A ‘People’s’ Victory in Anaheim

Nick Gerda/Voice of OC

Residents at an Anaheim City Council meeting in early 2016 protesting the council's rejection of the voting district map known as the "people's map." Council ultimately reversed that decision.

In a stunning late night reversal that left observers jubilant and teary-eyed, the Anaheim City Council Tuesday voted to restore a popular council districts map and place its Latino majority seat up for election in 2016.

The decision marks a rare but crucial victory for activists who want more representation at a city hall that has historically been controlled by Disneyland and other players in the tourism industry. And it follows a show of force by hundreds of residents and activists who flooded the council chambers at the last meeting and shut the proceedings down with loud protests and chants.

Many of the same people showed up again on Tuesday, with the crowd overflowing into the City Hall lobby. Public comment went on for hours, with resident after resident demanding that members of the council majority — consisting of councilwomen Kris Murray and Lucille Kring, and Councilman Jordan Brandman — reverse their decision to scrap a map called “the people’s map” because it has such broad community support.

The surprising change of heart by the council majority wasn’t a final vote, but it places the map en route to become the centerpiece of the city’s transition from electing council members citywide to electing them by district.

The map carves the city into six districts and requires council candidates to live in those districts as they campaign for council. Supporters said it perfectly balanced the interests of the city by not dividing communities of interest and neighborhoods between districts.

Two more council votes must take place for the map to be set in stone. The next vote is scheduled for the council’s Jan. 26 meeting.

The council had originally chosen the map in October. But a series of political machinations led to council members rejecting it at the Dec. 8 meeting.

First, council members excluded the map’s only Latino majority district from electing a council member in 2016, triggering outrage from activists. Then, Brandman – who was considered the swing vote because he’s the council’s only Democrat – blamed the acrimony on the map itself because it only had one Latino majority district.

So the council majority decided to pick a new map that includes at least two Latino majority districts. But the move only further outraged activists and residents, who suspected that the ulterior motive was to keep Los Amigos of Orange County President Jose Moreno – who in the 2014 election won the popular vote in what would have been the Latino majority district of the People’s Map – off the council.

A Moreno victory in 2016 would mean Mayor Tom Tait — a consistent opponent of major subsidies for the tourism industry – would only have to flip one more seat to gain the council majority, which in many respects would represent a shift in the city’s power structure away from the business establishment and to city residents, the majority of whom are Latino.

After threats of more protests – including one that would shut down an intersection outside of the city’s convention center next week during one of the largest trade shows of the year – the current council majority relented to the activists’ demands.

Tait haled the night as “historic” and thanked residents for coming to the council and expressing their “passion” for the city. And although the evening began with a stern rebuke from Tait against the city manager for not putting a more immediate restoral of the people’s map on the agenda, he thanked city staff after the turnaround.

“I want to thank the entire community of Anaheim,” Tait said.

Murray, considered the council majority leader, appeared bleary-eyed and discouraged throughout the night. She insisted that the council had wanted to support the people’s map all along, but that a letter from a national Latino organization had thrown the majority off course.

That letter, which was from the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), had threatened to sue Anaheim over excluding the Latino majority district from the 2016 election, arguing that it would be a violation the federal Voting Rights Act. But members of the council majority read it differently, claiming that it indicated the people’s map was legally insufficient because it didn’t have enough Latino majority districts.

Activists have been dubious of that explanation, especially since members of the council majority had previously said they didn’t need to put the Latino majority up for election because Councilman James Vanderbilt, who is half-Peruvian and previously lived in the district, was enough representation for its largely Mexican-American population.

Tuesday night, MALDEF Staff Attorney Matthew Barragan publicly clarified that MALDEF didn’t object to the map.

After the vote, activists chanted “si se puede!” (Yes, we can in Spanish) while they reveled and exchanged hugs.

There was also another common refrain.

“We did it!”

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek

  • AJMintheOC

    Democracy wins! Voter suppression loses!

  • astar2b

    Good job, Anaheim… Now vote them out… !

  • kburgoyne

    This is an excellent victory for the people of a democracy. However now the new representation will need to show careful intelligence and recognize the tourism industry, with Disney at its core, is where the city funds come from.
    It is actually a very good economic situation Anaheim has. So the new representation needs to stop giving away the entire farm to the tourism industry, but it also needs to not go overboard and alienate the industry either.

