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For the same reason that a family of four does not need four washing machines or four swimming pools, each police officer in the nation does not need a body camera, an assault weapon, a motorcycle, and a police car. The White House believes otherwise. This week, President Obama proposed new initiatives, potentially costing taxpayers’ $263,000,000—including the purchase of 50,000 body cameras for police officers. The Anaheim City Council recently approved spending $1,150,000 on body cameras for its officers, despite lacking any substantive evidence of their effectiveness to achieve the Council’s stated purpose: increasing trust and transparency (White, 2014).

OFFGUN7

The given reason for needing 50,000 body cameras? To improve community relations between citizens and law enforcement. These initiatives, however, as anyone knows who has watched television or read a newspaper on any day during the past few weeks, are principally the residue of protests and riots that ignited in Ferguson, Missouri. Squandering taxpayers’ dollars on 50,000 body cameras hoping to stop such events, however, ignores the genesis of the mayhem: long-term, complex socioeconomic and cultural factors and the nation’s racial divide.

This week, David Brooks (2014) addressed class prejudice and race in a New York Times editorial: “There has been a migration away from prejudice based on genetics to prejudice based on class. . . . We once again have a sharp social divide between people who live in the ‘respectable’ meritocracy and those who live beyond it. In one world almost everybody you meet has at least been to college, and people have very little contact with features that are sometimes a part of the other world: prison, meth, payday loans, a flowering of nonmarriage family forms.” Brooks contends that Americans “need to improve our capacity for sympathetic understanding, our capacity to imaginatively place ourselves in the minds of other people with experiences different from our own.” He cites the need for a common project, suggesting a national collaboration “to improve social mobility for the poor of all races,” which he concludes will decrease classism, social distance, and racial prejudice. This recommendation will never see the light of day in Washington because our leaders believe that spending money is always the best problem solver.

How many hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent since 1960 hoping to improve student achievement in U.S. public schools? Despite the staggering amounts, as I pointed in a previous post, student test scores in reading and mathematics have remained flat for decades (National Center for Education Statistics, 2013). But just as the Anaheim City Council approved the purchase of police body cameras, not yet a validated technology, Congress will undoubtedly approve spending millions of dollars to buy 50,000 body cameras.

In the meantime, the substantive problems will remain unaddressed—including the disproportionate number of Black inmates in U.S. federal and state prisons (Bureau of Prisons, 2014). Among the 1,517,000 adult inmates during 2013, 549,100 (38%) were Black, although they constituted only 13% of the nation’s population. Body cameras and money, although visible, will remain worthless tools for preventing future disorders and addressing class prejudice, socioeconomic and cultural factors, the racial divide, and the nation’s prison population.

References

Brooks, D. (2014, December 1). Class prejudice resurgent. New York Times. Retrieved from http://nyti.ms/11LEbZW

Bureau of Prisons. (2014). Inmate race. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/pgmqqg7

National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). The nation’s report card: Trends in academic progress. Washington, DC: Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/oczx9p2

White, M. (2014). Police officer body-worn cameras: Assessing the evidence. Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/3p2jfv8

—Hugh Glenn

“Election season often brings out the ugliest in people. Negative attack ads and misrepresentations have become commonplace” (Orange County Register, 2014). No greater misrepresentations have been made toward opponents during this election than ones by Tom Tait, Anaheim’s mayor. Tait has indirectly accused two council members running for re-election, Gail Eastman and Kris Murray, of (a) betraying the public trust, asserting that each collected $500,000+ in campaign contributions from special interest groups, and (b) misrepresenting their voting for a subsidy to build a four-star hotel in Anaheim.

I use the word indirectly because the mailed campaign ad originated from California Homeowners Association (2014) in Willows, CA (500 miles north of Anaheim via I-5), an organization describing itself as “support[ing] fiscally responsible candidates for public office.” Ironically, this same special interest group, a PAC, has funneled $100,000 into the “attack Eastman & Murray–re-elect Tait campaign.”

False accusations. Eastman and Murray have not betrayed the pubic trust and each has not collected $500,000+ in campaign contributions—accusations by Tait for which no evidence has been presented.

