Yes, Anaheim CAN Honor Gays in the Wake of Orlando — With OR Without a Council Resolution

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Rainbow Flag graphic

[1] Today’s Anaheim LGBT Flag Resolution

I would generally hesitate to accuse someone of “politicizing a tragedy” — but it does happen.  Deciding to respond to an atrocity like the recent massacre of gay men (and some allies) in Orlando, for example, is fine.  It’s how one does it that can make the difference between a heartfelt and admirable tribute and the gross and cynical appropriation of tragedy.  Someone’s doing it wrong if they try to gin up controversy that doesn’t actually exist just so as to give themselves an apparent political victory.

I don’t know, at this moment, whether Jordan Brandman, who has a resolution on the ballot to have the City of Anaheim fly the Gay Pride flag annually during June, is acting out of a sense of honor or political gain.  I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.  True, he never proposed this during his first three years on the Council, but both his coming out last year and the tragedy in Orlando make this a good idea — and I don’t expect that more than one Councilmember (a Brandman ally) is likely to oppose it, unless perhaps it is not something that is done as a matter of City policy for any demographic group.  (If not, there are plenty of ways to honor LGBT people during June and the city should pursue them — as should others.  I wish that  it had been proposed in time for this June, but that’s OK.

Here’s the resolution:

DATE: JUNE 21, 2016
FROM: OFFICE OF THE CITY MANAGER
SUBJECT: AUTHORIZING THE ANNUAL DISPLAY OF THE PRIDE FLAG AT CITY HALL
ATTACHMENT (Y/N): NO
ITEM # 25

ACTION: That the City Council, by Motion, authorize the annual display of the Pride flag at City Hall during the month of June to commemorate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.

DISCUSSION: At the June 14, 2016 City Council meeting, Council member Brandman requested that staff bring back an item for council consideration that would authorize the annual display of the Pride flag in front of City Hall during the month of June in honor of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month.

Since 2013, the City of Anaheim has annually proclaimed the month of June as LGBT Pride Month via Resolution. This recognition is currently part of our list of recurring annual recognitions that is adopted by Council before the beginning of each calendar year. If the action outlined above is approved, the Pride flag would be displayed beginning no later than June 25 of this year and then each subsequent June during LGBT Pride Month. It is anticipated that the flag could be added to one of the existing flag poles in front of City Hall.

IMPACT ON BUDGET: There is no material budgetary impact.

Respectfully submitted,

Greg Garcia
Deputy City Manager

[2] Possible Objections

This resolution seems pretty reasonable — especially since it’s “cabined” (that is, has its scope restricted) by reference to a Council-approved list of recurring annual recognitions each year.  I can see three objections to it, in ascending order of legitimacy.