    What’s needed is a very careful intelligent hand that recognizes what the industry really NEEDS while not simply tossing it everything it WANTS.
    For example, there were legitimate reasons why a ticket tax was a business problem for Disney. Disney has been bumping its head on $100 entrance fees, which is a psychological barrier number. A ticket tax that pushed the number over $100 was a big issue.

    What the city council needs to do is educate itself on how the amusement park industry functions when it comes to making money, and then align itself with that philosophy.

    What Disney knows, like all amusement parks, is people are sensitive to the entrance fees. However they are FAR less sensitive to the price of things inside the park after they’ve entered.

    For example, there is one particular Frappacino at Starbucks I order on a regular basis so I’m very familiar with the price. Inside Disneyland and CA Adventure, the drink costs $0.50 more than at a normal Starbucks. That’s a kind of $0.50 Disney “tax” Disney places on the drinks. Thus it establishes Disney knows they can charge people $0.50 more for that drink inside the park without being overly worried about people not buying it.

    Spread that concept across everything Disney sells inside the parks. Now Anaheim has its revenue answer. Have Disney add another $0.05 Anaheim tax on top of the $0.50 tax Disney is already applying to my Frappacino. I’ll still buy the Frappacino and everyone (Disney and Anaheim) will get their money.

    Anaheim will get a lot more out of its tourism industry if the council members were to actually understand how the tourism industry functions. Particularly in regard to how the industry goes about milking the public for revenue. The (new) Anaheim then needs to intelligently align its requirements with how the industry functions based on knowing itself how it functions rather than taking the word of the local businesses with their own self-interests. Establish a stronger intelligent symbiotic relationship rather than continuing to give up the entire farm or change into an adversarial relationshiop which will be non-constructive for all parties.

  • Jasenn Zaejian

    Democracy at its best.

  • Steve W.

    Adam certainly dropped all pretense of objectivity. This reads like it’s from a participant, not an observer.

    • Rich Olquin

      When the story involves the TRUTH and since that has always been what Adam has reported from Day One of his being in Anaheim, I could see where you may think he has lost his objectivity. Not so, I just think you are too used to the Disney Pay to Play reports from Sarah as being considered “truthful”…
      Welcome to the Anaheim Way in the New Day…

    • kburgoyne

      As a paying subscriber to VOC interested in legitimate investigative journalism, I actually re-read the article very carefully to see if you were correct or not. My conclusion is you’re wrong and most likely projecting.

      I was actually amazed at how well the article stuck very consistently to reporting strictly the facts, including facts from both sides of the debate.

      There is only ONE place in the article where Adam writes something which he fails to objectively support: “The surprising change of heart”. “Surprising” is subjective and since he doesn’t attribute that response to another person, one can only conclude it is Adam himself being surprised.

      So therefore, yes, in that ONE VERY MINOR instance Adam has allowed personal subjectivity to enter into the article. However it is so insignificant within the overall article it fails to come anywhere near close to supporting your claim.

      • Steve W.

        We’ll have to agree to disagree. Adam makes several unsupported assertions, uses the chosen PR terminology of one side, provides little information for the reader on who these “activists” are. He says it’s a “popular” map that has “such broad community support”; based on what? You can extrapolate that cheerleading from an organized activist campaign to “broad community support.” Where’s the evidence? No all due respect, you may be doing the projecting. The Voice is a participant in county politics. It takes sides. Are we going to pretend that isn’t true?

        • Cynthia Ward

          What information do you want on the “activists?” Despite rumors that these were union hacks from other cities bussed in and paid by OCCORD to be there, believe it or not they are largely Anaheim residents tired of being dumped on, tired of their government telling them they can’t have street lights or fix the potholes and their kids can’t have grass at the park (not because of the drought unless the drought doesn’t affect Anaheim Hills equally) while seeing City Hall shovel buckets of public funding into the gaping maw of a tourism industry that creates even more low wage labor employment, with its impacts to housing and schools as families double up to make the rent on their Resort paychecks. THAT is the definition of an OCCORD member. (BTW OCCORD feeds people at meetings NOT as part of their pay to show up but because they know citizens are coming straight from work and if OCCORD doesn’t feed them they will go without dinner until well after midnight. I have never seen OCCORD turn anyone anyway for not being with them, they have even offered me pizza and I spent years saying the nastiest of things about them. OCCORD is not a union, it is a non-profit that acts as the do-gooder arm of the Resort unions, they host voter information events and they help eligible residents become citizens. While I still don’t care for the more militant side of their actions I have also come to greatly respect the INTENT of what they are trying to accomplish and I appreciate the people who are working their butts off to make Anaheim a better place for their kids even after working two jobs. That kind of information?