Gross misrepresentation. It is common practice for cities to offer incentives to developers to build large hotels and sports stadiums. Cities contribute to a project because they want to collect millions of dollars from hotel taxes and sales taxes. The Los Angeles City Council awarded $500,000,000 in tax incentives for downtown economic development for 2015-2016 (Los Angeles Times, 2014). If the Anaheim Convention Center fails to increase its space, major conventions will meet elsewhere, as will conventions with increasing participants who previously met in Anaheim. Some organizations will meet elsewhere if Anaheim lacks sufficient rooms in first-rate hotels, ones that fulfill the needs of conventioneers (and more affluent families visiting the Disney Resort). These four-star hotels will be built eventually—in Anaheim or in a city nearly (e.g., Hyatt Regency in Garden Grove).

Gross misrepresentation. It is common practice for cities to offer incentives to developers to build large hotels and sports stadiums. Cities contribute to a project because they want to collect millions of dollars from hotel taxes and sales taxes.

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My morning cup of Newman’s Special Blend (extra bold) suddenly tasted bitter after reading the editorial on the front page of the Opinion section of Sunday’s Orange County Register (OCR). The meaning of biased and sometimes unwarranted criticism was clear: kudos to Tom Tait, Anaheim’s mayor; boos to Curt Pringle, the city’s former mayor. picket

The editorial began, “Election season often brings out the ugliest in people [and in editorials]. Negative attack ads and misrepresentations have become commonplace. . . . Local politics are often the nastiest of all. . . . Some of the most deceptive campaign efforts, misinformation and negativity this election cycle are coming from two of the county’s largest and most prominent cities: Anaheim and Irvine.“ To these distinguished sources of misinformation and negativity, I nominate the addition of the Orange County Register.

The OCR’s editorial board accuses Pringle of “running a shameful smear campaign against Mayor Tom Tait,” who is applauded for opposing the “alarmingly lucrative deals lobbied for by Pringle” [and his allies]. He is criticized for supporting a tax incentive to build a new hotel in Anaheim near Disneyland and the convention center.

In fact, more hotels are needed in Anaheim to accommodate the ever-increasing number of visitors and conventioneers. To fulfill the needs of larger organizations and associations, the convention center must grow to ensure that Anaheim is selected as the convention city instead of groups choosing cities with larger convention centers and enough hotel rooms to house participants. Building hotels and adding space to a convention center is part of economic growth. If Anaheim wants tax revenues and sales taxes from future conventions, it must add convention center space and build hotels.

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This week, the Orange County Register (OCR, 2014) endorsed the re-election of Tom Tait as Anaheim’s mayor, calling him the “best [candidate] to lead the city.” Examining the rationale presented in its endorsement, however, I found little to justify the paper’s support.

The OCR cited Tait’s quelling anger and potential violence following riots during 2012 and supporting citizens’ oversight of the city’s police department.

t8The paper applauded Tait’s “dissenting voice,” a council member who consistently votes no “on numerous issues.” It cited Tait as the only council member to oppose a tax incentive to build a hotel near Disneyland and the city’s convention center.

Voting to approve a tax incentive to developers is not unusual, so voting no is not necessarily a virtue. The Los Angeles City Council awarded $500,000,000 in tax incentives for downtown economic development for 2015-2016 (Los Angeles Times, 2014).

Whether to offer a tax incentive depends on several factors; for example, (a) the need for a hotel that satisfies current convention needs and its potential to attract larger future conventions, (b) the return on investment that taxpayers would receive by building a hotel, and, most important, (c) whether not offering an incentive means not building a hotel and losing tax revenues. Tait’s vote seems like a no vote without consideration of positive aspects of providing a tax incentive.

Yes, Tait talks about transparency (endlessly), but the OCR did not cite any evidence of increased governmental transparency in Anaheim since he has been mayor. Transparency was confused with Tait’s rigidity and public comments that torpedoed the city’s negotiations with the Angels. And there is a difference between publicly discussing unfunded pension liabilities and solving this problem.

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Measure L amends the Anaheim City Charter to require the City Council to establish voter districts. A candidate seeking a seat on the city council must live within a given district, and only voters residing within that district may vote for that candidate.

L PICCurrently, members of the City Council may live anywhere in Anaheim, and voters may vote for any candidate. What is the need to change the current process: to establish voter districts and to limit an individual’s vote to one candidate?

