Anaheim’s Murrjority Report, Part 4: But What Happens If They Do a Bad Job? UPDATE: 3 Week Stay!

[Update, 1:00 p.m. — A source who is, sadly, not in my address book reports that the session with Judge Miller took place in open court today after all, and that he has stayed the case another three weeks.  I would like to think that this is to allow me time to view and critique Kris Murray’s statements at the City Council, if and when the city posts the video, but I suspect that a different reason may have been cited.]

Our coverage of the run-up to the hearing on the ACLU’s voting rights case against Anaheim — which is to take place a half-hour from when I post this — continues with a look at what Councilmembers, especially Kris Murray, had to say about two proposals: the proposal to put a “candidate residency” faux-districting requirement on the 2014 ballot for voters to approve and the proposal not to put a “voter residency” real-districting requirement on that ballot.

(You can keep track of all of our stories this month on the topic here, or go directly to Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3 of this series.)

[Note: I had hoped to work on this story yesterday, but the combination of a hearing in Van Nuys until almost noon, an early-starting DPOC meeting, and the difficulties of finding quotes in the audio recording of the meeting proved too much.  (It doesn’t help that, without the video, Murray sounds even more like Kristen Wiig’s character in Knocked Up.  It’s distracting, in part because it made me want to check out the video of her scenes.)  So this will be less extensive than I’d hoped, but still, let’s see where it goes.]

1. Gail Eastman’s climactic pronouncement

Remember that this meeting is only interesting because Councilmember Gail Eastman said that she wanted to reconsider the decision of the Council from last time to place Santa Ana style “candidate residency” districts on the ballot.  These districts require for Council members to come from various different parts of the city, but the entire city still votes on the election in each district.  That Santa Ana style districts (which the Council could and in fact did pass by ordinance) would go onto the ballot would serve to confuse the issues for voters .  More importantly, if the “candidate districts” ballot measure got more votes that “voter residency” districts — such as the ones we currently have for Supervisors, Assembly members, State Senators, U.S. House members, etc. — then the voter residency districts wouldn’t be approved even if they received a majority of the vote, because the measures are written so that their terms conflict.

(None of this, by the way, is an accident.)

So, the actual drama in Tuesday’s meeting was over whether Eastman, having called for reconsideration, would vote to at least put the Citizens Advisory Commission proposal for voter residency districts onto the ballot.  Let me give away the ending.  Here’s Eastman — only the first two paragraphs really matter; the last two are just there to confuse you and soften the blow:

I think that the demographics and everything I could study are pretty clear: that yes, we do need to give people the opportunity to have a representative from their part of the city and they need to have the opportunity to elect someone from that portion of the city.  And I believe that increasing our Council and going to a residency district would accomplish that.  And I think that the data is pretty clear in backing that up based on history of the past ten years or so in Anaheim.

So because of that I find that I just cannot in good conscience support moving any faster in this direction.  I have no doubt this is something that may come back again and we may deal with it again and when it’s appropriate I believe that we will.  Right now I’m very comfortable in saying that I think that this is a good step to increase the size of the Council and I will campaign with residents to support that.  I will actually go on record at this point to say that I support that.  I will encourage other people to support that as a reasonable thing to do in this city that will allow for greater access.

I would also be supportive, as our Charter Review reviews things, for their taking a look at campaign limits.  Maybe campaign limits are too high in our city.  The point has come home that people can’t run because they can’t afford to.  I take a little exception to that because I’m not a wealthy person and I was able to run with the support of many neighbors and people who knew me from my service in different parts of the city.  And I believe that that is really the way to raise up leaders in our community is to encourage service in every area and to encourage those leaders who show leadership potential.

And with that, one of the other things that I would like to — and I intend propose down the road — and that is to increase, along with if we increase to six members, if that’s approved by the voters, I would definitely support having six neighborhood councils and encourage those as places where you identify leaders in the neighborhood, people who care about the neighborhood, and who are ready to become engaged as a citizen, and you raise up leaders through that process.  I think it’s an excellent way to do that and I’m really supportive of that.  So with that, that’s kind of where I stand with this one.

One thing to note at the outset: Eastman’s decision was critically based on the Demographer’s Report:

“the demographics and everything I could study are pretty clear”

“the data is pretty clear in backing that up based on history of the past ten years or so in Anaheim”

She was getting that impression from the Demographer’s Report, which I’ve analyzed the heck out of in the past two parts and left much worse for the wear.  That “scientific report” informed her deciding vote.  The flaws in that report thus turned out to be decisive — something the court should want to note.

But what I think is most interesting and telling is this:

we do need to give people the opportunity to have a representative from their part of the city and they need to have the opportunity to elect someone from that portion of the city

Who’s “they”?  Look at it again, with the emphasis changed:

we do need to give people the opportunity to have a representative from their part of the city and they need to have the opportunity to elect someone from that portion of the city

The fallacy in Eastman’s thinking is apparent right there.  The people, who deserve to have a representative from their part of the city — are NOT the ones who have the opportunity to elect someone from that portion of the city.

Who has that opportunity?  With four districts, they’ll be outvoted 3 to 1.  With six districts, they’ll be outvoted 5 to 1.  With eight districts, they’ll be outvoted 7 to 1.  THEY do not have the opportunity to decide who THEIR representative will be.

Why does this matter?  We can answer that by asking a simple question:

“What happens if they do a bad job of representing their districts ?”

