The Faessel-Ashleigh Showdown

You’ll’ve noticed.. nah, you probably wouldn’t-a, but… I have NOT been one of the voices pushing compromised Anaheim councilmembers and staff to resign or be recalled. One thing, there’s something called due process. Another thing, Steve Faessel and Natalie R were both elected solidly and remain pretty popular in their districts which means something. Another thing, I’ve been thinking that Steve at least could turn out to be a good vote on some things (like campaign finance reform) as I know he cares about his legacy.

And a fourth thing, if Steve or Natalie left a vacancy the remaining SOAR-backed majority would just fill it with another SOAR-approved drone like Gloria Ma’ae or Norma Kurtz. Latino for sure, probably young and probably Democrat, and some hack who would look to the other SOAR members for their cues. And then set right to work fundraising for their “re”-election.

But do you know who HAS called for the resignation of Faessel, over his involvement in the secret planning of a series of Mock Council Meetings? Why, Mayor Ashleigh Aitken, Congressman Lou Correa, Senator Tom Umberg, and Assemblyman Avelino Valencia, among others.

So, at the last Council meeting 8/29, Steve defended himself with a ferocity we hadn’t seen before from him, and then proceeded (in what seemed like a strike back at Ashleigh) to propose weakening the Mayor’s authority. Ashleigh’s response to Steve (around 15:00) was… impressive. Hear the whole thing:

I gotta deal with some of this. First and most egregiously, Steve means imply but says infer.” MORE AND MORE PEOPLE ARE DOING THIS, apparently because “infer” sounds smarter. At some point in the never-ending decay of our glorious English language, this usage will become accepted, sages will throw up their hands in surrender, “infer” will be granted two definitions, including “to imply,” and the precision of our discourse will take another one in the shorts.

Practice sentence: Ashleigh IMPLIED that Steve should be one of the ones resigning, and Steve correctly INFERRED that she was referring to him. ASIDE FROM THAT…


In his umbrage at Ashleigh tarring him with Sidhu/Ament, Steve protests that he never held Ashleigh’s long-ago relationship with Melahat Rafiei against her. Did Steve write this, did he write this part of his statement? I didn’t expect that sort of spaghetti-at-the-wall “whataboutism” from him, it sounds like something certain “consultants” would come up with though. The parallels between Faessel’s relationship to Sidhu/Ament and Ashleigh’s relationship to Melahat are just… non-existent. (Except, “I may have been close to a crook but so were you once.”)

Steve stands accused of having, for three and a half years, facilitated everything bad Sidhu and Ament (and Flint) were doing to our City. Ashleigh on the other hand cut her ties with Melahat NEARLY A YEAR before she became Mayor, and never helped her do anything bad to Anaheim or was even in a position to. (And what the hell would Ashleigh know about Melahat trying to bribe Irvine councilmembers, ripping off her cannabis clients, lying to the FBI, or making the OCPA into a stinking gravy train?)

The worst thing Melahat ever did TO ANAHEIM was foisting Jordan Brandman on us and telling him what to do for seven years – Jordan who was Steve’s ally 95% of the time – and that was way before Ashleigh came to power.

So no. No parallel, no cigar.



The Mock Meetings

The planned MOCK COUNCIL MEETINGS of Sept. 21-29, 2020, in rehearsal for the big Angel Stadium Development Agreement meeting of Sept. 29, were a part of Harry Sidhu’s recent Plea Deal that grabbed the public imagination as they sounded outrageous, and a colorful example of how the Special Interests subverted our democracy. And we hope to present a theatrical rendition of what they might have looked like.

Were they illegal (if they actually happened?) Well, why else would the FBI and prosecutor devote two pages to describing those plans? If they didn’t happen (as one of the “participants” Trevor O’Neil claims, and he could be lying), was the PLANNING of them illegal? Especially as they were planned using politicians’ and staff’s PERSONAL e-mails, betraying a knowledge of at least how bad it’d look to the public?

