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The Voice of OC published a story yesterday on an “Anaheim Youth Civic Summit” being held today and tomorrow, and sponsored by the Orange County Congregation Community Organization:

 The two-day training at Anaheim High School “seeks to educate youth with an introduction to civics and how the government works…and provide opportunities for youth to become civically engaged in Anaheim through experiential learning,” according to organizers with the Orange County Congregation Community Organization.

 Scheduled speakers include Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, Anaheim Union High School District Superintendent Mike Matsuda, Los Amigos of Orange County President Jose Moreno, Orange County Congregation Community Organization or OCCCO Executive Director Miguel Hernandez and Ryan Ruelas, founder of the student leadership group BROS.

In other words, Anaheim high school students get to spend two days being “educated” in politics by the liberal political activist superintendent of the AUHSD, the left-wing head of Los Amigos and a school board candidate and teachers union activist who is also a member of the State Council of the CTA – one of the most powerful special interest groups in the state – and the incumbent Republican mayor who is running for re-election and working with a left-wing coalition to pass a by-district council elections measure on the November ballot.
According to the OCCCO website:
The Anaheim Civic Youth Curriculum builds off the past success and covers five general areas:
1. Active Citizenship
2. Civics 101
3. Transformative Leadership
4. Knowing the Issue 
5. Taking Action
With generous support from the ACT (Accelerating Change Together) Grant the curriculum is being developed to increase civic engagement and participation among Anaheim’s most at-risk youth. Grounded in the Anaheim Civic Youth Baseline Survey, the curriculum seeks to educate youth with an introduction to civics and how the government works, it also seeks to influence current attitudes towards voting and participation and provide opportunities for youth to become civically engaged in Anaheim through experiential learning. [Emphasis added]
Maybe I’m jaundiced from years of watching how politics is conducted in our public schools, but events like this set of alarm bells for me.  OCCCO is a good-hearted, faith-based organization, but it’s politics are definitely left-of-center, as are those of almost all the speakers. This event sounds more like a two-day campaign volunteer recruiting seminar – especially for the by-district elections campaign. Moreno, Tait, Ruelas and OCCCO all actively support the passage of the by-district council elections initiative. Ryan Ruelas’ BROS youth group, for example, has been a presence of pro-council district rallies.
Even the “Anaheim Civic Youth Baseline Survey” that informs this summit tips the events politico-ideological hand:
Anaheim youth survey question
anaheim youth summit district elections questions
Funny how the issue of by-district elections keeps cropping up?
Encouraging our youth to be civically engaged is a good thing; a representative self-government depends upon an informed and engaged electorate understands the nature of representative government and the principles upon which the American Republic was founded. There is little of that in the “Anaheim Civic Youth Baseline Survey.”
However, engaging our youth in politics ought to be the job of political parties and other civic institutions, and ought to be kept clear of our K-12 public schools. The AUHSD certainly should be host of and participant in an ideologically-slanted event with all the markers of being thinly-veiled rally to recruit volunteers for the by-district elections campaign.
Following: photos from the March 22, 2014 rally in support of the by-district elections campaign, organized by OCCCO and OCCORD:

Anaheim BROS, a youth group organized and moderated by Ryan Ruelas, AUHSDteacher, union activist and school board candidate.

Jose Moreno exhorting the faithful at OCCCO pro-districts campaign rally.

Jose Moreno exhorting the faithful at OCCCO pro-districts campaign rally.

Mishal Montgomery, aide to mayor Tom Tait, speaks at OCCCO pro-district rally.

Mishal Montgomery, aide to mayor Tom Tait, speaks at OCCCO pro-district rally.


Interested in the kind of governance progressives have in mind for Anaheim? Watch Santa Ana under the Sunshine Ordinance regime.

