Anaheim Protesters Shut Down Meeting When Council Majority Exposes Its “Dignity of Office” as a Sham

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Shutdown - Anaheim Council Majority Waits Out Protesters

Brandman, Murray, and Kring wait for the two members of the Anaheim City Council that hadn’t precipitated a loud public protest to come back and tell them how they would fix it.

 

The video below, from which the graphic above is a still, is about 21½ minutes long.  If you want to get a good sense of what it looks like to for protesters to shut down a council meeting in the face of stunning provocation by a bare majority of the City Council, you’ll definitely want to watch it.

There’s a moment in there where, after it is clear that the Council Members cannot communicate among themselves, in the wake of the continued and unyielding chanting of the audience, Mayor Tom Tait and Councilmember James Vanderbilt — the only two members of the Council not responsible for the audience’s righteous anger and rightful disgust — head off into the wings to decide what to do.  The other three — Councilman Jordan Brandman and Councilwomen Kris Murray and Lucille Kring — remain seated ramrod straight in their chairs, looking impassively out at the crowd.

Their posture seemed calculated to convey “the Dignity of Office” in the face of protest.  This was a sham.  They had abandoned whatever dignity they had minutes before when they sank to a new low in their willingness to betray the ideals of representative democracy.  But more on that in time.

Brandman stayed rooted in his seat — in simulated martyrdom given the massive police presence dedicated to preserving his safety — well past the meeting’s adjournment for the day.  He sat placidly through catcalls — such as “the people elected you and you let them down!” — intent on showing a simulated normalcy. perhaps mentally rehearsing for the moment when he could refer to the non-violent masses as an “unruly mob.”  At one point, an audience member asked him what he was still doing there.  He chirpily replied, “I’m representing the people!”  (He apparently thought that the meeting might be reconvened, not understanding the significance of its having been adjourned until the date of January 12 rather than recessed or adjourned sine die (“without a set date.”)

But even if the meeting could have been reconvened once the protesters had been cleared, he still wouldn’t have been representing “the people.”  Representing someone, sure — Disney, most likely, or perhaps just Pringle & Associates — but surely not “the people.”  He and his claque had made that very clear.

Earlier in the meeting, after the end of public comments, the Council addressed Agenda Item 33, which contemplated retrieving the judges on the Advisory Committee on Electoral Districts (whose long and hard work the Council majority had just discarded) for yet more unpaid (and apparently unvalued by the Council majority) labor.

Item 33 had been agendized at Tait’s request, but it was not slated to be used last night for his intended purpose.   Its Staff Report made clear that, contrary to Tait’s original intentions in asking for the item to be placed on the agenda — to get the judges’ views on sequencing of elections — it was to be used to put into effect Brandman’s hare-brained plan to force the Council to consider pretty much only the worst maps that had been offered in the preceding hearings.   One exception: the Staff now contemplated a final decision perhaps not taking place until mid-May or early June (which would among other things protect whatever insane decision the Council might make from legal challenge.  This is what you get when you have a City Staff slavishly devoted to the interests of the Council majority — or, as some see it, themselves leading that Council majority by its collective nose.)

Some astute readers may recall yesterday’s post reprinting the letter in which I threatened legal action against the City if they tried to implement Brandman’s plan, which had not been agendized.  City Attorney Michael Houston apparently took the hint and it was announced that that the plan voted for last week had not been properly approved.  You can tell that this was sort of a last-minute change — my email had gone out only at 3:02 p.m. — because this “fast facts” sheet explaining how Brandman’s plan would go into effect was still handed out to those attending the meeting, which I’m sure that City Attorney Houston will explain to me in his reply to the letter (due no later than January 13.)

Yeah ... but NONE OF THAT OFFICIALLY HAPPENED BECAUSE IT HADN'T BEEN PROPERLY AGENDIZED -- right?

Yeah … but NONE OF THAT OFFICIALLY HAPPENED BECAUSE IT HADN’T BEEN PROPERLY AGENDIZED — right?

Tait pretty obviously wanted to give the crowd what they wanted — another chance to have that second vote in favor of the People’s Map with Districts 1, 3, 4, & 5 going up in the first year — but that wasn’t possible for similar reasons to those expressed in my letter.  (Essentially, no public hearing had been agendized for last night.)  So he offered a pretty modest compromise: bring back the judges to give their views both on sequencing and the other maps that might be considered.  After all, they had been deeply immersed in the process and the Council, by its own admission, had not.

Well, the Council, led by Brandman, would not even go that far.  Brandman said that he was willing to take the expensive route of assembling a transcript of all of the comments that had been made by the judges at their hearings — but that he did not want to hear anything more from the judges themselves, despite his only having just come up with his novel (and sort of screwball, if intended honestly) interpretation of what constituted a good proposal.  One gets the impression that he did not expect to like whatever they would have had to say.

After much debate — in which Kris Murray came up with incredibly strained reasons to ignore the threatening letters sent both by the STATE office of LULAC and by MALDEF (as will be expanded upon in an update) — the Council voted to reject even Tait’s modest proposal.  And that is when all hell broke loose.  In the video, you’ll see a speech by OCCORD’s Interim Director Ada Briceño in which she explains what was going on with the process and in the meeting itself; it’s pretty much mandatory viewing at this moment.

Disrupting a meeting to the point of leading to its cancellation — giving affront to “the dignity of office” — is not something that should be done lightly.  Personally, I set a high bar for when it might even be conceivable — I didn’t like seeing it happen last night and I expect that Tait felt that way even more strongly.  No one will be surprised, or probably even offended, when the Mayor condemns the action of protesters to protect the dignity of office.  But I think that he’d recognize, as do I, that they were sorely tried by the City Council.  The City Council majority has been acting with palpable bad faith for a month now — meeting and exceeding the most cynical predictions about what they might do.  The protesters reacted accordingly, saying that there has to be a limit to how cordially and subserviently one can deal with such bad faith.

There was indeed a serious affront to the “dignity of office” last night.  But the protesters’ affront, while it did stop the meeting, wasn’t really it.  The most serious affront to the dignity of office came from the Council Majority itself, which shows no respect for judges, its constituents, or the democratic values they are supposed to uphold.  Of the chants I heard last night, I favor the simplest: “Shame on you!”

This story will be updated and expanded when time permits. [UPDATE: No, it won’t anymore; events have overtaken us!]


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.)