Will Ada Briceño, UNITE-HERE, and the DPOC help Anaheim recall Jordan Brandman?




“What we’re going to do right here is go back, way back, back into time,” as Jimmy Castor unforgettably growled in the 1972 funk smash Troglodyte.  And yet, we’re not really going ALL that far back – just over two years ago, a long time to some, but many of us remember it like it was yesterday…

In fact it was October of 2018 that Ada Briceño, co-president of Unite HERE Local 11 who was then running (successfully) to also chair the Democratic Party of OC, assured the skeptical members of the Anaheim Democrat Club that she would be “the first to lead the recall” of Jordan Brandman if, when re-elected to Anaheim Council a month later, he reneged on any of the promises he’d made to the DPOC that year to get their endorsement.  

And, spoiler alert, since that time Jordan has broken ALL of his promises.  In a little bit, we’ll look at what those promises were, wrung out of him in return for the 2018 DPOC endorsement, and how he broke each of them.

And more generally we’ll look at his record on Council since 2018, and why recalling Jordan is both important AND doable, whether Ada, the unions, and the DPOC help us or not.

And we’ll look at a more general, but essential question, for Democrats in the OC and everywhere:  Should corporate welfare, justified by trickle-down economic theory, be a Democratic value, or should it be something we oppose?

But first let’s actually go “way back, back into time,” to 2012-16, Jordan’s first council term, to understand why most Anaheim Democrats were horrified and gobsmacked to see him endorsed in 2018, mostly by out-of-town Democrats who don’t know this town or his record.

The First Council Term, 2012-16

Jordan was put into power in 2012 by the same gang of special interests who’d been running Anaheim for years and do to this day – Disney through its front group SOAR, the resort district, the Chamber of Commerce, the police and fire unions and the Building Trades.  Unlike his staunch Republican Council allies Kris Murray, Gail Eastman, Lucille Kring and Harry Sidhu, Jordan is a registered Democrat.  But they always vote the same on matters of consequence.

This 2012 Brandman ad speaks for itself.
Click for larger image.

Interestingly, just as Jordan has always had a rocky relationship with his own Party (censures, controversies over endorsements), his Republican allies have likewise been shunned by their own Party, the OC GOP looking unkindly on budget-busting “crony capitalism,” over-generosity to public employee unions, and general lying.   Neither good Republicans NOR good Democrats, we refer to these politicians as “kleptocrats.”  (The only times Jordan diverges from his klepto-Republican allies is on largely symbolic votes on social issues.)

During his first term Jordan and his allies enthusiastically passed corporate giveaways totalling in the billions of dollars from the city’s treasury, to the special interests that helped elect him.  First there was the 2013 “Gardenwalk Giveaway” to luxury hotelier Bill O’Connell, of $158 million in TOT subsidies.  This was followed in 2016 by $550 million more in TOT subsidies, to Hong Kong-based Wincome Group and Disney to build three more luxury hotels.  Sensible folks objected that if these luxury hotels were needed and viable, they should not require a subsidy, let alone subsidies so lavish. 

The same year, Jordan and company granted Disneyland a promise of No Gate Tax for 30 years, justified by Disneyland’s threat that otherwise they wouldn’t build their hugely profitable Star Wars attraction.  (For time constraints I’ll just barely mention Jordan’s attempted Disney Streetcar boondoggle, and his end-run around the city charter to put Anaheim taxpayers on the hook for the Convention Center expansion bonds instead of the Convention Center itself.)

Tait’s Nemesis. During those years the closest thing the Anaheim Council had to a progressive was Mayor Tom Tait, the kind of honest conservative that opposed unnecessarily gifting public money to already-wealthy, well-connected special interests.  And Jordan made it his mission to make Tait’s time on Council miserable.  In late 2013 Jordan and his majority was suddenly, inexplicably intent on leasing the Anaheim Stadium and the 153 acres of property around it to the billionaire Angels owner Arte Moreno for $1 a year, for 66 years, to develop and profit from as Arte saw fit.  Mayor Tait was the only voice on Council – one out of five – to speak out against this insanity.

