The Anaheim Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections and Community Involvement meets again this Thursday, February 28 at 6:30 p.m., at the Brookhurst Community Center. This will be the seventh CAC meeting, with eight more to follow.
I’ve attended most of them, and they are assuming a definite pattern. At the actual committee-work level, the CAC members have been taking presentations from experts on voter participation and engagement, on the basics of the California Voting Rights Act and on various election systems (ranked choice, cumulative voting, etc.).
All the presenters have participated as neutral experts in their fields, with the exception of Steve Chessin of the Californians for Electoral Reform, who was there as an advocate. [When asked by CAC Chair Vivian Pham what he recommended Anaheim do, Chessin urged an immediate switch to cumulative voting followed by a transition to fully proportional voting when OC's voting systems technology permitted it. Other presenters have declined to offer their opinions, feeling it was not their role to do so.]
On the political level, there is an organized effort, led by OCCORD and unions like UNITE-HERE, to push the CAC toward recommending single-member council districts. Last week, the OC Democratic Party announced its support for single-member council districts.
In that respect, last week’s CAC meeting was basically a replay of preceding meetings, which are at a different location each week.
The OCCORD/Union Body Drill
On February 21, it was at the Ponderosa Family Resource Center. When the meeting kicked-off, the room was packed. I counted about 85 people, most of whom were there as part of the local Left’s get-out-the-bodies drive. A hefty fellow wearing a UNITE-HERE button was busily seating them, like a church usher at a crowded Mass.During the public comment period, a steady stream of speakers approach the microphone and tell the committee they want council districts. Whatever their complaint or dissatisfaction with the state of the city, council districts are presented as the answer. At an earlier CAC hearing, one young woman complained about people breaking into empty homes in her neighborhood, and then said the answer was to have council districts. A few minutes later, another young woman complained that Mayor Tom Tait was talking to someone while she addressed the city council last summer, and for that reason Anaheim needed council districts.There local Left’s lobbying effort has been getting progressively more polished with each CAC meeting. There was more message discipline evident last week , as their each speakers linked council districts with improved public services.
Someone from OCCORD, either honcho Eric Altman or policy analyst Clara Turner, distribute handouts to the committee members with graphics and research targeted to that evening’s agenda, and leading to back to OCCORD’s support for single-member districts.
Once the public comment period ends and the expert presentations begin, the crowd thins significantly as the bodies rounded up by pro-districts coalition start leaving. Less than an hour after last week’s the CAC meeting started, nearly all of them were gone.
Julio Perez & Others In The Peanut Gallery
The rest of the audience is interested parties like Julio Perez, who grew up in Anaheim, lost to Tom Daly in last year’s AD69 primary, and has since returned to the OC Labor Federation as its political director (Perez “left” that job to work for the United Food & Commercial Workers union during the campaign, likely to avoid charges of the OC Labor Federation spending money to elect one of its own staffers to the legislature).Perennial council candidate Brian Chuchua is always there, a representative of that Anaheim Republican contingent whose function lately seems to be providing flanking cover for the Left’s effort to re-order Anaheim politics and government.In attentive attendance at the January 31 CAC meeting in his trademark college dormitory-chic was Jason Mills, Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva campaign manager who is now celebrated by the media as a wunderkind. Mills has since hung out his own shingle as principal of Winning Strategy Campaigns.
Youngling left-wing activist Steve Perez is usually on hand and can be counted on to make as many trips to the microphone as possible. Last week, he illuminated us with the observation that the only system that will perform as a single-member district system is a single -member district system. And really, who can argue with that?
The member of the public who most often makes the most sense is Ron Bengochea, a life-time Anaheimer and labor guy. He comes to every meeting and speaks against districting. Rather than gauzy theory, Bengochea draws upon actual experience dealing with city governments where council districts are in place, and strongly cautions that in his experience, a district system makes city government more fractious and less responsive to the public.
The Left Is On Alert; The Right Is Asleep
What is obvious from observing these meetings is that the organized Left — the more radical unions, ethnic activists, OCCORD, the OC Democratic Party — are keenly aware of the political opportunity before them and are actively seeking to exploit in hopes of gaining at least two permanent slots on the Anaheim City Council for liberal Democrats.
OC Republicans and conservatives are, for the most part, totally oblivious to this danger, or are even abetting (even if for sincere motives) the Left’s campaign for single-member council districts. Apparently, a single hotel subsidy deal poses a greater threat to conservative values than the possible re-structuring of Anaheim governance on the basis of a world-view in which representation is a function of race — which would accord much greater influence to progressive politicians and their agenda.