The “impartial analysis” of Measure L by the Anaheim City Attorney is, indeed, impartial (Houston, 2014). He explains the differences between voting for council members “at large” from voting for a single candidate. Absolutely nothing in his analysis provides any need or basis for changing the current election process. The entire text of proposed amendments to Anaheim’s City Charter can be read online (City of Anaheim, 2014).

The argument supporting Measure L by Mayor Tait and Council Member Brandman (2014) consists of banality (e.g., Anaheim is a great place to live; Council members will become more effective) and nonsense (e.g., Anaheim will become less wonderful [if Measure L fails]). But again, nothing in their non-argument establishes any need to change the current process for electing city officials.

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CHA Hit paid by Tait Family TrustAnaheim Insider here.

If you could spend $49,750 on anything in your community, what would you spend it on? Just to make it a little easier, here are a few options of what that kind of money buys you in Anaheim:

A. Annual tuition for 199 low income kids to attend the Anaheim Boys and Girls Clubs after school programs.

B. One week of tuition for 239 toddlers to attend preschool at the Anaheim YMCA.

C. Underwrite 497 Anaheim kids living in violent families to attend Youth Violence Prevention Programs at the Orange County Family Justice Center.

D. Pay for 829 Anaheim at-risk youth to attend the 24-week Cops 4 Kids Junior Cadet Program.

E. Fund a malicious mail campaign against your (conservative Republican) council colleagues.

It appears Mayor Tom Tait, who has spent his entire first term of office espousing a platform of “kindness,” prefers option E. 

As this FPPC filing shows, the Tait Family Trust is funding $49,750 in campaign attack mail aimed at Mayor Pro Tem Kris Murray and Councilwoman Gail Eastman, his two Republican colleagues. And the hits are just getting started with a hit piece dredging up their votes on GardenWalk from nearly two years ago.

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How important to Mayor Tait is re-signing the Anaheim Angels for 20+ years? For members of the Anaheim City Council and the Angels, negotiations to achieve a new lease agreement have not been a surprise. Let’s review Tait’s substantive comments about the lease in his State of the City addresses since 2011.

January 2011: Zilch.

ttJanuary 2012: The Angels signed two new players–Albert Pujols and pitcher C. J. Wilson. I know I’m not the only one in the room who is excited for spring training.

February 2013: I’d like to join Angels Baseball in welcoming Josh Hamilton to Anaheim. . . . He joins a stellar line up, including the American League Rookie of the Year, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols.

January 2014: Even though we didn’t make the playoffs, the team drew more than 3 million fans and provided plenty of excitement. One highlight . . . was Mike Trout hitting for the cycle.

No doubt about it: Mayor Tait’s highest priority has been effecting a new lease agreement between the city and the Angels—and the reason he pitches this topic during each annual State of the City speech.

—Hugh Glenn

 

The loss of individual privacy worldwide is a residue of technology. Almost nothing can be kept secret anymore—even information never intended for others to see or read. Because we leave digital footprints each time we use a computer or talk on a cell phone, our writings and speech are monitored, collected, and analyzed by the ubiquitous National Security Agency. Moreover, the data and information collected can be stored forever.

COP

Many Anaheim residents and visitors will soon contribute involuntarily to the city’s data archives: video recordings, collected by cameras worn by Anaheim police officers, their purchase and use recently approved by the Anaheim City Council. In previous postings, I questioned the need for cops with Kodaks and the validity of the Council’s rationale for its vote. The cameras purchased are expensive ($1,150,000), and no substantive evidence has yet been presented to support the effectiveness of this technology for the Council’s stated purposes: “Little is known about citizen attitudes toward body-worn cameras, most notably whether the technology increases trust, legitimacy, and transparency of the police” (White, 2014, p. 35). The cost and misunderstandings about the effectiveness of video recordings notwithstanding, privacy is the public’s biggest concern about their use.

Read the rest of this entry »

As jubilant Angel players prepare for the playoffs and a hoped for appearance in the 2014 World Series, team owner, Arte Moreno, nixed further negotiations with the Anaheim City Council that would keep the team in Anaheim. Particularly now, fans do not welcome considering the possibility of losing the team to Tustin or any other city.

