Does Publicly Answering Constituents’ Questions “Politicize” Them?

When elected officials attend community meetings, they’re customarily willing to publicly answer questions from their constituents. That is apparently not the case in District 1.

The West Anaheim Neighborhood Development Council (WAND) has been the organized voice of West Anaheim residents for decades. Earlier this month, Esther Wallace, WAND’s long-time president, invited District 1 Councilmember Denise Barnes to speak at the group’s final meeting of the year.

Barnes replied that she “can speak privately with the people” but not publicly, saying she didn’t “want to politicize my position.”

barnes response WAND 11-7-17

That’s an unusual position, to say the least. Barnes’ council colleagues frequently appear before groups of residents, providing updates, giving their views and publicly answering questions from residents – often in contentious circumstances. It’s difficult to understand how engaging in such a basic exercise of representative democracy constitutes “politicizing” an elected officials position. That’s a recipe for clamming up and avoiding a pubic dialogue with citizens.

If a constituent has a question, Councilmember Barnes either has an answer or she doesn’t; if the latter, she can look into the matter and follow-up with a response. If an Anaheim resident wants to know her position on a city matter or policy question, why shouldn’t she give a public answer instead of restricting that information to one-on-one conversations. Citizens reasonably expect that their councilmembers can and will publicly take and answer questions from the electorate.

35 comments

  1. I believe it is Denises JOB to answer questions. She is in a position that is political. While she may not know the answer, it is her job to answer to district ones questions, as she was voted in to REPRESENT us, to answer our questions, to respectfully give her opinion. It is her job. That is why she is there. Not to hope one can get a private conversation with her.

    Unless she is obviously instructed by someone else not to.

  2. This way she can tell each person a different answer.
    Does she support camping in parks – she has said YES to one group -and NO to another.
    Does she support rent control -she has said YES to one group – and NO to another.
    Does she support allowing the homeless to stay along the river – she has said YES to one group -and NO to another.
    Does she support making anaheim a sanctuary city – she has said YES to one group -and NO to another.

    People who meet with Barnes need to post on this blog how she answered simple questions.

    Then we all can compare her inconsistent (and often incoherent) statements.

  3. This is just another excuse to get her out of answering questions. Her own aid wont let her talk, he talks for her. She has no business being in the position, and for someone who has lived here for over 20yrs and is supposedly a wand member, she sure can’t tell you one thing that is going on or whats she’s doing to fix the problems that residents have been complaing about for years, unless its pre written down for her on her ipad that either her aid or mishel approves! Good job district 1 in voting in a complete idiot who will never fix a single thing in West Anaheim! But hey, I guess you got your long term residnet in a council seat!

  4. When a person holds a civic role such as District Councilmember and accepts an invite to a civic meeting or gatherings where community / hot topics are discussed by constituents, the elected representative should attempt to publically answer all questions posed as long as they are possed in an orderly manner. Reason District Councilmembers need to be up on most topics. But if the representative doesn’t have an answer, there’s nothing wrong with saying due diligence is needed and he/she will respond back accordingly via email.

    Keep in mind, District Councilmembers campaign and are elected to their role; therefore, by design, their positions are politicized to some degree. How much depends on the person and who they are aligned with. IMO answering questions possed at a public meeting is part of the job. Stipulating you only answer questions in private somehow doesn’t seem transparent, thus should cause question.

  5. Some Daze are Diamonds

    Denise is dense, conflicted and ethically-challenged

  6. Isn’t a politician politicized by definition?

  7. District 1 got bamboozled during last election. Barnes is another Tait lackey, he practically pushes her voting button for her during meetings.

  8. Was this the same WAND meeting where Todd Ament substituted for Crystal Norman in a bait and switch, and then gave a snake oil sales power point on how giving TOT to hotel developers operating outside any sane definition of free market forces would be the salvation of th city and we should all thank God for Chinese investors and Disney for rescuing Anaheim from being the slum the Chamber portrays it to be? That WAND meeting? Now why on earth would anyone NOT see that meeting as being anything BUT politicized? While the comment in the email is offered without context, when one understands its meaning in relation to the content of the meeting agenda, I don’t blame Denise for not lowering the dignity of her position by getting dragged into a cage match with the Chamber/SOAR enforcer. Denise remained above what was certain to be an ugly exchange if she engaged, and I congratulate her for having the insight to understand she was being set up. The only down side was that Todd’s presentation, reported to be embarrassing even for Ament’s standards, went without challenge. Perhaps someone SHOULD present another viewpoint, using actual facts and documentation rather than the work of fiction the Resort lackeys rely upon. But that meeting was not the time nor the place to engage, and Denise preserved the dignity of her office by not stooping to what certainly would have been Todd’s gutter level attacks if she agreed to participate. You are just bugged that people have caught on and no longer play by your rules. Too bad.

