If case you missed the second installment of the LA Times’s two-part, one-dimensional series on Anaheim and Disney, here’s executive summary:
Two anti-Disney candidates – Jose F. Moreno and Arturo Ferreras – ran for Anaheim City Council in November 2016. Disney spent a lot of money on council campaigns. Ferreras lost big and Moreno barely won. This represents a voter shift away from Disney.
To read reporter Daniel Miller’s telling of the District 3 and 4 elections, the only real player was Disney, and therefore Moreno’s squeaker victory can be read as an anti-Disney backlash. Other factors that materially contributed to the outcome are ignored. The article’s biased is even more pronounced due to the reporter’s quoting of anti-Disney individuals without identifying them as such.
Outgunned financially, Moreno’s chances appeared slim. But he hammered away at the idea that corporate subsidies had created “two Anaheims.”
Moreno was outspent by a significant margin, but not outgunned. He had built up some name ID from running for city council in 2014, and had never really stopped running. He had the endorsement of the Democratic Party of Orange County, thereby benefiting from intense Democratic voter contact in the district. And his campaign spent nearly $60,000, more than sufficient in a district with only 19,000 voters. He also had Mayor Tom Tait campaigning strongly on his behalf. Miller ignores these and other important factors.
Miller notes Moreno was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit to led to the Anaheim city council by voting districts for the first time in 2016. However, when discussing the disparity between spending for and against Moreno, Miller neglects to mention that by-district elections can blunt such funding disparities. There’s only so much mail campaigns can stuff into a district before the electorate is super-saturated with political messaging. And District 3 voters were being deluged with campaign mail not only for the council race, but from the hyper-competitive SD29 and AD65 races.
Consequently, a vigorous ground game becomes relatively more important, and in this respect Moreno and Brandman were competing on more than equal terms. In addition to his own volunteers, the militant hotel workers union UNITE-HERE Local 11 deployed a small army of precinct walkers on Moreno’s behalf in the final weeks of the campaign.
Moreno’s message resonated. His victory — in one of the tightest races in Anaheim history — helped flip the balance of power on the City Council.
Can we really say Moreno’s message “resonated” when 64% of District 3 voters cast their ballots for somebody else?
Miller goes on to cite current concerns of Anaheim residents:
Poverty, declining income and rising crime are all contributing to a creeping restiveness. The city’s crime rate, after dipping earlier this decade, increased 14% from 2014 to 2016, according to data from the FBI. It has risen 1% since 2000.
Several Anaheim residents said they want more of the city’s tax revenue spent on making neighborhoods safer and tackling homelessness — a mushrooming problem that has drawn headlines as a large encampment of people has formed near Angel Stadium.
Anaheim residents are fed up with crime and homelessness – but this was hardly a factor in Moreno’s election, and is undermining his re-election prospects. Candidate Moreno supported repeal of the anti-campaign ordinance, which he criticized as having been enacted “to push the homeless out of the parks.” At a council meeting earlier this year he stated his belief that increased enforcement — which is precisely what his constituents are demanding – would make the homeless situation worse.
At an homelessness community meeting at Anaheim City Hall last month, a District 3 resident had this to say:
We’re getting slides that are saying, “This program,” “We’re having compassionate meetings.” Our councilman for our area, Jose Moreno, preaches compassion. Enough with the compassion. When one of these little kids gets picked up, compassion’s gonna go out the window.
Crime has increased dramatically in the wake of Prop. 47 and AB 109, as any law enforcement officer can attest. Yet, at a council meeting this spring Moreno disputed the idea that letting thousands of criminals out of jail has resulted in more crime.
A closer look at the people Miller quotes reveals a pattern.
The residents are quotes are Jeannine Robbins and Luisa Lam, who were primarily involved in the anti-Short-Term Rentals effort that Moreno, Ferreras and UNITE-HERE co-opted for their political purposes. Furthermore, this is an issue of little concern to voters outside of Districts 3 and 5, and not even that big a deal in those districts as the hype might lead one to believe.
Ms. Robbins is a enthusiastic political supporter of Moreno, as is her husband Mike, whom Moreno appointed to his Homeless Policy Working Group. For the past several months, Ms. Robbins and her husband Mike have thrown themselves into an effort to repeal the anti-camping ordinance and to open park bathrooms 24/7 for use by the homeless – both vastly unpopuplar stances among Anaheim voters. How exactly is she representative of the views of Anaheim residents, or those who votes in the November 2016 elections?
The same pattern emerges regarding the Disneyland cast members quoted by Miller:
Shannon Nickerson, who for nine years has worked as a vendor at Disneyland, selling ice cream from a cart, said the company’s political spending isn’t surprising. “The big corporations pick politicians that they want to support and they fund them so they can get their way,” said Nickerson, who lives in Anaheim.
Nickerson isn’t some random cast member whom Miller found waiting outside the park. She’s a shop steward for Workers United Local 50 – which represents Disneyland cast members – as well as a paid member of its executive board. Hardly your typical cast member.
The other Disneyland cast member whom Miller quoted in his series is Chris Shively:
Even some Disney employees wonder whether the company — whose stock market value is about $152 billion — is squeezing more out of the city than necessary. Chris Shively, an Anaheim resident and server at Blue Bayou restaurant in Disneyland, drives by the Mickey & Friends garage each day knowing that city tax dollars are paying for the facility.
“It’s a company — they have their own best interests,” he said. “But it is definitely something where the company, Disney, got a great deal — a deal that we are paying for. Absolutely frustrating.”
Shively – like Nickerson – is also a Workers United Local 50 shop steward and paid executive board member. That’s quite a coincidence: out of 30,000 cast members, Miller managed to find two who are members of the leadership cadre of the cast members union. That would have been valuable information readers could have used to evaluate the opinions expressed by Shively and Nickerson.
One wonders if Miller quoted them at the suggestion of Workers United Local 50 President Chris Duarte – whom Miller also quoted in the article. In that case, however, Duarte’s position was identified.
All this is especially relevant since Workers United Local 50, UNITE-HERE Local 11, Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD) and other Left/labor groups – in other words, key elements of Jose F, Moreno’s political coalition – are conducting a survey of Disney employees’ “living conditions”:
In other words, they’re preparing to a political offensive that builds on their messaging in the LAT series to press their demands on Disney – no doubt with vocal rhetorical support from their council ally, Jose F. Moreno.
Mighty convenient timing.