At least three good new pieces on the Fitzgerald Distraction™ — the “stunning revelation” that an Anaheim political gadfly not only espouses bigotry but knows his free speech rights — hit the OC political blogosphere yesterday, as did one really frustrating offering. If you want to get up to speed before the Fitzgerald Distraction™ Rally at 4:30 today at Anaheim City Hall — as well as the rumored counter-rally (featuring civil libertarians rather than Jew/Gay-provokers) nearby — here’s what you’ll want to read. You’ll also learn a little about what the Fitzgerald Distraction™ is intended to distract you from: the continuing effort to block oversight of a massive transfer of Anaheim’s wealth into private hands, with promises of boosting the local economy but a guarantee of making the rich even richer.
The Voice of OC, of course, gives the best coverage the hard news. Adam Elmahrek covers not only the background story, but collects coverage from several prominent Jewish figures in the county, including Rabbi Joel Berman of Anaheim-based Temple Beth Emet, and Democrat Beth Krom and Republican Jeffrey Lalloway of Irvine’s City Council. (All three of them, as well as two other Jewish leaders, are sensitive and sensible — which may be a tremendous disappointment to those like Kris Murray and Pringle Associate Todd Priest who tried to whip the Fitzgerald Distraction™ into an anti-Tait scandal.)
Most importantly, Adam hunted down the story of how the Fitzgerald Distraction™ — a noxious experience but not something as intrinsically important to Anaheim governance as the GIVEAWAY — became a semi-big deal.
The night of the council meeting, Todd Priest of Curt Pringle & Associates, a lobbying firm owned by the former mayor and whose clients include influential business interests the mayor has opposed, sent a text message to Irvine Councilwoman Beth Krom, who is Jewish, notifying her of the incident.
The next day, he contacted the Orange County Human Relations Commission and blamed Tait for allowing hate to be spewed at the council meeting.
Murray, in a debate aired Oct. 4 on Rick Reiff’s SoCal Insider, said Tait should have used his gavel power to stop Fitzgerald’s tirade and referred to Fitzgerald as one of Tait’s supporters.
Tait was flabbergasted by Murray’s accusation, noting that Fitzgerald is hardly a supporter. In fact, Tait has previously sued Fitzgerald for filing misleading ballot statements essentially accusing Tait’s firm, Tait & Associates, of corruption.
Last Wednesday, Murray and Priest both wrote to try to pique the interest of the Orange County Human Relations Commission in the Fitzgerald Distraction™. Murray is quoted as prefacing one line of argument “While I would be the first to defend freedom of speech ….” which is either an outright lie or a sad delusion, given that she then calls for its abridgment with extreme prejudice and abandon. Neither showed much understanding of the pertinent legal issues. While I would be the first to defend Kris Murray and Todd Priest are among the more intelligent in the Pringle Ring, they do seem sort of dull and obviously strained in their calls for Great Retribution against the nettlesome Mayor.
Gabriel San Roman got right to the heart of the matter regarding the Fitzgerald Distraction™ by noting that if one wanted to condemn William Fitzgerald bigoted rant, one should surely also be exercised over the vicious stylings of James Robert Reade, who (unlike Fitzgerald’s strained relationship with Tait) actually is an accepted hanger-on in the outer reaches of the Pringle Ring.
[I could] compile the vile and vicious greatest hits of James Robert Reade — who is embraced by both the Council Majority and this [Pringle Ring blogger Matt Cunningham’s] own blog. Where’s the rally to ask him to stop taunting bereaved mothers of sons shot to death by Anaheim Police, like Theresa Smith and Donna Acevedo, with his glee that their sons are dead?
(Yes, he really does this — continually and without rebuke from the dais.)
I think that if someone wanted to rally to criticize Reade … they’d be justified. But if they were to call to shut him down, I’d oppose it.
No, wait, sorry — that was me writing in a story from last Friday. But GSR used his extra three days to do the job even better:
James Robert Reade has long launched his racist screeds–and only we have complained. His berating of bereaved Anaheim mothers who lost their sons in fatal officer-involved shootings landed him a spot on the Weekly‘s ‘Scariest People’ issue last year. He remains the only loser ever banned from commenting on our blogs–and you know how damn lenient we are.
During an April 2012 meeting of the Anaheim city council, Reade gave nasty comments comparing Mexicans to apes. “Bonobos in captivity have learned to use human language unlike Latino gang bangers and graffiti vandals who flunk out of Anaheim High School and use gang bang gibberish,” he said. “Bonobo females migrate to other groups when they reach puberty eliminating the chance for incest and this increases genetic diversity whereas incest is prevalent among females and their Latino uncles.”
He capped off the particularly rant that I described then as an “uninterrupted display that would make an early 20th century eugenicist blush,” by likening council candidate John Leos to an “intellectually defunct” Latino.
Where was the chorus of condemnation then? Or ever, as Reade’s screeds continue complete with mocking stereotypical accents? Oh, that’s right. He lambasts Mexis and in OC that will only get you a chorus of crickets.
It’s a good and pungent piece. Nice to see GSR busting people in a good cause. Nice takedown of Murray before then, too!
The final good piece of note was a double pleasure — not only for its content, but for evidence that The Liberal OC‘s Dr. Jekyll, Chris Prevatt, is now well-enough recovered from surgery to write for our rivals at the golden asterisk. (I suppose that he could have dictated it, but I’m going to go with the theory that pleases me. If it means that Chris is getting better, and will soon be bringing more Liberal into LibOC, huzzah for both!