Last night, the Santa Ana City Council approved a 5-year strategic plan required by the so-called “sunshine” ordinance adopted in 2012.  Both were largely the products of lobbying by SACReD (the Santa Ana Collaborative for Responsible Development). SACReD is Santa Ana’s equivalent of the coalition of left-wing interests in Anaheim that pushes for policies like single-member council districts and retention ordinances; in fact, it includes some of the same players, like OCCORD.

Much of the strategic plan is what you would expect to see in such a document produced in any city, and replete with jargon, buzz words and catch phrases. Other parts reflect the political priorities of the progressive interests that lobbied for it under the SACReD umbrella.

This is progressive governance – as distinct from traditional representative government — in action. With the latter, candidates present their political beliefs and governing priorities to the voters, who respond by either voting for or against them. The judgment of the citizenry, rendered at the ballot box, then sets the direction of government via the electorate’s selection of who will captain the ship of state – subject to amendment or reversal in future, regular elections.

Progressive governance differs because it views government not as a mechanism, but as a living organism that should embody the passions, priorities and needs of the people at any moment not only reflects, but incorporates the people. There’s no real distinction between “the people” and the government. Since progressive see themselves as representing the legitimate aspirations of the people, then it is their political priorities constitute the legitimate objectives of government.

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jose moreno for thee not meOn October 15, the City of Anaheim filed a motion with the OC Superior Court to continuing the hearing on its various motions regarding the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) lawsuit plaintiff Jose Moreno, which seeks to force the city to adopt a single-member district system of electing the city council. Moreno and his co-plaintiffs are being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and claim the current at-large system hasn’t produced enough Latino council members and must therefore be cast aside in favor of a method they claim will do the job of electing more councilmembers of the preferred ethnicity.

Judge Franz Miller moved the hearing to November 5.

As readers know, Moreno is an elected member of the governing board of the Anaheim City School District’s Board of Education – which, like the Anaheim City Council, is elected at-large. The population of the ACSD is significantly more Latino than the City of Anaheim’s, and Latinos are elected to the ACSD Board of Education at about the same rate as to the Anaheim City Council.

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A belief that genuine representation in government is a function of ethnicity and race underlies the campaign to divide Anaheim into single-member council districts. This is obvious to anyone who has observed this issue unfold over the last year.

It is equally obvious that those leading this campaign are aware that the great majority of voters don’t like race-based policy-making and are offended by the idea of their government seeing them as white, black, Latino or Asian or whatever (not to mention these racial and ethnic classifications are increasingly meaningless in a state like California with its high rates of ethnic and racial intermarriage). That’s why you see and hear them slipping back and forth between saying the demand for single-member districts is about electing more Latinos and saying that Latinos doesn’t need to be represented by Latinos in order to be represented. This continuous shifting is politically savvy and intellectually dishonest.

Here’s an example from the June 11, 2013 Anaheim City Council meeting. Dr. Jose F. Moreno is the highly race-conscious lead plaintiff in the ACLU lawsuit seeking to force single-member districts on Anaheim residents who have never asked for it. Watch as Moreno, in the space of mere seconds, takes intellectually contradictory positions on race and representation:

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At the May 28 meeting, Mayor Tait asked staff to come back with resolutions putting the recommendations of the Anaheim Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to a vote of the people. The left-wing coalition pushing for eight single-member council districts have been calling for the same thing.

The draft resolutions on the June 11 City Council agenda do not reflect the recommendations of the CAC. The CAC’s final report called for placing “the question of a potential change in the city election system, particularly the question of district or at-large council member elections to a vote of the citizens of Anaheim.”

Remember that this recommendation was unanimously endorsed by the Citizens Advisory Committee members — including the appointees of Mayor Tom Tait and former Councilmember Lorri Galloway.

It is vital to also remember that five of the 10 members of the Citizens Advisory Committee members opposed single-member council districts — and one of the five who initially voted for single-member districts later tried, unsuccessfully, to switch his support to at-large council districts.

In other words, only a minority of the CAC is committed to single-member council districts, while a majority of the CAC wants to continue electing councilmembers at-large?

