Should elected officials decide who can participate in the democratic political process and who cannot? When politicians support using the machinery of government to dictate how individuals act and businesses operate, is it right or fair for those politicians to also demand the targets of government action surrender their right to advocate for themselves? Is that consistent with free and limited government?
It’s a serious question, and one Anaheim voters ought to weigh when judging the candidacies of left-wing District 3 Councilman Jose F. Moreno and mayoral aspirant Cynthia Ward.
Disney recently announced its withdrawal from two tax incentive agreements with the city – one of which effectively prohibited the imposition of a ticket tax for 45 years – as its part to heal the harsh tenor of city politics.
In response, last month both Moreno and Ward are demanding Disney unilaterally disarm itself – politically speaking.
“It is my hope that Disney will cease to participate in the toxic body politics that has become Anaheim elections…I think it would be great if they were to divorce themselves from that body politic,” said Moreno, a progressive Democrat, at the August 28 council meeting.
At the same meeting, Ward, a Republican, called on “Disney to take a step back and get their noses out of our elections for one cycle. Allow the people of Anaheim to choose their representatives, so that after the election, we can have a frank discussion with Disney about what it is they really do need in order to thrive, without having both sides of the negotiating table represented by Disney.”
It’s important to note neither Moreno nor Ward called on their political allies to refrain from “interfering” in the November elections. Moreno isn’t asking his allies on the Left – the unions, progressive activists, etc. – to “cease to participate” in Anaheim elections – and those allies are spending huge sums of campaign cash to turn city government into their ally in organizing and bargaining. If Howard Ahmanson funds an independent expenditure to assist Ward’s candidacy, will she call upon the savings and loan heir to stop his “interference and “allow the people of Anaheim to choose their representatives?”
Don’t hold your breath.
Let’s put the singling out of Disney into context. Moreno is a vocal support of Measure L, an attempt by his political allies in the Resort union leadership to obtain at the ballot box what they’ve been unable to obtain at the bargaining table. These unions are trying to governmental power to impose their wage demands on a private business. Furthermore, Moreno has for years supported imposing a gate tax on Disneyland Resort guests.
Councilman Moreno isn’t shy about his willingness to use government to compel others to implement his policy priorities. That willingness surfaced clearly during recent council discussions on whether to force housing developers to include low-income housing units in their projects (known as “inclusionary zoning”).
“There are times when we don’t want to eat our vegetables,” Moreno said, “But there are times when we have to do it because it’s good for us.”
“I think none of us like to be told that we have to do something, until – there’s point where for the larger good, and the public good, we have to,” Moreno said from the dais. “That’s the role of government, is to be able to create methods and ways so that we can complete that social contract, that we’re providing necessary, fundamental issues of quality of life that allow a society to move forward in a civilized way.”
Moreno made clear he favors using government power to make businesses “eat their vegetables”:
“The developers themselves have said, when they come to the public hearings, and they’ve had no affordable housing in their projects, and we ask them here in public why are you not doing affordable housing…when I ask them why is there no affordability to your projects? They said ‘because we don’t have to.’ Why do you do it in other cities? ‘Because they force us to.'”
And for those who disagree with Moreno’s idea of the role of government and the larger public good, and would rather not have the city force them to eat their vegetables? If they act on that disagreement in the political arena – does that constitute creating a “toxic body politic”?
When Moreno’s allies UNITE-HERE and OCCORD in December 2015 literally shut down an Anaheim City Council meeting because they disagreed with a vote, Moreno had nothing to say. When special interests from the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington DC poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into support the districting ballot measure in 2014, Moreno raised no concerns. He’s been silent on the hundreds of thousands of dollars his Resort union allies are pouring into a divisive, militant campaign to dictate wages to businesses that aren’t cooperative with them.
None of them are asked to refrain from trying to influence city policy by abstaining from participation in our free electoral process. Only an entity Councilman Moreno perceives as inimical to his political agenda and ambitions.
To an extent, this is understandable coming from a man of the Left. Progressives are no longer the friends of free speech they once were. But Ward is a self-proclaimed conservative Republican. It is on the Right where one finds the most robust defense of free political speech. Ward’s antipathy for Disney is abundantly clear. She’d love to torch the 1996 agreements that created the Resort District. Given her political aims, it’s disturbing that she would join Moreno in asking any individual or organization to essentially shut up, sit down and surrender their right to participate in the political process – especially when special interests are openly working to use the machinery of city government to the detriment of Disney.
Reducing the number of voices in the public square, restricting the flow political information to voters on the basis of partisan political considerations – that is not in keeping with the interest of robust political discourse nor our tradition of free elections.