Candidates Offer Competing Prescriptions for What Ails Anaheim’s Scruffy West Side

Anaheim District 1 canidates from left to right: Leonard Lahtinen, Steve Chavez Lodge, Denise Barnes, Freddy Fitzgerald Carvajal, Mark Richard Daniels, Angel Van Stark.

While the Anaheim Resort sees a constant influx of new development proposals and enjoys well-manicured streets and greenery, West Anaheim has long been a forgotten corner of the city, a patchwork of strip malls, neglected properties and fading motels.

But now — as the city enters a new era of district elections – it’s West Anaheim’s time, say candidates running for the City Council’s District 1 seat in the November election.

“This is an unbelievable opportunity where we can have people from our area speak to our needs, that we’ve never had before,” said Mark Richard Daniels, one of seven candidates for the seat. “We haven’t had a council member from this far west since 1990.”

The shift comes after a years-long battle for district-based elections that began in 2012, when the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California filed a lawsuit against Anaheim alleging the city’s at-large election system disenfranchises Latinos.

The district is 48 percent Latino and 21 percent Asian, and has the second largest number of residents living at or below poverty, with 24 percent living on a household income of $25,000 or less.

As has been the case in other district races, the seven candidates in District 1, which encompasses the area west of Magnolia Street and along the eastern border with Buena Park, are divided by their stance on whether the city should give tax breaks and subsidies to large developers and corporations.

Disneyland, resort businesses and the Anaheim Police Officers’ Union have poured more than $150,000 to back Republican Steve Chavez Lodge, who has aligned himself with the current council majority in support of subsidies, arguing that the success of the resort district has and will continue to fund critical city services.

Disneyland, construction unions and the municipal employees union have also donated to Democrat Leonard Lahtinen, a long-time West Anaheim resident who supports some subsidies, but is critical of what he sees as an uneven distribution of resources to the resort district and Anaheim Hills.

Meanwhile, Mayor Tom Tait has backed a third candidate, first-time political hopeful and Republican Denise Barnes.

Three other candidates have run their campaigns entirely with volunteers: Daniels, a community volunteer; insurance broker Freddy Fitzgerald Carvajal, and 24-year-old tax assistant Angel Van Stark.

Daniels, Carvajal and Van Stark are all very much opposed to corporate subsidies.

A seventh candidate, Orlando Perez, has not actively campaigned.

steve-lodgeLodge, a former Santa Ana police officer who has recently worked as a public relations consultant for the firm conducting an environmental review of Anaheim’s failed streetcar proposal, is clearly the favorite of the city’s police union and business establishment.

He’s raised $34,828 and benefited from at least $160,570 in independent expenditures, with most of those expenditures by a Disney-backed political action committee called Moving Orange County Forward.

A former city budget commissioner, Lodge has broadly stated his campaign priorities as “safe schools, clean streets and more jobs” for West Anaheim, although his website does not elaborate on those issues. Lodge did not respond to multiple requests for interviews for this story.

He’s logged endorsements from a who’s who of local GOP figures, including: Anaheim councilwomen Kris Murray and Lucille Kring; former Mayor Curt Pringle; District Attorney Tony Rackauckas; Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett; State Senator Janet Nguyen.

Controversy has followed his foray into politics. During his first run for council in 2012, Lodge was sued by Cynthia Ward, a local civic activist who accused him of using his father’s last name “Chavez” on the ballot purely for political gain.

A judge sided with Lodge, noting that he has testified in court under that name.

Opponents have also accused Lodge of carpet bagging because though he is registered to vote at the Azul Apartment Homes complex in District 1, he was registered to vote in Anaheim Hills when he ran for office in 2012. He also owns property in the city of Murrieta, where he was a public safety commissioner 2009.

During his career as a police officer, Lodge was named as a defendant in several excessive force lawsuits, including a 1990 case where a federal jury awarded a 27-year-old man named Hossein Farahani with $612,000 in damages against Lodge and the city of Santa Ana.

Lodge stopped Farahani for jaywalking, who said his limited English kept him from following the officer’s instructions. He accused Lodge, who was not found guilty of any criminal charges, of throwing him to the ground and beating him with a baton, according to the Los Angeles Times.

lahtinen-graphicLahtinen is a longtime board member for the North Orange County Community College District and is a retired Anaheim Union High School District teacher.

He has raised at least $45,771 this year, including donations from the Anaheim Police Officers’ Association, Disney Worldwide Services, Orange County Employees Association and city municipal employees’ union.