So why is it that none of the draft ballot questions give Anaheim voters the option — as explicitly called for by the CAC — of choosing to continue electing councilmembers on an at-large basis?

Why are Anaheim voters being denied the opportunity to vote on keeping the at-large system? If the mantra of “let the people decide how they are governed” is truly the mantra of the single-member council district advocates, surely they will not object to giving the people the option to decide they want to continue being

Those who have been advocating for single-member council districts have attempted to arrogate to themselves the moral high-ground of “letting the people vote.” If that truly is their guiding principle, then surely they can have no objection to amending Resolution 1 so it is faithful to the explicit recommendation of the Citizens Advisory Committee?

Opposition to doing so will give lie to all the professions of allowing the people to have their say.

Rioters of the World, Unite!

Rioters of the World, Unite!

The weekend incident between Donna Castro and the Anaheim police is a vivid illustration at how differently political progressives view the issue of crime.

This screed by Vern Nelson on Orange Juice Blog is a good example. Every death from an officer-involved shooting is termed a “murder.” The criminality of those shot by the Anaheim police is glossed over. Nelson paints a Manichean picture of trigger-happy rogue cops recklessly blasting away at young Latino males who are minding their own business.

Nelson also lauds the rowdy crowd that quickly gathered around the scene where Anaheim police officer Kelly Phillips ticketed Castro for impeding traffic – although he fails to mention the mob taunted the police and angrily pelted them with bottles and eggs.

Members of the mob took videos and uploaded them to Ustream – a tactic Nelson salutes and encourages. You don’t see much of the police, but you do get an earful of obscenity-laden threats and hectoring of the police. [It’s interesting how the witnesses who claim to see all manner of Anaheim police misbehavior never have any pictures or video to back up their claims, despite the ubiquity of camera phones.]

What’s instructive is this behavior strikes Vern Nelson and other progressives as a good and worthy. Progressives tend to be romantics, inclined to see behavior like that in the videos — or last summer’s “unrest” — as more akin to the Parisian workers manning the Commune barricades than what it is: an unruly mob trying to provoke the police.

A riot isn’t a riot – it’s “civil unrest.” When the woman on the video screams, “Keep Kelly Phillips off of our street! This is what you’ll have to deal with every time. We’re all going to come out here, and we’re all going to protest your asses,” the progressive ear hears the thrilling opening chords of an uprising against The Man. It’s exciting.

The average Anaheim resident on the other hand, viewing civic life through the lens of ordered liberty and placing due value on tranquility and lawfulness, is more likely to react very differently to scenes like that in the Ustream video. This is precisely the kind of disorderly conduct and incipient lawlessness they don’t want in their neighborhoods, let alone in their city.

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Last night’s ESCRI community forum on last summer’s riots — excuse me, “civil unrest” – underscores why Los Amigos’ idea for the City of Anaheim to sponsor a series of community forums on the city manager selection is a bad one.

These are made-for-media forums. It’s a simple formula: reserve a hall, pick an incendiary topic sure to grab the media’s attention, mobilize your supporters to show, keep them on message and bingo!: media outlets publish stories carrying your groups message to the wider population. See the coverage by the OC Register and the Voice of OC.

Los Amigos’ proposal is ingenious in that Anaheim taxpayers would underwriting Anaheim city staffers to organize and publicize of a whole series of made-for-media forums to which Los Amigos (and allied groups) could mobilize their members and supporters to recite the selected messages.

Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray

Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray

Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray has been a voice of reason and sanity on the issue of single-member council districts — which, it should be noted, would limit the representation currently enjoyed by Anaheim voters.

As it stands, every Anaheim voter gets to vote for their Mayor and for all four Councilmembers. Switching to single-member districts would limit each voter to a vote for only the mayor and the one council member elected to serve their geographic area.

