Anaheim 12/20/2016: Faessel Surprises; the Empire Strikes Out!


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Who was that dapper, bald gentleman at the right end of the dais Tuesday night?

It couldn’t have been (could it have?) Steve Faessel, the 5th-district council candidate that Disney, SOAR, the public safety and building trade unions, the entire mechanism of Anaheim’s kleptocracy, put their mega-bucks behind, while Mayor Tait and other of us crony-capitalism opponents labored hard to defeat him?  It couldn’t have been the same guy who actually did lobby for the outrageous hotel giveaways last July, who sat mute and unobjecting through dozens of pre-12/20/2016 council meetings while the kleptos did their worst?  The man who did Pringle’s work defeating the Ball Basin Power Plant, and boasted of always keeping a bottle of Curt’s favorite wine on hand?

I merely ask because the Faessel-looking cat we saw last Tuesday talked and voted like a real straight-shooter, listening hard, raising genuine concerns and asking for clarifications, visibly striving to do the right thing, and in every instance (unless I missed something) ended up voting with the Tait/Moreno good-government majority, even ruefully observing at one point, “I don’t think I’m making any friends on the other end of the dais,” where sat Kris Murray and Lucille Kring, grinding their teeth and sputtering.

‘Cuz you know, listening, asking questions, thinking hard – this is not the way an Anaheim Klepto behaves.  We are accustomed to seeing Murray, Kring, Brandman, Eastman, Sidhu, walking into meetings with their minds all made up, their instructions digested, their talking points memorized, impervious to any argument from public or colleague.

Team Anaheim. Who’s Manchurian now?

If it turns out that, indeed, that man on the right of the dais was Steve Faessel, then I think we can say that our new good-government majority is not 4-3 as we had thought, but 5-2.  And one side-effect of that is it makes looming 2018 seem a lot less scary.  It was Comedy Gold to watch Kris and Lucille isolated over at the Kids’ End of the Table, trying to re-write history, hypocritically protesting the majority’s “meanness,” and kicking the bottoms of their desks.  

But geez – look at the time!  My intent is to walk you through the high points of December 20’s marathon (till 1:30 AM) meeting.  First off, though,  I’d better clarify one thing:

Labors of Hercules #5: Cleaning the Augean Stables.

Now, just in case – just in case – you are somehow not a person who grew up fascinated with Ancient Greek mythology, let me fill you in on the Augean Stables, the fifth of Hercules’ twelve labors.  As punishment for a terrible crime he’d committed while insane, this buff demigod was condemned to work for a petty tyrant for twelve years, who ordered him to perform twelve ostensibly impossible “labors.”  

The fifth of these, which has stuck in many of our minds as an often apt metaphor for situations we encounter, was to clean out the stables of the notorious slob King Augeas – the Augean stables, which held a thousand cattle and hadn’t been cleaned out in thirty years – picture a World Of Shit.  Plus which, Hercules had to clean them out in ONE DAY.  As resourceful as he was strong, our hero pulled off this feat by re-routing two rivers through the stables.  

The epic December 20 meeting is much better understood through this prism.  At least half of what was agendized by the new People’s Council could be categorized under “cleaning out the Augean Stables.”  See also, “draining the swamp,” and “drinking from a fire hose.”

1. Rescinding the scandalous and hugely unpopular “Hotel Incentive Program,” which has cost the city $700 million in future revenues to supposedly incentivize the building of luxury hotels that would have been built anyway (and which probably also cost the kleptocrats their majority, even as it defined them.)  

Lucille attempted to grab this issue pre-emptively the week before, with the spin, “This program has done its work spectacularly and we don’t need it any more.”  Kris joined in on that spin on the 20th.  The vote was unanimous to rescind, but Tom and Jose were having none of the spin, driving home how disastrous it will be for future councils to have to write monthly checks of $35 or $40 million to wealthy hoteliers including Disney.  Cynthia Ward responded to the klepto-spin in VOC comments:

The hospitality industry is one of the most well researched businesses on earth. They all know what the others in their market are doing, they adjust room rates as a block based on demand, etc. and they absolutely know how many hotel rooms for each type of price level and amenity offering can be sustained in any given market. A study showed that Anaheim can sustain XX number of 4 star rooms, and that is where the Specific Plan for the Resort set the limit on capacity.