While he credits the Anaheim Resort and Disney as “cash cows” that have fueled major city improvements, he says West Anaheim residents have been complaining about a lack of development, infrastructure improvements and community facilities for years.

“I talked to a police officer who has patrolled all over, and he said this is the crummiest part of the city,” Lahtinen said.

Lahtinen, who believes the city should hire additional police officers, says the distribution of police resources has been uneven citywide, pointing to a police substation in Anaheim Hills that is open five days a week.

“In West Anaheim, we have substation on Beach Boulevard – it’s closed,” Lahtinen said. “It’s not open one hour a day or one hour a week.”

However, despite his laments about the geographic inequality in Anaheim, Lahtinen supports subsidies for three luxury hotel projects, citing a labor agreement that would require the hotels to hire union labor and local employees for construction.

“In the long run it will be a huge benefit financially to the city. They will be attracting big spenders,” said Lahtinen.

barnes-graphicOn the other side of the spectrum regarding subsidies and tax breaks is Barnes, who has campaigned on the message that they “have taken badly needed funds and left us with ruined parks, overcrowding, prostitution and homelessness.”

Barnes’ campaign website – which includes a slideshow of motel properties, massage parlors, cracked streets and patchy public parks — advertises her priorities as finding a compassionate solution to homelessness and replacing run-down strip malls and vacant lots with high-end developments.

Barnes – who didn’t respond to requests for an interview — has raised $18,295 on her own, and has attracted another $10,397 in independent expenditures from local philanthropist and political donor Howard Ahmanson.

The Orange County Freedom Fund – a political action committee controlled by former California GOP chair Michael Schroeder – has also spent $14,412 on mailers opposing Barnes.

danielsDaniels, who was born in Anaheim in 1958 and lived in West Anaheim back when it was mostly orange groves and strawberry fields, has billed himself as a “hands-on” candidate who would spend as much time outside of City Hall as possible.

Both Lahtinen and Daniels said they would focus on revitalizing Beach Boulevard, pointing to recent progress with the sale of a long vacant former landfill on Lincoln Ave. referred to by residents as “Stinkin’ Lincoln.”

Daniels said the city should create two commercial hubs along Beach Boulevard, including the recently approved development on the landfill and another hub at Ball Road.

“Like what Garden Grove is to Disneyland, West Anaheim is to Knott’s Berry Farm. We can draw off of what they’re doing,” Daniels said.

He is also skeptical of arguments that the city needs to hire more police officers, and says believes the city’s pilot public safety board lacks transparency and needs to evolve into a commission with subpoena powers.

“The board only seems to be there to hear what the police department says and the fire department says…even several members [of the board] have questioned what they are there for,” said Daniels.

starkVan Stark has focused on homelessness and the high cost of living in Anaheim, and has proposed the creation of a youth commission and homeowner and renters’ board.

His top priority would be “creating an economy that works for all and not just the tourist industry,” he said, citing subsidies and tax breaks for companies like Disney as a negative influence on the city’s affordability.

If elected, Van Stark said he would push his colleagues to consider a minimum wage increase and look for nonprofit organizations that provide job training to prepare at-risk youth for higher-paying positions.

Van Stark said his hardscrabble youth and young adulthood, which included several periods of homelessness, gives him a perspective on the needs of homeless people that his opponents lack. He was homeless at the age of six, when he lived in a women’s shelter with his mother; around the age of 12 when his father went to jail, and again at 19, after coming out as gay.

He believes that city should be exploring funding for permanent supportive housing, pointing to a 2009 study of homeless individuals in Los Angeles that found the cost of public services for individuals in supportive housing was $605 a month, compared to the average cost to support the homeless, $2,897 a day.

carvajalCarvajal, a 30-year-old insurance broker, cites his experience working for a member of the German Congress during his time abroad.

His main pitch is that the city needs to support small businesses as means to reduce inequality and increase investment in local communities.

He said the city should explore tax breaks and other incentives for small business owners, which would create more opportunities for youth, higher-paying jobs and improve neighborhoods.

“If we can afford to give millions to one, two or three entities, I think we can afford to give the same advantages to small business owners or potential business owners,” said Carvajal.

Like Van Stark, Carvajal sees public safety and gang activity in Anaheim as a symptom of economic problems and a lack of opportunity for young people.

“Do we need more officers? Absolutely,” said Carvajal. “[But] if we come in with an aggressive approach and put all these kids in jail [and hope] they’re going to be better people when they come out, it’s not gonna happen.”

Correction: A previous version of this article erroneously stated that Howard Ahmanson/Fieldstead & Company spent $15,660 in independent expenditures on behalf of Steve Chavez Lodge, due to an error in a campaign filing by the committee. Ahmanson spent the money against Lodge. 

