The ballot counting is virtually done. Let’s take another look at the Anaheim city council results and consider what they mean.
The most obvious consequence, of course, is that Mayor Tom Tait has, on his third try, secured an ostensible majority on the city council – due to narrow wins by two of his four candidates: Denise Barnes in District 1 and Jose F. Moreno in District 3.
Naturally, Team Tait acolytes are hailing this as a victory for “the people” against “the special interests.” Some even try to present it as some sort of mandate from “the people” – reflecting their proclivity for attaching the sobriquet “The People’s ______” to their preferred political outcomes. Neither is the case.
With the partial exception of District 1, this was contest between two opposing coalitions of political interests. Any attempt to portray the Tait Slate wins as representative of a victory for “the people” melts upon closer examination.
The highest vote share achieved by any Tait Slate candidate was Jose Moreno’s 36%; were the other 67% voting for “the special interests”? Are two-thirds of District 3 voters and three-quarters of District 1 votes not “the people”? Of course not. Activists and gadflies peddling the “it’s now the People’s Council” line are functioning as propagandists.
Compare Moreno’s vote share to the 42% garnered by Lucille Kring and Steve Faessel in their respective contests.
In terms of raw votes, Team Tait candidates received a collective 16,937 votes – that’s only 12% of the Anaheim electorate and fewer than the 19,205 votes earned by the business-public safety coalition candidates. In a city with 139,584 voters, can either total be said to represent a city-wide mandate? Is that even possible in the era of by-district elections.
Can Denise Barnes be said to have any kind of mandate when 73% of her constituents opted to vote for someone else? [And this would have applied to Steve Chavez Lodge or Leonard Lahtinen had they been the winners by the same margin.]
If anything, these results – especially in Districts 1 and 3 – make the case for implementing a run-off system to ensure each council district is represented by a councilmember for whom at least have the participating citizens voted.
What is certain is the balance of power on the council has swung toward Mayor Tom Tait – a majority of the council are his allies. So what does that mean?
The mayor talks about reducing regulations – but this assumes he needed this new council majority to do so when in truth he has always had the votes on council to accomplish that goal. Councilmembers Kris Murray and Gail Eastman were both strong supporters of his Regulatory Reform Task Force initiative – and Tait tried hard to defeat them for re-election (and succeeded in Eastman’s case).
The new council majority can certainly repeal the Hotel Incentive Policy – primarily a symbolic victory as it is unclear if any additional developers were planning to apply.
Any attempt by the Tait majority to renege on existing agreements approved under the Hotel Incentive Policy would likely embroil the city in very expensive litigation with a murky chance of prevailing. It’s worth remembering that Mayor Tait and his allies frequently cited high litigation costs when urging capitulation in the California Voting Rights Act lawsuit filed by Moreno and the ACLU. Shouldn’t argue against precipitate action here? Or do costs only matter when useful for undermining policies one opposes?
It’s also unclear how such a vote would go down. Would Jose Moreno vote to repeal the TOT tax rebate agreement with Disney – and thereby costing his UNITE-HERE Local 11 allies all that dues revenue from hundreds of new members? Furthermore, it would be inconsistent to repeal the Wincome Group agreements while leaving Disney’s in place – unless Moreno isn’t really opposed to the Hotel Incentive Policy in principle, but merely opposed to approving such deals with including a “labor peace” agreement.
There’s talk about going after the gate tax (de facto) moratorium. Good luck with that one. Disney and the Anaheim City Council entered into a contractual agreement in good faith – and Disney is keeping its end of the bargain. Does anyone really think the new Tait majority would be able to pull off a double-cross like that – based on a goofy interpretation of the city charter – without being flambéed in court?
Like Robespierrists at the height of the French Revolution, there’s also murmurings of marching counter-revolutionaries to the guillotine – beginning with City Manager Paul Emery.
Emery’s transgression: not “sharing” Mayor Tait’s “vision for the city [of] creating a culture of kindness…and focusing on the community.” Let’s suppose Emery is terminated for insufficient fealty to Mayor Tait’s personal vision. Two years from now, when a new mayor takes the oath of office, does he or she get to pick another city manager who shares whatever his or her “vision” for Anaheim is? Is the mayor a strong man whose personal vision trumps those of individual councilmembers?
City manager’s aren’t policy makers; they’re managers who implement the policy set by the council. Is it reasonable to think Paul Emery would refuse to implement whatever future policies are adopted by the council? Does Anaheim really need its fifth city manager in five years? I don’t recall any Tait Slate candidate asking voters to elect them so they could fire the city manager. This smacks of vengeance, not good governance.