Basta de chingaderas: Anaheim is not Selma!

Polarized politics has ugly manifestations, and Anaheim is no exception. The most visible expression these days are the city council meetings, both by council members and the public.  The loss of respectful civic interaction was already being felt in other citizens’ bodies, such as the election committee.  To a certain extent it was expected there due to the committee’s controversial purpose. I had heard that even one of the oldest city institutions, the Neighborhood District Councils, were also experimenting this phenomenon.  

Last week I experienced this erosion of neighborhood congeniality in my district meeting. A city report was presented by Kris Murray, and the section of the report regarding investment decisions and the Angels negotiation’s was an obviously biased one.  She opened the floor for questions on this section of the report.  I asked a short question, and when I was formulating a second one I was cut off by a neighbor, whom I did not recognize.  This neighbor went on, and at the end of report Murray graciously offered me to ask my questions, which were about the objections that Mayor Tait had raised on the Angel’s MOU. Her answer was basically that she could not speak on the Mayor’s position so she wouldn’t risk misrepresenting him. Fair enough. Another neighbor politely expressed his concern about the City giving Moreno more than a reasonable agreement.

I have attended these meeting for many years, when they were held in the old senior center downtown, and hardly anybody showed up. Then the districts were reconfigured, and mine ended up meeting in my local Rio Vista school. We met for years there and the neighborhoods represented were mostly Rio Vista, Kodiak and MiraLoma.

These district councils were a requirement for the city to get funds from the federal CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) to finance projects in underserved communities. It was in those years, ten or more, when we voted as a CDBG priority project the park and community center in Miraloma, whose groundbreaking ceremony is going to be held on October 24th.

All of a sudden the meetings were no longer being held in Rio Vista!  Residents of Anaheim Hills took over the council, and since then most of the meetings are held in their area. I’ve attended only one meeting there, as the traffic and an agenda mostly dealing with Anaheim Hills issues discouraged me from attending. The political use of these council meetings, presenting biased reports, is one regrettable feature of these institutions. Another one is their further limitation on input on improvement projects, as the CDBG funds are no longer available, and the exclusion of those unable to be adequately represented.

The East District is an example of how political participation is influenced by one area over others. The Anaheim Hills residents rightly needed to have representation in these councils, the presidents from this area have been very sensitive of the other neighborhoods. The past president and Anaheim Hills resident, spoke in support of Mayor Tait at the infamous special council meeting. Nevertheless, for several years only Anaheim Hills residents have dealt with the city authorities in this capacity of council-district presidents.

In all those years, I remember only one controversial council member attending a district council meeting, a man from Anaheim Hills who was adamantly anti-immigrant. Last week’s meeting was held in Rio Vista, which normally are very small. When I saw Kris Murray as a speaker, and then Gail Eastman in the audience, I was quite surprised. They must be aware that they are polarizing politicians, and it wasn’t wise to foment further acrimony… unless they had a mission to accomplish, that being damage control.

The highly publicized attempt to curtail the Mayor’s authority in dealing with the Angel’s MOU had put them in a very negative light. This latest Liberal OC interview with Murray is yet another example of the council majority trying to save face.  Murray and company have already steamrolled most of their “economic development” agenda, delayed the democratization of the city, and stifled civilian oversight of the police. It’s now safe and convenient for Murray to present herself as smart and pleasant, which she may be as an individual, but in her public persona?  Not so much.

As long as the demands for genuine representation of our diverse population, for sensible investment of the city resources and for prioritizing the basic needs of neighborhoods with less resources, are not adequately addressed, Anaheim will remain polarized. Many of the causes of the fundamental problems facing the city are rooted in historical demographics, a largely white Anglo population who by sheer numbers controlled, and still controls, the economic, social and political power.

The problem is that the group controlling city government has been unwilling to recognize the magnitude of this change, not only in terms of demographics but also by failing to address the concerns and needs of the emerging demographic majority, Latinos and other minorities. In this regard, the current city council majority and their prominent supporters are largely responsible for the polarization of the city.

The patronizing lectures coming from the so-called liberal editor of the Liberal OC about the economic engine and civil discourse conveniently dismiss, or fail to connect, the disenfranchisement of large sections of the community, the pillage of the city resources in the name of questionable “job creation,” and the actions of those in power to maintain their hold in the city. 

Most Anaheim residents understand the economic role of the resort/ tourist industry, the endemic problem of gangs and crime, the need to establish a trusting relationship with the police. I stated as much in my first blog post here.  As I learned more about the issues I realized that behind of these legitimate concerns there were different visions of how to address them. The best or naïve intentions came up against the reality of economic interests that cross party affiliations. How can the ARTIC station, or the trolley project, be considered sensible investment of city resources? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to have the ARTIC, if needed, next a major train station? Giveaways to hotel developers who did not need them? The current allocation of city resources has been questioned by a city’s grassroots organization.

Anaheim is not Selma, as my friends at the OC Weekly recently wrote.  However, I ‘d like to remind them that the “at large (electoral system) violates the California Voting Rights Act… This clearly violates the voting rights — it dilutes the votes of Latinos in the city. And proof of that is overwhelming. From a social science perspective there is no doubt that the Latino vote is being diluted in Anaheim, according to a professor of Political Science and Chicana/o Studies, Dr Guerra.

There is a vibrant and vital coalition of Anglo, Latinos, Arabs, Asians, Conservatives and Liberals, affluent, middle class and poor residents united fighting the corporate takeover of the city, and demanding the democratization of our city. Let’s stay united.  ¡Basta de Chingaderas!

About Ricardo Toro

Anaheim resident for several decades. In addition to political blogging, another area of interest is providing habitats for the Monarch butterfly.