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

  • WOW! I did not like Lodge after reading his endorsements. but the other comments against him here make me wonder how anyone can support him. I believe Police Union is an oxymoron. They never support other unions and will be the first to cross picket lines. I like Lahtinen, Van Stark, Daniels, & Carvajal in that order. I do not really like the mantra of more cops, I think better trumps more personally, but at least Anaheim is not as bad as Fullerton. I like that Lahtinen & Daniels are actually long time Anaheim residents. I like Carvajals explanation, “Do we need more officers? Absolutely,” said Carvajal. “[But] if we come
    in with an aggressive approach and put all these kids in jail [and
    hope] they’re going to be better people when they come out, it’s not
    gonna happen.” Personally I do not support a “Jail troubled minors” attitude at all. I believe that when societies youth shows problems you do not just lock them away, you do not treat a wound by ignoring it, you clean it dress it & care for it otherwise it will likely fester & need amputation. I like Van Starks mentioning his problems as a youth, which is why I placed him before Daniels
    rather more (well deserved) attacks on Lodge, I would like to hear more positive comments about the other candidates.

    P.S. Please don’t throw me to the ground and beat me with a baton.

    • I also forgot to mention that many seem to be painting a picture that West Anaheim is like a ghetto.
      before making such conclusions I would recommend taking a drive down PCH or Anaheim Blvd in East Long Beach, Or Santa Fe in West Central LB. It is obvious that tax dollars are being unfairly distributed.

      P.S. Please don’t throw me to the ground and beat me with a baton. LOL

  • David Zenger

    And here’s a helpful link from OC Weekly that explains all about the integrity and honesty of Mr. Law N’ Order:

    http://www.ocweekly.com/news/judge-anaheim-council-hopeful-steve-lodge-told-bald-faced-lies-in-police-brutality-case-7620824

    Here’s the money quotation from the judge in Albert Steve Chavez Lodge’s police brutality case:

    “In the court’s mind, there can be little doubt that the jury was also outraged by the arrogance of the officer appearing on the stand and, in response to questions by counsel, trying to avoid the duty to compensate the plaintiff for his injuries by telling bald-faced lies designed to avoid liability entirely.”

    Arrogance. Bald-faced lies. Avoid liability. Check, check, check.

    P.S. Please don’t throw me to the ground and beat me with a baton.

    • LFOldTimer

      Hey, give the guy a little credit. Sure, he beat the unarmed jaywalker. But at least he didn’t shoot him and later claim “I feared for my life”.

      • David Zenger

        Lol. Yes. But that was way back then. Now we’re talking “he reached for his waistband” BS.

        No credit to Steve Albert Cabot Lodge for being born too soon.

        P.S. Please don’t throw me to the ground and beat me with a baton.

  • David Zenger

    “…arguing that the success of the resort district has and will continue to fund critical city services.”

    All the kleptos® “argue” that. But it’s not an argument because nobody can prove that it’s true or false. They just say it. A bald-faced and baseless assertion may be brazen, but it’s not an argument.

  • Cynthia Ward

    On LODGE:

    The man has clearly got a TEMPER. A very, very bad one. It is revealed not only in the long history of violent encounters he excuses away with his own justifications (On the jaywalker attack, he said, people get hurt when they fight. Really? When did arresting a suspect using the authority of your badge become a “fight”?)

    THIS MAN HAS NO BUSINESS OVERSEEING THE POLICIES OF A POLICE DEPARTMENT ALREADY RIDDLED WITH TENSION IN THE COMMUNITY AND INTERNAL TENSION BETWEEN THE CHIEF AND HIS UNION REPRESENTED CREW! We need policies that bring in more training to teach our officers how to DE-ESCALATE the tension in situations so that reaching for a service weapon becomes the last resort and keeps ALL INVOLVED safer. Lodge has an attitude that you do what you have to do and we will cover for you.

    While Lodge was not found guilty of criminal actions in the jaywalker attack, the jury DID find for the victim with PUNITIVE DAMAGES against the City of Santa Ana, I believe in excess of $600K. We all know how hard it is to get a jury to find PUNITIVE DAMAGES against Police actions. That tells you how “justified” his violence against the victim was seen by a jury of his peers. Remember, the guy was guilty of JAYWALKING and the Iranian immigrant failed to follow the officer’s orders due to a language barrier, something one HOPES the Santa Ana PD had the foresight to train their officers to handle, being the multi-cultural city they are…over $600K in punitive damages for jaywalking.