Here’s Kris Murray’s op-ed that ran in yesterday’s OC Register:

Anaheim Elections: Residents, Not Special Interests, Will Determine Anaheim’s Governance

Whether you believe Anaheim should be broken into single-member council districts or that residents have the right to elect their entire City Council, the process of determining such a change matters. Both the ACLU and Mayor Tom Tait pushed for swift action to place a ballot initiative in front of Anaheim voters before the community had any opportunity to play a part in the process. As it turns out, if the council had approved the ballot initiative proposed by Mayor Tait last year to divide Anaheim into single-member districts, it would have been a violation of state law.

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Dr. Jose F. Moreno

Dr. Jose F. Moreno

Los Amigos of Orange County has proposed another bad idea: a series of “community forums” for selecting Anaheim’s next city manager.

Here’s the e-mail sent to the Anaheim City Council on Monday by Los Amigos President Jose F. Moreno:

Good Monday Morning Mayor Tait and Councilmembers:

This past week, in their search for a new City Manager, the Santa Ana City Council announced various community forums they are hosting as an opportunity for residents, community organizations and stakeholders to provide input in the characteristics that their city needs in a new City Manager.

We thought the idea of open and inclusive community forums a grand idea for our great City of Anaheim as we begin the search for our new City Manager!

Please accept this as our formal request that as our Mayor and City Council, you convene various community forums across the city to gather  input on the characteristics sought / needed for a new City Manager in Anaheim. 

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Larry Larsen is a member of the Anaheim Citizen’s Advisory Committee, to which he was appointed last year by Councilwoman Lorri Galloway (not by Tom Tait, as Gabriel San Roman of the OC Weekly erroneously reported).

I’ve attended most of the CAC meetings, which he usually sits through, sphinx-like, with the exception of using the beginning of the meeting to state how much it has cost the city to fight the ACLU litigation.

I missed last week’s CAC meeting, but watched on video as Mr. Larsen went on a noteworthy diatribe (go to the 2:02:04 mark on the video)

“There are special interests people on this committee, that do belong to special interests, and they know who they are and I know who some of them are.”

Who’s The Special Interest?
I have to imagine that one of the “special interest people” Larry Larsen was referring to was himself. Otherwise, it would be ludicrous for Mr. Larsen to wag his finger about “special interests.”  Larsen is a loyal minion of former Lorri Galloway who can be relied upon to tow the line, and a part of the special-interest coalition pushing for carving the city into eight single-member districts.

Here’s Mr. Larsen on a campaign mailer sent out last year by one of the biggest special interests aroound, the Orange County Employees Association:

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When you boil it down, the ACLU’s attempt to litigate the City of Anaheim into replacing the at-large system of electing the city council with single-member council districts is really about race; specifically classifying citizens on the basis of their race and designing a system of representation that is based on race.

The ACLU alleges the current system violates the California Voting Rights Act, disenfranchises Latinos and demands increasing the number of Latinos on the council via single-member council districts.

It is clear to anyone who has been paying attention tat the left-wing coalition pushing single-member districts views the world through race-colored glasses. The internal logic of this thinking inevitably leads us to away from the “content of our character” ideal articulated by Martin Luther King, Jr., pushing us backward to absurd spectacle of an increasingly inter-racial society arguing over what someone’s “real” ethnicity is.

And the mangling of color-blindness was on display in these paragraphs from the Voice of OC’s story on yesterday’s decision by Judge Franz Miller to delay hearing the lawsuit until July:

The city challenges the validity of the lawsuit in court documents, arguing that members of minority groups have consistently been elected to the City Council. According to the city, 10 seats have been up for election since 2002, with seven of those seats filled by either “Asian” or “Hispanic” council members.

One of those council members is former Councilwoman Lorri Galloway, who is Spanish and Filipina, a mix that ACLU attorney Robert Ruben said doesn’t meet the criteria for Latina under the Voting Rights Act.