The yearlong impasse between the Council and Moreno has been detrimental to both parties. Moreno doesn’t need three more years to decide whether to stay or move his mega-moneymaker and the city’s mega tax generator. Regrettably, both sides neglect consideration of inveterate fans and their passionate investment in the Angels. Conspicuously absent is love of the game, so poignantly evidenced this week in every ballpark within which Derek Jeter appeared.

Moreno recently expressed a feigned caring for Angel fans to a Los Angeles Times’ reporter: “I’m very emotionally tied to the fans and the players.” In fact, Moreno cares much more about how much money the team will balloon his wallet: “I learned a long time ago there is no sentiment in it. . . . At the end of the day, it is business.” The Council, particularly Mayor Tait, shares Moreno’s penchant for money, wanting a bigger cut for the city of the revenue generated by the Angels and the future development of land juxtaposed to Angel Stadium.

Are Council members ready, particularly Tait, to permit Moreno to walk off, a losing decision for Anaheim? Local taxpayers would foot the bill to raze an outdated stadium—and a city treasury would never see millions of dollars in new tax revenue. The question to answer is whether the Anaheim City Council will give Moreno the contract he wants so he stays or continues the stalemate too long—and Moreno takes his ball and glove to get richer somewhere else. What would happen if Tait and others were to remain steadfast for a bigger piece of the Angel financial pie than Moreno is willing to serve?

A study by CSL (2012) quantified the financial benefits to Anaheim resulting directly from Angels baseball. The failure to extend the team’s contract through 2036 assures the loss to the city of $3,000,000 in net new cumulative spending. And approximately 2,500 full-time jobs would end along with $4,700,000 annually in cumulative taxes and other direct revenues. Moreover, 88% of persons who buy Angel tickets do not live in Anaheim (CSL, 2012, p. 4).

There is enough pie to divide between Moreno and Anaheim so that he and the city feel financially sated. If time runs out, Anaheim is the big and permanent loser.

Source:

Conventions, Sports & Leisure International (CSL). (2012). Economic Impact          Study of Angels Baseball. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/pe8nfqb

 —Hugh Glenn

Robert A. Naslund was a brilliant scholar and professor I respected highly during my years as a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California. An expert in curriculum and assessment, he expressed concern that persons with a vested interest in the outcome of teaching should never Naslundassess or evaluate instruction: “Teachers should never administer school achievement tests because they have a vested interest in the instructional outcome.” Since then, school testing has become known as high-stakes testing, teachers often dismissed because students record substandard scores on standardized and state tests, and fraudulent student test scores have too-often been discovered, major cheating scandals occurring in public schools in Atlanta, GA; El Paso, TX; and Washington, DC.

It is the violation of Naslund’s assessment principle that troubles me about the $1,100,000+ that the Anaheim City Council agreed to pay TASER for body-worn video cameras for Anaheim police officers. What result is expected if Abbott Laboratories, manufacturer of Vicodin, our nation’s most popular medication, were to conduct the research to establish its efficacy? Yet it is TASER (the same company that developed the electroshock gun during the 1960s) that has a vested financial interest by assessing the effectiveness of its body-worn video cameras. TASER sales are brisk and very lucrative these days: According to the Washington Post, sales during the past quarter exceeded $11,000,000—four times the sales TASER recorded during 2013. Anaheim subsequently contributed its $1+ million, and New York City is currently considering a proposal to equip its officers with cameras and increase TASER sales $32,000,000.

Whether cops should wear Kodaks is not the focus of this message. It is the untenable practice by city councils to spend millions of dollars to purchase a technology for which no substantive evidence exists for its effectiveness or for the stated purposes for which councils have purportedly bought it. Valid studies of body-worn video cameras have noted TASER’s role as the principal or collaborating researcher—and the absence of evaluation by independent investigators in the results.

In a study for the U.S. Air Force regarding making more informed decisions when buying new technologies, researchers concluded: “Various risks of committing to unvalidated technologies are much greater than any overall gain claimed for system performance.” Conducting a well-conceived pilot study of body-worn video cameras by police officers in Anaheim would have been a much smarter and far less costly option instead of immediately purchasing an untested, unvalidated technology. In this case, the Anaheim City Council trusted the fox.

