quo, and the talking points for their operatives, are developed.  It’s basically a propaganda tool for the Chamber of Commerce, Pringle and Associates, and for the majority of council members implementing policies benefiting the resort industry. It has long been an open secret that the blog is financed by the Chamber, although its operator and main author, Matt Cunningham, would not acknowledge that. Recently it was revealed that Cunningham is indeed employed by the Chamber.

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Then I came across a discussion about voting rights and council districts in another local blog, the Liberal OC.  LOC’s editor Dan Chmielewski endorsed a LA Times editorial supporting council districts and in this way challenged Cunningham’s views, who was participating in this discussion.  I made the observation to Chmielewski that he did not treat Cunningham as harshly as he did Jason Young from Save Anaheim and Gustavo Arellano from the Weekly, who are district supporters and critics of Cunningham.

Our discussion had also focused on the role of Jordan Brandman, the only Democrat in the council.  Some commenters characterized Jordan as paying mere lip service to the promises of change, while preventing it whenever he could. I pointed out that Brandman  appointed a notorious anti-immigrant advocate to the election committee.  Chmielewski defended Jordan but could not explain this appointment, and was going to ask for an explanation.   Or so he promised, way back in June.

My next encounter with Chmielewski was two months later, as a result of an article written by Vern, on the role played by Cunningham assisting a business owner in the city of Orange (who also owns strip clubs.)  It got my attention that Dan had come out in defense of Cunningham even before Cunningham had posted a rebuttal. Chmielewski turned the discussion into issues of morality and ethics in journalism.

I didn’t think that it was so much the substance of the article that horrified Chmielewski, but to him questioning Cunningham’s role helping a business owner was by definition a smear. Cunningham’s objecting the concerns of the Orange Police Department regarding this business, while condemning the Anaheim residents who want civilian oversight of the APD, was to me the main point of Vern’s article. Cunningham’s reputation has already been questioned for his (allegedly accidental) outing of sex-abuse victims, and for his constantly demonizing and smearing of political opponents. His negative role goes beyond simply opposing change, a position which he is entitled to. It is his role of justifying the pillage and division of my city which is unacceptable.

I thought that Chmielewski was pulling my leg when he gave excuses for Brandman’s championing of the GardenWalk Giveaway, appointing an extreme anti-immigrant in a crucial committee, reluctance to acknowledge police brutality, and basically being a puppet of the real power in the city, Curt Pringle.

In our second exchange in August, there was Chmielewski was defending Cunningham again. He took a hypothetical response regarding the morality of business owners to call me sleazy. I had called him a professional spin-master, and by now I was more convinced that he is indeed a spin-master, and for the wrong reasons.

His tantrum was futile, as days later Cunningham came back to the OJB defending his political patrons, in his role as an attack dog. This time he bullied people to come out to argue with him, and once they did, he belittled them. The issue this time was the possible violation of the Brown Act by the majority of the council members by attending a meeting regarding the future of the Enterprise Zones (EZ). At the council meeting, Brandman had vehemently argued on the Chamber’s behalf to continue to be paid in full for administering the EZ program even though the state was phasing it out.

Chmielewki’s role in defending a corporatist shill like Cunningham goes way beyond gentle advice on conducting politics. In their gentlemanly and respectable “agreements to disagree” they have a shared vision of political goals.  Spinning for business-friendly politicians, mostly connected to corporations and lobbyists, are the common denominator joining these two public relations consultants.

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I had written this essay a couple of weeks ago, but the OJB editors held off posting it as Chmielewski was on vacation. He came back worse than expected, this time defending the outrageous demands of the Angels’ owner, and the Council’s groveling acquiesence.  Chmielewski had cried ethical foul defending a paid hack, but he doesn’t worry about ethics when the process of imposing the MOU favoring Arte Moreno was rushed and imposed on the city, overlooking the weakening bargaining leverage adopted by the council. He did not cry foul when the consultants hired by the city, and city staff, were blatantly arguing for Moreno’s position, with no respect for the authority of the Mayor who stood alone in representing the residents of the city.

His lectures about getting people out to vote and about effective ways to accomplish objectives, conveniently ignore the realities facing the people working for change. The reasons for a lawsuit to change the electoral system, the riots, the insensitive culture of the APD, the role of the lobbyist Curt Pringle, the shortsighted vision of Disneyland managers, are not factors in Chmielewski’s vision. He has provided free electoral consultation in Anaheim, did that include Brandman and Daly? He is a consultant for the Young Dems. I just imagine what a blue Orange County full of Brandman types would be.

It is a shame that the so-called Liberals of the LOC are practically endorsing policies that affect the lives of so many people, by being “gentlemen” or remaining silent on the positions of the “paid communicator” of the Chamber of Commerce.  At the end of the day, their positions are identical on many matters, especially when it comes to business ventures being subsidized with public funds.

Dan Chmielewki and Matt Cunningham, Dios los cria y el Diablo los junta.


About Ricardo Toro

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