Dan (LibO) C’s Tongue Bath Interview of Kris Murray Makes Fact-Checkers Salivate


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You may reasonably suppose that an interview of Kris Murray by The Liberal OC’s Dan Chmielewski would be the worst thing that you read from him this week.  It isn’t.  It’s bad — it’s really bad, mostly in its marshmallow softness (hat tip to Gustavo on that one) — but like most Kris Murray bloviations (YES, I SAID IT!) it does have the merit of creating wonderful opportunities for fact checkers.  I’ll give those so inclined a nice head-start below.

What could be even worse than this?  You’ll have to stay tuned for a day or two, Dear Readers.  First — to the tongue bath!

Tongue Bath

Lib OC’s Dan Chmielewski’s hard-hitting interview of Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray seems like it must have been a completely grueling experience — for anyone else stuck in the room.

Kris Murray Fouls Off Some Softballs

Below a mostly flattering picture of the Murrbot attempting to execute her “smile” subprocess routine, you’ll find a bunch of blather from Dan which you will most likely skip — and no one would blame you.  Then we get to the Q&A.  The “Q” portions are arguably copyrighted and so will be paraphrased.  The “A” portions are fair game.  My own commentary is in indented red italics.

Q1: The floor’s yours, Kris.  What do people say about you that isn’t true?

A:  I ran for City Council to accomplish positive things for the city. On a personal note, I’m a wife and mother – and a working professional, in addition to serving as a member of the City Council. My husband and I are active as volunteers in our community, very involved at our son’s school and a number of activities including sports and Cub Scouts.

My fellow council members and I are all people with families, loved ones, and history in this City. Our backgrounds, affiliations and perspectives are unique and, sometimes lead us to differing conclusions to the same problem. But I believe strongly each and every member of the Anaheim City Council cares deeply about our city.

I am proud of my record over the past three years to serve Anaheim residents, support policies to grow jobs and economic development and improve the quality of Anaheim neighborhoods.

No one has stated that Murray and her husband are active volunteers.  I’d like to know more about this “working professional” thing, though.  Where does she work, how did she get the job, what does she do for the money?  People should know more about that.  As for “caring about the city” and “serving Anaheim residents,” those are vague enough claims not even to be misperceptions.  I grant that she cares about the residents of the city — they’re the ones from whom she’s grifting, after all.

Q2: Do you really think that Fitzgerald is an ally of Tait?  People don’t seem to like your saying that.

A: Do I think that Mr. Fitzgerald is an “ally of the Mayor”? No, nor did I ever characterize him as such. But rather said that many of the most venomous attacks toward the Council are coming from “supporters of the Mayor” (that is a direct quote from my interview). Over the past year, the use of offensive language, personal attacks and outright hate speech has escalated in Council Chambers and in Anaheim generally. It has caused many in our community to think twice about attending a council meeting – or to stop attending council meetings altogether.

An Actual Interviewer might wonder as to exactly what specific “offensive language, personal attacks, and outright hate speech” Murray has in mind, if she wasn’t talking about Fitzgerald.  Did she mean James Robert Reade?  Apparently not — Reade’s venemous attacks were notably absent from any complaints made by Murray or her allies over the past month.  So she should explain what “offensive language” has come from speakers other than Fitzgerald and Reade — especially as she and others in the Council Majority want to shut it down.  (When Gail Eastman spoke about in Council Comments what she considered offensive, it included “clapping” and “cheering.”)  ”Hate speech” is an even more serious charge — Actual Interviewer might wish to get specifics.  But as for “personal attacks”?  She and her colleagues are siphoning public funds from Anaheim taxpayers into private pockets like hopped-up vampires — and she doesn’t think that people should be able to mention them personally?  Well, that’s convenient if you can get anyone to fall for it.

While Mr. Fitzgerald is no stranger to Council Chambers or shock inducing comments, his last rant went beyond the pale by any standard. However, that outburst did not seem to give any of the speakers present that day much more than a moment’s pause. As the meeting wore on and Councilmembers had the opportunity to speak we had to shout down members of the audience to be heard. All of this is clearly seen in the video archive of the meeting and is truly disconcerting.