    As Angel Van Stark hilariously said during the WAND event 2 weeks ago, when dealing with issues of Police brutality and tension in the community, the first thing we do is to NOT elect someone with their OWN record of Police brutality! To this, Lodge LOST IT! He threw a hissy fit on that stage, while Van Stark had NOT called out Lodge by name, Lodge went after Angel, and yelled at him to “SHUT IT” which you can imagine went over well in a room full of long time West Anaheim people (many seniors) I have to admit it was the most entertaining candidate forum I have ever attended. At one point people in the audience openly laughed at Lodge for one of his answers. THAT incited more temper tantrum from him.

    A few months ago Lodge attempted the GOP endorsement, despite being kicked to the curb for his last try in 2012. When he arrived, for a process that he KNOWS will subject him to the inquiry of Central Committee members, he shot back insulting answers to one Central Committee member (me) for asking about his property in Murrieta and his renting of a West Anaheim apartment immediately after the District Maps were adopted to show him where to move to. His answer was a snarled “none of your business” to someone whom he voluntarily submitted himself to inspection. He is a hot head who does not like to be questioned and we don’t need ANY MORE OF THOSE on Council and have the chance to unload two of the ones we already have!

    Elsewhere in cyberspace I have seen a restraining order against Lodge, reported by the entertainment crews covering the new Real Housewives girlfriend. When the entertainment news people covered the restraining order, Lodge said the man was sleeping with his wife. Lodge did not provide any reason to believe him. The restraining order included the man and HIS wife and CHILDREN, so were they ALL sleeping with Lodge’s wife? That is a stretch even for California. And while I can understand justifiable anger at someone for cheating (if true) this is something that happens to many, many marriages all over the world, every day, and not all men haul off and beat the tar out of someone in a public hotel lobby. Sure they may WANT TO, but self control stops them from acting on the impulse. It is called “civilization.” Lodge seems to not only have decked the guy, but stalked this man and terrorized the wife and children, which A) does not sound like someone actively cheating with Lodge’s wife and B) is a long term activity that is far from “heat of the moment” stuff. How do we trust this hot headed thug to guide our City or to set municipal policies? The restraining order demanded Lodge turn in his BADGE AND GUN, (I thought one had to return those when leaving the Police force) was he actively waving either of those items without being on the force any longer? Who in their right minds would give this man authority to run a petting zoo much less the 10th largest city in California, with an incendiary environment of tension in many neighborhoods between Police and the community? We would be nuts to let his man get into office.

  • David Zenger

    “Lodge did not respond to multiple requests for interviews for this story.”

    Of course not. Too many embarrassing questions

    “Opponents have also accused Lodge of carpet bagging.”

    Yeah, well, if there’s any doubt it’s only because a lot of don’t believe he lives here at all. In which case the issue is voter fraud. Capisce?

    Endorsed by quite a rogues’ gallery, no? Pringle, Murray, Kringle, Rackauckas, etc., etc. The heart and soul of Anaheim’s Kleptocracy®. This individual’s one and only function for the Klepto Club® is to continue in the smash n’ grab tradition. Exhibit A for the prosecution: the utterly wasteful and klepto-enriching® street car scam.

    • Cynthia Ward

      Yep. Lodge does not just SUPPORT the crony capitalism economy, he shoves his face into the publicly funded trough. He PERSONALLY scored a PERCENTAGE of that roughly $9MM contract from Anaheim to Hill International to keep studying the streetcar! When that is how you earn your living you have a very direct stake in keeping those projects going. While no longer at Hill (it is tough to come to work after threatening co-workers) his new “CHAMUS” Public Affairs is supposed to “build relationships” for a living. AKA suck up to elected leaders to score goodies for clients. How often do business to business deals use these services vs business to government? I am curious, how much of his work is linked to siphoning from public funds? His cop pension is not much, shockingly less than I expected, and he is covering a mortgage on the Murietta place (plus HOAs on a GUARDED GATE private community, NOT CHEAP) and rent on the Azul apartments (where ironically I had lived over 20 years ago before buying my first home, it is not a palace but it is far from a dump) AND funding the dating with someone in Coto who is on TV for being rich, that is not Marri’s pizza and some Lynbrook Bowl on a Saturday night, folks. (to which the carpetbagger with no sense of Anaheim asks where those are.) He has to be desperate to bankroll his lifestyle through influence peddling of “public affairs.” NO, he should NOT be elected to ANY public office, and needs to be sent home to Murrieta.

      • David Zenger

        P.S. Please don’t throw Cynthia to the ground and beat her with a baton.

        • Cynthia Ward

          amen.