Weekend Open Thread – A Radical Holiday Season!

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What I’m trying to say is, ’tis the season to help the least fortunate amongst us, while jabbing a thumb into the eye of the powerful and the oppressors.  You know, just like Jesus used to do.  (I hear his birthday is coming up.)  To start with, it would be really nice to bring toys and other presents to some of the many children left fatherless, motherless, or otherwise bereaved by police violence in this county.  Our friend Baxter writes:


“Please support local children who have lost a parent to police violence this holiday season by donating an unwrapped gift to our Young Survivors Network Toy Drive before Dec 23rd.

“You can help by simply purchasing a new toy, of any value, and dropping it off at the Young Survivors donation box located front and center at Max Bloom Cafe Noir (220 N. Malden in downtown Fullerton 1pm – 10pm M-Sat) Volunteers will wrap the gift for you before it is distributed among the families of these victims.

“I know many of these kids personally. They are strong, they are beautiful, and they are hurt. To have lost a parent, in such a violent manner, at the hands of someone wearing a uniform that you have always been told to turn to when you needed help, is uniquely horrifying. Additionally, the family, and the victim, are far too often villainized in the press and by the police in a concerted effort to mitigate any civil action. Regardless of the circumstances which led up to the violence, these children are innocent, and they have been dealt a hand which is incredibly difficult to process. A simple act of kindness on your part this holiday season, will bring them a little joy, and assure them that there are members of their community, who care about them.Please be one of those member of their community.

I thank Kevin at Max Blooms for allowing us to use his establishment for this cause, and I thank all of you who plan to step up.” -Bax Baxter

What is the Young Survivors Legacy Support Network?

Young Survivors Legacy Support Network (“Young Survivors”), a California nonprofit corporation, was formed in 2013 after an unprecedented number of police shootings and killings of young Latinos, including family members and close friends of the founders.  As families united in grief, it became apparent that it was important to not only address the need for better police recruitment and training, to lessen police violence, but also to have a mechanism to help the young survivors, the children, of victims of police violence.

OC’s Dirty Santa, by Tim Houchen

This is a picture of a homeless guy named Richard about a week before he passed away at the Santa Ana civic center.

I don’t think that anyone ever knew his last name. A few of us joked with him, especially during the holidays when we would nick-name him, “Dirty Santa.”

Richard didn’t seem to mind the moniker that we had labeled him with. Heck, we were just a bunch of dirty homeless guys ourselves anyway. Nobody ever cared about any of us.

Richard slept just outside the plate glass windows of the State of California building at the civic center. I slept just around the corner of the building, about ten feet away from him for two years.

We were a tight-knit crew of about a dozen guys that had protected and defended one another from violence, harm and all manners of chicanery for a long time before Richard showed up. Normally, outsiders were not allowed near our camp. But he was cool, never bothered anybody, and never complained about anything. We had his back too.

At the time, I sensed that he felt safe and secure around myself and the other guys in our camp. If that’s the case then I am happy to have provided the least bit of comfort to him during his tortured life.

I always had a pack or two of cigarettes at any given time and many of the guys begged me for smokes constantly. It was a nuisance. I never minded giving a couple to Richard. He nearly never asked me, but I knew when he wanted a smoke so I would sit with him, smoke a couple and talk with him.

Richard may have looked like a derelict, but that was not the case. We had some really great conversations. He was quiet and soft-spoken. I could tell that he was a man that had loved and had been loved sometime in his past.

Looking back it’s obvious that when the two of us smoked and spoke with one another, I was looking into the face of a broken man empty of emotion and deplete of any will to live. Now I know that the spirit and the flesh don’t necessarily die at the same time.

I woke up at the crack of dawn to freezing temperatures on December 26th. It was a day like any other for me despite the cold. I would have to gather-up my gear and move out quickly. I knew that the police would arrive there soon to issue camping citations to stragglers. No time to look out for anyone but myself in those moments.

Later that afternoon news spread across the civic center that someone had complained to police that a homeless person was sleeping where they were not supposed to. The police arrived to find a homeless man dead at the scene. Later I would discover that it had been Richard.

The county coroner estimated that his body had layed there dead for nearly twenty hours. Our homeless friend Richard, the guy that we had so affectionately nick-named “Dirty Santa” had died cold and all alone on Christmas Day in 2014.

