2018 Vote #6 – Anaheim Council: Dr. Moreno and Mr. Brandman


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If I lump the Anaheim City Council in with other cities, it will use up all of the oxygen in that post, so instead it gets its own.

Yes, like many of you, I wish that I could put the Mayoral candidates photos up here.  Having done the analysis you’ll find below, though, defeating Jordan in District 2 turns out to be more important.  Otherwise, even the best reformist Mayor would become an empty shell.

Mayor

I would be happy seeing either Ashleigh Aitken or Cynthia Ward in office — and I will be UNHAPPY if next month we don’t see both of them wielding power and influence within the Anaheim government, one helping the other.  The main thing is keeping the self-interested and hapless Disney puppet Harry Sidhu out of office, because his interest is not in serving the City’s future interests.  He has shown terrible judgment (even putting aside the “Stolen Valor” problem) and will give away as much as the city to Disney and Arte Moreno as he can.

So how does one arrange beating Sidhu?

I endorsed Ashleigh, as a Democrat, because (1) she was good enough for Tom Tait to support, (2) she has far more resources to spend to win the office, and (3) she’s a good bet (although not a safe bet) to oppose the pillaging of the city by corporate interests.

If I were a Republican, I would have endorsed Cynthia.  And frankly, if I were voting in Anaheim I would vote for Cynthia — not out of any animosity towards Ashleigh, but because as a colleague in the fight to protect the city’s finances from rapacious interests, I know that she is a 100% safe bet to do the right thing in this regard — and that he knowledge of the city and its issues is immense and ever-growing.  But that’s based on my personal experience fighting in the trenches with her — and few have the same sort of history with her.

Cynthia’s weakness is lack of money, though she’s raised more of it in recent weeks than she had before.  But so long as Tait Republicans — and that is, thankfully, most Republicans in Anaheim — support her rather than Sidhu, this election will turn out fine either way.  And while Tait has been pretty neutral between the two, I know that he must appreciate and value all that Cynthia has done to help him achieve his successes.

Ashleigh’s weakness is her lack of history in Anaheim politics.  He has the brains, she has the heart — all she lacks is the experience (yet) to do the job as well as possible.  She will need Cynthia around her in some capacity to make up for that.  And, if elected, I believe that she will make up for it.  She’s a quick study — as most top-level trial attorneys are — and she came down on the right side of the Disney issue when that wasn’t a foregone conclusion.

The nightmare scenario (putting all but the four leading contenders aside for now) is that Sidhu gets 33% of the vote, Ashleigh and Cynthia each get 32%, and Lorri Galloway gets the remaining 3%.  I don’t know how to tell people to prevent that.  (One parlor game right now is: is Lorri taking votes from Ashleigh as a female Democrat, from Cynthia as a female sometime Disney critic, or from Sidhu as an Anaheim Hills-based former Council member and later Disney captive?  From what I can tell, the answer is that she’s not taking votes from anyone.  So, Democrats, don’t waste your vote on her.  (Rigidly anti-Tait voters, DO waste your votes on her!)

I think that my best advice is this: between Cynthia and Ashleigh, vote for the one whom you think would be the better Mayor.  With Sidhu failing to catch fire, except in the sense of “flaming out,” it is absolutely possible that top two candidates in the race will be these two women.  One of the most shocking and gratifying things about this race may have gone unnoticed by many: it is that  neither Ashleigh nor Cynthia have been attacking the other.   Given that they really could be the top two finishers in the race, this is both astounding and exhilarating.  They will each acknowledge the other’s deficiencies — Ashleigh’s relative lack of experience and Cynthia’s lack of firepower to win the election — but neither of these is a moral or ethical deficiency, or even a political deficiency.  (As a trial lawyer, Ashleigh’s had to hone the craft of quickly learning what she needs to know to a level of expertise; what Cynthia lacks in funds she makes up for in a vast wealth of respect among longtime watchers of the city.)

That respect comes in part from her having at one time been an avid member of SOAR — then “Save,” now “Support” “Our Anaheim Resort” — and knew how it worked and what it wanted — and then walked away from it when she figured out that what it wanted was to support Disney even at the expense of Anaheim.