Principal U.S. Studies of Police-Worn Video Cameras:

  1. La Vigne, N., Lowry, S., Markman, J., & Dwyer, A. (2013). Evaluating the use of public surveillance cameras for crime control and prevention. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/3p2jfv8
  2. Miller, L., Toliver,, & Police Executive Research Forum (2014). Implementing a body-worn camera program: recommendations and lessons learned. Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/lxdg7ej
  3. Police Foundation. (2013). Self-awareness to being watched and socially-desirable behavior: A field experiment on the effect of body-worn cameras on police use-of-force. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/mb3of5a
  4. White, M. (2014). Police officer body-worn cameras: Assessing the evidence. Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/q87pdtu

In my blog of September 21, I explained why the upcoming use of video cameras by Anaheim police officers will not provide transparency. State laws and court decisions will prevent public disclosure of the video evidence police collect. I also noted several reasons for spending $1,100,000 cited by members of the city council to purchase these cameras: accountability, trust, alleviating uncertainty, and decreasing complaints. Contrary to Mayor Tait’s mantra, “little is known about citizen attitudes toward body-worn cameras, most notably whether the technology increases trust, legitimacy, and transparency of the police” (1).

As a writer, editor, and researcher, I am struck by the absence of evidence to support the purchase of body-worn video cameras—about which so little research has been completed. “Scant research exists documenting the decisions made to invest in public surveillance technology” (2). And the evidence for using body-worn video cameras is scanter. Read the rest of this entry »

During the meeting of the Anaheim City Council last week, Mayor Tait commented on its approval to spend $1,100,000 for cameras to videotape police activities, a technology whose effectiveness has not yet been firmly established. Tait referred to “developing transparency, accountability, and trust throughout the community.” I was reminded of words spoken by another governmental official.

“[I am] committed COPto creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government . . . to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.” To date, these predictions by President Obama as he began his first term remain spurious.

Reaction to the unanimous vote of council members was immediate: “Fabulous. We’re going to be even more effective. . . Anaheim at its best, at the forefront of new technology . . . One more step in alleviating uncertainty, and developing transparency, accountability, and trust throughout the community.” The hope for more transparency and the commitment to it, however, will soon disappoint. Cops with Kodaks cannot nullify California state laws and court decisions limiting—and sometimes prohibiting—public disclosure of a wide scope of information.

Read the rest of this entry »

single-member districts unicorn 3

Just close your eyes and listen to the Magical Single-Member Council Districts Unicorn!

This November, Anaheim voters will decide on two initiatives: whether to replace the current at-large council election system with the single-member district (or “by-district”)system being pushed by a left-wing coalition; and whether to expand the city council from four to six members.

Ballot arguments for and against the by-district initiative were filed on Monday. The pro argument is signed by Mayor Tom Tait and Councilman Jordan Brandman. I’ll comment in greater depth soon, but a couple of things jump out.

For months and months, the advocacy of single-member district by proponents has been racially-based: a relentless focus on the ethnicity of current and  former councilmembers and claims that at-large elections “disenfranchise” Latino voters. Indeed, that was the entire basis of the Jose Moreno/ACLU lawsuit that put this initiative on the ballot.

However, except for a very oblique reference to “reflecting our neighborhoods,” the ethno-racial appeals are entirely absent from the pro-single-member districts argument – no doubt reflecting a cynical awareness by the pro-districts coalition that for voters who haven’t majored in Chicano studies, calls to gerrymander city council elections to produce a pre-determined ethnic composition holds little appeal. 

Instead, the pro-argument promises that all things bright and beautiful will happen to Anaheim voters if they adopt single-member districts: cleaner streets, filled potholes, trimmed trees, whiter teeth, happier marriages and an answer to the question of whether intelligent life exists on other planets. OK – not the last three things, but that’s probably because it would have put them over the 300-word limit.

In any case, here is the Argument in Favor, followed by the common sense truth of the argument against.

Read the rest of this entry »

F the policeThroughout the controversies surrounding William Fitzgerald’s various rants, we have heard over and over that nothing can be done, and anyone is free to say absolutely anything they want during public comments.