I was there and I don’t recall any Council Member having “to shout down members of the audience to be heard.”  But I guess that it could be true — and she says it’s on video, so it can be tested.  OK, let’s see the time-stamps of where this happened.  If it did, I’ll concede it (and, if it’s as bad as she says, criticize it.)  If it didn’t — well, in that case, maybe she can explain how I can call her a liar without being accused of a “personal attack.”

As Mayor, there are certain powers enumerated by the charter and there is responsibility, first among them to preside over city council meetings. As presiding officer, it is the Mayor’s responsibility to maintain order and civility – when hate speech is used, it should be strongly denounced – when council members are being shouted at – the gavel is there to maintain order – even when as Mayor and presiding officer, you are opposed to the action being considered.

Clearly we do really do need specific examples of alleged “hate speech” (from other than occasionally Fitzgerald and continually Reade) so we can understand this criticism of hers.

All that being said, I think the outcomes of this painful incident were positive ones as it forced each of us to take a step back and assess.  The Mayor extended an invitation to Councilman Brandman to work on an education initiative with him and I supported the Mayor’s call for a Council resolution denouncing hate speech. And I think we all came to a realization that we agree on much more than we disagree on and when we have disagreements that we can respectfully disagree.

I’m pretty sure that most of those with whom I’ve been in agreement in public comments welcome denunciation of hate speech — so long as we’re actually talking about “hate speech.”  It will be really interesting to get as specific examples out of Murray as she has — because I think she just means Fitzgerald (and, come to think of it, maybe Jesse ______, the revolutionary, who doesn’t focus much on these local fiscal issues.

Q3: What have you done to counter hate speech — other than trying to grab the Mayor’s gavel?  (Note: there’s no indication that Dan actually even knows that that happened.)

A: For months, I have consistently spoken against this growing problem, and I will continue to be a voice for those who want to engage in a reasonable debate on issues, without resorting to hate speech or character attacks. We have to find better ways to handle our disagreements otherwise all sides stop listening and that benefits no one. Again, I think our last Council meeting was a big step forward and I am grateful to the Mayor for seeking clarification from our City attorney and honored to support his resolution.

Reminder: what the City Attorney said is that the Mayor (who had previous sought his counsel on the topic) had been handling things perfectly fine — counter to Murray’s accusations on Rick Rieff’s show.  But note the cleverness here.  She’s lumping together “hate speech” and “character attacks.”  It’s very convenient for a City Official — especially one who exhibits bad character by trying to loot the City — to suggest that they should be lumped together as offensive.  But they shouldn’t.  Hate speech is bad. “Character attacks” are usually unfortunate — but sometimes are also, unfortunately, appropriate.  Ask William Fitzgerald — who has himself faced quite a number of attacks on his character lately — about that.

Q4. Will the Mayor and the city attorney will better counter hate speech?

A:  The entire Anaheim City Council, including Mayor Tait, spoke in unison at our last meeting that we will work together to denounce hate speech and ensure civility in council chambers.

I firmly believe Mayor Tait wants what is best for our city, and we will work together to ensure the chambers are a place where all residents are welcome, can be heard and feel safe.

“Ensure civility in Council Chambers.”  That’s should sound alarms, given that what she really seems to be talking about is stifling of legitimate protest.  Protest isn’t always polite and kind — although it’s more polite and much kinder than disenfranchising voters, lying (or just engaging in grave intentional half-truths and misrepresentation) to the public, militarizing the police and treating poorer neighborhoods like occupied territories, and the aforementioned locking in giveaways of the use of public assets for literally generations.  That’s the sort of thing that people are complaining about.  And if they’re sometimes uncivil about it, whether it’s good strategy or not — they are within their rights, and woe unto the City if it tries to squelch such protest.

“… and feel safe.”  What does this even mean in practice?  Get rid of the African-American speaker who keeps going Huey Newton in chambers?  Get rid of Rev. Cecil, consigning many of us of hellfire?  There’s a reason that we don’t give elected officials the latitude to ensure that everyone feels safe:  they’ll use if to squelch their opponents while favoring their friends.  Has anyone on the Council Majority expressed any public concern over the continuing abuse of Theresa Smith and Donna Acevedo?  Or are they just presumed to have a higher tolerance for pain by now?

