AB 339: Will Sacramento Force Sidhu to Open up Anaheim Council Meetings?


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I don’t actually think Sidhu will look this happy when he’s forced out of his cellar of secrecy…
unless he’s already accomplished all the thievery that was expected of him.
Which is unlikely.

“For it is shameful to even speak of what these ungodly people do in secret.”
– Ephesians 5:12

From here on, until the pandemic is over, “opening up meetings” is shorthand for “allowing public comment during meetings via a service like Zoom or Webex, as well as allowing the public to see and hear their elected representatives discussing and voting on the matters affecting them (or, at a minimum, allowing the public to call in via teleconference as the council now does – in either case not forcing public commenters to risk their health.)”

SPOILER ALERT: After I’m done describing the suppression of democracy currently perpetrated in Anaheim by Harry Sidhu, Jordan Brandman, Steve Faessel, Avelino Valencia, Jose Diaz and Trevor O’Neil, I’ll talk about a bill – AB 339 – that’s just been introduced in Sacramento that will slap Anaheim into shape – if a lawsuit doesn’t first.  (It’s sad that we always need state bills or lawsuits to force our crooked Anaheim council into doing the right thing.)  Also – a good VIDEO coming up below!

Anaheim’s 2018-20 Majority

Since taking power at the end of 2018, suppressing democracy and open government has been a hallmark of Mayor Sidhu and his lockstep council majority.  Long horrified by the freewheeling, sometimes boisterous meetings of the Mayor Tait days, the Sidhu Party clamped down immediately and forcefully on any dissenting speech – both limiting public comment any way they legally could, and putting insurmountable hurdles in the way of the council minority (at first Moreno and Barnes, now just Moreno) to even put anything on the agenda for discussion.

When the pandemic hit us last year, the Sidhu Party happily took advantage of that excuse to close meetings even further.  While nearly every other city in this county turned to Zoom, Webex, and teleconferenced public comments, Anaheim’s teleconferenced meetings throughout 2020 were viewable only on granicus.com, with an empty dais on the screen and abysmal sound quality, and the only way the public could comment was through e-mails that were probably read by no councilmembers but Moreno and Barnes (now just Moreno.)

Anaheim’s 2020-21 majority

At the beginning of this year, Sidhu “opened up” meetings and public comments, in his own way:  Councilmembers are now able to attend in person OR teleconference invisibly – Moreno, Faessel and O’Neil continue to teleconference (Moreno and Faessel for public health concerns, O’Neil probably because he’d rather not drive all the way from the Hills down to the Land of Alleys) – and the public can now comment but only if they come to Council chambers, wait outside in line, and speak from inside the City Hall lobby… in the middle of the pandemic.  We do not have the option of teleconferencing in.  And the Sidhu Majority will not allow Zoom or Webex – and refuse to give a reason.  So – goal achieved – many folks who would like to comment do not feel comfortable doing so, just like 3 out of 7 councilmembers don’t.

The cost is laughable – Cisco would charge us $192 per year for their Webex, and as I promised in my Feb. 9 speech below, I’ll pay for THAT myself.  I also took a bit of my time to criticize the Council majority (especially supposed Democrats Jordan and Avelino) for steadfastly refusing to give Moreno a second and third to get anything on the agenda.  As though planned, which it wasn’t, an hour after my speech Moreno tried to agendize a discussion on opening meetings via teleconference or videoconference, and got no second or third – that’s on the video too.

And that’s my favorite part – we’ve grown used to hearing long awkward silences following any Moreno proposal, and we even wondered if the other members were still on the line.  But now we have the VISUAL (at the 4:40 mark) – Jordan crouching up there looking miserable like he can’t wait for Moreno to give up; Avelino sitting ramrod straight with a deer in the headlights face telling himself “Don’t say anything, don’t say anything,” and the only clue we have that this is not a still photo is Jose Diaz rocking side-to-side in his chair like a restless adolescent.

That and Cynthia Ward‘s stirring speech at the end of the video, which she made on Feb 16 at risk to her health, having just completed chemotherapy.  Among other things, Cynthia reminds us of why this actually is important, and toward the end you can hear how winded she gets.  Just watch the damn ten-minute video, it’s good, and we’re fighting for all of you:

INTERLUDE

The Democratic Party of OC (DPOC) must censure Jordan and Avelino!