Illegal or not, think how fucking corrupt this was. Jeff Flint, the CONSULTANT WORKING FOR THE ANGELS, telling our elected representatives WHAT to say, HOW to say it, to make this shitty deal look as good as possible to the people of Anaheim – a deal so one-sidedly good for the Angels that Sidhu reasonably expected for them to pay him a million dollars to push it through. But that wasn’t enough, this was so important, Flint didn’t trust these puppets to do it RIGHT, he wanted THREE REHEARSALS. And with a big priority on preparing attacks against Jose Moreno, correctly anticipated to be the fiercest critic on Council. (And what a control freak Flint is, he must have really been getting paid well by the Angels.)

Illegal or not, you’d think Steve Faessel would remember for sure if something like this happened or not, and say “it did” or “it didn’t.” Instead he says he “doesn’t recall,” and “has no records of it.” Has he looked at his personal e-mails from Sept 2020? I sure woulda. Or did he delete those at some point, and why? Alternately, if he finds them, and agrees that they were reprehensible, maybe he could share them with us? The FBI only shared excerpts. Hello?


The Wind-up Dolls

We have Mayor Ashleigh now to thank for a new analogy to describe what we decry in Anaheim’s Council majorities – the Wind-up Dolls. (Puppets was getting so old.)

  • All as one, they now blame EVERYTHING on the two guys who actually got caught doing crimes – Harry Sidhu and Todd Ament – ignoring that all the damage inflicted on the City took the co-operation of A LOT OF PEOPLE, including them.
  • All as one, they cry out that they were “shocked and stunned and angered” to learn about what was going on for years right in front of their noses.
  • All as one, they entreat us, “Let’s MOVE ON, and put the PAST behind us – it was just two BAD APPLES, the system is fine.”
  • And all as one, they explain that they are “unapologetically pro-Disney” meaning by “unapologetically” “unquestioningly,” as in they’ll give the big-money Disney-led Cabal anything it asks for no questions asked, and implying that anyone who questions that is “ANTI-Disney.”

Steve does all of that, in the speech above. But mostly he justifies himself, apparently believing to this day that everything he ever did on Council was good for Anaheim. I know Steve did many great things BEFORE running for office; I still have his two autographed, illustrated Anaheim history books by my bedside. And he even did a lot of good things while on Council for the neighborhood and community members.

But his MAIN function during the Sidhu years was as one more unquestioning wind-up doll, along with Brandman, Kring and O’Neil, blindly and loyally fulfilling every whim of Sidhu, Ament and Flint. I mean, we saw rehearsed groupthink during the Age of Kris Murray, and again now in the Age of Rubalcava, but never anything like the mindless, craven obedience of 2019-22.

It wasn’t just the Angels deal. Far from it. All as one, like wind-up dolls, Faessel, Brandman, Kring and O’Neil joined Sidhu in:

  • Shoveling $6.5 million in COVID funds to Visit Anaheim in the middle of the pandemic just cuz Todd and Harry said to.
  • Shoveling Todd’s Chamber of Commerce half a million in 2019 just cuz Todd wanted it.
  • Doing that AGAIN later that year, another half million to Todd’s Chamber for nothing.
  • Shoveling Todd’s Chamber a no-bid $600,000 contract to build a six-week temporary homeless shelter, mainly enriching the Chamber’s Ross McCune.
  • Shoveling the police and fire unions (which had helped elect them all) unaffordable raises, forcing us to “dip into our reserves.”
  • Re-instating the Angels lease to devalue the Stadium property for Arte Moreno’s benefit.
  • Passing every rule they could think of to silence the Council minority, the only two speaking out against all this.
  • And then (Steve, Trevor & Harry) attending the Dec 2020 “retreat” to learn all about Ament’s plans to steer vast chunks of future revenue his way… and these wind-up dolls saw no problem there.

And Steve still thinks all of that was good. I don’t know how much of it was illegal, but it was all dishonest and a crime against Anaheim, and none of it could have happened without the co-operation of Sidhu’s & Ament’s four wind-up dolls.


Let’s Kneecap the Mayor!

