Anaheim Hills attorney Ashleigh Aitken officially declared her mayoral candidacy on Wednesday, while former Anaheim Councilwoman Lorri Galloway inched closer to officially joining the race.
Aitken made her public announcement via Facebook Live:
Aitken, a Democrat who is seeking elected office for the first time, cited several probems as priorities:
“We have a struggling homeless population.
We need to create more affordable housing for our neighbors.
And we need to upgrade our public transportation system so that our residents can get around our city and find a place to park.
And we need to increase public security so that all of our neighborhoods are safe.”
The same day, the Voice of OC published an article based on reporter Thy Vo’s interview with the first time candidate. In it she said homelessness will be her top priority, promising to “be a leader and hold the county to task.”
Aitken spoke in generalities, calling it a “regional problem, not an Anaheim only problem” and promised to go at the issue compassionately in order to place the homeless “into a long-term, stable situation.”
When asked about Councilwoman Kris Murray’s Operation Home Safe program to reclaim the Santa Ana River Trail from homeless squatters, Aitken declined to comment.
She also sent mixed signals on the city’s anti-camping ordinance, which radical homeless advocates want repealed while homeowners and businesses want it enforced:
“I think the camping ordinance is something that was a reaction to the homeless problem,” Aitken said of the law. “Repealing it, if it was part of a larger plan, that might work. But repealing it and not having a holistic plan…doesn’t make any sense.”
Hotel Subsidies OK If Conjoined To Forced Unionization
Aitken acknowledged the economic importance to Anaheim of a thriving Resort District and said she was not opposed to subsidies or economic assistance programs to spur development. However, she made it clear her support for such deals would be conditioned on requiring unionization of hotel workers and requiring developers to pay prevailing wage.
Such mandates would conspire to increase the cost of hotel construction and operations, and therefore the size of the subsidy.
Aitken pointed to Disney’s planned 4-Diamond hotel – one of three projects approved under the now-repealed Hotel Incentive Program – as a model because the property’s workers will be represented by UNITE-HERE Local 11:
“They provide good union jobs for a lot of our local residents. And when those things are built, there’s a benefit to the city,” Aitken said of the subsidy.
UNITE-HERE Local 11 denounces TOT tax rebates to incentivize luxury hotel development as “taxpayer giveaways” unless those agreements include forced unionization agreements – in which case they become sound economic policy in the eyes of the militant hotel workers union, which has been largely unsuccessful in organizing Anaheim hotel workers.
Aitken also gave mixed signals on the topic of a police oversight board:
Asked whether the city needs a police review commission to address public confidence in the police department, Aitken did not give a direct answer.
“There are some citizen oversight boards that have worked really well, and some that have been unsuccessful,” Aitken said. “As we develop something, we have to make sure that we do something that works for everybody.”
Aitken also pledge to work to “return to civility” and reduce “acrimony at city hall.”
The Anaheim Hills Democrat seems to be finding her footing as candidate, and her liberal politics and instincts could prove problematic going into an election where public exasperation with homelessness, crime and degenerating neighborhood conditions are the top issues. For example, Aitken recently posted on Facebook about visiting to Santa Ana River camp with other members of the OC Bar Association in order provide free legal counsel to homeless encampment denizens:
This runs directly counter to prevailing voter sentiment, which has turned sharply in favor of enforcement and is hostile to actions and policies viewed as enabling the homeless.
Former Councilwoman Lorri Galloway Poised To Jump In Mayoral Race
Chatter about former Anaheim Councilwoman Lorri Galloway throwing her hat into the mayoral ring for a few weeks. I spoke with her this morning. While she wouldn’t confirm a mayoral candidacy, she did say she was “preparing an announcement.” She also pointed out her finish as the second-highest voter-getter in the 2014 mayoral election as evidence she would be a strong candidate:
Galloway, who lives in Anaheim Hills and operates The Eli Home for abused women, was first elected to city council in 2004 with 24,856 votes (18.8%), and re-elected in 2008 with 31,694 (22.6%). Her signature issue during her two council terms was affordable housing. Galloway demonstrated an ability to collaborate across partisan and philosophical lines in order to achieve her goals.
A Galloway candidacy scrambles the mayoral calculus. Currently, there are two declared male candidates – Harry Sidhu and John Machieverna – both of whom are also Republicans. Ashleigh Aitken is the only female and Democrat currently in the race – an advantage that goes away with a Galloway candidacy. Aitken has demonstrated enormous fundraising prowess, but much of her warchest will be spent on introducing herself to voters. Both Galloway and Sidhu have been twice won city-wide council elections and are more familiar to voters.
A significant X-factor is who Mayor Tom Tait’s candidate will be. Various factors would seem to disqualify the existing field from receiving the out-going mayor’s endorsement, so it remains to be seen who he will recruit or support as his successor.