It has also come from watching her impassioned speeches to City Council — which is ironic, given that when I met her five or so years ago she had a — not uncommon, except for politicians — phobia-level dread of public speaking.  She attended Toastmasters and worked herself past that point to where she can now chew up Harry Sidhu on Rick Rieff’s show.

As when Joanne Sosa recruited me to come to Anaheim City Council meetings because the comments were generally skewed in the wrong direction and average people needed someone to speak for them, Cynthia was needed as a spokesperson for her causes — she simply knew more that everyone else — and so she became one.

I honestly don’t know which of them has the better chance of beating Harry Sidhu tomorrow.  But just as long as Anaheimers with sound minds and good hearts vote for one or the other — one of them will.

District 2

This is where I disobey the orders of the DPOC; this is my ticket to the a trial in the dock.  I won’t mince words: Jordan Brandman should not get your vote for this district.  Does that mean that Democrats won’t be able to get a Council majority, even if Ashleigh Aitken and Jose Moreno and Grant Henninger win?  Yes, it does.  But there are worse things than not having a majority — and one of them is being an only nominal majority — and having to accept responsibility for all that happens — while being a functional minority because one of your members is on the wrong side, so that the wrong things happen.

Let’s presume that Ashleigh wins the Mayor’s race, that Dr. Moreno beats that nasty SOB Mitch Caldwell, and that Grant Henninger somehow resists being in thrall to Disney.  She needs four people to make policy.  In most areas related to the Resort, she could put together a coalition with Moreno, Denise Barnes, and … who else?  Not Lucille Kring or Steve Faessel.  She would need to pick off either Jordan or Grant — but I think that they would both ally with Kring and Faessel.  (Each, in fact, would strengthen the will of the other to do so.)  Ashleigh would become the same stifled and helpless leader that Tom Tait was in the first six years of his service as Mayor.

Jordan has never even promised not to do this.  The only promise that I could get him to make in the DPOC endorsement process was that he would not endorse Kris Murray for Supervisor if he was endorsed — and even then he parsed his answer.  The moment I realized that I couldn’t support Jordan was the moment when an ally of his said that if Vern and I didn’t stop picking at Jordan, he would feel free to ignore the promises he made to the DPOC.  That rang true.  But that is not how promises work!  Jordan did not promise to “behave” only so long as no one criticized him; he promised to behave, period.  If even his friends think that he would be looking for an opportunity to renege on his promises — how could I possibly put trust in him?

Given that Duane Roberts is not going to win this seat — and yeah, it’s a given — and that none of the minor candidates will make a dent, that means that the sole alternative is James Vanderbilt.  Well, could Ashleigh work well as Mayor with Vanderbilt?  Absolutely: in fact, in my opinion Vanderbilt would become Ashleigh’s staunchest ally as Mayor, because they’re both thoughtful, not that ideological, and won’t be punitive towards Disney and Arte Moreno while also not being inclined to let them pick the city’s pockets.

So look at the actual line-up on the Council with Ashleigh as Mayor, with the Disney side in green and the reformers in purple, with unknowns — including (laughably but for the sake of argument, Brandman) in gray:

Mayor: Aitken (by assumption, in this scenario)
1: Barnes
2: Brandman or Vanderbilt
3: hopefully Moreno, hopefully not Caldwell, probably not the Tait Republican Robert Nelson.
4: Kring
5: Faessel
6: Henninger or Disney Republican O’Neil or Tait Republican Gaby

If she wants to stand up to the people who have accused her of supporting child molesters — oh, and also for the good of the city — she has only one secure vote, that of Barnes.  If Moreno wins, she needs one more vote — and if you look at the roster it’s clear that doe the next two years that’s going to be a Republican.  (If Caldwell wins, she’d need Gaby AND Vanderbilt to win.)  Otherwise, just as when Kris Murray and Jordan Brandman rode roughshod over Tait, she’d be a hostage tied to her own stagecoach.