So Steve wrapped up his tirade with his new contribution to “reform,” a plan to take away a lot of the Mayor’s power, which he seemed to think was one of the JL Group’s recommendations, and which he unmistakably presented as a STRIKE BACK against Ashleigh for calling for his resignation – in short, Steve proposed changing our system to a weak, rotating, appointed Mayor, such as one-horse-towns like Fullerton have. A few problems here:

ONE. Steve seemed to think his proposal was based on the JL Group’s second recommendation – to begin with, that is one of their dumber suggestions; Anaheim doesn’t have a problem with a strong mayor. Tom Tait couldn’t get anything done till he got a majority, and Ashleigh is having a hard time now. Sidhu and Pringle were only powerful because they had the right allies and council majorities, and none of these city managers coulda been fired without council majority votes.

It reminds me of Mad King George III, Britain’s king during the American Revolution. There’d already been a “Glorious Revolution” in Britain 87 years earlier, taking most powers away from the King and giving them to Parliament, but George was still able to ACT like a King in the 1770’s because he was a clever and manipulative politician with the right allies. Same with Pringle, and Ament. Not a structural problem.

TWO. Steve doesn’t even understand what JL was recommending. They were talking about somehow strengthening our charter to affirm the strong city manager system, which is not actually in doubt. They never said anything about changing to a rotating, appointed, ceremonial mayor.

THREE, FOUR, FIVE. How would this work anyway? Are we gonna have a six-member council, that’ll risk tie votes? Or are we gonna totally redistrict so that we have seven districts? And no matter what, Ashleigh was elected, pretty overwhelmingly, at large, to a four-year term, so NOBODY IS CHANGING THAT.

Steve wrapped up his modest proposal with the bold challenge, “Colleagues, are we BRAVE enough for THIS type of reform?” I call this a late-night, wacky idea. The kind you regret in the morning.


Ashleigh Strikes Back.

As I said, many of us were impressed by the Mayor’s response to all this. “What doesn’t kill her makes her stronger.” If you click below I have it cued up to that:

High points:

  • “Since the JL Report came out, my biggest fear was that we were gonna hear from this dais that we should just ‘MOVE FORWARD.’ We should just forget about it. I shouldn’t over-react. And we should just put it on a shelf and not deal with any of the problems outlined. And I want you to know that I am absolutely NOT going to do that.”
  • She re-states her resignation call a little softer – IF Steve participated in these mock meetings, he should resign.
  • Then she makes the case that it’s not enough to not do ILLEGAL things, but that we should expect our Council to be ETHICAL. Examples of NOT ETHICAL: “Having rehearsed meetings with council colleagues so that you are not listening to public comments, you are not being deliberative, you are being WOUND UP LIKE A LITTLE DOLL so that you’re well rehearsed to put on some kind of charade.” “Meeting together with the sole purpose to coordinate an attack on a council colleague (Moreno).”
  • Using personal e-mails to avoid records requests and investigations like JL and the Brown Act suit was more than unethical, it was AGAINST THE LAW.

(It’s not true when she says that Faessel’s only suggested reform is weakening the Mayor; he’d previously, repeatedly, pushed for JL’s FIRST recommendation which was the Ombudsman / Ethics Officer.)

  • “There’s a saying in Spanish: ‘Dime con quien anda, y te diré quién eres’ – Tell me who you walk with, and I’ll tell you who you are. And if you are only aligned with special interests, if you are only aligned with a corrupt Mayor, and your only suggestion to make this city a better place is to go after somebody that is advocating for reform, I think… I’m not the problem. I think YOU are.”


If Steve is reading this: Thanks for bringing BE WELL to Anaheim, thanks for opening up Sycamore School afterhours as a park, and thanks for voting for the Clean Up Anaheim Act last year. I’m not the one putting up all the “Resign Faessel” signs all over the district. We need you to be serious about reforms, and bring back the Clean Up Anaheim Act. Are you and your colleagues brave enough for THAT?

I shouldn’t write these pieces on holidays, they get less readers that way. But whatever…

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, or 714-235-VERN.