Anaheim: Tait and Allies Pack Council Agenda For Blitz Votes Shortly Before Christmas

What could be termed The Tait Reaction has commenced in Anaheim with the swearing-in of four new councilmembers last night, the mayor and his new council allies had a laundry list of major policy changes placed on the December 20 city council agenda.

Four new city council members were sworn in last night: Denise Barnes in District 1; Jose F. Moreno in District 3; incumbent Lucille Kring in District 4 and Steve Faessel in District 5. Barnes and Moreno are close political allies of Mayor Tait; together with Councilman James Vanderbilt, they give Tait a working council majority – the personal political Holy Grail toward which the mayor has been striving since 2012.

After the swearing in and the casting of lots to determine which of the four will serve a two-year term (see related OC Daily story here) Tait and allies Barnes and Vanderbilt directed staff to place a host of major policy items on next week’s council agenda.

Mayor Tait agenda requests:

  • Cancelling the Hotel Incentive Policy
  • Restructuring city boards and commissions, and possible action on city appointments to regional boards (such as the Orange County Water District).
  • Restoring the power of the mayor to place items on the council agenda at any time (a power that no mayor prior to Tait enjoyed). Currently, the mayor is limited to agendizing items in public during council comments, just like his council colleagues.
  • Firing Interim City Attorney Arturo Fierro – who was appointed to that job five weeks ago – and replacing him with Assistant City Attorney Kristin Pelletier.
  • Cancelling the city’s event sponsorship contract with the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce (political payback for the Chamber’s support of candidates and policies which the mayor has opposed).

Councilwoman Denise Barnes requested placing these items on the December 20 agenda:

  • “A motion to once and for all kill the Angels streetcar project.”
  • Increasing the budget of the office of the mayor to allow for a full-time policy staff person.
  • “I would like to see a plan for improving park programming, greening our sports fields and other areas and exploring how we can identify funding for these needs.  I would like to have a full assessment of all our parks, but especially the ones that have suffered the most neglect.” It’s unclear how city staff will be able to generate that plan during the next 48 hours, considering the council agenda will be published on Friday afternoon.

Councilman Vanderbilt asked staff to “bring back an agenda item to empower council to approve all expenditures of $50,000 or more.” The current threshold for mandatory council approval is $100,000.

Several times in the past few years Mayor Tait has vehemently complained when he believed the council was voting on major issues without giving the public adequate time for review and comment. This summer, he asked the council to continue a scheduled vote on the TOT rebate agreements with Disney and the Wincome Group, saying there was “no rush.” When the council approved the non-binding framework for Angels negotiations, the mayor denounced the timing because it took place the day after a holiday.

Some Anaheim observers noted the disconnect between those criticisms (which involved policies the mayor opposed) and Tait’s headlong rush to agendize nearly ten major council votes just a few days before Christmas when few Anaheim residents are paying attention, with only a few days notice and little time for staff preparation.

“The double standard is breathtaking,” noted one long-time Anaheim activist. “It’s situational political morality.”

After Andal announced he’d was getting a two-year term, Councilman Jose Moreno quipped, ““I had some agenda items I’m going to accelerate now!”  He gave direction to staff on some policy initiatives he wants put on the council agenda, although he specified only one for the December 20 agenda: a task force for “immigrant integration” to explore making Anaheim a “Welcoming City.”

Moreno’s request has begged the question of whether he is seeking sanctuary city status for Anaheim under a more euphemistic name. Moreno stated his strong and unequivocal support for sanctuary city status during the campaign, but backtracked to a more nuanced stance when Univision asked him last week if he would pursue sanctuary city status for Anaheim.

Here’s what was actually said last night:

Moreno: “I’d like to explore together with Mayor Tait the idea of making Anaheim a Welcoming City called Welcome Anaheim that includes a set of policy tools and promising practices from around the country of how we can best assure all of our residents that their city values them, that their city will integrate them, and that they will be honored with respect and dignity despite any impositions made by federal authorities that might transgress their rights as human beings.” [emphasis added]

 Tait: “Absolutely”

Moreno: “So for the December 20 agenda I’d like to consider, if the mayor might consider, establishing a task force to look at welcoming Anaheim, a task force for immigrant integration, so that we can all reach together as neighbors, in our City of Kindness.”

The underlined phrase is virtually indistinguishable from sanctuary city rhetoric; it also raises the question of how Councilman Moreno believes American immigration officials are violating the human rights of illegal immigrants?

Moreno made several other specific agenda requests: after quoting Cesar Chavez “from the farm workers struggle,” he asked staff to agendize establishing a Youth Commission “so that we might develop a robust and sustainable commission of youth that will provide their input and their insights to our city.”

Members of AnaheimBROS clubs from AUHSD high schools have been active for many months as ground soldiers in advancing Moreno’s political ambitions. Some believe this initiative is intended to institutionalize a school-to-progressive-political-activism pipeline.

Moreno also directed staff “to present us with an exploration of policies across our state…of ordinances that provide greater transparency, what are often called sunshine ordinances, to assure the people that all transactions of the people are under the light of day.”

Decoded, this sounds like District 3 councilmember wants an Anaheim version of the OCCORD-sponsored Sunshine Ordinance adopted by Santa Ana a few years ago, and include lobbyist registration and elements of the CRONY initiative recently advanced by the Orange County Employees Association.

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