Q5: Would you like to deny that poorer Anaheim residents have suffered under your leadership?

A:

Q6. Critics contend that services to Anaheim’s poorest residents have suffered under the watch of this council majority. Can you clarify this perception?

KM:  With united leadership and professional experts at the helm, while many California cities are seeking bankruptcy protection, Anaheim is enhancing quality-of-life services – particularly in our lowest income areas.

You see, that’s the funny thing about giveaways of future income — whether 20 years for a hotel or 66 years for prime City real estate: they don’t bankrupt you right away!  You have to look ahead for decades — like stewards of the public interest are supposed to do — and ask what some future Council is going to do when it still has to reimburse the TOT taxes and taxes taken from the Stadium Lot despite what are likely to be the City’s growing need?  The seeds of Anaheim’s eventual bankruptcy — preceded by union-busting, curtailing of services, and the rest of the CostaMesafication death spiral — are being planted today for some future hapless leaders to harvest!

The past three city budgets have been adopted unanimously by the Mayor and City Council. We have worked together over the past three years to improve services– and ensure they are allocated equally across all neighborhoods. In fact, we have invested significantly more over the past several years in the central and western areas of the city where the needs have been greatest.

Actual Interviewer might ask: “when you say “western and central areas of the city,” you don’t by any chance mean places like, oh, DISNEYLAND, do you?  Is your idea of improving these neediest parts of the city making the businesses in those areas richer?  I’m not asking you to argue the merits of doing so, Councilwoman, I just want to know what it is you mean to say.  Oh, also — does “invested significantly more” mean “compared to other areas” or “compared to when Pringle was Mayor”?

The city recently completed an exhaustive study that clearly outlines the allocation of services by the four neighborhood district areas. The City’s finance director Debbie Moreno went to great lengths, working with all city departments, to break down general fund expenditures by census tract. What the report proved is the allocation of core services is even across the city and that the City has invested significantly in capital programs over the past several years in the Central and Western areas of the city where the needs have been greatest, compared to the eastern (hills) areas of the city as has been alleged by some political organizations.  [Dan notes that this calculation only addressed general fund expenditures – "so she did not assign the expenditures for the major transportation projects and resort area that are paid with direct assessments or state/federal revenue sources to the south neighborhood area so as not to distort the per capita expenditures in this area."]

Actual Interviewer might say — I note some weasel words there.  By “allocation of core services,” do you just mean the planned budget, or money that has already been spent?  In other words, are these things that can be snatched back after an election?  (Note: personally, I don’t know the answer to that — but I’ve learned that where the Anaheim Council majority is concerned, it pays the check the fine print.)

And “allocation of core services” — that includes police, right?  Is the proportion of these “core services” involving police spending higher or lower in these poorer areas than elsewhere?  If so, how well do these residents feel served by the police — given that there’s some obvious evidence that in many cases, they don’t.

And this “invested significant in capital programs” in the West and Central areas — were these regions that had suffered lesser investments prior to the past few years?  If the other areas had been given a 50-yard head start in this 100-yard dash, are you saying that now things are just even, so that no remedial program to make up for previous years of neglect has been presented?

Hey, I have a great idea — would the City agree to a “double-blind” assessment of its spending, as a way of testing these assertions, by some institution entirely unaffiliated with the City?

Like all cities, we’ve been affected by the economic downturn. But because of the diversity of Anaheim’s economy, the strength our resort area and private investments across our city – our general fund is growing. For the past two years, we passed a balanced budget which restored the city’s cash reserves and provided millions in funding for police, fire, parks, libraries and other core city services.

Is that why you felt that it was OK to give away decades of reimbursements of tax money through the General Fund?

Q7. You’re the main opponent of council districting efforts.  What do you want to see instead?

A:  There are a number of reasons I believe that at-large voting systems are better for all residents over district-based systems. First and foremost, that at-large voting maintains the largest number of representatives for each resident. Today every resident has five members of the city council sworn to serve the city but under single member districts, residents would only have one council member and the office of Mayor to respond to their interests or concerns.