  • First, a whole category of objections are ones grounded in bigotry and prejudice: not wanting the city to give any reasonable recognition to LGBT persons due to animus or fear of public anger.  I don’t anticipate that objection coming from a majority of this Council, at least towards LGBTs.  The others don’t involve prejudice.
  • Second, some objections grounded may be grounded in political ethics.  Council members may think, with some justification, that this is essentially a campaign stunt to give Brandman fodder for the glossy mailers that Disney and their partners will buy for him this fall.  (That becomes all the worse if that ton of money is used to distract voters from real and significant abominations like the huge new bed tax rebate giveaway that Disney is supposed to get on July 12.  Even politicians not likely to reject such a proposal on substance may choose to do so but capitalizing on a tragedy for a political gain is a lousy and unfair thing for a sitting Councilmember to do.I hope that, whatever their ethical objections to the process by which this came up when it did, no Councilmember will oppose this resolution on those grounds.  First, after some initial reaction to the contrary (before I had looked at the actual resolution, when I had read only a deeply mistaken blog account of what was happening, as we’ll see below) I think that Jordan has to be given the benefit of the doubt that his initiative is entirely (and unusually) sincere.  The Council ought to suck it up and vote entirely on the merits.  If the worst is true and this is essentially a political stunt, then let Jordan reap what credit from it he can.  It’s a pretty obvious trap for other Council members — they want flyers that say that various people on the Council voted against LGBT rights in the wake of Orlando (which is both a completely unreasonable and totally inevitable glodd to put on such a vote) — and they should avoid it.
  • The only argument against such a motion that may have some legitimacy in fairness and equality.  LGBT legislation is always attacked as imparting “special rights” towards LGBT — and it is almost inevitably twaddle.  (Or, for people who don’t need this to be cleaned up for them: “a sack of horseshit.”)  In this case, though, there’s a case to be made for it — at least in part.  It’s entirely legitimate to fly a rainbow flag as a gesture of defiance to the Orlando shooting and keep it up there all summer, if the Council wants.  But that’s not what this resolution is about!  It’s about establish a permanent designation that the flag will be flown every June — and that raises the question of whether other groups on the list — Latinos, Asians, Women, Muslims, etc. — are being treated equally.  Flying a flag of tribute is a significant honor — if not, why should we care about it? — and the divisive question will surely crop up from other groups on that list: “how come LGBT people get to fly a flag and we don’t?”The best answer to that may be that “it’s because LGBT people have a flag and you don’t!” — but that only pushes the question down the road,  Should Anaheim fly the Mexican flag to honor all Latinos — when not all Latinos in the city are of Mexican descent?  What flag should be flown to represent women — and who decides?  What about for Muslims?  (Please, not the Saudi flag!)  For Asians or for African Americans?  For veterans?  For the disabled? And, uh, what happens when some whites want their equal recognition and come with a lawsuit in hand?  This is not a theoretical problem; it’s the sort of problem that usually crops up on university campuses rather than in municipalities — precisely because deciding who gets a certain honor raises headaches.

    This is in some ways the standard “if we do this for you, don’t we have to do it for everyone?” concern.  The Council should be familiar with this: it’s largely the same problem that led the same Council that provided giveaways to the GardenWalk Hotel and other businesses to now believe that it has to show consistency by giving similar giveaways (pardon me, “inducements”) to every applicant who wants to build a “four-star equivalent” hotel, even if those inducements make no sense on their own.  (And at the July 12 meeting, this will reach the height of absurdity when the Council will consider giving a hugest “inducement” for the Disney Resort to build its own four-star hotel that makes sense even without any subsidy — because if someone gives you free money, even its other people’s free money, it takes more moral fiber to turn it down than the House of Mouse apparently has.)

The solution for Tuesday’s meeting is pretty obvious: bifurcate the issue in a substitute motion.  (1) Approve a resolution to fly a rainbow flag as a gesture of defiance to the Orlando shooter for a certain number of days — 49 might be a good number, as might 102 — and then (2) refer the larger question to the City Staff with a direction to come up with a policy on whether and how to use whichever flags are deemed to be appropriate to honor those groups on the “honoree” list.  In that context,”rainbow flag every day in every June” seems likely to be part of a good result — but it won’t be marred by concerns about equal treatment under the law.  Anaheim will still have problems to address, such as whether it is prepared to fly the Palestinian flag the next time a massacre occurs in Gaza  — I’d say “yes, and good luck with that one” — but once the city gets involved in doling out flag flying honors that’s its burden to shoulder.

[3] This is What Disgusting Politicization of Tragedy Looks Like

For an example of the disgusting politicization of tragedy, though, we need look no further than another local political blog.  I’m printing the story from Dan Chmielewski, now again to be known generally in my writings as Chumley or other names that have been tossed onto the stage from the peanut gallery, in full to avoid any question of my leaving out needed context.  But today I’m going to call him Idiot Boy and I’ll take his article apart paragraph by paragraph.

It seems hard to believe that Orange County’s largest city actually has to put it to a vote to have a public commemoration honoring the victims of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub Massacre.  Santa Ana has already lit up the water tower for Downtown Orange County in rainbow colors, and Council member Jordan Brandman is leading an effort to get Anaheim to follow suit.

