In a move that just about all of the attendees at the Special Meeting of the Anaheim City Council expected, the gang of three anti-democracy Council members killed two proposals for charter amendments on the November 2012 ballot. The proposals called for a vote by the people on whether to ban the Council from making future tax giveaways without a vote of the people, and whether the representation on the Council should be broken down into district specific elections.
The proposal to set up 6 council districts that would directly elect their representation on the Council was in response to an ACLU lawsuit alleging that the current at-large election process violates the California Voting Rights Act. It was hoped that by placing the district measure on the ballot would stall, and possibly resolve, the lawsuit.
Hundreds of speakers addressed the Council in a Special Meeting held in an Anaheim High School Auditorium. The speakers addressed the recent police shootings that sparked a near riot at the July 24th Council Meeting as well as the two proposed charter amendments.
There was disagreement among supporters of the proposal for district specific council elections over whether six or eight council districts were more appropriate. The proposal before the council was for six council seats, which could have been changed if the council majority wanted to.
Mayor Tom Tait stated repeatedly that he felt that the best way to support democracy was to, let the people vote on the issues. He felt that delay would only foster continued public unrest and division in the city.
Council members Kris Murray, Harry Sidhu, and Gail Eastman (attending via telephone from Michigan) were not interested in letting the people vote in November on the proposals. The Murray-Eastman-Sidhu majority marched in jack-booted lock-step to oppose any restriction on their ability to dole out tax payer dollars to their developer contributors.
On the issue of district elections their position was initially signaled by their emergency closed session meeting last week where they decided to place Councilwoman Kris Murray’s proposal for an appointed “Citizens Commission” to review and discuss all proposals and prepare possible charter amendments relating to the city governance structure for the June 2014 primary election. The proposal called for each council member to be able to appoint two members to the commission.
Such a plan was opposed by Councilwoman Galloway who expressed concern that such a structure allowed the current majority to ultimately dictate the commission findings through their appointed cronies. The majority decision also sets up a charter amendment vote in a lower turnout primary election, providing the opponents (their supporters) a better opportunity to defeat a district election proposal when it gets on the ballot.
Rather than take an actual vote on whether to schedule the vote on district elections, the majority, on a motion by Kris Murray and seconded by Sidhu, voted to table the matter indefinitely. This action allows them to weakly claim that they did not actually vote no on establishing council districts.
Councilwoman Murray claimed that her proposal actually allowed for more democracy because it would allow for all communities to participate in the creation of a charter amendment proposal. I guess we can call her concept of public participation Crony Democracy.
The other tragic result of their action is that the city will be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend against the ACLU suit where the chances of prevailing are highly unlikely. So far, the ACLU has prevailed in every similar voting rights lawsuit. The taxpayers of Anaheim can thank Councilwoman Kris Murray for kissing goodbye a million dollars or more in legal fees, when they could have settled the matter with a vote.