So Jordan took it upon himself to call an “emergency” Monday morning meeting, with the sole purpose of stripping away the Mayor’s agendizing ability, in an attempt to limit his ability to speak against the giveaway.  There was huge public outcry from left and right, but Jordan and his three Republican allies stuck together to silence Tait.  Tait and activists still eventually managed to scuttle the outrageous swindle, simply by speaking out till the kleptos were embarrassed.  And Arte bided his time (after failing to get Kring elected Mayor in 2014) until he had a chance in 2018 to get a new Mayor.

District Elections.  In a foreshadowing of Jordan’s forced 2018 pledges,  in 2012 he promised Democrats (who already didn’t trust him) to support Anaheim’s move to district elections – a reform very important to Anaheim latinos and backed by the DPOC.  As I’ve detailed at length, his keeping of THAT promise was mixed, more broken than kept.  From 2012-14, as his  Council allies were fighting against the reform in court, whenever the matter came up he would vote in favor of settling the ACLU suit, always knowing he was safely in a losing 2-3 minority with the Mayor.  And when the question was finally on the ballot in 2014, he did let his name be included (along with the hated Tait) on the ballot argument in favor. 

But once, at the June 11, 2013 meeting, Lucille was beginning to waver in her opposition, and Jordan abruptly, in an apparent panic, “called the question,” cutting off discussion before Lucille could switch sides!  And the legal battle went on another year, costing us taxpayers $3 million dollars fighting against a reform that 70% of us wanted.

Understand, Jordan was in a compromised position on district elections, on the one hand trying to keep Democrats and Latinos happy, while his corporate masters and Council allies preferred to postpone the inevitable as long as possible to keep their monopoly on power (it was good for them when it was too expensive for anyone else to run and win.) 

His first public statement on the matter, as a Council candidate at the Aug. 8, 2012 meeting, was nearly identical to the statement Disney put out that same morning, singing the praises of democracy and diversity but cautioning that the matter should be studied at length before just jumping into it – and that was the exact plan of the anti-districting Republicans Sidhu, Murray and Eastman, who set up a Districting Commission that day and stacked it with dependable districting opponents.  When Jordan was elected he had a chance to appoint a member to that commission, and he chose district-opposing immigrant basher Amanda Edinger, something he has never explained.  And in 2014 he endorsed his friends, the anti-districting Republicans Murray, Kring and Eastman, bitterly opposing Democratic districting champion Jose Moreno.

But the craziest thing Jordan did, which got him unanimously censured by his own Party, was his “Districting Sabotage” stunt of Nov. 2015 – Jan. 2016.  (Pic above) First he attempted to postpone Latino majority District 3’s election two years so he wouldn’t have to face Jose in 2016, and then he tried to change maps at the last minute, risking delaying district elections altogether – all with the help of his two loyal allies, anti-districting Republicans Kring and Murray.  This scheme fell through after nearly causing a riot, and led to the creation of a song, “When the Kleptos Caved.”

In the months between these shenanigans and the November election, Jordan invented all kinds of revisionist history about what had happened, painstakingly demolished in the article “Jordan Brandman’s Bald-faced Districting Lies.”  He was right to be afraid of the charismatic Dr. Jose Moreno, who beat him by 72 votes in November despite being outspent over 10-1.  And Jordan was out of power for two years, working as a lobbyist.

2018 and more promises, promises…

Late one night in late February 2018, Jordan up and moved from District 3 to District 2, so he could run against the laid-back conservative Republican James Vanderbilt instead of the firebrand Moreno.  Even though Jordan would be the only Democrat in the District 2 race, we couldn’t believe it when we heard the DPOC was actually considering endorsing this character after all he’d done in his first term.   Folks he had charmed (and he does apparently know how to charm people) swore up and down that he had CHANGED…

… and to prove/ensure it, they got him to PROMISE a few things.  I wasn’t there, and personally thought these “promises” were kind of silly, both in their specifics, and also on principle:  After all, Jordan’s whole philosophy of government that had led to all his previous behavior wasn’t gonna change;  his loyalties and funders would remain the same;  and basically he really saw nothing wrong with anything he’d done in the past.  Still, it can’t even be said that he kept these three 2018 promises, either:

PROMISE 1:  He would always give fellow Democrat Jose Moreno the second (or third) vote he would need to get an item onto the agenda for discussion (whether Jordan went on to vote in favor of that item or not.)  As we’ll see, Jordan has broken that promise at nearly every 2019-20 meeting.