Normally, if a representative does a bad job, the voters living in the district can vote him or her out.  That’s the point of a district.  But not here.  Here, the voters in the district have no control.  The rest of the city has the control.  If there’s competition between Anaheim Hills and West Anaheim, and Anaheim Hills has most of the influence, then the way to win an election in West Anaheim would be to work against the interests of West Anaheim so as to cater to the voters of Anaheim Hills.  The worse job their do for the people they “represent,” the more likely they are to be re-elected (on the strength of voters outside of the district.)  The harder they fight for the parochial needs of their district, the more likely they are to lose re-election.

“They” and “their” in Eastman’s critical sentence refer to different sets of people: the first is the voters within a given district and the second is the voters in the city at-large.  In our national history, before our revolution, we had a system where “representatives” would be assigned by the rest of Great Britain to be in charge of each colony — in effect, a “district.”  They were called colonial governors — and they were not democratic and they were not representing the people in those districts.

Anaheim Hills may understand this some day if the rest of Anaheim does grow to the point where it can choose a representative for Anaheim Hills.  There must be at least one revolutionary Marxist living there, right?

2. State of Play before the hearing

The video of last Tuesday’s Anaheim City Council meeting is still unavailable (at least for those of us whose computers choke on Microsoft SilverLight), but the audio is up.  That’s theoretically enough for us to assess the amount that Councilmember Kris Murray has done to the City’s defense against the ACLU’s  by lashing the city’s ship to the rapidly descending Demographer’s Report, the product of the City’s prospective expert witness, Dr. Peter Morrison.

The problem isn’t merely the vote itself (which prevents the city’s electorate from deciding whether to accept a district-based voting system that would satisfy the requirements of the California Voting Rights Act), but the justification for it.  The Demographer’s Report tells us not to worry about Anaheim’s treatment of City Council candidates in at-large elections (in which  the entire city votes) — based primarily on three fortuitous facts:

(1) two Latinos were elected to the City Council in 2002 — except that they were both firefighters riding the wave of public love for “first responders” in the wake of 9/11,

(2) that former Council Member Lorri Galloway is a Latina — except that for the purposes of the Voting Rights Act someone who is half Spanish (from Spain, not Latin America) and half-Filipina isn’t considered to be one, and

(3) that John Leos finished third for City Council twice, in 2010 and 2012 — except that finishing third doesn’t win a spot on the City Council and if there were three spots open business interests would probably have run enough as many candidates as necessary to keep Leos off of the City Council.

Seriously.  Those are the main arguments.  You can look them up at the links above.

3. Kris Murray, Friend of the Common Latino

What struck me most about Murray’s testimony during the meeting is how much she tried to portray herself as the “friend of the common Latino” who was working really hard to make sure that Latinos received the best representation possible given the perhaps unfortunate but undeniable truths of the Demographer’s Report — a stance that is, of course sewer swill.  I’d like to share her comments with you, but when I look for the video today, a week later, as I have done daily for days now, I get this announcement:

Please try again later… the requested video is still processing. For faster results and a better viewing experience, download Microsoft® Silverlight™

Sorry, but weeding through the audio without visual images of who’s speaking to aid in a search just takes up too much time.  Score one point for Anaheim’s Department of Obfuscation!  (Does it usually take over a week to process a video?  What the hell are they doing to it?  I sure am glad that I downloaded the audio so that I can compare them later.)

So, with my apologies, the definitive takedown of Kris Murray’s comments will have to wait.  One delightful part, though, was when she was trying to convince people that because the word “districts” is used for “candidate residency” districts that have voting at large, the City Council can say that it did introduce districts.  Mayor Tait pointed out that that’s not what “districts” mean, under the law.  Murray continued to content, preparing to confuse the voters, that these were “districts.”  Tait finally summed up the proposed Santa Ana plan as follows (at 3:16:08) in the recording:

“So, I think that what this does is it gives voters an option to keep it ‘at large’ or to change it ‘at-large.’  Which is no choice — it merely confuses the issue and dilutes the issue and makes it tougher to pass districts.”

Making it tougher to pass districts.  That’s the point.  That’s what the court has to decide whether it will allow.  So let’s end up the pre-game by addressing that. 

4. Conflicting and Complementary Measures

As I note above, the reason that “Santa Ana style” districting is the enemy of true districting is this: if a ballot measure approving the former gets more votes than one approving the latter, the latter doesn’t pass even if it gets a majority of the vote.  That’s because the provisions of the two plans contradict.

They were, in fact, written to contradict?  But they don’t have to contradict.

Anaheim could put two ballot measures (aside from the separate — and complimentary — question of increasing the size of the Council) on the ballot that looked something like this:

(1) Should the City create districts in which each candidate may only run for City Council from their district?

(2) Should the City create districts in which only voters from that district may vote on who will represent that district on the City Council?

See?  That’s pretty easy.  And these questions are entirely complementary.  If the people vote NO on both, you have the current system.  If they vote YES on both, you have the plan that the ACLU and the plaintiffs seek.  If they vote YES on 1 and NO on 2, you have the “Santa Ana” plan.  If they vote NO on 1 and YES on 2, you have the “Ana Atnas” plan I presented weeks ago, in which candidates in a given district could vote to have anyone in the city represent them.

Anaheim has chosen not to write complementary measures.  I ask the court: why is that?

I suspect, though, that the court already knows the answer: Because Anaheim is acting in bad faith.

It now falls upon the court to produce a remedy to that situation.  Two complementary ballot measures would be the minimum such remedy to require.

Anaheim residents applaud defeat of districting

Anaheim residents applaud the defeat of real districting. Five of them. Seriously, I saw only five people clapping.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)