Idiot Boy doesn’t understand that this is not a resolution honoring the victims of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub Massacre.  One reason he should know this is that event is never mentioned in the resolution.  The other is that, as noted above, it’s about a permanent observance of having a rainbow flag fly at City Hall every June.  It is not like an ad hoc lighting change of a water tower as a gesture of defiance — although, as I mention above, that is what it should be, for now.  (If Anaheim wanted to do something cool, it could put colored gels over the lights in the plaza in front of City Hall to create quite an impressive rainbow effect this summer.)  But, in any event, that’s not really a Council decision — it’s something that should be done by City Manager Paul Emery and his staff.  (The Council could create a committee of Brandman and anyone-but-Kring to work with Emery to come up with a good plan, if it doesn’t trust his judgment.  Just ask him to do it in Council Comments or something; he’ll go along.  And if he messes it up, the Council can fire him.)

The “Council member Jordan Brandman is leading an effort to get Anaheim to follow suit” sentence is pretty much a lie.  If it were true, Brandman would have said during Council Comments at last week’s meeting “Mr. City Manager, is there some display that it’s within your authority to authorize to honor the victims of the Orlando shooting with, oh, rainbow-colored lighting?”  Emery would probably agree that he could do so as a temporary measure.  (I mean, hell, he’s thrown his weight around a lot more than that before!)  He couldn’t make a permanent policy, but the permanent policy would be in place to honor LGBTs generally; it would have been appropriate even if the Pulse massacre had never happened!  So — what’s “leading the effort” mean?  That would have been a phone call or visit to Emery — trust me, the Council majority can get through to him — or a request that he ask the Mayor for authorization for such a response.  (Tait had already posted an expression of grief on the City’s official Facebook page.)  I’d like to presume that Brandman didn’t describe himself as “leading an effort” without ever indicating the impediments to such an “effort” and why he was doing so in what was almost the most circuitous way possible.

The Council will vote to authorize the annual display of the Pride flag at City Hall during the month of June to commemorate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. But let’s note, June has another 9 days to go.  Brandman’s efforts to formally agendize the flying of the flag by many LGBT individuals in response to the heinous act in Orlando.  We urge the council to approve Brandman’s efforts.

“Brandman’s efforts to formally agendize the flying of the flag by many LGBT individuals in response to the heinous act in Orlando” is not an actual cogent English sentence.  It’s unclear what Idiot Boy is trying to say, but he seems to concede that the annual display of the rainbow flag is not itself directly in response to Orlando.  Or maybe he doesn’t — again, it’s unclear.  Whatever display Anaheim does now is in proper response to Orlando — and it needn’t be restricted to June.  And, not being a direct response to Orlando, the larger policy that treats the honor equally for all can be given time for Staff to come up with a recommendation that treats all honored groups equally.

Most of that is not politicizing tragedy, though — in the interest, if anyone is unclear, of supporting Brandman’s campaign in District 3 against Dr. Jose Moreno and various intended Latin@ vote-splitters.  The concluding paragraph is.

Perhaps its a consequence of a conversative Republican mayor in Anaheim that the council has to formally act.  In this case, Anaheim could have taken a tip from Santa Ana in lighting up the rainbow.

Oh, perhaps — and perhaps it’s something that Idiot Boy thinks because he doesn’t understand what the resolution says, although he transcribed it mostly well for about half of the previous paragraph.  So, here’s a remedial course for Idiot Boy:

  • Anaheim’s Mayor doesn’t determine City policy the way that, say Eric Garcetti does in Los Angeles
  • In fact, as part of a minority on the Council, he can’t even block City policy
  • If the City Manager asked him for informal position to take an action, he can respond.  There’s no allegation that Emery ever did so.

So what’s Idiot Boy’s complaint about Tait?  “Politicizing a tragedy,” that’s what.


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.)