A few minutes ago, we found out just how true that is. A gentleman named Damian Ramirez came to the microphone in the wake of one of gadfly James Robert Reade’s diatribe about gang members and their attitudes toward the Robert “Lil Clumsy” Moreno, Jr. in particular and law and order in general. I didn’t catch his name, but he’s was there to speak against the Anaheim Police Department, specifically about the fatal shooting of Martin “Angel” Hernandez.

Following a lengthy exposition by Mayor Tait that speakers are free to say anything they want, regardless of how profane, Mr. Ramirez took him at his word by yelling “F–k the police!!” and launching into an anti-police rant that left virtually no obscenity unsaid – to the cheers of quite a few people in the crowd.

Now that Mr. Ramirez has broken the F-word barrier, to the huzzahs of the crowd, there’s really nothing left of structure of civility in the Anaheim council chambers. What resident in their right mind, after watching that episode, will want to come and voice thoughts that run contrary to the collective opinion of the mob? Welcome to Anaheim, the City of Kindness.

 

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The Magic Single-Member District Unicorn will believe anything.

The Magic Single-Member District Unicorn will believe anything.

The drive for single-member council districts in Anaheim is fueled by racial/ethnic politics. The ACLU and Jose Moreno based their lawsuit against the city on the California Voting Rights Act, a radical 2002 law that seeks to make representation in local government by race and ethnicity an end itself. The refrain at single-member districts rallies is for an Anaheim City Council that “looks like” the residents, i.e. reflects their pigmentation more than their politics.

There is a small contingent of Republicans acting as skirmishers for the left-wing coalition pushing single-member districts who are uncomfortable with the racial politics of their fellow coalition members. They to argue that the expense of a traditional direct-mail campaign in a city as populous as Anaheim favors candidates supported by “special interests” )i.e., candidates who know how to raise money), and switching to single-member council districts will negate their funding advantage over candidates waging grass-roots, precinct-walking campaigns.

It’s an appealing argument because there is some truth it. Candidates with less money but lots of shoe leather have a greater chance of winning in a single-member district because they can make face-to-face contact with a higher percentage of voters in the time-frame of a campaign than if they were campaigning city-wide.

However, it is true more in abstract than in reality.

Read the rest of this entry »

There were two letters to the editor in the February 2 Orange County Register opposing single-member council districts, written in response to Martin Wisckol’s article on the subject, and I think they are worth sharing because I suspect they are much more indicative of the average voter’s opinion than the proponents purporting to speak “for the people.”

The first is from a Robert Schaefer of Anaheim:

I, for one, was disturbed by the piece detailing the emergence of ethnic voting in Anaheim [“Threat of legal action prompts election changes,” Jan. 26].

As a citizen and resident of Anaheim, I simply do not care if there are no Latinos serving on the City Council. Of course, neither would I care if all of the City Council Members were Latino.

What I do care about is electing the most qualified individuals on the ballot with the hope that they will govern our city in a manner that treats everyone equally and that they do so in a fiscally responsible way. Good governance should be our collective and only goal.

Read the rest of this entry »

On Tuesday night, the Anaheim City Council took up the Charter Review Committee’s recommendations, which staff had packaged into four proposed charter amendments for the June ballot. Anaheim voters will have the opportunity to say yes or no to changing the mayoral term from four to two years; legalizing safe and sane fireworks; and enacting a bucket of government efficiency reforms. The council unanimously rejected placing the repeal of term limits on the ballot.

july 4 fireworks patrioticLegalizing Safe and Sane Fireworks
Measure 4 would repeal the city charter’s ban on the sale and use of safe and sane fireworks, which 59% of voters approved in 1986, and the council was unanimous in its support not only for putting the measure before the voters but in hoping they would approve it.

“This is something, I think, that the people want. It’s a good thing. It brings people together on the Fourth of July, it brings neighborhoods together, and it something I wholeheartedly support,” said Mayor Tait. Well put.

As someone who strongly believes we ought to be able to celebrate our freedom and independence with safe and sane fireworks, this is a great development and continues a trend toward reversing the tsunami of fireworks bans that swept Orange County cities in the late 1980s. Fullerton voters legalized fireworks in 2012, and Westminster and Villa Park have also reversed their bans in the last few years.

