As Mayor of Anaheim, Tom Tait wields some powerful tools at the dais. He carries the responsibility as the presiding officer of every city council meeting (except for two weeks ago when he recused himself from a matter during the last council meeting in February and disappeared with his binder at his chair and Mayor Pro Tem Kris Murray finished the meeting for him; Tait never returned to the meeting and it’s all on video).
Anaheim HOME spokesman William Denis Fitzgerald is a regular at just about every Anaheim City Council meeting. His public comments are typically accompanied by bigoted, homophobic and sexist language that has begun treading towards profanity all in spite of a preamble read aloud for speakers to be civil in their comments when they address the council.
At this week’s council meeting, Fitzgerald was in rare form. Go to the 36:31 mark of this link to watch him in action. And after watching, please note the chamber there were a number of children, ages 6-10, making what’s likely their first visit to city hall and a city council meeting. The kids and their parents were there to commemorate the council’s unanimous approval of the High Ground Youth and Family Services agreement. In fact, the kids presented the colors at the beginning of the meeting for the Pledge of Allegiance, so Mr. Fitzgerald had to know those kids were there. Mayor Tait certainly knew.
Now, we certainly disagree on policy matters with most things the three Republican women on the Anaheim City Council stand for. And Fitzgerald’s MO is not a secret. Fitzgerald, in front of a number of kids, singles out the women on the council and calls them “whores,” “bitches” and “sluts” which had to be a joy for the parents of those kids to hear.
Tait can’t stop Fitzgerald from speaking as its a violation of Fitzgerald’s First Amendment rights to make a fool of himself. But as presiding officer of the city council meeting, Tait has tools at his disposal he clearly refused to use. For starters, Tait has a microphone that he can use to warn Fitzgerald to keep comments civil. Tait didn’t use it (to our knowledge, Tait admonished Fitzgerald from the dais only once wishing that Fitzgerald “wasn’t such a jerk.”). Tait has a gavel by which he can express his displeasure with the language being used. It wasn’t touched. While Fitzgerald has a right to speak, he doesn’t have a right to have the city broadcast his comments. Tait has a mute button and the ability to turn off the sound at the speaker’s podium. Fitzgerald can utter his hateful rants so that only those in earshot can hear him. That doesn’t violate Fitzgerald’s constitutional rights. Tait failed to use this tool as well. Mayor Tait is a parent and can certainly remember a time his kids were under the age of 10; way to protect those tender ears of Anaheim’s children Mr. Mayor.
Fitzgerald leaves the room upon finishing his screed. And this may be the nicest thing I ever say about Council member Lucille Kring who dressed him down and asked if he’d want someone to call his wife or daughter those names. When she finished, there was considerable applause from the audience for Kring’s words. Tait just sat there (clearly if Fitzgerald called Mrs. Tait those names, there would be a reaction?). And by leaving immediately after making the comments, let’s call Fitzgerald what he is: a coward.
I emailed Fitzgerald to ask him what he was thinking when using the language he used. He was defiant and pointed to the comments of the next speaker who followed him.
Fitzgerald responded: “The Disney supporter (member of ANA), during the meeting’s Public Comments, a few minutes after the Anaheim HOME speaker, (video at 42 minutes, 50 seconds), stated “Cum sucking, shit bags, landlords” in front of all those children. The five council members said nothing. Why?”
I replied: “His comments do not excuse yours sir. Why is it you leave the chamber immediately after speaking? You saw those children and chose to use that language.”
And for pure entertainment value, Fitzgerald copied Adam Elmarek of the Voice of OC on the message.
One parent did address the council and addressed the bad language in front of her kids. Did Tait even hear her? Perhaps this mother can have her kid ask Tait to explain the word “slut” means. Tait has control of the gavel and he refuses to use it. I have to wonder The Anaheim City Council chambers have become Orange County’s go-to place for bad performance art (puppet shows), vicious personal attacks, and profanity as opposed to civic governance. As the presiding officer, Tait’s done a horrible job making the chamber of “The City of Kindness” into a place of civil debate.
If I want to hear bad language and attacks on people of authority in Anaheim, I’ll just go to Lewis Black’s show at the Grove Friday night. And it’s high time the audience chimes in and exercises their free speech rights to give Mr. Fitzgerald a taste of his own medicine.