How much taxpayer money did Kris Murray and Gail Eastman spend ensuring themselves a second term?

It looks like the answer will be over $2 million of Anaheim taxpayers’ money, possibly as much as two and a half million.  That’s the answer to the question, how much did the kleptocratic council majority opt to waste fighting a futile battle against the California Voting Rights Act, just in order to postpone the day (to probably 2016) that folks can run for council, and have a fighting chance, without access to at least a couple hundred thousand dollars.

Oh, and let’s not forget to add to that:  What was it, $100 K or more to go through that sham of a “Citizens Advisory Committee,” which was intended as a delaying tactic, but blithely ignored when the honest members went off the reservation and recommended putting districting on the ballot.  And now things have turned out exactly how COUNTLESS of us predicted.

I focus on Kris and Gail in my title because they were the common denominator:  Together with then-councilman Harry Sidhu they torpedoed Mayor Tait’s effort to put the question onto the Nov. 2012 ballot, an effort that WOULD have rendered the suit moot and given Anaheim district elections THIS coming November (assuming the measure won.)   Then, LAST year, together with turncoat Lucille Kring, they sank the Mayor’s effort to put it on this coming June’s ballot.  And LASTLY, the immediate direct beneficiaries of this delay are Kris and Gail, both running for second terms this year as CERTAINLY the only two candidates with access to such buttloads of corporate cash.

The amount of Anaheim taxpayer money to ultimately have been spent on this delay is still a little vague:  we know there’s been $1.2 million of legal waste on the City’s side, and you guys are going to have to pay an undetermined amount to the ACLU plaintiffs which can be reasonably guessed to be something like the City’s own costs – hence, between 2 and 2.5 million altogether.  But to Kris and Gail, or to SOMEBODY, this has been worth it.  Worth at least 2 million of your Anaheim taxpayer dollars.

Naturally, Kris Murray Strenuously Disputes This Characterization.

The voluble – the monotonously voluble Councilwoman Murray anticipated the firestorm of criticism and began yesterday’s meeting by leading City Attorney Michael Houston through a series of questions meant to demonstrate the absolute necessity of this $2 million-plus legal battle.  This was absolutely the first opportunity, Kris questionably argued with Mike’s assistance, that the city could possibly settle without risking losing its autonomy to the Court, without having some judges dictate, for an indeterminate length of time, how sovereign Anaheim conducts its elections.

Poppycock, responded Mayor Tait, the council’s token human being.  If the majority had sided with him at either juncture and put districting on the ballot (and it had passed) the suit would have become moot, millions would have been saved, and we’d already have democracy this year.  Houston, buffeted by both sides but knowing that the majority butters his bread, responded with uncertainty but did bring up a legal opinion coming from the plaintiffs that it is possible for a judge to order this charter city into CVRA compliance.

In actuality that was one of several conflicting legal opinions floating around, but the plaintiffs have made it clear to me that putting the question on the ballot in either Nov 2012 or this June WOULD in fact have put an end to the wasteful lawsuit.  And in fact that’s been clear all along, as the same folks clamored at both points for exactly that to happen.

In Case You Were Wondering, As I Was…

This means two questions that HAD been planned for June’s ballot won’t be there:  The council majority’s attempt to foist Santa Ana-style faux districting (residency-requirement only, but running at large) has been dumped;  and the question of whether or not to expand the council to Mayor-plus-SIX has been put off till November, with the districting referendum.

SO you’ve got the STATUS QUO for another three years – FOUR councilmembers elected at large.  And obviously Murray and Eastman are running for re-election to their seats, the only two seats open.  What brave and worthy soul will attempt to overcome their huge monetary and name-recognition advantage?  We’ll be finding out soon now that everyone knows the lay of the land.  But one person we’re all looking at is Dr Jose Moreno, plaintiff in the suit and hero of democracy, who can run if he wants now that the smoke has cleared.  WATCH THIS SPACE.

Oh … and the $2 million Pachyderm-in-the-Foyer Question…

What if, everyone asks, Anaheim voters say NO to district elections this November?  What happens then?  Nobody seems to know the answer to that question.  And one chip the plaintiffs seem to have bargained away in yesterday’s settlement is that they can’t bring this back to court if things don’t go their way.  And yet, if sovereign charter-city Anaheim is out of compliance with the CVRA, it is out of compliance with the CVRA.  Hm.  Virgin legal territory.

Recent polls show that a majority of Anaheimers DO want the heightened democracy of district elections.  BUT we know how easily the public can be swayed by an expensive, slick propaganda campaign.   Will that happen, against district elections,  this fall, and who would be behind it?  I’d thought the kleptocrats had sort of caved after having bought their extra four years, but Murray made it clear yesterday that she is still adamantly opposed to districting, which means her handlers – the Disney-Pringle axis – are still adamantly opposed to it (despite the ambiguous Kalogridis letter of August 2012.)  So, if they really do fight reform, what will their arguments be?

Matt Cunningham’s Dead-Blog-Walking.

Of course, hardly anybody reads Matt Cunningham’s discredited, Chamber-funded bloglet except for mainly us blog junkies who find him irresistibly reprehensible, but it IS still online.  If you paid any attention to it before last month, you’ll agree that it wasn’t ALL about Teddy Bear Mutilations;  in fact, its number one purpose seemed to be discrediting, agitating, and fear-mongering against district elections.

Which means two things:  the thousands spent paying Matt to spin this crap, the taxpayer money funneled through the Chamber for that purpose, can be added to the total public cost of defending Murray’s and Eastman’s seats;  AND this is also the place to look for clues to what the kleptocracy’s arguments against democracy will be.

And it was mainly three things:

  1. Districting will tear the city into “competing fiefdoms” – an argument that doesn’t seem so scary when countered with “HOW COULD IT BE ANY WORSE THAN NOW?”  As in, how could it be any worse than a Council that would shove the Angels Stadium giveaway down taxpayers’ throats?
  2. Other big cities that have district elections ALSO have problems.  Um…  Yeah.  Duh.
  3. And then it mostly came down to discrediting districting proponents.  Matt’s blog has always been at least half about calling names and attempting guilt-by-association.   Knowing that Anaheim still has a Republican voting majority, he has emphasized that many (if not most) districting advocates could be considered left of center.  Pay dirt!  It’s a communist conspiracy, to give the people who don’t deserve a voice more of a voice.  He even found that one girl who used to be part of the district-advocating group OCCORD put something sympathetic to Hugo Chavez on her Facebook wall on the day that dictator died.  Powerful stuff.

I think we can handle all that.

Remember, remember, This November…

It’s good that the people of Anaheim will get to vote on how their future elections will be conducted, and I can only hope as an outsider that they make the right choice.  But I’ll tell you one thing – no, THREE things Anaheim voters should remember when they look at the same ballot and choose their councilmembers for the next four years:

  1. Kris Murray and Gail Eastman prevented you from being able to make this decision, on how your elections are conducted, back in Nov. 2012.
  2. Kris Murray and Gail Eastman AGAIN  kept you from being able to make that decision in June 2014, severely limiting your choice of candidates in Nov. 2014.
  3. Kris Murray and Gail Eastman thought that preventing you from being able to make these choices was worth spending OVER TWO MILLION OF YOUR TAXPAYER MONEY.

That’s it for now.  Carry on.  Nelson out.

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, or 714-235-VERN.