It could happen, the DPOC has censured Jordan before.  Last time he ran for Council, in 2018, he was forced to make a few promises to the Party, most of which he’s broken.  But there are none that he’s broken so many times as his promise to help Moreno get his items onto the agenda for at least discussion.  First, back in early 2019 when Moreno could count on Barnes for a second, Jordan went along with Sidhu’s rule change that you now need a THIRD, and then proceeded for two years to ALMOST NEVER give a “third” to a Moreno proposal.  And they were good proposals in line with what you’d think were Democratic values.  A few examples of Moreno items from 2019-20 that got a second from good Democrat Denise Barnes but died for lack of a third from Jordan:

  • putting a rent cap on mobile home parks, some of whose owners have been raising rents exorbitantly;
  • putting a rent cap on apartments, some of whose owners were raising rents exorbitantly (until the state stepped in);
  • extending no-cause eviction protection planned by the state for January 2020 into the final months of 2019; 
  • publicizing the city-ordered appraisal for the Angels Stadium property;
  • granting more time for public review and input over the Stadium deal;
  • a vast array of campaign finance reform measures;
  • resolving that “Black Lives Matter”;
  • first proposal for an Eviction Moratorium during the Pandemic;
  • and declaring May 30, 2020 a day to honor Anaheim graduates who could not have a ceremony.

But since last November’s election, with Denise Barnes gone, and “Democrat” Avelino Valencia on Council, Moreno doesn’t even get a second – even though you’d think he’d get one from Avelino, because, guess what?  Avelino made the same false promise to the DPOC that Jordan did.  Just these last few months, here are good Moreno proposals that died because they could not get a second or third from the Council’s nominal Democrats:

  • designating the “Little Arabia” district (a double broken promise for Jordan and Avelino, as they’d promised to support the designation);
  • tabling a resolution allowing us to count our middle-class housing toward our low-income housing requirement;
  • opening up Council meetings through teleconferencing or videoconferencing so the public can comment without risking our health.

All great Democratic ideas, that died on the vine because of Jordan and Avelino.  DOES ANY OF THIS MEAN ANYTHING TO YOU, DPOC?

Assembly Bill 339: Public Participation

Well, SOME help may be on the horizon, in the form of Alex Lee’s & Cristina Garcia’s Assembly Bill 339, which we should lobby for.  I won’t bore you by listing the times the last few years that it took a new state law or a lawsuit to force the Sidhu Council to do the right thing, but this will probably be another case.  Here’s the bill in print, here’s the fact sheet, and here’s a sample letter of support.  From the bill itself, tying it into the Brown Act:

People liked my image of Moses bringing down the Brown Act from the mountain, so here it is again!

Existing law, the Ralph M. Brown Act, requires, with specified exceptions, that all meetings of a legislative body of a local agency, as those terms are defined, be open and public and that all persons be permitted to attend and participate.

This bill would require all meetings to include an opportunity for all persons to attend via a call-in option or an internet-based service option that provides closed captioning services and requires both a call-in and an internet-based service option to be provided to the public. The bill would require, even in the case of a declared state or local emergency, teleconferenced meetings to include an in-person public comment opportunity. The bill would require all meetings to provide the public with an opportunity to address the legislative body remotely via call-in or internet-based service, as provided, and would require instructions on how to attend the meeting to be posted at the time notice of the meeting is publicized, as specified….

Well, THAT should slap our city into shape, and we’ll let you know when it goes to committees so we can help lobby for it. Anyway, who would lobby AGAINST it? Mayor Harry Sidhu?  And on what lame-ass grounds?

The City also seems vulnerable to yet another lawsuit over this.  City Attorney Fabela should not be surprised if he starts getting a rash of letters from a multitude of health-compromised Anaheim residents demanding relief under the Brown Act combined with the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), Unruh Civil Rights Act, The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Rehab Act”).  It worked with the Board of Supervisors last year.

Last of all, and longest shot – but, it would look better if my “Change.org” petition on this matter had 2000 signatures on it rather than 230.

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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.