Transparency took a beating from the Tait council majority this Tuesday by voting down an attempt by Councilwoman Kris Murray to apply full public transparency to the Moreno/Tait “Welcoming Anaheim” immigration mayoral task force. Mayor Tait then took it a step further by agendizing for the next council meeting a repeal of the December 20 council resolution authorizing the Welcoming Anaheim task force in order to place it beyond the reach of Brown Act’s open government requirements.
Their action throughout the agenda item made it clear that Tait and Moreno would brook no other influence on their political project. Tait tried to shut Murray down right out of the box, immediately moving to table – and thereby kill – her transparency request before any discussion even took place. To the mayor’s visible surprise, Councilman James Vanderbilt joined with Murray, Steve Faessel and Lucille Kring to permit discussion and consideration by voting against Tait’s tabling motion (Tait, Moreno and Barnes voted in favor of shutting the matter down without discussion).
There was considerable back and forth, which came down to Murray pointing out that the task force was authorized by a vote of the council and therefore subject to Brown Act requirements of openness. Although the Brown Act doesn’t mandate livecasting meetings and archiving video, Murray noted this had been done with the both the Anaheim Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections and Governance and the Charter Review Commission. She further argued it would enable interested Anaheim residents unable to attend the Welcoming Anaheim task force meetings – the first of which was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on a weekday – to follow them.
The mayor responded by repeatedly asserting it was “my task force” (although it was Moreno’s proposal and agenda item) and he would run it anyway he saw fit, but without articulating his objection to livecasting the meetings.
As Murray and Kring pressed the case for full transparency, Councilman Jose F. Moreno got personal. During a couple of exchanges with Murray, he tacitly accused her of bigotry. When Murray pointed out it would be difficult for many people to attend a task force meeting at 8:30 am in a weekday, Moreno sneeringly put her down for not understanding “our community” i.e. Latinos. When Murray asked why there would be an objection to video-casting the meetings, Moreno replied, “Because of people like you” – going on to claim that “people like” Councilwoman Murray and “nefarious blogs” would lie in wait to pounce on task force participants – especially things that apparently will be said by an unnamed “pillar of the community” to whom Moreno referred several times.
The claims that people would be intimidated from participating stretch credulity to the breaking point. The progressive activists who will no doubt be involved in Moreno and Tait’s enterprise aren’t shrinking violets. The fact that Citizens Advisory Council meetings were livecast and archived didn’t deter progressive activists and UNITE-HERE minions from trooping to the microphone to recite pre-programmed messages. Are we to believe the same coalition that yelled and screamed to shut down an Anaheim City Council meeting because things didn’t go their way are going to be shy about speaking up at Welcoming Anaheim task force meetings? These activists love being in front of cameras.
If Moreno’s concern is that undocumented residents he wants to participate might not, then consider that the Anaheim Union High School District and Anaheim Elementary School District recently publicized a series of meetings for districts families on the topic of what to do if ICE shows up at your school. These were public meetings in public school auditoriums.
Both Moreno and Tait claimed Kring and Murray weren’t really interested in transparency but in “control.” Neither Murray nor Kring proposed anything that would have given them “control” of the task force. Nonetheless, both Tait and Moreno stuck to that talking point, while failing to provide any compelling reason why the task force shouldn’t be fully transparent. Their mighty resistance to full transparency was the great unanswered question of the evening.
It might be found in Moreno’s past remarks about the possibility of making Anaheim a sanctuary city – something for which Moreno expressed support during his city council campaign. For example, Moreno re-posted this Voice of OC article on his Facebook page:
“Let’s get to work!” On what, one might ask? From the VOC article that Moreno praised:
“Moreno said it was important for city leaders to send a strong message that they do not support anti-immigrant rhetoric “by tacit silence or even agreement,” but also insisted that the council should not be “prescriptive” in its approach and allow residents to decide through the task force.”
This would seem to indicate Moreno has not backed off his support for turning Anaheim into a sanctuary city, but that he has tactical differences with his radical progressive allies on how best to get there – especially since he is running for re-election in a low-turnout off-year election, and sanctuary cities are strongly opposed by voters across party and demographic lines. It’s reasonable to infer Moreno prefers using the vehicle of the Welcoming City task force in hopes it is seen as something “the community” wants rather than as Moreno’s pet issue. In that case, the last thing the task force’s managers would want is full public transparency that could cause the enterprise to collapse under the weight of its political unpopularity.
And in the end, the idea of transparency for the Welcoming Anaheim task force was buried six feet under by the Tait majority. After Mayor Tait publicly wished he’d never put the idea to the council for approval as a mistake since it bound it with Brown Act openness stipulations (even though it was technically Moreno who agendized it for council action), Councilman Vanderbilt suggested that he agendize repealing that council action and move forward with a mayoral task force that he alone controlled. Tait seized on the idea and asked staff to place it on the next city council agenda. Then the council voted down Murray’s transparency request on a 4-3 vote. District 1 Councilwoman Denise Barnes – the only councilmember to vote against the formation of this task force – then voted against making it fully transparent to her constituents. Presumably there was no way to lifeboat her on this vote given Faessel’s support for Murray’s proposal.
Anaheim council politics is a bottomless fount of the topsy-turvy, but this was an especially glaring example: the council faction that talks endlessly about transparency was resolute in opposing it for a politicized immigration task force of which a number of residents are suspicious – and went even further by signaling its intent to strip away the existing Brown Act guarantees of open government.