With just days before voters go to the polls, candidates for Anaheim City Council – and their donors – are locked in a fierce battle for the District 4 and 5 council seats.
The stakes in Tuesday’s election are as high as they’ve been in recent memory, with Mayor Tait trying tip the balance of power away from the triumvirate of councilwomen Lucille Kring and Kris Murray, and Councilman Jordan Brandman, who are aligned with Disney and the rest of the city’s business establishment.
Tait has his opportunity thanks to the advent of district elections in Anaheim, which were brought on by the city’s settlement in 2014 of a California Voting Rights Act lawsuit that alleged disenfranchisement of Latino voters. The new council will be expanded from five seats to seven, with four of those seats up for election on Tuesday.
If Tait and his allies can capture two of the four seats, the mayor will lead a council majority for the first time since he took office in 2010. If that happens, the council’s priorities will almost certainly shift away from tax subsidies for Disney and other resort district businesses and toward services for the city’s under-served neighborhoods.
Disney is spending heavily to keep it from happening. Earlier this week, Voice of OC reported that the company made at least $900,000 in campaign contributions to political action committees that, in turn, spent over $1 million supporting Disney-backed candidates and attacking members of Tait’s coalition.
In District 4, Kring is trying fend off challengers Arturo Ferreras and Robert Williams. District 5 features three candidates, two who have never held public office: Steve Faessel, Mark Lopez and Donna Acevedo Nelson.
The Disney-affiliated groups have spent nearly $500,000 on mailers and literature supporting Kring and Faessel and attack mailers targeting Tait allies Ferreras and Lopez.
Here’s a run-down of the candidates and the main issues in the two races:
District 4 encompasses the portion of South Anaheim below South Street, between Euclid Street and State College Boulevard. It includes Disneyland and the Anaheim Resort District.
Its population is predominantly Latino — 68 percent – with the highest population of immigrants of any district citywide. Nearly half the population lives on an annual household income of $50,000 or less and 4 percent depend heavily on public transportation.
Given the proximity to Disneyland, short term rentals have been a lightning rod issue for residents in District 4, many who have complained an increasing number of rental homes for tourists popping up in their neighborhoods.
Kring voted for a moratorium on issuing new licenses for rentals in 2015, and at the time called for regulations on STRs, such as limiting the number of rentals in each neighborhood.
In June, she voted against a citywide ban on the businesses altogether, calling many of the regulations “draconian” and defending STR owners who she said were largely responsible.
For those votes, Kring has garnered the support of an association of short term rental owners, and continues to draw the ire of those opposed to STRs, with one family delivering blistering criticism of Kring at nearly every council meeting.
Ferreras is most recently known for leading opposition to short term rentals in his own neighborhood, Pepperwood Village. He is the chair of the South Anaheim Neighborhood Council, and has close ties to progressive groups such as Orange County Communities Organizing for Responsible Development (OCCORD), Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) and UNITE-HERE Local 11, a union for resort and hotel workers.
Kring, who has been previously elected to the City Council in 1998, 2006 and 2012, is a member of the boards for OC Vector Control and OC Sanitation District, and is endorsed by the Orange County Republican Party and both the city police and fire unions.
Ferreras has joined the mayor in denouncing recent tax breaks and city subsidies as taxpayer giveaways that divert city revenue away from services directly impacting residents.
Early in the campaign, Kring filed a lawsuit challenging the name and occupation submitted by Ferreras for the ballot – arguing that Ferreras should use his full legal surname, Ferreras-Querijero; that he is not a priest in good standing; and that Ferreras was not endorsed by Tait despite what he claimed in his ballot statement. A judge dismissed the lawsuit.
Also in the race is Robert Williams, an emergency medical services technician, who says he is non-partisan and has campaigned on a broad, anti-subsidy message and public safety issues.
A fourth candidate, Joe Moreno, has not actively campaigned.
District 5 represents East Anaheim and the Anaheim Canyon, and includes Angel Stadium, the Honda Center and the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARCTIC).
The population is also largely Latino – 62 percent – with 39 percent of residents living on household incomes of $50,000 or less a year.
Faessel, a Republican and long-time resident, sits on the board of the Metropolitan Water District, and has been appointed to the Anaheim Public Utilities Board, Planning Commission, and Budget, Investment and Technology Commission. He has the most civic experience among the District 5 candidates, having also served in the leadership of several community groups.
Faessel has defended the city’s relationship with Disney and the Anaheim Resort, and the more than $500 million in subsidies for hotel projects approved earlier this year, as a long-term investment that has more than paid for itself in revenue from tourism and hotel bed taxes.
He’s been endorsed by six former Anaheim council members and the city police and fire unions, the Orange County Business Council, Support Our Anaheim Resort and Anaheim Neighborhood Association.
Lopez was born in Anaheim and attended Cal State Fullerton before going to work for Supervisor Chris Norby as a county policy aide. He went on to work for Norby’s successor, Supervisor Shawn Nelson.
Lopez was appointed by Kring to the Anaheim Sister City Commission and is a volunteer mentor for Anaheim BROS, a youth civic engagement club at Anaheim High School.
Lopez, who is endorsed by the Orange County Republican Party, has also come out against city subsidies and tax breaks for Disney. He has described himself as part of a “new generation of leadership” at City Hall.
Lopez has been targeted the most in this race by the Disney-affiliated groups and the city’s police union.
The mailers have attacked him for being both too Republican and not Republican enough. One mailer called him a “convenient Republican,” pointing to his previous status as a decline-to-state voter.
At a recent forum hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union, candidates were asked if they would support a resolution to declare Anaheim a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants.
Lopez did not answer the question directly, but stated that he was against deportations that separated families – alluding to the fact that he sponsored his own father for citizenship – and said local law enforcement should not help federal authorities enforce their own laws.
Lopez has since been hit by attack ads for supporting sanctuary cities, prompting his campaign to send a robo-call where he said his statement was misconstrued and that he does not support designating Anaheim as a sanctuary city.
A third candidate, Donna Acevedo-Nelson, has also campaigned against the subsidies. Acevedo-Nelson, a Democrat who is also married to Orange Juice Blog editor Vern Nelson, became involved in city politics in 2012 after her son was killed in a fatal police-involved shooting.
She is focused on improving police oversight and community relations, and is endorsed by U.S. Congresswoman and Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez.
A fourth candidate, Sandra Angel, has not actively campaigned except for participation in a few candidate forums.
Contact Thy Vo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.
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