Rest in Peace My Brother.

As this blog has become notoriously Anaheim-centric over the last few years, you have heard a lot about homeless activists Lou Noble and Roussan Joshua Collins.  But even before they were out there fighting for the rights and dignity of the homeless, there was Santa Ana’s Tim Houchen (right) – organizing the homeless at Santa Ana’s Civic Center into the Civic Center Roundtable, researching the rights and remedies of the homeless at the local law library, and speaking out at SA City Council meetings.  He tells the whole story on my Facebook wall here.  All of this is by introduction of Tim’s big upcoming event (at which I’ll be playing piano) …

The National Homeless Person’s Memorial Day

Wednesday, Dec. 21, 4:30 to 7pm, on the Santa Ana River Trail near the Big A!


This is an event held in other places in the U.S. always during the winter solstice on Dec. 21st.

Traditionally, the event is named “The Longest Night” because Dec. 21st is the shortest day for most Americans who have a place to come home to at days end, but it is the Longest Night for those who do not have a home.

It is a valuable opportunity for communities to show compassion to those experiencing homelessness especially so close to the holidays when many homeless people struggle with the frustrations of being disconnected from friends and families due to their homeless conditions. It is also an opportunity of homeless people to honor the memories of homeless friends and their extended homeless families who struggled only to lose their lives in homelessness.

It is an event worthy of your contributions mostly of time and effort. Many volunteers in the past have reported that participating in these events inspired joyful emotions and satified their spirits.

We are looking for groups, clubs, organizations, etc. that would like to participate with us by preparing and serving food, your donated items of clothing, tents, sleeping bags, blankets and so much more. Or drop-off your donated items at the location beginning at 8:00 am on Dec. 21st. Or a cash donation can be made at our GoFundMe page https://www.gofundme.com/homeless-memorial-day-12212016

I would be happy to answer any questions regarding the event so feel free to message me at FB send an email or make a call to me.

Tim Houchen
(714) 472-8459

And NOW you’re all – I can practically hear you – “We’ve brought presents to the Young Survivors, we’re getting involved with the Homeless Memorial Day thing, but that’s nearly two weeks from now! What is there somewhat rad that we can do THIS WEEK,” you continue, “preferably without leaving Anaheim?”

Well, get out your pen, there are three things this week in Anaheim you can’t miss:

TUESDAY, 3 pm at City Hall:  The changing of the guard from the old Klepto Council to the new People’s Council!  I’ll let “Lady Ward” walk you through the proceedings:

Anaheim’s new by-district election has many people watching City Hall who had not previously been interested in politics, and a lot of folks are asking how the “Swearing in” works on Tuesday. At 3 pm there is a meeting at Anaheim City Hall, in the same chambers as always, with the usual players (including the outgoing Jordan Brandman) and there is a time for Public Comments. Traditionally this has been a time for the public to come thank Jordan for his service to the community. Be nice. No business is conducted, other than to confirm the election of November 2016. The meeting is ceremonial. (I have to admit my cynical self just checked the agenda to be sure they did not cram one last deal in for their pals while they still had the majority. Can you blame me for being suspicious?)

Then at 5 pm the group moves to “The River” church, (Freedman Forum) just behind City Hall, in anticipation of a larger crowd. (no air horns or cow bells, no matter how excited you are.) This means YOU Ryan Anthony Ruelas And there the City Clerk will swear in Council members Denise Barnes (District 1) Dr. Jose Moreno (District 3) and Steve Faessel (District 5) as well as the returning incumbent, Lucille Kring (District 4) may God have mercy on us.

The City Clerk will THEN preside over the “casting of lots” in which one of the 4 just elected will be randomly identified to serve a TWO YEAR TERM until 2018, so that the Council evens out with 3 Council members elected every 2 years in each election, for 4-year terms going forward. I wondered why we didn’t just hold one more District open until 2018, and elect 3 then, but apparently, this was the result of the settlement of the lawsuit that led to the “by-district” elections, that 4 seats would be up in 2016, with one to be randomly chosen to run again in 2018 to even it up. If Lucille Kring draws the lot she will only serve until 2018 and then be “termed out” 2 years early, leaving the seat vacant to be potentially filled with someone in possession of an actual soul, as Lucille cannot run for a 4-year term with only 2 years left on her clock. Those prone to praying, you have your assignment right HERE. I’ll pay for the candles.

