Weekend Open Thread: City Bars Tait’s ‘People’s Map’ Item from Agenda Using New ‘Simon Says’ Rule

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A horror story ripped from the headlines.

A horror story ripped from the headlines.

It may be fair to call the Council majority’s treatment of the City’s “Recommended Map” for its districts a “horror show” — but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its moments of comedy!

Mayor Tom Tait wants to have another chance to vote on the Recommended Plan for Districts that was passed on to the City Council by the panel of the retired judges on the Advisory Committee on Electoral Districts.  In fact, he called for such a vote to be agendized at the latest meeting of City Council on December 15.  While the Mayor was stripped of his right to agendize items between meetings by the City Council during a special meeting on September 30, 2013 — yes, the “finger puppet” meeting — asking for an item be be agendized during a City Council meeting has always been enough to get the City Manager to place such a meeting on the next agenda.

Until this past week, that is.

As Art Marroquin reported in yesterday’s OC Register, Tait’s request to put his item on the agenda was rejected by the City Staff because he has run afoul of the dreaded “Simon Says” rule.  The City Manager cannot legally place a Council member’s item on the next agenda unless that member does the equivalent of first saying “Simon Says” — which in this case requires that a request for a new meeting come only during a segment of a Council meeting officially designated as “Council Communications.”  As Paul Emery, the (giving him the benefit of the doubt) terrified City Manager, apparently believes, he must remain ever vigilant not to place an item on the agenda — which he has the discretion to do himself, of course — if it does not take place during the formal “Council Communications” segment.  (What City Manager ever wants to hear the Council admonish: “I DIDN’T SAY ‘SIMON SAYS’!”)

Marroquin’s article — which someone gave the Onion-esque title of “Mayor upset over his item not being on the next agenda” despite that this deals with the arguably serious matter of the denial of full voting representation to the City’s Latinos — explains as follows the City Staff’s rejection of Tait’s request to agendize his item as follows:

If Tait had wanted the item placed on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, then the mayor would needed to reiterate the request during the council communications portion of the agenda, per a council policy established in 2012, said city spokesman Mike Lyster.

“Given the constraints presented by the council policy manual, this was the best way to allow for consideration of any and all maps,” Lyster said in a statement.

Tait called it a “tortured interpretation of the rule” and the first time this has happened in Anaheim. In the past, Tait said that other council members were able to add agenda items that were not mentioned during council communications.

“This is unprecedented, and I think it’s a violation of the law for them to exclude this,” Tait said Friday afternoon.

(And we at OJB would like to say, not for the first time: “Poor Mike Lyster.”)

How is it, you may ask, that an experienced Council member like Tait did not realize that he had to follow the “Simon Says” rule?  That’s easily answered: no such rule existed until now.  You can, seriously, go through the Council minutes and count all of the times that Council members have had their agenda items reserved based on requests that do not occur during the formal “Council Communications” period.  They are plentiful.

Tait also might have been acting under the belief that the City Staff were operating under a “Mother May I?” rule, in which Tait’s request could have been denied at the time with instructions that he could take another action to achieve his objective.  For example, his request might have been met at the time with the City Manager or City Attorney piping up and saying “I’m sorry, Mr. Mayor, but we are not in the ‘Simon Says’ portion of the meeting.  Either you say it during Council Communications or it didn’t happen.”  But, of course, they didn’t — and Tait had no reason to know that “Simon Says” rules were now newly in place.

(Emery and City Attorney Michael Houston are technically the ones at fault here, because as soon as Tait began to ask for the item to be agendized at the supposedly improper time one of them should have turned around and yelled out “Red Light!” and not given a “Green Light!” until the next Council Communications period.  Technically, however, this would have immobilized Tait and the other Council members and thus disrupted the normal flow of business.)

Given the above, his violation of the “Mother May I?” principle would have normally led to the City Manager placing the item on the agenda on his own authority — the City Manager always has a “green light” —  but either Mr. Emery himself really doesn’t want to see such a vote take place … or else someone is leaning on him very heavily to prevent it from happening.  That person would likely be a City Council member with terror-inducing control over Emery’s continued employment.  (It could conceivably be an organized crime figure, some supernatural villain, or a neighbor’s dog that only Emery can hear talking, but experts consider any of those much less likely.)

Happily for Tait, there is another way to get what he wants, under the new “children’s game” rules of the City government — but it would take coordination and finesse!  He can just wait until one of the Council majority to make a motion during the public hearing and the immediately — before anyone else can call to close debate — recognize his ally Council member James Vanderbilt to make a motion to reinstate the Recommended Map with the election sequencing of 1, 3, 4, and 5.  (To be really sharp, Tait could then move to divide the question on a proposed ordinance, voting on the map first and deferring a decision sequencing for later.)

He would have to be careful, because someone on Council — either a shrieking Jordan Brandman or a droning Kris Murray — might start objecting to the Voldemort-level atrocity they argue is taking place on the Council dais and cast a spell for an immediate vote on the underlying main motion.  Tait could, however, repel this spell by using the “I’m ruling that out of order because it goes against the very purpose of parliamentary debate” charm.

At that point, either Brandman or Murray could cast the “overturn the decision of the Chair!” spell, but this spell requires a 2/3 vote of the Council, and so Tait and Vanderbilt can block it regardless of what the fifth Council Member, Lucille Kring, wanted to do.

(It’s worth noting that at this point that — given that she is running for office, that the map is going to propose harms the people in Northwest Anaheim who she said on Dec. 15 that she was trying to protect, and especially that all of this is on video and she is running for re-election and Disney has already shown that it’s not going to spend lots of money to help her anyway — Kring might then decide to work out some compromise with the Mayor rather than looking like she too is nuts without getting the benefit of it like her colleagues do.  If she talks to Pringle or one of his agents directly, though, OJB suggests that she wear a wire and bear in mind that illegal contracts are not enforceable.)

So: either way, Tait can get his vote and — unless Kring has had enough of this malarky — at least give proponents of the People’s Map the satisfaction of saying that at least there was a real vote on it.

This is your Weekend Open Thread.  Talk about that, or anything else you’d like, within reasonable bounds of discretion and decorum.


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.)