Oh, OK.  So how about a system where OCCORD and Los Amigos get to choose 15 people to represent the entire city.  15 is THREE TIMES bigger than 5!  (Note: Murray knows why that wouldn’t be fair — but it’s the equivalent of what she thinks is fine right now.)

At large systems also require the legislative body to govern in the best interest of the entire city rather than carving the city into wards where representatives are no longer responsible for the overall fiscal health of the city or the delivery of services citywide. Most by-district cities in California today are facing severe budget shortfalls resulting in significant reductions in city services. I do not want to see this happen in Anaheim.

At-large systems — being declared illegal in city’s in Anaheim’s situation all over the place, by the way — allow the Council to govern in the best interest of whomever they please, so long as the people whom they please can vote them back in.  That’s why they tend to take power away from less-powerful minorities — as Anaheim is going to get ready to see again when it loses in court.

The Anaheim City Council voted to place two city charter amendments on the next ballot to create residency-based council districts, ensuring broad neighborhood representation on every council, and increase the city council from four to six members.

And residency-based districts (of population 60,000 to 90,000, let’s remember) don’t do much because the majority of the entire city still get to choose the every last member of the Council.  They ensure no ability for a neighborhood, region, or area to choose their own representative.

This districting system now in place by ordinance, and with ratification by Anaheim voters, brings our city in line with other Orange County cities and agencies such as Santa Ana, Newport Beach and the Orange Unified School District (OUSD), representing many of Anaheim’s public schools.

This is true — but neither of the other cities have the level of “tyranny of the majority” problem taking away power from minorities to the extent that Anaheim has.  Look to other cities that keep losing in court for better comparison examples.  And it still leaves Anaheim as the ONLY big city that won’t give residents in a given area the right to determine their own vote on Council.

Q8. Defend yourself from charges of giveaways and crony subsidies.  (Note: this is a good question, so far as it goes.)

A:  During President Obama’s address following the agreement to end the government shutdown, he stated that “We will not agree on everything … but if we disagree, let’s focus on the areas where we can agree and move forward to get stuff done.” He then said we can’t let disagreement mean dysfunction – we can’t let disagreement degenerate into hatred.

I agree with him – it is vital that at all levels of government, we find a way to respectfully disagree when we cannot reach mutual accord and then move to where we can find common ground to govern on behalf of our communities. The character attacks are baseless and counterproductive to governing effectively in Anaheim.

Oh. My. God.  ”We’re ripping people off, but it’s your fault for not being nicer about it.”

Beyond that, I’ll happily debate Murray anytime about whether “the character attacks are baseless.”  That willingness to make a broad and unsupported statement is itself reason to question her character.

The Council’s efforts to expand economic activity in our city have very real and positive benefits for our city residents. To address the programs you reference:

Umm, anyone get the feeling that Murray was invited to submit some answers in writing?

Hotel Economic Incentive Program– Two independent economic studies – both available on the city’s website –show the overwhelming financial benefits to the city of the hotel incentive program for GardenWalk. Prior to my tenure, similar programs were voted on and have been in place in Anaheim for some time – including with the previous support of the Mayor when he last served on the city council. The program Council most recently approved increased the incentive to develop two four star hotels at the Anaheim GardenWalk from a 50 percent share of Transit Occupancy Tax (TOT) to 70 percent for 20 years. These hotels will still pay 100 percent of sales tax and 100 percent of property tax. The economic analysis clearly shows that these hotels and this incentive program will provide millions in new revenue once they are built and operating for general fund programs. Under no circumstances does this program reduce funding for city programs or negatively impact the city’s general fund –the debate is over the amount of new revenue the city will receive during the life of the agreement, once and if they are built and operating.

Actually, I’m glad that she’s reopening this issue.  Same proposal as before: let’s have some “independent” analyst who’s less carefully selected study this.

Money is being paid to the developer personally, even if he sells the property for someone else to develop, for reimbursement of these 20 years of hotel taxes.  (It’s “Transient Occupancy Tax,” Dan.)  Would someone buy the development rights even without such a sweetener?  We might well suspect so, given that about a dozen other hotels are being built at roughly the same time and area WITHOUT IT. (The problem is cronyism.)  Then, of course, is the question of whether the sales taxes are just taking money that would otherwise be paid elsewhere.  Property taxes are a whole other issue.