PROMISE 2:  He would approve no more luxury hotel subsidies.  This promise was stupidly narrow and specific; no more luxury hotel subsidies were planned by Jordan’s circle at the time.  But still he did break that promise literally last January by renewing a $180 million subsidy for the Anaheim Hotel.   And he did much worse than a hotel subsidy when he backed the giveaway of the Anaheim Stadium property for about half a billion less than it was worth – less a subsidy than a gigantic gift of public funds.

PROMISE 3:  Someone made him promise not to endorse Republican Kris Murray any more.  He’d always endorsed the worst most kleptocratic Republicans, and I guess Kris seemed like a special threat right then as she was running for Supervisor … but in any case Jordan’s crowd had settled on Don Wagner for that office instead.  Okay, as far as I know Jordan hasn’t endorsed Kris for anything since he promised not to.  But he did endorse her good friend and aide Arianna Barrios for Orange Council, and most destructively this year he fought behind the scenes against the honest Anaheim Councilwoman Denise Barnes, Jose’s only ally on council.  And she was a Democrat, the only one in that race.

It should also be pointed out that, as Jordan cruised to a 2018 victory against Vanderbilt while backed by the same special interests as always, he told a hell of a lot of lies, among them:

  • As he pulled in hundreds of thousands of dollars through Disney’s various money funnels especially SOAR (Support Our Anaheim Resort); he went around claiming to have “never got a dime from Disney.”  This same naked lie was used again by Avelino Valencia this year – of course they’ll claim it’s “literally” true.
  • He claimed falsely that his opponent incumbent James Vanderbilt refused to debate him.  I know for a fact that this was false because I tried hard to arrange debates between them – Vanderbilt was eager to debate any time, any place, and it was Jordan who refused to respond.
  • He claimed falsely that Republican volunteers were campaigning against him, telling folks not to vote for him because he’s “gay and Jewish.”  I know that one lady he accuses of this never did any such thing; and nobody knows of anyone else who did.  Since admitting being gay in 2015, he uses the gay card a lot to play the victim.  Nobody cares that he’s gay, although it is a good thing that he’s not lying about it any more.
  • A couple times in 2018, in the spirit of trying to give a supposedly reformed guy a chance, I asked him his positions on several more timely issues, but he refused to answer me, saying he’d rather talk to voters one-on-one:  another tried and true way that politicians get away with lying without consequence, telling each voter what they want to hear.  (See Lorri Galloway, Avelino Valencia.)

Since 2018: Sidhu’s Lapdog

Jordan on election night 2018 at Sidhu’s mansion, celebrating Republican Sidhu’s razor-thin victory against Democrat Aitken.

Now, as part of a lockstep FIVE-member majority with his old ally Lucille Kring, new allies Stephen Faessel and Trevor O’Neil, and old ally / new Mayor Harry Sidhu (all Republicans), all of Brandman’s 2019-20 misdeeds are in obedience to Sidhu, who in turn is obedient to the Chamber of Commerce.

And several times over these two years I’ve heard Jordan justify these misdeeds (and save himself the trouble of further rationalization) with the incredibly offensive dodge, “I am going to follow the judgment of the Mayor, because he was elected at large, while I was only elected by one district.”

To me this is incredibly offensive for at least two reasons:

1. Jordan is denying a voice to the voters of District 2, by refusing to think, speak and act on their behalf.  We thought he subverted district elections BEFORE they passed?  Well, here he is subverting them again!

And 2.  Harry Sidhu was BARELY elected Mayor with 34% of the vote, beating Ashleigh Aitken by 400 votes (largely by scaring voters that the Angels would leave if he weren’t elected.)  Tom Tait was elected with 56% of the vote, but did Jordan extend the same deference to Tait?  NO, as we’ve seen, he was THAT Mayor’s worst nightmare!

A few of Jordan’s misdeeds on the Sidhu Council:

In 2019 when the new owner of Rancho La Paz senior mobile home park, John Saunders, who is also a contributor to Jordan and the council majority, jacked up rents exorbitantly, Jordan and his 4 allies refused to pass a rent cap to save hundreds of Anaheim seniors from poverty, hunger and homelessness.  