Clerk Linda Andal has not yet announced what form the “casting of lots” will take, but there are a number of legally accepted forms that City Clerks are permitted to use for this. She has ruled out the drawing of straws but otherwise has not shared her thoughts. Knowing Linda I can only say it will be fair and honest. That’s all we ask for. But I will give her bonus points for making the new electeds sing or dance or perform in some fashion to score points, in some bizarre version of “Anaheim City Council’s Got Talent.” Come on, you would SO TOTALLY watch that one!

It does not appear we have a chance for Public Comments at the second portion of the meeting, only the 3 pm portion will be open for comments, so greeting the incoming members will need to wait until the December 20th meeting. But the new Council members will get a chance to speak. To those new members I will say, “Keep it short, people!” By then we will want the cookies waiting in the lobby. Seriously, Kris Murray droned on freaking forever in 2014, keep it short. Thank the God of your choosing, your parents, spouse, 3rd grade teacher who inspired you, tell a short but actually funny joke, promise to do a good job, and don’t make any promises you don’t want us to hold you accountable for once you get into office and realize policy/funding/actual law won’t let you do the thing you vowed to do in your first 100 days and you are just embarrassing yourselves. Keep it short. [VERN note – this is also where our new and returning Council members will be agendizing items for the next meeting, on the 20th – that’s what I’m really looking forward to!]

And then there is a reception right afterward in the lobby of the River Church, with some bites of dessert type things. And of course, the REAL parties afterward, with champagne being sprayed on each other and various forms of undignified behavior…oh we aren’t doing that this year? OK, I guess some folks are having a quiet dinner in a civilized setting.

OK–I have to share. In 2014, Dennis Fitzgerald, blowhard master of ignorance, griped his head off about spending public funds for cookies and coffee after the swearing in. Fitzie then loaded up with all the dessert he could shovel in and/or shove into his suit pockets. Welcome to Anaheim. See you Tuesday.

THURSDAY, 6pm, ACROSS ANAHEIM BLVD at the ten-story “City Hall West,” 2nd Floor, Gordon Hoyt Meeting Room – the FINAL “Pilot Public Safety Board Meeting.”  Come see the rarest of animals, only glimpsed four times a year, and now on the verge of extinction:  Anaheim’s feeble attempt at police oversight, barely pushed through over the squeals of the Police Association in the wake of the long hot murderous summer of 2012.  No, seriously, we need a crowd there Thursday night, coming as it does right after this year’s FOURTH questionable APD-caused fatality (I don’t say “fatal shooting” because poor innocent Vincent Valenzuela was TASED to death.”  Make the police, the City Manager, and the new Council know that you CARE and you’re WATCHING!

And the next night, FRIDAY, 3:30 pm, we are taking to the streets.  In front of the Anaheim Police Station.  Here’s Renee, an organizer:

We will be gathering on this Friday in memory of all the lives taken unjustly by the Anaheim Police . There has been NO accountability to any of the many officers who are guilty of shooting unarmed men in the back. Some are repeat offending killers. These officers are a LIABILITY for the city of anaheim. WE will not stop gathering to inform and warn the public of the MURDERS these officers have committed.  Adalid Flores was killed by Anaheim police – an unarmed father of 4. WE NEED THE NAMES OF THE OFFICERS WHO TOOK HIS LIFE!!!!!   We will Never Forget………

Julian Alexander ~ Caesar Cruz ~ David Raya ~ MarcelCeja ~ RoscoeCambridge ~ JoeWhitehouse ~ Justin Hertl ~ Brian Drummond ~ Danny Rendon ~ Anthony Sanchez ~ Martin Hernandez ~ Barry Koensberg ~ Monique Deckard ~ Gustavo Najera ~ Rene Garcia ~Joey Acevedo ~ Manuel Diaz ~ Vincent Valenzuela ~ Bernie Villegas ~ Robert Moreno

Anaheim police continue to act as Judge Jury and executioners with no accountability for their actions.

Well!  Apart from all that, this is your WEEKEND OPEN THREAD, and what’s that Greg says?  Discuss this, that, or whatever you like, within broad bounds of decency and decorum.


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.