So essentially the ONLY 4-star rooms ALLOWED, based on the number of 4 star rooms that are expected to be supported by the market, have now been allocated to subsidized developers. There is no reason to have the policy because it DID already do its job, Anaheim has now maxed out (on paper) the 4 star hotels sustainable in our market, and with no more rooms to approve there is no more reason to offer the subsidy.

Of course nobody wants to discuss the fact that MOST (not all) of the rooms being subsidized were ALREADY OBLIGATED TO BE BUILT TO THAT STANDARD, based on the SAME Specific Plans for the Resort Disney insists are still in force 25 years later, in order to rely on them for their own development of the parking structure and pedestrian bridge they claim is already entitled… so we “incentivized” NOTHING!

Which leaves this question: Do we have a case of professional negligence on the part of staff, who failed to even READ the documents they were working from? Or did staff/Council KNOW the details in the Specific Plans, and move forward anyway, which sure smells to me like fraud? And are contracts that were the result of fraud or professional negligence legally enforceable? In fact, if someone wanted to take action in any way related to that question, how comfortable are those Resort hoteliers and/or staff and/or Council about being asked what they knew and when they knew it?

2. Discontinuing the $300 million Disney Streetcar Project – at nearly $100 million per mile, the most expensive streetcar in history.  Agendized by Denise.  Even though the OCTA had given this ridiculous and corrupt project the shaft in June, the Klepto majority then voted to STILL waste money STUDYING the boondoggle, in fond hopes that it could someday be revived or something.  (Picture spending tens of thousands a year of taxpayer money keeping your head cryogenically frozen.)

Curiously Faessel seemed torn and reluctant, fretting that if OCTA ever came up with any other “fixed-guideway” plan to get tourists from ARTIC to their final destination, or alternatively up Harbor from Santa Ana through Garden Grove, they may say to themselves “Nah, Anaheim doesn’t want that.”  Tom finally impressed upon him that that’s right, we don’t want that – whether  going down the middle of Katella or up the middle of Harbor, ANY conceivable fixed-guideway project would worsen our already-bad traffic.  So, 5-2, the new People’s Council voted to say NO permanently and finally with no mixed signals, dead-enders Lucille and Kris dissenting. 

3.  Terminating Sponsorship Agreements for various events with the (ultra-politicized) Anaheim Chamber of Commerce.  Many thought of this as revenge, as the Chamber has opposed and attacked the Mayor at every turn, and been the main voice for the most wasteful and irresponsible acts of crony capitalism, from the hotel subsidies to the Angels Stadium giveaway.  And maybe there was a bit of punishment or revenge in the mix, but the fact remains:  such booming businesses (up to and including Disney) shouldn’t need government assistance to put on their various annual events.  

Kris chewed out the majority as being unfriendly to the “business community” – her euphemism for the Chamber, which (like Huntington Beach’s Chamber) advocates only for the very largest businesses in town.  Liberal Jose responded, sounding exactly like Conservative Tom, that these “economic engines” being as successful as they are shouldn’t and DON’T NEED $135,000 a year of public money to promote themselves.  Somehow the vote turned out unanimous to stop this corporate welfare.

4. Showing brand-new city attorney Arturo Fierro the door.  The nearly-final indignity (the penultimate one actually) perpetrated by the outgoing klepto majority was to install – against public and mayoral outrage – a new City Attorney ONE WEEK before the election, the first by-districts election … and to make it worse, this attorney is the father of defeated councilman Brandman’s aide and campaign manager.  It stank from way over here.  Tom moved to remove this fellow immediately – nothing to do with his performance or qualifications, just a matter of principle.

Faessel was apologetic to the man, but eloquent in his ethical objections to how he achieved his position.  “I’m sorry, you arrived here under a cloud, and to me, you will always have this cloud over you.”  Kris and Lucille HOWLED (there’s SOMETHING going on here, why they needed him there so bad!)  The majority is cruel and inhumane, to do this to this poor man (whose name Lucille couldn’t pronounce) before even giving him a chance to show what a good job he could do!  And right before Christmas on top of that!  You would think the majority was stealing candy from babies and then throwing those babies under the bus … right before Christmas too.  