What a sad, infuriating spectacle. But not an unexpected one. When racial bean-counting is the coin of the realm for acquiring political power and “representation,” should we be surprised when such argument breaks out over whether or not someone is really Latino (or Asian or whichever ethnicity is deemed in need of increased “representation)? If single-member council districts become a reality in Anaheim, we can expect more of such demeaning spats.

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Welcome to Anaheim!

Welcome to Anaheim!

Yesterday, the OC District Attorney cleared Anaheim Police Officer Nick Bennallack of any wrong-doing in the July 2012 shooting of gang member Manuel “Stomper” Diaz.

The OC Register reports:

Officer Nick Bennallack was on a gang-enforcement patrol in the Anna Drive neighborhood on the afternoon of July 21 when he pulled up to a small group of men. Manuel Diaz, 25, a convicted gang member, ran, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office concluded.

The officers gave chase, down an alley and into the front yard of an apartment house. There, Bennallack fired two shots, one hitting Diaz in the back-right side of his head, the other hitting him in his right buttock, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said.

The police association said shortly after the shooting that officers saw Diaz pull something from his waistband and turn. Diaz was found to be unarmed; investigators found a cellphone registered to Diaz, as well as the two spent ammunition cartridges from Bennallack’s gun and a drug pipe at the scene, the District Attorney’s Office said.

You can read the letter from the D.A. office here.

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[CORRECTION: Although the Staff page on the OCCORD website lists her as Lead Organizer, it has been brought to my attention that Alejandra Ponce de Leon no longer works there — which doesn’t alter or invalidate the underlying point of this post].

“Personnel is policy,” as the saying goes. By the same token, politically active individuals tend to gravitate to organizations that are sympatico with their political beliefs.

OCCORD isn’t any different.

For example, take this sentiment expressed by former OCCORD Lead Organizer Alejandra Ponce de Leon on her Facebook page when Venezuelan strong-man Hugo Chavez died earlier this month:

Ponce de leon chavez VOC

“R.I.P Comandante Chavez“? A brutal strongman who intimidate, jailed, beat and sometimes killed his critics? An avowed enemy of the United States? A thug who packed the courts and the government with his cronies, squashed most of Venezuela’s free and independent press? A caudillo who greatly diminished liberty, violated human rights, and allied himself with the odious autocracy of the Castros and the oppressive, terrorist-sponsoring theocracy of the Iranian mullahs?

Then again, left-wingers will generally overlook an awful lot of oppression as long as the oppressed get free health care.

[Among those “liking” that graphic tribute to the fallen dictator was Lori Condinus, VP of UNITE-HERE Local 11  – another pillar of the left-wing coalition pushing for dividing Anaheim into eight single-member council districts].

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OCCORD LogoI’ve attended most of the Citizens Advisory Committee meetings, and as I’ve noted in previous posts, it was clear from early on that a left-wing coalition was forming to push the CAC toward recommending a switch to electing the Anaheim City Council from single-member districts; that is, Anaheim residents would only have a vote within their council district, and have no voice in the election of the rest of the city council.

The leading members of this left-wing coalition are UNITE-HERE (a militant union representing workers in hotels, food service and similar sectors), Los Amigos of Orange County,  Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (commonly known as OCCORD) and the Orange County Labor Federation.

What is OCCORD?

OCCORD is a 501(c)3 founded in 2005 by Eric Altman, a former union organizer. Since then, it has been a fixture on the Left-side of the Anaheim political spectrum. Earlier, its main focus was lobbying the city to impose low-income housing set-aside requirements on developers. Last year, OCCORD was in the thick of the protests against the GardenWalk hotels agreement, in support of the effort of the Take Back Anaheim initiative and  in favor of the ACLU’s lawsuit seeking to force the city to move to single-member districts.

OCCORD Executive Director Eric Altman and another OCCORD staffer, Clara Turner, have been fixtures at CAC meetings, distributing fliers full of data-points and graphs designed to buttress OCCORD’s advocacy of single-member council districts.

