Do You Want to See the Agenda for Tuesday’s Anaheim Districting Meeting? So Did I….

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[Author’s Note: When I began this story, it was a lark, exploring the newly redesigned Anaheim.net website.  I needed to see the agenda for the next meeting of the Judges’ “Districting Committee.”  It eventually turned into something a bit more serious and disturbing than that, but I’m leaving it in the form in which it was written as I moved through the site.  The summary is: I’m not entirely sure that the judges on the Advisory Committee on Electoral Districts can take action tomorrow — something that I’d personally like to see them be able to do — without violating the Brown Act.  If they can, it would likely be because the agenda was posted somewhere like Loara High School, where hardly anyone would have been likely to see it.

This time, this is not a claim that I’d intend to bring — I think that the Committee is doing a fine job and I have more than enough work on my plate as it is.  But since a portion of the agenda, combined with threats made by a speaker at the last meeting, suggests the possibility of litigation over decisions that could be made tomorrow, the Committee may want to ensure that the Council (or a court) would have no basis to overturn any actions it might take.  The problem is not only that it’s hard to find tomorrow’s agenda on the website — but that once one finds the place where the agenda ought to be, using normal search methods, one finds an “agenda page” that lacks the agenda for a meeting on Sept. 8.  It would be easy for someone to claim, legitimately or illegitimately, to have been confused by this, thus lacking notice.

For the rest of this process, a direct link to the agenda for each meeting really should be ON THE FRONT PAGE OF THE WEBSITE ITSELF to avoid confusion.

Now for what starts out as a winsome post, but which ends up pretty grim.  — GAD]

Like you — some of you, maybe just a few of you, maybe at least one person besides me — I wanted to see what was on the agenda for this upcoming week’s meeting of the judges on Anaheim’s Advisory Committee on Electoral Districts (“ACED”).  Anaheim’s newly revised official city website was recently released; this was a good chance to test it out.

Here’s the “splash page” at http://www.anaheim.net/.

Anaheim Website 1 - Splash Page

I’m guessing at this point that I want to go to the “City Hall” tab — but let me take a moment first and ask how, if you’re city is named “Anaheim,” you come up with an apparently male mascot named “Andy Anaheim” rather than a female mascot named either “Ana” or “Annie”?  (This concludes the Women’s Studies section of today’s post.  But still — really?  What decade is this?)

So let’s click on the “City Hall” tab, which takes us here:

http://www.anaheim.net/27/City-Hall

Anaheim Website 2 - City Hall

Not including the side-tab on the left, which I willignore for the rest of this piece, it looks like this.  We can see there that now there will be separate pages for City Council meting agendas, minutes, and videos — which I’m not sure is an improvement.  (In fact — I’m pretty sure that it isn’t.  Take a look at how it was.  Nice and compact, right?)

Anaheim Website 0 Council Meetings Table

But as we scan the page for the Advisory Committee on Electoral Districts — well, I don’t see it.  It turns out that you can get to it through the “City Clerk” page — but who would even think of looking for it there?  Anyway, there’s surely an easier way — just use the search function on the home page.  I type in “Anaheim Districting” — and I get this:

Anaheim Website 3 - Search Results for Anaheim Districting

All right!  The second and the fourth hits seem to be on target.  It turns out that the fourth hit is the City’s “Notify Me” module, which gets you emailed information about the Districting process once you sign in.  I decided not to sign in (at least not yet) and went back to the second hit, here:

http://www.anaheim.net/2154/Anaheim-Districting-2016

Apparent success!  I end up on a very relevant looking home page for districting:

Anaheim Website 4 - Districting Home Page by Search

OK!  Now we seem to be getting somewhere!  This is what the pre-change website looked like when you went to the www.anaheim.net/districts page.  There’s the notice of the next meeting, some useful links along the side, links to the three maps still in contention, some videos from City Clerk Linda Andal and ACED Committee Chair Judge Edwin Wallin — looks good!  On the left column, you’ll that one link is labeled “Meetings/Agendas” — which sounds right!  That link will take me here — to (appropriately enough) a list of meetings and their agendas:

http://www.anaheim.net/2157/MeetingsAgendas

Anaheim Website 5 - 'Meeting & Agendas' page by Search

And then I click on … uh … um …  where’s September 8???

(This really happened to me, by the way, and there is really a serious side to it.  The question is: can an average citizen interested in the districting process find out what is on the meeting agenda?  This is a serious legal requirement under the Brown Act, which I (through CATER) just finished most of two years litigating.  That is a story for a different day.)

Anyway, no entry for September 8 was there.  It was already easily within 72 hours of the meeting date — the thing should have been up.  This is not the Brown Act case I’m looking for.  But where is that agenda located on the website, if it’s there at all?

I go back to the main page.  (I had not yet discovered, through much trial and error, that I could click on the “City Clerk’s” page to get to the right link.)  The page seems to offer no help.  Andy Anaheim seems to be mocking me.  Finally I notice the purple box that you’ll see in the lower right of the top picture above, which says “Scroll.”  So I do.