Jose smoothly turned it around on them – “Personally, I RESENT the fact that you forced us to do this, that you left this on our laps.  We have no choice.”  Some have observed that the two hysterical women, during that discussion, spoke A GREAT DEAL of things that went on in closed session; we will study the tapes and determine what trouble they could be in.  In any case – Fierro gone, 5-2, and former interim City Attorney Kristin Peletier back in the saddle for now.

5.  Restoring the integrity of the Mayor’s office.  This reversal of a pair of petty, punitive anti-Tait actions from 2013 was a fiesta of recriminations and revisionism which really called for much more popcorn than we had on hand:

5a.  Restoring the Mayor’s agendizing power.  I don’t feel like getting into all the fine details of this here;  the revisionist account of this controversy is here on the kleptoblog, natch, and we heard it live at length from Kris and Lucille, but nobody really believes it.  The fact is, the Mayor had been able, for many years, to put an item onto the agenda up to 3 days before the meeting, and the majority – at the time, Brandman, Eastman, Murray and Kring – called an emergency Monday morning meeting in September of 2013 to strip that power away from Tom.   I remember that meeting well, it was hard to forget:  there was a finger-puppet show elucidating the issues at hand.

Rather than rehash the stale arguments, let’s dig some vintage Lucille:  the meeting HAD to be on Monday morning because her father-in-law had died and she had to go to the funeral.  “Oh, woe is me, I had a death in the family.”  Bullshit, it did not HAVE to be an unusual, barely-noticed “emergency” meeting at all.  This was only an emergency to THEM, and purely intended to punish and prevent Tom from speaking out in public about their plan to give away the Angels Stadium parking lot to Arte Moreno for $1 a year for 66 years.  Things are back to normal now, on a 6-1 vote – only Kris could pretend the change was justifiable.

5b.  Restoring the pay and hours of his policy aide Mishal Montgomery.  Another punitive and unjustifiable action the majority took (that same year I think) against the Mayor and his hard-working policy aide Mishal – they cut her pay by $40,000 a year, forcing her to work part-time and take another job.  Revisionist version here.  

I agree that the optics of Denise Barnes agendizing this restoration for the benefit of her patron Mishal was regrettable – the Mayor should have done it himself.  Apparently Denise got a rash of shit over it from her constituents and therefore spent a good deal of time looking into the details of the controversy… and then decided to not only restore the $40,000 in pay but make Mishal’s position officially full-time, requiring a new classified position, which had to be continued to next meeting.  All but Kris and Lucille agreed, 5-2.  But to understand the differences between what Mishal does versus a typical klepto aide:  Mishal has a degree in public policy;  Kris uses Arianna Barrios, a public relations person, to help her sell her misdeeds to the public.

6. Who or What is a “Welcoming Anaheim?”

Jose’s proposal, Dec. 13, to “form a Mayoral task force … [for] a new community integration initiative entitled Welcoming Anaheim” had a lot of us on all sides puzzled for a week, coming as it did at the same time as Santa Ana declaring itself a Sanctuary City (in which local authorities would be forbidden from co-operating with Federal immigration authorities.)  Was “Welcoming Anaheim” a euphemism to help Sanctuary City Anaheim go down easier with white and Republican voters?  Was it a sneaky backdoor way to lay the groundwork for a Sanctuary City?  Or was it as some claim a “Sanctuary City Lite” with feelgood aspects that still leave undocumented immigrants vulnerable?  Jose replies to ALL of us smartasses, “Just look at the website – WelcomingAmerica.org.”  

And so I did.  This turns out to be a national program, fighting xenophobia, that cities and states throughout the nation have recently signed on to.  And it seems to be more geared toward welcoming refugees from scary places like Syria than anything to do with immigration from Mexico.  In the website’s words, 

Welcoming America leads a movement of inclusive communities becoming more prosperous by making everyone feel like they belong. We believe that all people, including immigrants, are valued contributors who are vital to the success of our communities and shared future.

Today, a growing number of places recognize that being welcoming leads to prosperity; Welcoming America provides the roadmap and support they need to become more welcoming toward immigrants and all residents.

