Part of the settlement reached in January between the City of Anaheim and the ACLU (representing ACSD Trustee Jose Moreno and two other plaintiffs), the city agreed to pay ACLU’s legal fees in an amount negotiated between the two parties.
Tuesday night, the Anaheim City Council approved paying the negotiated amount $1.22 million. You can read the staff report here; a summary of the plaintiffs’ attorney’s rates here and of the city’s attorneys’ rates here.
Over at TheLiberalOC.com, “Editorial Staff” tries to paint this as a futile waster of money:
The amount is on top of the $1.25 million in legal fees the city had incurred fighting the inevitable. The only thing gained by the council majority’s opposition to the lawsuit was to delay the implementation of a new district election process, and it’s presentation to voters for approval in November.
Why so much effort, and waste of taxpayer funds, to stop what was clearly inevitable? Simple really; to protect the status quo so that members Murray and Eastman would get one more shot at four-year terms on the council before the implementation of districts. The entire battle, all of the posturing and positioning, all the legal fees, was so that the current power base in Anaheim would have four more years to raid the public piggy-bank to reward the rich and powerful interests in Orange County’s largest city.
I suppose that is one way to look at it, even if it is the wrong way – on several levels.
For starters, what the city was fighting for was the right to determine its own form of governance against an attempt by a small claque of left-wing activists engaged in policy-making via litigation. The grassroots support from “the citizens of Anaheim” claimed by single-member district proponents is a fiction – unless you consider the same few dozen UNITE-HERE Local 11 members and OCCORD activists who mobilize for targeted public hearings to embody “the people of Anaheim.” There’s been no petition drive or grassroots mobilization for districts.
Anaheim gained a number of things in the settlement. For one thing, single-member districts will go to a vote of the people. What “Editorial Staff” seems to forget is that plaintiffs Moreno, Consuelo Garcia and Amin David sought was the judicial imposition of single-member districts. Not only did they explicitly reject putting the matters to the voters, but they denounced doing so as being inherently “discriminatory against Latinos” and specifically stated they would not drop the lawsuit in exchange for putting the matter on the ballot.
In other words, it was the plaintiffs who gave way on that matter – and they would not have done so if the city had not fought the lawsuit. Single-member districts advocates who decried the city for fighting the lawsuit while simultaneously claiming they wanted it put to the voters were trying to have it both ways.
Echoing the months-long mantra of single-member district advocates, “Editorial Staff” invokes the spectre of the “inevitability” of the city losing the ACLU’s California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) lawsuit. OK – if there was no way the city could win the case, then why did ACLU and Moreno et al settle? And on terms they had vehemently rejected for months? if there was no way the city could win, then why wouldn’t the plaintiffs press on to victory and have a judge impose single-member districts, rather than roll the dice with an electorate that hasn’t been clamoring to junk the current system?
And the “raiding the public piggy bank is rich rhetoric given the author’s leadership position with an organization that exists for the purpose of raiding the public piggy-bank.
Contrary to the class-warfare rhetoric of “Editorial Staff,” the purpose of the city’s legal fight was to preserve its ability to control its own destiny. In my opinion, if single-member district proponents wanted Anaheim voters to have their say, they should have gone out and qualified an initiative for the ballot. That they have never tried to do that tells us a lot.
As it is, the city — because it fought the lawsuit — was able to settle the lawsuit that, on balance, was more favorable to the city than to the plaintiffs. That makes this money well spent.