Jose F. Moreno, a college professor who came to the United States as an unauthorized immigrant, stood proudly while being sworn in Tuesday as Anaheim’s District 3 city councilman, his family by his side and a crowd of elated supporters filling the River Auditorium.

Moreno, who was the plaintiff in a 2012 California Voting Rights Act lawsuit that ultimately forced the city to transition to district elections, recalled the years of work by his mentor Amin David, a longtime Latino activist and the founder of Los Amigos of Orange County who died earlier this year. 

He drew the crowd to its feet with a speech that paid homage to both the struggle of Anaheim Latinos to gain representation on the City Council, and his early years in the United States “living in the shadows” as an unauthorized immigrant.

Then came the ironic twist.

Because of the switch to district-based elections, one of the four council members elected last month has to stand for re-election in just two years instead of four, so subsequent elections can be on the right schedule.

After the swearing-in, City Clerk Linda Andal determined who would serve the short term by drawing numbers out of a hat.

Guess who’s number came up?

If you guessed the Latino guy, who had to sue the city for equal representation on the council, you are correct.

Andal took pains to avoid the appearance of favoritism, carefully showing the crowd four blank wood chips before numbering them for the district of each of the new council members.

Before depositing the chips in a black cloth bag, Andal turned the bag inside out to show it was empty – prompting one member of the audience to mutter “we know what magic tricks look like.”

She shook the bag in front of a microphone so members of the audience could hear the chips jangling inside.

The half of the auditorium that had cheered and clapped for Moreno throughout the ceremony groaned in unison when Andal pulled the number three from the bag. After the draw, a reporter inspected the wood chips and found each to be smooth, without a noticeable difference in feeling.

Before listing the issues that he would tackle at the next council meeting on Dec. 20, Moreno quipped that, in light of his shortened term, he should “accelerate” some of his policy proposals before his time runs out in 2018.

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

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