Muzzling Dr. Moreno: Sidhu’s Escalating War Against Free Speech


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Well, this takes Mayor Harry Sidhu’s silencing of the Latino Council minority to a whole new level – in the televised version of the Thursday March 26 Emergency Looting Meeting (in which the majority drained $6.5 million from Anaheim’s dwindling reserves for “emergency” marketing of Disney and the resort district), dissenting Councilman Jose Moreno‘s concluding comments were abruptly cut off right after these words:

“Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Colleagues, I’m at a loss for words about the action – ” And then, bingo, as far as the Anaheim’s TV audience was concerned, Jose really WAS at a loss for words, as Channel 3 cut to some public service announcement.

Well, that makes me think we should reprint what Jose went on to say that was so rudely censored, before we put this in the larger context of Sidhu’s assault on the minority’s free speech:

“Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Colleagues, I’m at a loss for words about the action tonight.  This council has violated two fundamental principles which we expect of our government and our elected officials.  One was transparency and inclusion in the democratic proces, and the second is thoughtful, open, and public deliberation on critical policy budget items that we’re required to do on behalf of the people. 

“As you mentioned earlier, this is what we’re elected to do is to make ‘tough decisions.’  And in making tough decisions we have to ask really tough questions.  And it seems every time the tough questions start to come, and we don’t have the information or the knowledge or maybe it’s counter to what you believe to be true, you ‘call the question.’  [A parliamentary procedure to end debate and force a vote.]

“I’m also disappointed and disheartened that many of you still continue to propagate and affirm yourselves as people who believe in the free market and fiscal responsibility and fiscal prudence, as you deliberate on budget and policies, and it seems time and time again that this council, who are overwhelmingly Republicans, which is the party that’s seen as having those principles, violates those very principles every time it comes to those who have direct interest in your campaigns. 

“This evening we received letters for this ‘economic recovery package’ from the Anaheim Police Officers’ Association – Edgar Hampton and Pete Mitchell, the lobbyists both of whom, and whose entities, have given thousands of dollars to this council.  I’m concerned on behalf of our police officers, that instead of being concerned with their health and the work they do today, instead they want us to spend $6.5 million dollars on marketing.

“Our Anaheim Firefighters Association also gave huge contributions to our Counci majority and Mayor.   I was shocked that they also sent a letter supporting this ‘economic recovery package’ that diverts $6.5 million of our precious reserve dollars not to support them but to support MARKETING. Again, our firefighters on the front line.

“I’m also disappointed that our Municipal Employees also communicated to me that they support this package, and they are the ones who are experiencing, on the front lines, the LEAST protection, when it comes to their jobs, and when it comes to their health. 

“So I ask the people of Anaheim to please continue to pay attention to what’s happening here – we are receiving everyday updates of how the industries in our city and in our country will receive the backing of the Federal government.  We know this President, just like our Mayor, absolutely embraces Big Business and those who seek to sustain jobs. So, I have no concern that THEY will recover.

I am concerned about the single mom in our district, in districts 5, 4, 6, 2, and 1, who’s right now trying to figure out if she’s gonna have a  job or not, and how she’ll be able to pay back rent, that she can’t pay over the next two months, and how long they’re gonna have to depend on local nonprofits for food.  How long the small business owner will survive being closed and be able to sustain their employees.  That’s what we should be focusing on now, colleagues.

“And for you to cut off debate today, and cut off questions, and accountability, is extremely disappointing, based on your own ideology of fiscal prudence, fiscal responsibility and good government, and transparent government at that.  We have districts for a reason.  72% of the voters wanted a change in our electoral system, and expanded our council to have more voices.  You violated that this evening, Mr. Mayor.  Your plan only included two Councilmembers [Faessel and O’Neil]all THREE of you live east of the 57 freeway.  Your plan systematically excluded 2/3 of the population of Anaheim as represented by the councilmembers. 

“And it’s really disappointing that the councilman from District 2 [Brandman] would support the idea that somehow, giving $6.5 million to marketing is gonna somehow help the single moms in his district… very disappointing.   So I do hope that the voters will remember this.  There are elections, they do have consequences, and as we see at the Federal level, when we elect a government that has no concern for the people on the ground, these are the results you get.

“So I hope that you will remember this when we get past this crisis.  Myself and Councilmember Barnes have made every effort to reach across the aisle to work, sent e-mails and proposed ideas, and Mr. Mayor you ignore our ideas time and time again.  We are also in conversation with industries, and with small businesses, and with residents.  We have a lot we can offer.  If you cut off debate, and give us TWELVE HOURS NOTICE on a new economic plan that our people really need to hear about, that .. is.. irresponsible.  And, in my opinion, not becoming of the  office that you hold, and the trust that we all want to put in that office. 

“So, I was hoping that somehow this crisis would change our tone, but it doesn’t seem like that happened.  So I’ll just end with asking the people of Anaheim to please keep paying attention, and please keep sending your ideas to me… and I hope every councilmember will begin to pay attention to their residents and not just those who give to their campaigns.”

Gee, I wonder why Sidhu and his machine didn’t want Anaheim viewers out in TV land to hear all that?  [And thanks to Artie Castillo for the tip!]

So they’ll probably say there was a  technical glitch or some human accident that caused all the above words of Jose to be deleted off television, but do you believe that?  Listen to the rest of the meeting online if you do – the Mayor tried to shut up Jose’s questions and concerns at least twenty times, and sometimes succeeded.  And this comes after sixteen months of systematically changing the rules to make it harder and harder for the Latino minority (Moreno and Barnes) to agendize anything, and harder for the pubic to comment.

This anti-people Mayor and Majority are really in their element right now, with us citizens and residents prevented from showing up and speaking out.  COVID-19 is Mayor Sidhu’s friend!  Not only does it make a handy (if far-fetched) excuse for any Heist he wants to pull off, it also keeps all us dirty peasants out of the chambers and off the city’s TV screens.  We are allowed to send in e-mail comments, but does anybody think they’re actually read by anyone besides Jose and Denise?

And can this really stand a Brown Act challenge, this latest affront?  How was it an EMERGENCY, something the public (and the minority) didn’t need to be warned about more than TWELVE HOURS in advance, to immediately funnel $6.5 million in public funds to advertise businesses who won’t even be functioning till the summer at earliest, businesses that can easily afford that advertising themselves when they need it?  Even City Manager Zapata thought that was excessive – and I hope he keeps his job!

Well, silver lining, our Recall Sidhu page has been getting more and more hits as public rage grows over this in every district.  The Recall itself is on a brief Coronavirus hiatus (another reason the pandemic is Harry’s friend) but we do have a new, compelling item to add to our growing list of Reasons For Recall:  “Used the Coronavirus Pandemic as an excuse to raid our reserves of $6.5 MILLION to provide free advertising to Disney and the resort district, with only 12 hours public notice.”


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.