          How about the MANY people who came to City Hall to protest the destruction of their neighborhoods with Short Term Rentals, having never paid attention to Council before, and after seeing the outrageous arrogance of their elected leaders have begun digging in and researching more of what is happening in areas beyond the STR scandals. In many cases Tuesday night we saw mothers of activists showing up because they heard so much from angry adult children that they wanted to come see for themselves what is going on in the city they had lived in since the aerospace industry was king.

          I think Adam didn’t give a lot of info on “the activists” because there is no one profile of the “activist” that was at the Council meeting this week, or the months of Public Hearings with those Judges in which they tool time from their families, found someone else to help the kids with homework or get junior to his ball practice, so they could participate in the ONE opportunity that they might have to amplify their voices and be heard FOR THE FIRST TIME. Defining an “activist” in Anaheim these days is impossible, because the Council majority has managed to piss off citizens from every walk of life, every ethnic background, every political viewpoint, and every socio-economic demographic in this City. Adam is good at his job but we can’t ask him to do the impossible.

          • Cynthia Ward

            Trying to break my long winded rants into pieces. Not effectively, obviously, but you hit a nerve. Yes unions are known for packing chambers with people. ALL viewpoints are welcome to pack into the public meetings and bring friends with them. If unions are more effective at it we should be learning from them. When the Kleptocracy is doling out public works projects the Chamber fills seats with the building trades, and if you want to be truly intimidated in this lifetime. stand up and speak against a public works project loaded with pork and debt when leaders have promised union contracts for our public mortgage. The night of the gate tax exemption, Disney went so far as to pack Chambers with their own cast members as seat savers and then when execs showed up their professional ushers would swap out the placeholders for execs. But if taxpayers who FUNDED those seats showed up they were told Chambers were full and they couldn’t come in. Talk to me about having a stake in the game.

            In THIS case, “broad community support” would mean the following; Unanimous agreement regarding the boundaries of the Peoples Map at the Public Hearing level prior to review by the Council. Anyone claiming they failed to speak against the maps or sequencing at Council because they were intimidated by the loud crowds can be understood, but they might up credibility if they had they shown up to the Public Hearings that were hosted all over the City in very non-intimidating places like high school campuses. NOBODY objected to this final outcome of this one map, despite numerous opportunities even before it got to Council. The Judges ALL agreed it was fair, equitable. LEGAL in terms of meeting CVRA and withstanding scrutiny or litigation threats. All agreed that boundaries were drawn in such a way that made sense (ie everyone “knows” West Anaheim starts at Euclid) no community groups opposed the map, and even those who had drawn their own maps ultimately stepped forward to testify openly that THEY supported the final map, including those whose political views are so opposite those of OCCORD I wouldn’t leave them alone in a room together with sharp objects. I would call that “broad community support.” To dismiss all that work for an alternative outcome NOBODY asked for, that was not remotely the intent of the most outlandish and brain damaged reading of the LULAC-MALDEF letters cited by the Council majority as the excuse to chuck all that work, sent the message that no matter who you are or what time and energy you put in, you can follow the rules step by step and play the game. and the permanent political aristocracy will STILL flip the game board over at the last minute and send all the pieces flying while shouting YOU LOSE!

            Yeah, folks from all walks of life were pissed. Adam reported it. His report was one-sided because I cannot fathom him finding anyone in that crowd, or out on the sidewalk, with any other view. Even the West Anaheim groups (and their supporters from other areas) were not opposed to the Peoples’ Map, they were upset about sequencing. When NOBODY is objecting to the map except the 3 elected leaders who have to face a fair fight if they approve the map. what would you like Adam to say to present a more balanced view? What do you want? Should he call Kris Murray’s Mom to get another opinion that doesn’t match the hundreds that were there?

    • mutheta

      Steve – You must be reading a different article. Adam wrote this article like all his others – he reported the facts and included the quotes. If you still disagree, please cite the lines in the article that you feel show a lack of objectivity.

  • Paul Lucas

    I cant tell you how proud i am of the activists and journalists involved in this grass roots revolution. I’m honored to call many of you my friends. Cheers.

