Beyond the Dalai Lama and Mother Theresa Dilemma

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In 2012, the Anaheim High School auditorium was used for a council meeting in order to accommodate a large expected audience.  Some residents feared that folks wearing bandanas over their faces would storm into this historical landmark and show little respect for property, like they did during the previous week’s riot. While nobody hid their faces, the expressions of the people sitting at the dais were telling.

Two somber looking individuals were not pleased with the grievances being presented by the public; the other two were attentive, listened, and showed understanding and sympathy.  The contrast between these two pairs of council people was evident even if you had no idea of their political background.  I did not pay attention to whether the Mayor was Republican or that his ally that night was a Democrat.  Both of them were genuinely listening to the people who felt left out of the political process. The statements of the fifth council member, physically not present at the meeting, left no doubt that the majority opposed substantial changes.

They were divided on how to address the riot-related grievances regarding police conduct, unbalanced community representation in the council, inadequate allocation of resources to the poor areas of the city, and granting subsidies to rich developers.  The election of two new council members reinforced the opposition to changes.  This faction has been widely recognized as responding to the interests of the major economic entities of the city, and their powerful lobbyist.

The Mayor was the only person remaining on the council who understood the need to adopt reforms in order to modernize the city. In an almost herculean manner, he has resisted the giveaways of the council majority. The most notable ones have been the rip-off that the questionable terms of the Angel’s MOU negotiation and the convention center expansion could have caused to the city.  His ally from the auditorium meeting has now suddenly become silent on these important issues, unconvincingly claiming that she could do a better job as a Mayor working with the faction controlling the council. 

The core of the political conflict in Anaheim is basically between Good Government Stewards vs. Profiteers of Public Resources; partisan differences are used to blur this conflict.  The “liberal vs conservative” mantra has been used mostly by the public relations operatives of the Pringle machine. They have used religious terms long before Ms. Galloway controversial statements on God’s influence in her public life.  Mayor Tait’s trademark promotion of kindness has been portrayed as a Dalai Lama version of religion, as kindness is the religion of the Dalai Lama.  The Mayor’s supporters have been characterized as a church’s followers. Ms Galloway has been portrayed as a Mother Teresa type, vilified while helping people in need.

Anaheim, if you mean the Resort Area and the Hills, is considered a world-class destination — but many of its neighborhoods are far from being that.  How we achieve the goal of improving our neighborhoods can both unify and divide us beyond political and ideological differences.  Both Good Government and Profiteers camps are bipartisan coalitions.  Liberals and conservatives in each coalition are united around their approach to achieve the desired goal. In the profiteers’ camp, the Democrat in the city council is indistinguishable from the majority of Republicans, sharing an exclusionary vision. This is not a local phenomenon.  In Chicago, the mayor is called Mayor 1% — and he is Democrat. So far the power to influence the policies that affect the quality of our lives has been lopsided in favor of those opposing changes.

The quest to modernize our city in an inclusive manner may advance if Mayor Tait is re-elected, and reform-minded council members elected. Making Anaheim a world class destination, creating economic growth and job creation, will have to be balanced with the challenge of climate change. Disneyland fireworks’ pollution pales in comparison with the magnitude of the negative climate related changes. Scientists, economists, political and military leaders are increasingly calling attention to the seriousness of this problem. Actions to deal with the causes and consequences of global warming are needed at every level. A broader coalition may be needed.

BTW: where are the Greens in Anaheim?  How many people even know about this?


About Ricardo Toro

Anaheim resident for several decades. In addition to political blogging, another area of interest is providing habitats for the Monarch butterfly. http://www.orangejuiceblog.com/2013/12/caterpillars-crossing-in-a-city-at-a-crossroads/