Immigration Vote Reveals Divisions on Yorba Linda Council

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The vote Tuesday by Yorba Linda City Council to support Arizona’s contentious anti-illegal-immigrant law added a new level of acrimony to an already badly divided council.

The box score shows a unanimous 3-0 vote to be the first Orange County city to officially support an Arizona law that requires law enforcement officials to determine a person’s immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” to believe the person is in the U.S. illegally.

But that doesn’t come close to telling the whole of what went on last night or what has been going on for quite a while in Yorba Linda.

“I think it’s time for all Americans to stand up and take our country back,” said Councilman Mark Schwing, just before the vote.

But not long before that, Councilman Jim Winder, a retired captain with the Brea Police Department, stood up and left the meeting. He called the council’s action on the Arizona issue a “waste of time.”

Winder said he objected in general to a council practice of adding to the end of the official council agenda items, like the Arizona discussion, which he said really are just politics.

“We’re talking about something that’s happening in the state of Arizona,” Winder told his colleagues. “This is a terrible way to do business, and I’m not going to participate in it.”

Mayor John Anderson said Winder had no right to criticize his three fellow council members and then not stick around for the general discussion.

“Shameful conduct, Mr. Winder,” declared Anderson, an assistant district attorney, as Winder excused himself and left the council chambers. “Shameful conduct.”

Councilwoman Jan Horton was called away before the vote because of a personal emergency. Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Rikel voted with Anderson and Schwing in favor of the resolution.

To be sure, the Arizona law is an unusual issue, and one that easily raises the temperature in a room. But this kind of animosity in Yorba Linda’s council chambers has become commonplace. Council members are barely civil to each other as they fight over major policy questions like redevelopment of the city’s downtown or a council policy on ethics.

Most recently, the council has been at odds over Horton’s efforts to vote on redevelopment issues affecting property near her home. She must abstain from voting and leave the council chambers when such issues are discussed. But she has repeatedly sought legal opinions giving her permission to act.

Horton’s conflict of interest issues, currently under investigation by the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission, have brought public criticism from Anderson.

The council action backing Arizona has no official impact, but is a statement on the council’s position on the immigration issue as a whole. Civic bodies everywhere have been staking their own positions regarding the law in recent weeks.

The Los Angeles City Council voted last month to boycott Arizona and a split Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday for its own boycott of that state.

Santa Ana last month adopted a resolution rebuking Arizona for adopting the law, although the state has modified some provisions since then.

Also last month the Costa Mesa City Council, at the behest of Mayor Allan Mansoor, a candidate for state Assembly in next week’s primary election, passed a resolution stating the town is a “Rule of Law” community and does not condone illegal immigration.

At the Yorba Linda council meeting, Villa Park City Councilwoman Deborah Pauly spoke in favor of supporting Arizona, complaining that her own council had the opportunity last week to adopt a similar resolution, but rejected it.

She said she was “very much ashamed” of her council for not acting.

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