Anaheim Rapid Connection (ARC) –ARC is an essential part of the city’s planned transportation program, designed to reduce congestion on local streets and roads and facilitate the expansion of the Convention Center and resort area that receives more than 20 million annual visitors today and thousands of employees daily.

The Anaheim resort area generates approximately 50 percent of the city’s general fund revenue and that funding is growing because of investments in the resort area and recent improvements to the Disneyland Parks. The city needs to manage that growth effectively and limit impacts on local neighborhoods. ARC and ARTIC are essential to local and regional commuter transit services.

ARTIC is the center of the LOSSAN (Los Angeles – Orange – San Diego) Corridor – the second busiest commuter rail corridor in the nation today. As the population of Southern California grows, transit plays an important role to the greater regional transportation network. ARTIC and ARC are valuable components of that network and will be paid with local, state and federal transportation funds – funds that could not be used to support other city programs. The City Council has committed unanimously that there will be no impact on the city’s general fund to construct or operate.

I’m tired.  Cynthia, you take this one.

Q9. What’s the biggest misconception about the Angels MOU?

KM:  Our MOUs are non-binding and simply established a list of terms identified by the city and the Angels to produce a starting point for negotiations. Nothing has been ruled out and everything is on the table. The Mayor has brought up some salient points that will now be added to the discussion items and thoughtfully considered. In that respect, the MOUs are doing exactly what they were intended. There is simply no truth to the idea that this is a done deal.  We have a long way to go and I’ve asked the City Manager to bring back a plan for Council consideration to conduct a robust community outreach program to be conducted throughout the negotiations process.

Well, the biggest misconception may be the use of the singular here.  There are two MOUs.  One is with the Angels, one is personal to Moreno.

This is SO COMPLETELY DISINGENUOUS that it could justify an entire website’s worth of “character attacks.”  Here’s what a MOU that “simply established a list of terms identified by the City and the Angels to produce a starting point for negotiations” would look like:

CITY’S INTERESTS:

  1. xxxxx
  2. yyyyy
  3. zzzzzz
ANGELS’ INTERESTS:

  1. xxxxx
  2. yyyyy
  3. zzzzzz

And then the sides negotiate.  Instead we have a detailed and expansive framework that is causing jaws to drop right and left due to how one-sided it is.  Here, the interests uniformly favor the Angels — which is unsurprising, given that the City’s negotiator seems to believe that the best negotiating plan is to publicly undermine the City’s negotiating position as much as humanly possible.  The City presented no interests of its own aside from “keeping the Angels” — apparently a pearl of such great value that no price is too much.  (This is quite convenient for the Angels’ agents — right, Curt Pringle?)  The City Council has refused to give the negotiations any objectives at all other than keeping the Angels before sending the fox Charlie Black into the henhouse to negotiate with the other foxes representing Artie Moreno.  So as things stand, we are set to go directly from the “nothing is set in stone” defense to the “now it’s too late to change anything” excuse.

And do you know what can be said of a Council Majority that invites that result?  That they exhibit bad character.  Pardon me for being so impolite as to tell that truth out loud.

An Actual Interviewer, rather than a marshmallow vendor, might have followed up with some of these questions.


About Greg Diamond

Prolix worker's rights and government accountability attorney and General Counsel of CATER. His anti-corruption work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, leading them to work with the Democratic Party of Orange County Chair and other co-conspirators (who had long detested the internal oversight his presence provided) to remove him from the position of DPOC North Vice Chair of in violation of party rules and any semblance of due process. He also runs for office sometimes. Unless otherwise specifically stated, none of his writings prior to that lawless putsch ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. He tries to either suppress or openly acknowledge his partisan, issue, ideological, and "good government" biases in most of his writing here. If you have a question about any particular writing, just ask him about it and (unless you are an pseudonymous troll) he will probably answer you at painful length. He lives in Beautiful Bountiful Brea, but while he may brag about it he generally doesn't blog about it. A family member works as a campaign treasurer for candidates including Wendy Gabriella in AD-73; he doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. He does advise some campaigns informally and (except where noted) without compensation.