Two-Year Mayoral Term
The Charter Review Committee recommended this change by a vote of 5-2, with Tom Tait and Lucille Kring’s appointees voting in opposition – and that is how their appointors voted on Tuesday night as the council voted 3-2 to place Measure 2 on the June ballot.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jose F. Moreno

Jose F. Moreno

UPDATED: After consulting an expert legal mind about the nuanced language of the staff report, the settlement agreement’;s restrictions on single-member district ballot arguments isn’t as draconian as I initially concluded. I’ve revised the post accordingly.

Apparently, the commitment of single-member council districts to “authentic representation” doesn’t extend to free and unfettered debate with opponents.

Item 18 on tomorrow night’s Anaheim City Council agenda deals with placing on the November ballot the proposed charter amendments to re-structure the city council. One of those is the single-member council districts charter amendment, being put on the November ballot pursuant to the settlement agreement with the ACLU and plaintiffs Jose Moreno et al. Interestingly, the ACLU and the plaintiffs included some very political demands designed to tilt the campaign playing field in their direction.

According to the staff report:

As one of the actions being taken tonight, the Council should identify two or more members of the City Council to write the arguments. Agreement provides that the selected members must be those that “support a change in the City’s electoral system to ‘by-district’ elections.” This resolution prohibits Council members from using their City titles for identification as an author in the signature block of any written argument or rebuttal argument except for those Council members authorized by this resolution to write the argument in favor of the single member district Charter amendment measure. [emphasis in the original]

And indeed, the settlement agreement stipulates just that (page 2, second paragraph):

Neither the City Council , nor any of its members, shall file a ballot Argument against the [by-district] Charter Amendment measure pursuant to Elections Code 9282(b).

In other words, only councilmembers allowed to sign ballot arguments on this issue – in an official capacity, using their titles — are Mayor Tom Tait and Councilman Jordan Brandman – sort of a ballot argument-version of gerrymandering.

For folks who tirelessly portray themselves as speaking for “the people,” it’s very revealing that proponents have so little confidence in the appeal of single-member council districts to Anaheim voters that they proactively sought to exclude Mayor Pro Tem Kris Murray and Councilmembers Gail Eastman and Lucille Kring from signing ballot arguments against by-district elections.

As part of the settlement between the city and the ACLU the left-leaning group’s lawsuit seeking single-member districts for Anaheim City Council elections, the city has to pay the ACLU’s legal costs, which are reportedly to be $1 million. Single-member council district proponents are now trying to shift blame to the councilmembers who oppose single-member districts — which utter nonsense. From today’s OCRegister.com:

Mayor Tom Tait said that the cost of fighting the lengthy lawsuit could have been avoided if the City Council in August 2012 had approved his call for similar ballot measure. 

First of all, it was Jose Moreno, Amin David, Consuelo Garcia and the ACLU who sued the City of Anaheim, not the other way around. They initiated the litigation. They forced the legal fight. The legal costs incurred by both sides are the result of a deliberate, freely-made action by the plaintiffs and the ACLU.

Furthermore — and this is the crucial truth that the media has missed and single-member district proponents are glossing over — the litigation continued for as long as it did because the plaintiffs and the ACLU had no interest in putting single-member council districts on the ballot. This is from a September 4, 2012 letter — nearly a month after Mayor Tait’s failed attempt to put single-member district on the ballot —  from the plaintiffs’ attorneys to the city’s attorneys:

We told you that Plaintiffs would not postpone litigation on the possibility that the City might put a measure to the voters in November 2012, and that the City should instead consider a negotiated resolution to a court action, which would allow the election system to be changed without subjecting the question to a vote of the entire electorate, which is equivalent to an at-large election in its discriminatory effect on Latinos.

And from the same letter:

Still, the City took no positive action toward unconditionally changing the election system. It put on the agenda for the next scheduled Council meeting, on July 24, 2012, a resolution to submit the matter to voters at the November 2012 election — precisely the type of “referendum” that we told you repeatedly the Plaintiffs would not accept as the basis for settling or delaying the lawsuit.

And more:

Moreover, the schedule established by Resolution No. 2012-090 and incorporated in the City’s request for a nearly one-year stay of litigation would provide the City the absolute ability to avoid the risk that the Court could compel the City to change its election system before the 2014 elections.

And:

As we have discussed with you on numerous occasions in informal communications, Plaintiffs will not accept such a ballot measure as a basis for resolution or even delay of the lawsuit.