    • I thought you were now all about civility and disagreeing without being disagreeable, Cynthia? Are you so insecure that you can’t disagree with someone without maligning them as a person?

      In any case, your rant is beside the point. Councilmember Barnes ran for and won elected office. It is an inherently political job. Her stated reason for declining to appear before WAND is a cop-out. If, as you say, someone should have been there to present another viewpoint, then why not Councilmember Barnes? She ran an opposition to the policies Todd Ament was defending, so why shouldn’t she articulate her position in front of her constituents?

      Elected officials aren’t royalty; it’s not “lowering the dignity of the office” to be on the same agenda as a mere citizen, your ridiculous claim notwithstanding.

    • “What we should have been taught was how to have a civil conversation about a difficult topic.”

      Cynthia, perhaps you ought to heed the advice you’re dishing out to others.

    • Were you at the WAND meeting, Cynthia? The issues residents brought up had NOTHING to do with the resort. They asked questions about issues that were important to them and directly effect their area- Permit Parking, High Density development, homeless encampments and crime. These are all issues that she should have been able to answer. If Kris Murray or Lucille Kring refused to answer questions, you would be ranting on the OJ Blog about it but I guess when Barnes does it you find it acceptable. I find it hypocritical. Why don’t you stick to addressing issues in your own district and leave west Anaheim alone.

    • You, Cynthia Ward, are a huge hypocrite.

    • Agreed Cynthia but we still have a bunch of Steve (now Chavez) Lodge supporters that can’t or won’t move on, pathetic.

  9. So, let me make sure I fully understand the subject. Todd Ament came to WAND to promote the benefits of a City program that has already been approved, put into place, and then sunsetted, having granted to its beneficiaries the subsidies intended, and therefore the policy is no longer needed. There is nothing for anyone to approve or oppose, no reason for public information to rally the residents to come to a COuncil meeting or send in emails or phone calls. It is a done deal. So the only purpose I can see for Todd promoting the program already in place is to offer political cover for those who approved it. Denise Barnes was not one of those people. I can’t think of a link to West Anaheim in this scenario. Oh wait–yes I can.

    That would be Jordan Brandman, and his bid for the District 2 West Anaheim seat, against James Vanderbilt. James Vanderbilt did NOT vote for the hotel subsidies, and therefore would be the political enemy of this blog, and the bias confirmation echo chamber of the comments section. Now if the purpose of Todd Ament being at a West Anaheim meeting on hotel subsidies was to whitewash Jordan Brandman’s approval of hotel subsidies so he becomes more appealing to West Anaheim’s District 2 over James Vanderbilt, that WOULD INDEED be a “politicized” reason for being there. So how was Denise wrong to not want to engage that debate?

    I don’t see any mention in Esther’s email of constituents having questions or issues for Denise to address, she simply asks if Denise wishes to participate in the meeting, and I believe the agenda promoting the hotel subsidies was already known at that point. But tell me again how wrong I am. Go ahead. I’ll wait here.

    • Wow. You probably believe the Moon landing was faked, too.

      Let’s put your conspiracy theories aside and focus on reality, Cynthia. Esther Ward offered Barnes the opportunity to speak to a group of constituents at a meeting of WAND – of which Barnes is a member. Barnes declines, saying she is only willing to speak with attendees privately, one-on-one and weirdly implying that doing otherwise would “politicize” her positions.

      If Kris Murray or Lucille Kring or anyone else on your hate list did the same thing, you’d attack them for being afraid to face their constituents. In this case, you make lame, noxious excuses and attempt change the subject to one of your crazy conspiracy theories.

  10. Thank you Matthew Cunningham.

  11. Maybe Barnes wont speak because moreno and tait are unavailable to move her mouth strings.

  12. Sounds like she was smart enough to avoid getting ambushed. Good for her.

  13. Anaheim’s got it right…without Tait, Barnes is a fish floundering in a waterless ocean.

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