Jose tried to impress upon his colleagues, who are perhaps not as artistic/intellectual as he, that every community does this in its own way, figures out exactly what aspects of “Welcoming” are right for them, feel their way toward their own version of it.  

The four men on Council voted to move forward cautiously but bravely with this work in progress.  Lucille and Kris abstained, understandably pleading confusion.  Denise actually voted no, having gotten numerous calls from constituents terrified of having helped elect a council that would enact Sanctuary City status.  Remember, Denise counts among her constituency a great number of folks like Esther Wallace and Amanda Edinger, whose hair the very idea of Sanctuary ignites with unquenchable flames.  At some point they may realize this is not that.

A Moratorium on Permit Parking, and a Call for More Smiles

The one part of the meeting where all seven members were able to discuss an issue respectfully, maturely and constructively was … maybe not as entertaining, but actually refreshing:  that was when three new parking-permit areas came up for approval, mere hours after several public speakers complaining that permit parking in adjacent neighborhoods was just exacerbating their own parking problems, while also leaving the irritating spectacle of bare empty streets through the daytime hours in the lucky precincts.

An intractable problem perhaps, but the council unanimously agreed to attempt tracting it, in a “global” way, putting a temporary moratorium on any new permit parking (while approving the three at hand, as people had put so much work into getting them approved.)  No more park-a-mole.  Let’s see these seven figure out something useful together!

On that magnanimous note, let me clarify to Kris and Lucille something my pal Brian Chuchua said in public comments:  “It’s nice to finally see five smiling faces up there, I hope to soon see seven.”  He was not, as you apparently assumed, expressing impatience for you two to be replaced.  (Necessarily.)  He was just wanting to see you smile!  Why so glum and angry?  Just start listening to your constituents and actually representing them – it’s not too late, you’ve got 2/4 more years!

Unfinished Business:  January 10!

With ALL that mishegas and desmadre, it was inevitable that some important business would have to be postponed.  The most regrettable and dangerous postponement was the replacement of former Councilman Jordan Brandman on the OC Water District.  He has been a destructive force there, representing the crooks of Poseidon and Cadiz over the interests of Anaheim ratepayers and the environment, and who knows what damage he could do while still ensconced there – there’s another OCWD meeting on Jan 4 where anything could happen!  He has to go on January 10 (so he can plot his next mischief – running for Supervisor against Pringle’s other favorite Jennifer Fitzgerald?  Hmmm…. tall order.)

It’s well known that this blog supports David Zenger for the position.  The tradition is to give the post to a councilmember, and either James or Jose would be capable and willing.  But we really think that tradition is obsolete and dumb, and Anaheim water users should be represented by an independent citizen with the expertise and TIME to pore through all the documents and issues and represent us properly and honestly.  There are no doubt other acceptable experts out there as well.  The important thing is to immediately get Jordan off before he can cause more harm.

This needs to be done January 10, and even THAT’s not the main thing – we have to do something immediately to protect our homeless through these winter months.  Just the day after that Dec 20 meeting, as we revealed here, the APD seized the tents and tarps from at least seven peaceful homeless folks in West Anaheim, in the middle of a cold rainy day – the first of several.  Fair warning, the Council will be mobbed on Jan 10 with us folks who care, demanding such humane measures as:

  • Rescind the camping ordinance;  or AT LEAST stop enforcing it during the winter months, so these people can have their tents, tarps and sleeping bags.
  • Create one or preferably more “safe spaces” for them to camp (at least for the winter) – possibilities include the “Karcher Property” in District 3, and the southeast corner of Beach and Lincoln in District 1.
  • Order the police to stop seizing the property of homeless people, unless it is left unsupervised for a certain number of hours – that is supposed to be the rule, but our “homeless outreach team” has been seizing property right out of their hands!
  • Discuss creating temporary compounds of small modular homes, possibly in the spaces described above.
  • And contract with a mobile restroom/shower service as many other humane cities have.  This WAS the City of Kindness, wasn’t it, or did our GPS malfunction?

See you all on the 10th!


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist in Orange County. Performs regularly with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem, and at regular concerts at the Huntington Beach Central Library.