The mayor’s claim is directly contradicted by the plaintiffs’ attorney. The plaintiffs and the ACLU had no interest in putting single-member districts on the ballot – they wanted the court to impose them directly on the people of Anaheim without their consent. According to the plaintiffs’ attorney, even if the council had supported Mayor Tait’s proposal, it would not have stopped the clock on the litigation. it would still have gone forward and the legal costs would have continued to mount, because the plaintiffs were not interested in going to the ballot — which they viewed putting the matter on the ballot to be discriminatory against Latinos.

Given that they had opposed placing single-member council districts on the ballot as having a “discriminatory effect on Latinos,” it is strange that the plaintiffs are today celebrating the same thing as a “victory” for Latinos.

If the plaintiffs had been amenable to putting single-member council districts to the voters, this settlement would more than likely been reached long ago, and Anaheim taxpayers would have saved a great deal of money. The fault lies with the plaintiffs’ stubborn insistence on bypassing the voters in favor of the imposition of single-member districts by judicial fiat.

The Anaheim City Council has voted to approve a compromise settlement with the ACLU on a lawsuit brought by local school board member and liberal activist Jose F. Moreno and two others. After listening to City Attorney Michael Houston recite the terms of the agreement, my initial impression is both sides came away with something.

Here are the terms as best I could catch them during Houston’s report:

  • The case is dismissed with prejudice (meaning the ACLU can’t re-file it down the line) and the city is fully released from the plaintiffs claims.
  • The settlement is not an admission that the city of any violation of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) nor that the CVRA is applicable to Anaheim’s election system.
  • By February 7, the City Council will:
    • Place a single-member council districts charter amendment on the November 2014 ballot for approval or rejection by the voters. If approved, the 2016 council elections will be conducted on that basis.
    • Move the proposed charter amendment to expand the city council to six members from the June to November 2014 ballot, and repeal the June ballot measure to incorporate residency-based districts into the City Charter.
    • Suspend the residency-based districts the council voted last year to create, and eliminate the council district mapping process currently under way. These will only be re-instated if voters reject single-member districts.
  • If the voters approve single-member council districts in November, the council will create a committee of three retired judges who are Anaheim residents to advice the council on creating the districts. if three such judges cannot be found to serve, the council will appoint a 9-member citizens advisory committee that is broadly representative of the city.

One upshot of the settlement is that this November’s council election will be conducted just as they always have, on an at-large basis.

Following Houston’s report, councilmembers had a chance to ask questions and make comments. Mayor Pro Tem Kris Murray posed a series of illuminating questions to Houston, whose answers made several things clear:

The ACLU and the plaintiffs attitude throughout the litigation was that they neither desired nor thought it necessary to ask Anaheim voters if they even wanted single-member council districts. Their interest was in having the court impose them on the city.

If the council had placed single-member council districts on the November 2012 ballot – as Mayor Tom Tait and a platoon of leftists demanded in August of that year — the ACLU and Jose Moreno would have continued to sue the city, and the city would still have had to spend money defending itself. After all, what ACLU and the plaintiffs sought was imposition of single-member districts by judicial fiat – not the opportunity for Anaheim citizens to have a say in the structure of their government.

Behold, your progressive tribunes of the people in in action!

Mayor Tait asked City Attorney Houston if the plaintiffs would have filed their lawsuit demanding single-member council districts if the city council were already elected from single-member districts. Houston responded, unsurprisingly, that he didn’t believe they would have.

So, while switching to single-member council districts is a very real future possibility, the plaintiffs wound up agreeing to something they had tried to avoid – involving the voters of Anaheim in the matter.

UPDATED: the city has posted the settlement agreement itself, as well as an FAQ and press release.

UPDATED: Mayor Pro Tem Kris Murray released this statement:

Today’s settlement allows Anaheim to move forward and preserves our residents’ rights to democratic decision-making.

This settlement protects the taxpayers from further expense from a lengthy trial and leaves our citizens in charge of their own elections.

I’m so proud of the work of our residents in debating this issue over the past year and especially the members of our Citizens Advisory Committee, which I proposed to create an open forum on this critical issue for Anaheim.

I also thank Anaheim’s mayor and my fellow city council members for their unanimous support of this victory for Anaheim residents.

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