Last February Jordan and his 4 allies cheerfully passed an unaffordable raise for Anaheim’s police and fire departments, whose unions had contributed to them.  Lobbying for the police was Jordan’s friend and sometime boss, Peter Mitchell (to whom Jordan also gifted Elton John tickets.)  This new contract was so generous that Anaheim is now the only OC city in which the taxpayers directly pay the union chief, Edgar Hampton (who also recklessly rammed a BLM protester with his cruiser this past July) – a whopping $400K a year.  In other cities the union boss is paid with the police’s union dues, but now in Anaheim that dues is freed up for more lobbying and political campaigning – for politicians like Jordan!  Even Jordan’s ally Trevor O’Neil could see that Anaheim couldn’t afford this new contract, and that we’d have to “dip into our reserves” for a while to cover it, but he expressed hope that the economy would improve in coming months.  Next month the coronavirus hit.

Yep, two months after Jordan and his 4 allies renewed a $180 million luxury hotel subsidy, and one month after an unaffordable public safety raise that they knew would eat into our reserves, the Coronavirus Pandemic hit us bigtime.  And one of their first actions – in a quickly-called emergency meeting – was to take $6.5 million more out of our reserves to give to our advertising agency Visit Anaheim, to advertise a resort district which wouldn’t be open for … well, still isn’t open now, nine months later. 

And soon after that the Brandman majority fired honest competent City Manger Chris Zapata, costing us another half million, in the middle of a pandemic in which he was doing essential work – simply for being slightly critical of the Visit Anaheim giveaway, WHEN ASKED.

Visit Anaheim guy wondering what to do with so much money.

And a few months later, some Federal coronavirus relief money came in, and Jordan and his allies decided to take that $6.5 million for Visit Anaheim out of those Covid funds instead.  Is that better or worse?  Lately I’ve heard Democrats trashing the Trumpy female South Dakota governor for using FIVE MILLION in federal Covid aid for a tourist ad campaign.  I have to tell them – Anaheim wasted MORE Covid aid money than that on a tourist ad campaign, we are just one CITY not a state, and we have a “Democrat” going along with it!  (Later it was discovered that Visit Anaheim couldn’t even figure out how to spend all that money advertising a closed-down resort, and is still hanging on to $4 million of it, but we’ll get to that later.)

ENABLING POSEIDON ON THE OCWD.  During the time Jordan’s been on Council, he has been Anaheim’s man on the OC Water District Board, having taken Sidhu’s place as an unquestioning backer of the Poseidon desalination boondoggle.  Poseidon Resources has had the foresight to donate to Jordan throughout his political career, and now they reap the benefits.  Have I mentioned – their proposed BILLION-AND-A-HALF-DOLLAR Huntington Beach desal plant will be an environmental disaster, will raise all our water bills considerably, and is both completely unnecessary and technologically archaic.

Keeping the Latino Minority Down:

The Council minority sure looks Latino to me.

Somehow it turned out that, in 2019-20, the Anaheim City Council had a five-member Disney Majority and a two-member Latino minority, as moderate Republican Denise Barnes (who recently became a Democrat) proved to be Jose Moreno’s only dependable ally for getting items onto the agenda.  This would seem to have absolved Jordan of his rarely-kept promise to second Jose’s motions.  But the Sidhu-Disney Majority didn’t want Jose’s items discussed at all, and passed a rule where items now need a THIRD vote to get on the agenda.  And Jordan set into dutifully breaking his promise by RARELY providing that third. 

Here is a partial list of THINGS THAT COULDN’T EVEN BE DISCUSSED because of Jordan’s broken promise.  When meetings were live, Jordan would just sit there silent and sullen while Jose and Denise waited quietly for a third; now that they’re teleconferencing, you can’t really be sure Jordan is still even on the phone:

  • Showing meetings on Zoom during the pandemic so that the public can watch, and allowing live public comments as other OC cities do. (2020)
  • Creating an agency and policy for affordable housing in Anaheim.
  • Putting a rent cap on mobile home parks. (2019-20 – an ongoing emergency.)
  • Putting a rent cap on apartments, many of whose owners were raising rents exorbitantly (until the state stepped in late 2019.)
  • Also in 2019, extending no-cause eviction protection planned by the state for January 2020 into the final months of 2019.
  • Publicizing the city-ordered appraisal for the Angels Stadium property. (2019)
  • Granting more time for public review and input over the Stadium deal. (2019)
  • A vast array of campaign finance reform measures.
  • Dedicating the day May 30, 2020 to Anaheim’s graduates who were denied a ceremony by COVID-19.
  • Re-directing the $4 million of Visit Anaheim’s not-yet-spent money to help laid-off Disney workers. (2020)
  • Creating a serious coronavirus task force for the city. (2020)
  • Putting a modest gate tax on Disney/Angels/Honda Center onto the Nov 2020 ballot (this was 2020 during the pandemic; and after Disney had released Anaheim from its 30-year no-gate-tax promise)
  • Passing a “Black Lives Matter” resolution… (June 2020)