Chris makes the good point that what was happening at last week’s Special Meeting was really sort of important, and that the Fitzgerald Distraction™ really ought not be allowed to distract from it. He then, I don’t have a better term for it, catches fire:
But the politicization of Mr. Fitzgerald’s outrageous statements has moved beyond Murray and the Anaheim Council majority, making it’s way to the Chairman of the Democratic Party of Orange County. Today, DPOC Chairman Henry Vandermeir piled on, repeating, almost parroting, the language of Councilwoman Murray in condemning not only Mr. Fitzgerald’s comments, but also stating “Mayor Tait, as the presiding officer at the council meeting, has the responsibility to bar Mr. Fitzgerald from speaking at future council meetings.” The problem here is that the Mayor has no authority to do so, and Vandermeir should know that the rights of people to address their elected representatives cannot be abridged. The action that he is demanding is unlawful, and almost as outrageous as Mr. Fitzgerald’s comments were offensive.
Yes, this! When a Democratic leader finds himself or herself parroting the natterings of Curt Pringle’s favorite pet robot, it’s really a hint that that self is on the wrong track. After noting Vandermeir’s policy proposals –you’ll be able to figure them out from the critique — he de-freakin’-molishes them.
First, Tait did take what action he had been advised by the city attorney was within his legal authority at the time of Mr. Fitzgerald’s comments. While one might argue that he could have been more forceful in language and tone, Mayor Tait was the only member of the council to actually make any statement in response to Fitzgerald at the time. Mayor Tait does not owe an apology for the actions of an individual exercising their rights of free speech, no matter how offensive that free speech is. Further, Mayor Tait is barred by the Brown Act, and ironically the actions of the council on Monday, from placing the matter on the agenda for council discussion tomorrow. He also does not have the legal authority to ban anyone from speaking before the council, no matter what their past conduct.
It bears repeating: Fitzgerald knows this. He won a case against the County government, with ACLU backing, over this very topic. So this proposal is not just wrongheaded in theory, it’s handing the man money in practice.
But the best part of the piece was the more personal: this concluding paragraph.
As a gay man, I am disgusted by the hate speech Mr. Fitzgerald engaged in at the Special Meeting last week. But I am also disappointed that the Chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County would make such irrational demands in the name of people offended directly by Fitzgerald’s comments. Mr. Vandermeir’s press release is political theatrics. It is one thing to be outraged and denounce hate speech whenever it occurs. It’s another, to simply pile on without the slightest thought towards the rationality of the actions you demand.
(4) Which leads us to you-know-what
Here’s Henry Vandermeir’s letter in full, taken from a publicly available source. The only public criticism I’ll offer for now is marked in red:
DPOC Chair Condems Anti-Semetic and Homophobic Attacks Targeting Anaheim Councilmember
(ANAHEIM, CA- 10/7/13) – Today, Democratic Party of Orange County (DPOC) Chair, Henry Vandermeir, condemned a series of homophobic and anti-Semitic remarks targeting Anaheim City Councilmember Jordan Brandman, the Council’s lone Democrat, which took place at last week’s city council meeting.
During public comments, William D. Fitzgerald, characterized the Jewish community as “greedy”, “scheming”, “malicious and anti-American”. In addition, Fitzgerald also used homophobic slurs targeted at Councilmember Brandman. While this is not the first time Mr. Fitzgerald has used bigoted stereotypes against Council Brandman, it was certainly one of the most vicious.
Click here to access a video of the incident:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-P0cUKLrCHE#t=25
Vandermeir stated, “While I agree that the foundation of our democracy lies in the people’s freedom of speech and that Mr. Fitzgerald’s reprehensible remarks are included in those rights, I also believe that we have a responsibility to respond when those rights are maliciously abused and the boundaries of public respect are overstepped.”
Vandermeir continued, “According to Anaheim City Council Rule .0101, each person who addresses the City Council during any meeting of the City Council shall refrain from personal, threatening, abusive, slanderous or profane remarks to any member of the Council, staff or general public which remarks disrupt, disturb or impede the orderly conduct of the Council meeting. Any person who makes such disruptive remarks, or engages in any conduct which disrupts, disturbs or impedes the orderly conduct of any Council meeting, shall, at the discretion of the presiding officer or a majority of the Council, be barred from further addressing the Council during that meeting.”
Mayor Tait, as the presiding officer at the council meeting, has a responsibility to bar Mr. Fitzgerald from speaking at any further council meetings since he has a history of engaging in personal attacks against city council members.
Therefore, the Democratic Party of Orange County is calling on Mayor Tait to address this issue at the next council meeting (scheduled for Tuesday, October 8th at 4:30 PM), apologize to Councilmember Brandman for not stopping Mr. Fitzgerald’s tirade, and announce that Mr. Fitzgerald and any other person who addresses the council in such a manner will be barred from speaking at further council meetings.
Added Vandermeir, “This unfortunately is not the first time an incident like this has happened. Regardless of philosophical differences, we encourage collegial relationships of respect.”
We encourage everyone to attend the next council meeting to speak out against these types of personal attacks:
Tuesday, October 8th
Anaheim City Hall
200 S. Anaheim Blvd
Vandermeir did ask for these steps. I think that he can fairly be said to be speaking for the DPOC regarding the paragraph in green. But where the piece says that “the DPOC” called for Tait to apologize and such, it is incorrect. The DPOC did not. (I’m pretty sure that I would have been asked to the meeting.) Vandermeir, however he came to the conclusion that the rest of these were appropriate Democratic Party sentiments, has sole claim to them. I and my peers on the DPOC’s Executive Board don’t — and I hope that we never will.
See you at the rally — or maybe at the other rally near that Fitzgerald Distraction™ rally, if it comes off. (Look for the signs.)