It’s Board of Directors is stacked with union activists, and also includes Amin David, one of the plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit seeking to impose single-member districts on Anaheim.

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IMG_6494The Anaheim Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections and Community Involvement meets again this Thursday, February 28 at 6:30 p.m., at the Brookhurst Community Center. This will be the seventh CAC meeting, with eight more to follow.

I’ve attended most of them, and they are assuming a definite pattern. At the actual committee-work level, the CAC members have been taking presentations from experts on voter participation and engagement, on the basics of the California Voting Rights Act and on various election systems (ranked choice, cumulative voting, etc.).

All the presenters have participated as neutral experts in their fields, with the exception of Steve Chessin of the Californians for Electoral Reform, who was there as an advocate. [When asked by CAC Chair Vivian Pham what he recommended Anaheim do, Chessin urged an immediate switch to cumulative voting followed by a transition to fully proportional voting when OC’s voting systems technology permitted it. Other presenters have declined to offer their opinions, feeling it was not their role to do so.]

On the political level, there is an organized effort, led by OCCORD and unions like UNITE-HERE, to push the CAC toward recommending single-member council districts. Last week, the OC Democratic Party announced its support for single-member council districts.

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Cristina Talley

Cristina Talley

Gabriel San Roman of the OC Weekly has published a story taking aim at the myth being spun by the usual suspects — Vern Nelson, the Take Back Anaheim crowd, Los Amigos — that Cristina Talley was a sort of Latina Joan of Arc pushed out by a sinister council majority in retribution for speaking out on behalf of la raza.

Yes, I am recommending an OC Weekly story, operating on the principle that even a broken clock is right twice a day.

If there were a way to bet on media headline predictions, I could have wagered my savings and retired on how Voice of OC would headline its coverage of the Anaheim State of the City speech:

“Mayor Tells A Tale of Two Anaheims”

I realize that OCCORD, Los Amigos, Take Back Anaheim, the OCEA and the rest of the coalition of the left-leaning have been selling that storyline hard for months, but I just do not buy it. There are no more “Two Anaheims” than there are two of any city (except maybe Aliso Viejo and Laguna Beach). Every city of any size and duration will have affluent areas  and poorer areas, older section and newer sections.  Anaheim is not unique in this respect. That is the reality of the human condition. Hammurabi could well have spoken of “Two Babylons” and with considerably more justification.

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Scott Baugh and Los Amigos member Al Amezcua.

A few days ago, the OC Register published a story about Republican Party of Orange County Chairman Scott Baugh speaking to Los Amigos of Orange County, which meets weekly at the JaegerHaus in Anaheim.The surrounding context is the urgent need for the Republican Party to increase its share of the Latino vote, which went overwhelmingly Democratic this year (and as it does, in general). Los Amigos invited Scott to speak, and being a gracious man who is always willing to present the Republican case, Scott accepted.

The OC Register article recounts how one Los Amigos members took umbrage that Scott Baugh would even dare to speak to Los Amigos — never mind Los Amigos invited him.

And members trotted out ancient history like the 1988 poll guards incident and Proposition 187 from 1994 (never mind that 187 was not a Republican initiative and that it passed with the votes of Democrats and independents – and was put over the top when Chicano activists led mobs of high school and college students through the streets of Los Angeles waving Mexican flags — it’s much simpler just to blame the GOP).

The GOP needs to reach out to Latinos — not Latino pressure groups like Los Amigos, who will never, ever help the GOP improve its standing among Hispanic voters. Los Amigos’s leadership shares a world view frozen in the permafrost of late 1960s/early 1970s Chicano radicalism, and its message to Hispanics will always be “The Republican Party is racist and doesn’t care about you. It only cares about rich people making money at your expense.”

I agree on the urgency of Hispanic outreach and the necessity of re-building the party’s image among Latino voters. I have advocated for a change in the party’s tone and message for years, and this is a project that will take years. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I am certain that engaging groups like Los Amigos is a waste of time.

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