Districting Fever Sweeps South OC; Political Insiders Sh*t Bricks.

The four big South County Districting Holdouts – the cities that are still resisting the reform of District Elections down in that lovely half of the OC – are Rancho Santa Margarita, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, and San Clemente.

Funny. You could montage a picture of those four City Councils and notice some things. First they are ALL WHITE. And hey – I’ve got no problem with white people! A lot of white people are very nice, and honest even. Some of my best friends are white. But ALL of these Council members? Moving on…

ALMOST all of these Council members are Republicans, and that checks out, when the majority of voters down that-a-way are Republicans. Although you do see more and more Democrats getting elected to Congress, assembly, etc. down there, so maybe there IS something a little pre-ordained with how their Councils are chosen.

MOST IMPRESSIVE TO ME is that at least three of these City Councils (not sure about L. Hills) ALL LIVE WITHIN SCANT MILES OF EACH OTHER, in the wealthiest enclaves of their respective towns. Now THAT can’t be right! I wouldn’t like that if I lived in Southern Laguna Niguel, or non-Tallega San Clemente, having all my decisions made by the rich bastards on the other side of town. That’s just like when all our Anaheim politicians came from the Hills!

On top of that, some of these towns don’t even have term limits (e.g. RSM) so you get the spectacle of ONE GUY getting elected over and over for decades and running the town like a dictator [*cough*BEALL*cough*.]


Well! SOME South-County residents, calling themselves the Association for Voter Equality, have had enough of this state of affairs, and have hired crack Dana Point lawyer Michelle Jackson (right) to send out letters to those four councils, alerting them that they are not in compliance with the California Voting Rights Act. And by now we all know, that nobody wins against the California Voting Rights Act.

BUT IT IS SURE FUN TO WATCH THEM TRY! If I had a mind like Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, I could break it down to five-or-so stages of something like kicking, screaming, pouting, whining, and finally shuffling forward into the future with their heads down. It’s fun because I heard all their exact lame-ass arguments in Anaheim ten years ago, and it’s clearer than ever that this is nothing but INCUMBENTS WANTING TO PROTECT THEMSELVES. And the special interests of the towns wanting their favorite incumbents to protect themselves. And not give a regular grassroots guy or girl the leg up that districting provides. They claim, passionately…

  • “This will tear apart our city! We must stay united!” Right, cry me a river, Daniel Webster. Reports of a Civil War in Anaheim remain non-existent.
  • “Right now you get to vote for FIVE of us, but with districts you only get ONE – WHY do our enemies hate democracy???” Right, we get to vote for five rich people who live far from me and aren’t gonna take my call after they’re elected – go jump in a lake with your democracy talk.
  • “Imagine the backroom deals that could be made between the representatives of two districts…” Right, and the folks doing this imagining are the ones making backroom deals as long as we can remember – they should know!

All, all, the fearful threnody of incumbents clinging desperately to their tenure and privilege. Still, we’re only having fun kicking these politicians in the head because they’re dicks, and liars. It doesn’t matter what they say, they’re going to have to follow the CVRA and they may as well resolve to do it with dignity and competence. Let’s see what that would look like.

The Months between Now and Nov. ’24

Dostoevsky, in The Brothers Karamazov, told the tale of an atheist who died, and was condemned by God to walk like a million miles before finding salvation and peace. The furious atheist cursed God, refused to walk a step, and lay down on the road in defiance. He lay there for like ten thousand years or something. Finally, he did get up, and started walking.

The time table with these South County Councils should be a little quicker than that. From the time they get Michelle’s letter they’ve got a few weeks to pass a resolution stating that they intend to comply, which buys em another I think 90 days to pass an ordinance that there are indeed gonna be district elections, then they gotta have public workshops, get the maps made and approved, all that good stuff, within 180 days from receipt of that letter in order to be all ready to go for next year’s elections, November 2024.

And since these cities received their Michelle letters at slightly different times, they are on different time-frames. RSM (where Beall and two other councilmembers live dangerously close to each other) passed their resolution last week, as did Laguna Niguel with great bitching and reluctance. I mean, all of THOSE people live real close to each other too, some of them are gonna have to leave council (or go thru the shady and iffy spectacle of carpetbagging.)

Laguna Hills has till this Friday, August 4, to respond, and San Clemente has till the end of August. I understand that San Clemente, since their troublesome Gene James left to a midwestern state where they might let him beat up on homeless people, has only four members, and that they all live in the inland hills of Tallega, the most expensive ‘hood in town. Also, San Clemente has DEMOCRATS on the Council – two of ’em counting my friend Mayor Chris Duncan. Will these Democrats be more friendly to democracy than a lotta these Republicans are, when it affects their incumbency? We shall see!

Yes, just this past Friday Laguna Niguel Mayor Kelly Jennings released a “Special Mayor’s Message” announcing her Council’s resolution, a “message” dripping with resentment and recrimination, and bemoaning the “petty political gamesmanship” that led to this sorry pass. Later Councilman Ray Gennawey, who seems to be that Council’s ambitious and self-infatuated Alpha Dog, wrote an even pissier commentary:

“Along with my Council colleagues, I am disappointed Laguna Niguel is being forced to switch from at-large elections to district elections by a bad state law being exploited by a bad actor. We’re not the only city. The wife of an ex-assemblyman is threatening lawsuits in every at-large city that did not re-elect her husband. For more information on this backwards law and petty political gamesmanship, watch my presentation at the most recent council meeting…”

Wait, what?

What’s Brough got to do with it, got to do with it?

“Bad actor?” “Wife of an ex-assemblyman?” Punishing “every at-large city that didn’t re-elect her husband???”

Turns out Michelle Jackson, the lawyer representing the pro-districting plaintiffs, is married to former assemblyman Bill Brough. And Bill is like the anti-Christ to these insider Republicans, filling them with both terror (of the unpredictable) and bottomless guilt for what they did to him. He was just about the only local politician with the balls to take on the Toll Roads Agency that was wreaking havoc on the area, by moving to AUDIT THE TCA – for which trouble he was smeared in a most certainly false “ME-TOO” story by toll-troll Supervisor Lisa Bartlett (I know what that’s like!), labeled a “degenerate” and defeated by toll troll politician Laurie Davies. (Who completing the circle is now going from Council to Council as Assemblywoman, preaching against District Elections.)

But this drive for District Elections, this professional project of Michelle’s, has absolutely nothing to do with the smearing and defeat of her husband. And there’s no logical stretch of the imagination that gets us to where these four recalcitrant towns moving to districts resurrects or helps Bill’s political career in Dana Point (which already has district elections.) This talk, the talk of Gennawey and Jennings, is just the paranoia of the guilty, the projection of petty small-mindedness on others by the petty small-minded, and the last gasps of a doomed and feeble South County aristocracy.


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.