I’m going to presume for now that Moreno wins.  If Vanderbilt also wins, you have the Tait coalition intact for another two years, with a possible pickup in the District 6 race.  But if Brandman wins, then it all depends on who wins District 6.  If it’s O’Neil, all is lost.  If it’s Gaby, Ashleigh still has a working “Tait” majority, with Gaby taking over the role of Vanderbilt.  But what happens if it’s Henninger?

Based on the colors I used above, you have a 3-2-2 split: Ashleigh, Barnes, and Moreno as reformers, Kring and Faessel as Disney thralls —  and Brandman and Henninger as supposed uncommitteds.

Well, as sure as 2+2=4, does anyone really think that in that situation Brandman plays a fourth or fifth wheel to Ashleigh, Barnes, and his mortal enemy Moreno?

OF COURSE NOT!

He does what he and Murray did under Tait — puts together a four-vote coalition that would in this case have its power limited only by Steve Faessel’s sense of decency.  And then Ashleigh (or Cynthia!) has a miserable two years as Mayor, until the situation can be changed.  Or maybe a miserable 4, 6, or 8.  (Ask Tait about being in that spot.

If you know Jordan Brandman, you know that the prospect of his not seizing power is approximate zero.  He has a Trumpian love for dominating his political enemies and taunting them for their lack of power.

And the worst part is that the ensuing policies happen with a Democrat as Mayor and with two Democrats in the four-person governing coalition (along with a woman and a Latino Dem in the minority.)

NO THANKS!  This would destroy the Democratic Party in Anaheim.  The policies that the Brandman-Caldwell-Kring-and-Faessel coalition (with or without Henninger) would support would be pro-repression, pro-borrowing money to be paid back for decades in exchange for campaign money today, and fundamentally anti-Latino.  When you look back at how Tait’s ineffectual vote to make the Mickey & Friends Parking Lot deal unanimous is STILL trotted out regularly by anonymous commenters, you can imagine that the 2019-2020 betrayals of the City would be put on the Democrats’ tab for the rest of the century.  What does Jordan care?  His constituency is Disney and the Building Trades, not the party.

Not just reformers, but also DEMOCRATS, cannot risk Jordan Brandman being elected in District 2.  If DPOC members really understood Anaheim politics — and Jordan Brandman — all of the folksy sucking up in the world would not have gotten them to endorse him.

District 3

What I hear from fellow Democrats who know him is that Curt Pringle’s good buddy Mitch Caldwell is not only as nasty as Jordan Brandman, but that he’s worse.  Meanwhile, Dr. Jose Moreno is as good a council member as Anaheim has had within memory.  No offense to Robert Nelson, whom I hear is a good guy, but Dr. Moreno needs your vote here.

District 6

I don’t know Grant Henninger well, and perhaps he would side with Ashleigh over Jordan when it came to fights on Council.  (Tiffany Ackley of Aliso Viejo convinced me not to pull his name off of the consent calendar for endorsements, but I was already leaning that way so as not to dilute my taking on Jordan.)  I did talk to Henninger and he said that he was only for hotel subsidies because he had done the analysis and was truly convinced that they were good for the City; well, if that’s true he may have a good heart and simply requires substantial remedial education about how the supposed rationales for them were bogus.

I don’t dislike or disrespect Grant, but as an unknown who would be subject to enormous pressure by both Jordan and the Building Trades, I simply can’t trust him to stay firm even if he sides with reform.  If I knew that Vanderbilt and Moreno would win, giving Ashleigh a reform majority, I would probably take the risk on purely partisan grounds.  But he hasn’t taken stands that give me the confidence to believe that he’s even that independent to begin with.  If it were me in District 6, I would unhappily reject Grant and vote for the only candidate whom I think is trustworthy enough to support reform through thick and thin — and that is Julie Tait’s friend Patty Gaby.  This is not an endorsement per se; just my being honest about how I would personally vote, given the odds and the stakes.

I hope that Democrats do get a majority at some point before long — there are issues besides subsidizing the resort and not rolling over for the police, and Democrats ought to be better on them.  I want that to happen, but for the long-term interests of the party I hope that that only happens when we can find Democrats more like Dr. Moreno and a whole lot less like Mr. Brandman.


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. A family member co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)