The three-member Anaheim City Council majority voted Tuesday to strip Councilwoman Lorri Galloway of her mayor pro tem title because she has used it to advocate a ballot measure that would require a citywide vote on hotel subsidies, a stance the majority opposes.
Councilwoman Kris Murray said Galloway had abused her title when she signed a letter notifying the city of a petition to place the measure on the November ballot. Murray argued that the use of the title implies that the City Council endorsed the ballot initiative.
“A bright line was crossed in my opinion, and it was a blatant abuse of authority,” Murray said.
Tuesday’s action marks the widening of a rift on the council that began nearly three months ago when it voted 3-2 to approve a controversial $158-million subsidy for the developer of two four-star hotels at the GardenWalk center. Galloway had voted with Mayor Tom Tait against the subsidy.
Since the vote, advocates on both sides of the issue have accused the other of distributing misinformation and engaging in bully tactics. During the public comments portion of Tuesday’s meeting, there was a brief dispute over which side is with the “99 percent,” a term coined by the Occupy Wall Street movement to describe the vast majority of Americans the protesters believe are disenfranchised by an elite wealth-trading class.
Speaker William Grisolia, who volunteers for Eli Home, the charity Galloway runs, cited revelations in a recent Voice of OC article as evidence that Murray is part of a “1 percent” cabal. He then read a poem slamming the subsidy.
“To faith, to people, to justice, we’ll always be true – and not to the masters of the universe,” said Grisolia, referring to the term Murray used to describe a handful of men, including former Mayor Curt Pringle, who were invited to a small party in a wealthy South Orange County enclave.
Pringle is widely believed to be a consultant for Bill O’Connell, one of the partners in the hotel development.
Patrick Kelly, secretary-treasurer of the Teamsters Union local, responded that Democrats, “self-appointed” tea party Republicans and other opponents of the subsidy were wrong to say the deal is for the “1 percent,” because construction of the hotels is expected to create thousands of new jobs for hard-working people.
“We the Teamsters represent the 99 percent, and we have a track record to prove that,” Kelly said.
Tait called the decision to strip Galloway of her title a “big step backwards.”
“This council’s been blown apart by this [subsidy] decision,” Tait said. “That’s very upsetting.”
Galloway said she didn’t need to be mayor pro tem to “stand up for what’s right.”
“I have never needed a title to stand up for what’s right. Ever. And I don’t need one now,” she said.
As part of the same motion that stripped Galloway of the title, the Council voted to name Councilman Harry Sidhu as the new mayor pro tem.
Sidhu has had his own experience supporting an initiative while serving previously as mayor pro tem. In 2010, he used the title when he signed a ballot initiative in favor of Measure J, which allowed the city to implement a new method of hiring contractors for public works projects.
“If he [Sidhu] had voted to take away the mayor pro tem and give it to himself, it’s obviously very hypocritical,” Galloway said.
Murray said there was a sharp distinction in the two situations. The council voted to approve the policy in Measure J, whereas the proposed policy in Galloway’s initiative was rejected by the council majority.
“In fact they’re entirely different,” Murray said.
Sidhu didn’t comment on the decision to grant him the title, saying only that he was thankful to Murray and Councilwoman Gail Eastman for the decision and that he would take it “with trust.”
Sidhu is currently the subject of an inquiry by the Orange County district attorney’s office regarding thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from organizations connected to O’Connell.
Stripping Galloway of her title was the latest move in what some City Hall watchers see as a series of retaliations against Tait, Galloway and interim City Manager Bob Wingenroth for being publicly against the subsidy.
At a meeting earlier this month, Murray had pushed for but ultimately retreated from stripping Tait of a the mayoral power to place items on council agendas without the consent of his colleagues. Murray had insisted that the move wasn’t retaliatory and that the city charter calls for a “level playing field” regarding the governing powers of council members.
Before that, Sidhu had blasted Wingenroth and Tait for opening the council chambers several days after the subsidy vote for an impromptu town hall meeting, providing a glimpse into some of the behind-the-scenes jabbing over Wingenroth’s role in the debate. Wingenroth had recommended against the subsidy in a city staff report, saying it would create an unsustainable precedent.
Murray argued that the council majority is the group being bullied through deceptive mailers and by a website, which she didn’t name, that accuses the council majority of corruption.