  • LFOldTimer

    Congratulations to the People. You won one for once. I suspect there were lots of unofficial closed door sessions to discuss the ramifications had the Council majority dug their heals into the ground and continued to resist.This may well have ended up in hands far outside the City of Anaheim for intervention. It was a change of heart for sure. But I have no doubt it was done very reluctantly and for all the wrong reasons.

    • David Zenger

      You are probably right about those closed door meetings and I’ll bet they were super-nonofficial.

      They haven’t showed much except tone-deaf arrogance for the past few years. I think it just boiled down to all the horrible publicity the kleptocracy was getting and the electoral ramifications therefrom. Who knows? Maybe even DisneyCorp ordered them to stand down.

      • LFOldTimer

        Wouldn’t it be funny if the District in question elected a gringo? ha. I know….it’s a 100 to 1 longshot….but still….the thought is amusing. It’s sad that race has become such a dominant factor in American politics. I was watching the US Senate vote on a congressional bill the other day on C-Span. It was almost like watching a Celtics game in 1940. ha. There’s as much diversity in the US Senate as there is on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. ha. Some things never change. Diversity doesn’t apply to the ones who make the laws. 🙂

        • Jane Rands

          If a majority of non-gringos wants to elect a gringo, that is the choice of the voters in the non-gringo majority district. The goal of the voting rights challenge is not to elect someone of a particular race, but to enable cohesive communities of color a better opportunity to elect a person to represent their community’s goals, desires, and needs.

          • LFOldTimer

            “The goal of the voting rights challenge is not to elect someone of a particular race…………”
            Yes, Jane. I understand that fully. But if you view it though your reality glasses you’ll note that at the end of the day it generally works out like that regardless. It’s just part of the human condition that we have to accept. And all races are guilty of it. Not pointing fingers at any group in particular. Like I said, the US Senate resembles a vanilla milkshake in a Country that’s only 60% white. Go figure.

          • Cynthia Ward

            A lot of gringos voted for Jose Moreno. A lot of Latinos voted for Tom Tait. And a whole lot of everyone voted for Districts. I look forward to seeing what will happen. Even as a Republican in what is now very liberal District 3, I know my area is likely to elect someone more liberal than the views of my family. That’s OK, that is what the majority of my neighbors are looking for and in America we respect that. We don’t game the system to keep their wishes from being implemented because they don’t match ours. As a Republican I have seen my party push genuinely evil candidates onto my city (Curt Pringle and Harry Sidhu anyone?) and they believed it was OK to do it, and demanded we all toe the party line, because they had R behind their names. Now my party is going to have to step it up, because voters have a choice and cannot be outnumbered by Anaheim Hills votes. I see this as a huge chance for my party to clean up our act, start cultivating GOOD Anaheim people to run for office, who can represent truly All American conservatives values while reaching across to the other side with shared goals when needed, (see Reagan) and then the GOP is going to have to help us grassroots people get out there and walk door to door and help explain (with interpreters) that the party of smaller less invasive government that respects family values and lower taxes actually is the better choice for Latino voters. A tall order, but we have never backed down from hard work when it is needed.

          • LFOldTimer

            My advantage is that I’m neither Republican nor Democrat, Cynthia. I’ve arrived at the point in life where I just call ’em as I see ’em. I used to be a Republican. I didn’t abandon them. They abandoned me. I got tired of being abused. My guess is that the Republican electeds in Anaheim won’t ‘step it up’. They’ll ‘step in it’ like they’ve done for the last 15 years. The registered Republicans are falling in numbers in the OC not because there are fewer conservatives today. We left the Republican Party because the GOP electeds no longer practiced conservative values. Most are owned and move in whatever direction they’re told by their handlers. Half should have D’s behind their names. OTOH, the Democrats have remained true to what their Party has represented throughout the ages…..giving money and free stuff to whoever will vote for them. Hence, our political system is falling apart piece by piece. The Republican ‘small government’ mantra is hogwash. Republican electeds are promoting big government across the board. Don’t listen to what they tell you. Watch what they do. And good luck trying to turn that ship around.

        • occynic

          Or after the new numbers come out the “one latino majority” seat moves to a plurality seat. Also interesting to see what district will have to go through another election when they draw the short 2 year straw.

  • David Zenger

    “She insisted that the council had wanted to support the people’s map all
    along, but that a letter from a national Latino organization had thrown
    the majority off course.”

    No, you threw yourself off course – deliberately and with prejudice.

    • RyanCantor

      ^^^ *ding ding ding* #winner