A friend of this blog forward this January 9 commentary by Councilman James Vanderbilt on the Mother Colony e-mail listserv. The topic was the online petition created by West Anaheim residents asking to have their council districts 1 and 2 on this year’s ballot, and Vanderbilt discusses his recent move to West Anaheim and the recent controversy engulfing the map process:
One aspect I have always appreciated about the Mother Colony listserv is the discourse of important city issues from many individual’s points of view. It is import for any elected official, including myself, to know “the pulse” of the people that I represent and reading the conversations of district elections in the Mother Colony Yahoo Group for the last several years has shaped my personal opinion (I can elaborate on this further at the next council meeting as a matter of public record).
But for now, I feel it is important to weigh in on this discussion because there is some assumption that I moved into West Anaheim. Depending on who you speak with, West Anaheim is generally considered to extend from Brookhurst Street to the western city limits. In fact, I did a Google search and I see that Wikipedia defines West Anaheim in this way. To give some perspective, I live about three blocks from the Anaheim Plaza and that’s about two miles due east from the Linbrook Bowling Alley on Brookhurst St. and Lincoln. While I consider that walking distance, it would still take me about 30 minutes to get there from where I live now. So, while I moved west, I did not move to West Anaheim.
My neighborhood is the very Anaheim neighborhood where I grew up for more than 10 years and later worked as a teenager for 3 years. My closest elementary school is Adelaide Price which is where I was a student for 1st through 3rd Grades. In fact, I live on the same block where my childhood classmate and best friend “Robbie” lived when I was a kid. We played on different teams of the La Palma Little League at the park I now live closest to (John Marshall off of La Palma near Servite High School). I also lived about 3 long city blocks from the location where my parents got my first bank savings account in 1970 at the branch of Security Pacific Bank near what is now Smart & Final. My parents were very much a blue-collar couple in late 60’s and early 70’s, so they impressed upon me the importance of going to the bank every week to deposit something and I think that is why I have very vivid memories of that experience. I lived in my current neighborhood long enough to have been a frequent shopper to the Anaheim Plaza and Wal-Mart when it first existed as an outdoor mall and Sav-on Drug Store, before they became an indoor mall and then again an outdoor mall.
Of course all of this explanation would be meaningful, if I could let you know what Anaheim electoral district I live in now and for how long, as well as those I have lived in before and for how long, but unfortunately, most of my colleagues decided to scrap the consensus map that so many people in the community pushed for. I thought this was especially saddening because I believe that our council should encourage broad public participation by being responsive to the wishes of all of those who took part in putting the map together. I was truly impressed by the participation of so many and by having a panel of independent retired judges decide. I was especially careful to stay outside this process to make sure it was as organic as possible. But now that the council wants to unilaterally revisit the district boundaries, it will have a very hard time assuring the public of a clean process moving forward. Of course, I believe it is perfectly understandable to have questions of why I have moved recently and suggest that I may not know much about the area where I reside. The reality is that it is much more personal decision and given the sentiments I am reading here it seems important to clarify my history and experience of where I live. I believe I did so as a candidate when I stated in my city council statement in 2014 that I have lived in many parts of the city including where I now live.
Certainly, I look forward to following the continued debate about districting both within the Mother Colony group and throughout the city. But, without a map that defines how neighborhoods are combined or divided, questions of a person’s history with a district-yet-be-known” seems to take the focus off the more immediate question of what map do the people want. What I think would be a point for the group to seriously debate is the real possibility that the Colony gets divided into three separate districts as has been proposed by some at our last meeting. Any and all feedback is welcome.