That “Black Lives Matter” resolution brings up memories!  Back in 2012 when Jordan Brandman was first running for Council, Anaheim was world-famous for a rash of killings of young, mostly unarmed, Latino men – seven in a 12-month period!  There were riots, there were protests, there were halting moves toward reform.  There was a council candidate forum held ON ANNA DRIVE, which was mainly famous for the recent APD killing of unarmed Manuel Diaz

Quezada, brown-faced panacea.

And ON ANNA DRIVE, Jordan actually said he didn’t believe police brutality existed in Anaheim.  He was the ONLY candidate to say that, of any Party.  And he said it on more than one occasion.  Once he elaborated, “If I get to be on Council, I’ll have access to the Police Chief, and I can FIND OUT if there’s really any police brutality in Anaheim!”  Later when Raul Quezada was hired, Jordan crowed that having a Hispanic Chief was all the police reform we’d ever need.  Police killings in Anaheim continued but at a slightly slower rate.

Last June, post-George Floyd, Jose took the opportunity to propose a Black Lives Matter resolution.  Denise seconded it, but it died for lack of a third like most Jose motions.  Democrats were furious that Jordan had refused to agendize Black Lives Matter, and he was on the verge of another censure from his own Party.  He replied with outrage himself (confusingly) that his mother had died a few years earlier, and people shouldn’t have expected him to be providing thirds on colleagues’ motions.

Melahat. Whenever Jordan needs long, overwrought, hyper-PC, but literate sentences.

So he and Mayor Sidhu (probably with Jordan’s handler Melahat as author) made their own Black Lives Matter resolution at the next meeting.  It was heavy on the gruesome details of George Floyd’s particular brutal murder, it made the problem of police brutality sound like something terrible that happens mainly to black people in other parts of the country, and it was roundly criticized as “Trauma Porn.”

Jose tried his best to amend this resolution to include SOME criticism of our own Anaheim Police Department, its past of discrimination and excessive force, and its continued need for reform, but all of this was stubbornly EXCLUDED by Sidhu, Brandman, and their Disney Majority. 

So… Anaheim, where DOZENS of young Latinos, many innocent and most unarmed, have been killed by the police since 2000, resolves that Black Lives Matter, elsewhere in the nation.  Thanks, Jordan.

Even after all that,

we weren’t thinking of recalling Jordan,


The Giveaway of the Anaheim Stadium and surrounding 153 acres for probably half a billion less than its worth – even when “encumbered” by its lease – to Angels billionaire owner Arte Moreno who is too embarrassed of Anaheim to include us in the team name, is the greatest heist perpetrated on this town by its own “leaders,” and has been in the works for years, but we’ve written about it enough, as have many.  There is NOTHING good in this deal for the people of Anaheim, and we’re still hoping the Brown Act lawsuit against it continues to have legs.

And when the final vote finalizing the heist was about to take place last October, a friend suggested an idea to me:  since I was already helping lead a recall of Mayor Sidhu, why not threaten Jordan Brandman that if he voted for this terrible deal we would recall him as well?  Well, it sounded like a good idea; I made that threat;  Jordan made the vote;  so now we have to follow through with it.

Recalling Jordan will be a lot easier than recalling Sidhu – we only need to collect 2000 signatures in his District 2, and I’ve got dozens of folks who are eager to help collect those signatures.  His constituents tell us that they never see him, and he does nothing for them.  Now that we have a decent candidate to take Jordan’s place (announcement coming soon!) we’re ready to get started.

I’d promised to look at the question:  “Is Corporate Welfare, Justified by Long-Discredited “Trickle-Down” Economic Theory (undeniably the political cornerstone of Jordan and his allies) something that should be a Democratic Value, or Something We should Fight Against?”

But since it’s getting late, I’ll just say “Asked, and answered.”

And once again we ask:  Will Ada, UNITE-HERE, and the DPOC help us recall Jordan Brandman?

We hope so, but we’ll just get started without them!

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.