James Vanderbilt Should Reconsider* the 2/3 Tax Vote Measure, Part 3: Here’s How & When

Vanderbilt, Part 3 cover

9. The Damage Can Be Undone, but ONLY If Proposed by Vanderbilt, and ONLY TODAY

It’s time to explain the asterisk in the title.

When I say that James Vanderbilt should “Reconsider” the measure passed on April 7 that could permanently cripple future Anaheim City Councils, I don’t mean that he should “Rethink” or “Review” or “Regret” that measure.  I mean that he should offer the appropriate parliamentary motion listed in “Roberts Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 11th Ed.”, which can be made (1) only by someone who voted in the majority on a measure (2) passed at the immediately previous meeting that (3) he or she now thinks should not have been approved.

That motion is a “Motion to Reconsider.”  If he knows exactly what he wants to replace it with, he could instead move to “Amend a Previous Motion” — that’s why there’s an asterisk there, because he could do either — but at this point the motion to Reconsider is probably more appropriate.  A similar, but better, proposal could then come back in some subsequent meeting.  The point is that he — and the rest of us — don’t have to be stuck with a bad decision made on April 7.

(In case you’re wondering: yes, the Anaheim City Council does use Roberts Rules of Order.  This can be done.)

Roberts Rules introduces the concept of a Motion to Reconsider this way, on page 315 of the 11th Ed.:

Reconsider … enables a majority in an assembly, within a limited time and without notice, to bring back for further consideration a motion which has already been voted on.  The purpose of reconsidering a vote is to permit correction of a hasty, ill-advised, or erroneous action, or to take into account added information or a changed situation that has developed since the taking of the vote.

A motion to Reconsider has the highest priority of any motion under Roberts Rules.  It can be made at any time during the meeting when it is eligible for consideration — although the obvious time for it to be made today would be during the Council Communications period just following Public Comments.  It has some special characteristics, the first three of which are not present in other motions:

First, it can only be made by someone who voted for the motion at the previous meeting.  That means that only Kris Murray, Lucille Kring, or James Vanderbilt can bring the motion today.  Tom Tait and Jordan Brandman cannot.

Second, it can only be made either at the same meeting where the initial vote was taken (too late for that!) or at the very next meeting.  In other words: either Vanderbilt moves to reconsider placing the measure on the ballot TODAY or it cannot be reconsidered at all.

Third, it is only proper when no action has been taken on the basis of the vote that cannot be undone without violating any person’s vested interests.  No interests have vested at this point; as this was passed more than a year before the election, the Council could still affirmatively cancel the election.

Fourth, it requires a second at the time that it is made, but it doesn’t need to be considered at that same moment (although in this case it probably should be.)  If it’s not considered immediately, any member can bring it up.  The body can’t even adjourn while a motion to reconsider has been called onto the floor.

Fifth, both its merits and the merits of the previously motion that it seeks to undo are debatable.

Sixth, it is not amendable, although (again) one can bring a motion to “amend something previously adopted” rather than a motion to reconsider — there’s just no need to do so here, when ample time remains to consider how the proposal might be amended.

Seventh, it can pass on a majority vote.

Eighth, as always, the Chair of the meeting (here, the Mayor) has the ability to rule on any challenge to the propriety of the motion.  Any opinion offered by the Parliamentarian (here, the City Attorney) is merely advisory and the Chair need not accept it.  The Chair’s ruling with respect to the motion can only be overruled by the body by a 2/3 vote — which would not be likely here.

(A few other characteristics listed in Roberts Rules would not apply here.)

The proper format for the motion is listed on Roberts Rules pages 330 to 332.

10. Come On — Is Doing This REALLY OK?

Yes, it is.  It’s part of the rules used by Anaheim to govern procedure.  Under most conditions, it isn’t until the following meeting that an action by the Council becomes truly finalized.

At the time Vanderbilt voted for this measure, he was championing the ideals of fairness and honesty.  He didn’t yet realize — because it had not yet happened — that the Council Majority would refuse to pass his amendment to remove the similar biased language from Mayor Tait’s proposal to limit bonding authority in the next item, Item 34, leaving Vanderbilt feeling that he had no choice but to oppose it on “fairness and honesty” ground — which he did.  (Many people have been hammering on Vanderbilt for this vote; I’ve explained to those who have done it in front of me that he was simply being consistent with his commitment not to support any proposed amendment that still contained a biased title — even one where both he and Tait had tried to remove it.)

Beyond all that, though, Vanderbilt’s primary responsibility it to be a steward for the City of Anaheim.  And there’s one changed situation that has provided added information that should lead him to conclude that the action he participated in was hasty, ill-advised, or erroneous.  And that is the sudden discovery that the Council Majority plans to come back to the City Council to seek $2 million from the General Fund because its projections for revenue from ARTIC — as predicted here and elsewhere — were so MASSIVELY FLAWED.

Two weeks ago, Councilmember Vanderbilt didn’t know that this was upcoming.  Now — just in time to reconsider the motion — he does.  He knows that the criticisms of the Council’s reckless spending, which will place such a great burden on future Councils, have been borne out.  He has seen just the first shoe drop — of which will be many such shoes — and he should probably realize that this discovery wasn’t “sudden,” but was deliberately held back until after Kris Murray’s motion rendering practically impossible any future gate tax (or other taxes) had passed — with his support.

What he knows now is that he was used and, by omission, deceived.  And what he should also know is that the people who had voted against taxes in the ’80s and the ’90s and the ’00s and in 2010 may never have imagined that a Republican majority in Anaheim’s City Council would someday spend the City into a stupor and make any attempt by the City Council to resolve it in effect impossible.  Once in place — and Disney can spend as much money on this as it wants! — this provision will never, ever be removed.

Luckily, Vanderbilt — along with Tait and Brandman — can still rectify this error.  But it has to happen tonight — and the motion to Reconsider it has to come from Vanderbilt.  No one else with a conscience can do it.  This, it’s not unreasonable to say, is why he’s there.

Vanderbilt is certainly smart enough and more than honest enough to do the right thing.  Now he just needs to be courageous enough to admit that he got bamboozled — but that now he’s going to fix things — while he still can.

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.)