Three times during the past two council meetings, Mayor Tom Tait has used on obscure parliamentary tactic to shut down debate and safeguard his council allies from having to cast politically damaging votes.
Councilwoman Lucille Kring had placed on the July 25 city council agenda a request to re-affirm the city’s anti-camping ordinance, adopted in 2013 as a tool to prevent the homeless from living in city parks. The issue of homeless camps has metastasized since then as more and more Anaheim residents demand the city more vigorously enforce the anti-camping ordinance.
Mayor Tait prevented Kring’s item from being discussed or voted on by making a motion to table it – which takes precedence over other motions and cannot be debated.
Last week, at the August 15 city council meeting, Councilwoman Kris Murray had agendized various amendments to the “Sunshine Ordinance” sponsored by Councilman Jose F. Moreno. Murray’s proposals went significantly beyond Moreno’s ordinance – which exempted significant categories of professional lobbyists from his ordinance’s registration requirements. Tait and his council allies voted to table Murray’s proposal.
That same evening, the city council was scheduled to consider a request by Kring to have the council send a letter of opposition to SB 54 – the “Sanctuary State” bill by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin DeLeon that would prohibit state and local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities in nearly all instances.
A long parade of radical activists from groups such as Orange County Immigrant Youth United – a self-described group of undocumented immigrants – spoke at the council meeting. Many of them denounced Kring and anyone opposed to SB 54 as a racist and comparable to the white nationalists who rioted in Charlottesville. All of them urged the council to support SB 54.
SB 54 is a radical bill deliberately aimed preventing the federal immigration authorities from enforcing the law; it directly impacts the Anaheim Police Department and significantly curtails the city council’s authority to set policy in that area. Kring’s request was consistent with the city council-approved 2017 Legislative Platform – which Tait and the entire city council approved on March 7 – calls out support for protecting “local control;” SB 54 rides roughshod over local control. Rather than let Kring make her case or allow the council to deliberate and vote, Tait denounced her request as “divisive” and successfully moved to table it.
Radical activists who oppose the enforcement of immigration laws had their say on the matter. Tait acted to prevent a duly-elected member of the city council from having hers.
Tait justified his action by claiming Kring’s request was divisive – ironic and absurd considering the mayor has no aversion to being divisive when it suits his political purposes. The more credible reason for tabling these items is to protect his council allies – especially Moreno, the leftist Democrat who faces re-election next year in an environment in which few of the factors contributing to his very narrow 2016 win over Councilman Jordan Brandman will be present. 2016 was a presidential election with strong Democratic and Latino voter turnout driven by the elections for president, the 29th Senate District and the 65th Assembly District; an amply-funded campaign to register Democrats. Those factors will be absent in 2018, when the electorate will be smaller, less Democratic and more conservative.
Homeless has exploded as an issue in Anaheim, including in Moreno’s District 3. The most visible manifestation of the problem – the massive Santa Ana River trail encampment – barely existed when Moreno was elected. The difficulty for Moreno is his progressive views on responding to the homeless crisis are increasingly at odds with exasperated Anaheim residents, who are shifting towards enforcement-first stance: supportive of help for the homeless who are willing to be helped, and moving everyone off of public property.
Moreno campaigned as a critic of the anti-camping ordinance, but has back-tracked and modulated his comments since the election. An actual vote on re-affirming the anti-camping ordinance would have boxed Moreno between his own progressive views and those of his progressive base, and District 3 voters who want the anti-camping ordinance enforced.
Kring’s request to oppose SB 54 posed a similar challenge to Moreno: while he expressed support for sanctuary city status as a candidate, “sanctuary” laws are unpopular among voters across partisan and demographic lines. Allowing Kring’s agenda item to be discussed and voted on would have put Moreno in a very tough political position, so Tait bailed out his close political ally by moving to table the matter. It was an unexpectedly near-run thing: Mayor Pro Tem James Vanderbilt voted against tabling Kring’s request, but Councilman Steve Faessel supported the tabling motion and helped Tait load Moreno into the political lifeboat. Faessel’s vote was doubly ironic since Moreno’s “Sunshine Ordinance” is partly aimed at depriving Faessel of one of his council aides.
Even when Tait was a minority of one on the city council, the then-council majority didn’t table him into silence. Occasionally his motions died for lack of a second – which he and his allies characterized as affronts to democracy – but he always had ample opportunity to speak and make his arguments, even to the point of dragging out council meetings to the frustration of the council majority.
Despite that experience, Tait demonstrated a capacity for ruthless wielding the gavel to short-circuit votes and discussion in order to enhance the re-election prospects of his left-wing Democrat ally. Republicans in Orange County and California are calling for Assembly GOP Leader Chad Mayes’ resignation because he cut a deal on cap-and-trade deal giving Democrats in vulnerable districts a pass on having to vote for the de facto energy tax hike. Tait is running the same kind of interference to help a liberal Democrat with higher political aspirations.
Furthermore, one would think Moreno would welcome the opportunity to debate the matter of SB 54, since he’s rarely shy about sharing his opinion, especially on matters related to identity politics.