And — hey!  You come to another screenful (depending on the size of your monitor) under the title of “What’s Happening in Anaheim”!  It looks like this:

Anaheim Website 2 - What's Happening In

Look!  “Shape Anaheim’s Future” — that’s the ACED Committee!  And the three district maps to be considered are what I wrote about in this story!  (Go check it out if you haven’t!)  It turns out that it doesn’t matter whether you click on the logo or on the story title, because both of them will take you to this story:

http://www.anaheim.net/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=243

Anaheim Website 5 - 'Three Maps' Story

OK, that’s useful.  I still can’t find the Sept. 8 agenda, but the story is good.  Now to keep looking.  But where?

That purple “scroll” box is still there — and, sure enough, you can scroll down to a third tier of information.  What have we here?

Anaheim Website 4 - Splash Page 3 - City Spotlight

And, look — here is the “Shape Anaheim’s Future” logo again!  This screenful — still on the splash page, remember! — contains a “Read More” link.  That link takes us here:

http://www.anaheim.net/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=163

Anaheim Website 6 - July 7 Story

All right — this was posted on July 7.  Seems … stale.  Should I skip it, if I’m looking for the Sept. 8 agenda?  No — since we’re here, let’s click on that orange “Districting” link (and clicking the logo, I later discovered, would take us to the same place) and we’re off to here:

http://local.anaheim.net/article.asp?id=4823&CP=1

Anaheim Website 7 - Districts Home Page

My first thought was that I had run around a lot and gotten to the exact same place that I had been before — and I prepared to leave in a hurry before the Blair Witch found me.  But note that this page is subtly different: it has tabs on the top rather than links at the left.  If I just go to that Meetings and Agendas tab up near the top left …

… I get sent here:  http://local.anaheim.net/article.asp?id=5419&CP=1

Anaheim Website 8 - Meetings and Agendas Page

THERE IT IS!  THERE IT IS!  The September 8 meeting agenda!

We are finally here!  And by “here,” I mean:

http://local.anaheim.net/images/articles/4823/AGENDA/Agenda_090815.pdf

Anaheim Website 9 - Sept 8 agenda

Pretty simple and straightforward.  Nothing controversial.  In fact, it isn’t until you get down to Page 16 of the 29-page agenda packet that you discover this chewy tidbit:

The Santa Ana Chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (“LULAC”), which has been represented by Zeke Hernandez and Art Montez, is demanding that the City consider its revised map, created in cooperation with the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (“MALDEF”), to the three maps already under consideration — after Montez threatened at the August 26 meeting that the City would be sued by MALDEF if it did not do so.

Specifically, LULAC’s representatives said this:

LULAC was taken aback when the Committee narrowed the number of maps to five and included maps that clearly did not meet the threshold of the standard as adopted by all its members. This Committee publicly announced at its August 19 meeting that it directed maps to reflect two majority Latino districts. Yet maps with only one majority LCVAP were moved forward by the Committee at this August 19 meeting as well as the August 26 meeting. We have met the standard – LULAC’s submitted maps has been in full compliance of the California Voting Rights Acts and the Federal Section 2 Voting Rights Act.

(That’s a pretty big story!  And yet it hasn’t been mentioned at all in the media, despite the agenda having been publicly available since Thursday afternoon.  I wonder why that is?  Maybe people couldn’t find it!)

Returning to the merits: I’m confident that LULAC is wrong here.  Procedurally, I disagree that ACED did what the letter asserts it did on August 19: the committee did not vote on a firm requirement that two Latino majority districts were necessary; they simply invited the two remaining maps that lacked one to submit a revision including that feature, and they directed the Consultant to produce maps with that feature.  That is different from adopting it — which is why both the Chuchua and Reyes maps rejected the Consultant’s proposed revisions.

Beyond that, LULAC is operating under an old rule that would require as many Latino seats as possible to be drawn, even if that came at the expense of overall Latino representation!  In fact, if people did vote — and vote successfully — along racial lines, the LULAC map would virtually guarantee that Latinos would remain in the minority of the City Council until December 2022 at the earliest!  Latinos are in the minority in four out of the six Council districts that they drew.  A map that has one majority district and two districts with about 45% Latino population — which is true of Oscar Reyes’s map and of the new revision that I will present of Brian Chuchua’s map — will probably serve Latino interests far better.  But it’s a debate worth having — and yet, in all practical senses, it’s a debate the imminence of which has not yet been announced to the public.

Arguably, if the difficulty in finding the agenda means that the meeting does not satisfy the notice requirements of the Brown Act, the Committee may meet — and may hold hearings and discuss its options — but it could not take action on Tuesday night.  Personally, I’m not inclined to challenge the committee’s decisions under the Brown Act if it does proceed with votes on Tuesday at Loara rather than treating the meeting as a public hearing.  My concern is whether LULAC and MALDEF will do the same — or if the Council will take advantage of this arguably fatal error to reject ACED’s work.

I leave it to the five learned judges on the panel to decide whether this apparently aggrieved party might actually have a case based on procedure, in addition to the case that it poses based on substance.  My take is that the process must be sufficiently spotless that no one — such as the City Council — can use any controversy as a means of rejecting it.  The Committee has worked too hard, and too well, to allow that to happen.


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.)