A group of nearly 100 Anaheim residents of all ages, ethnicities and viewpoints, coming from every walk of life, and equally distributed among Anaheim’s six council districts – come together as Anaheim First to volunteer their time, energy, experience and ideas to develop a resident-driven plan for guiding city investment in their neighborhoods.
They invest time in learning more about how Anaheim’s city government and local economy work. They tour Anaheim’s districts and neighborhoods of Anaheim to gain a deeper understanding of their particular characters, challenges, needs and attractions.
Last week, they gathered for community summit, breaking into districts to participate in a facilitated workshop on the needs of their respective districts. They discussed and brainstormed with each other on questions such what concrete steps can the city take to improve neighborhood quality of life, and what is the city doing best when it comes to community services?
All this public spiritedness and community-minded activity by a diverse set of ordinary Anaheim residents has caused Anaheim Councilman Jose F. Moreno and his allies to meltdown.
At every turn, they seek to undermine and delegitimize the efforts of Anaheim First members.
Moreno “otherizes” these residents, denigrating them as political pawns and demanding investigations of their efforts. He dismisses them as a front for the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce (which would come as news to them).
The District 3 councilman’s minions follow his lead – echoing Moreno’s accusations, stalking and harassing these folks at neighborhood meetings, badgering them and sticking camera phones in their faces.
OCCORD, a political advocacy group closely tied to Moreno, tries to paint Anaheim First as a political pressure group. OCCORD staffers even planted a loaded question about Anaheim First into the Q&A portion of their “community forum” on the Angels negotiations. Physician, heal thyself.
Last night, several Anaheim First members spoke during public comments about last week’s community summit and how excited they were being a part of Anaheim First and the work they’re doing:
“Wow – you found some nice people to suck into that [political action committee] Anaheim First,” Robbins lied. So much for the City of Kindness. [For the record, Anaheim First is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, not a political action committee.]
But that is typical – mild even – for the invective being directed at Anaheim First. Mind you, this is the same Mike Robbins who tries to marginalize Anaheim residents object to homeless encampments by comparing them Nazi death camp guards and Ku Klux Klan members. Along with his wife Jeannine, he repeats Moreno’s false claims about Anaheim First members.
Moreno heaps praise on the Robbins and OCCORD honors them at is annual banquet.
Put another way: if you’re an Anaheim resident who volunteers for a non-partisan community group to generate non-political ideas for improving neighborhoods, then Moreno and his allies call you for being a pawn and a shill.
But if you’re an ally who supports their agenda, then Moreno, OCCORD and their allies honor your community involvement.
Why do Councilman Jose F. Moreno and his allies feel so threatened by the involvement of a group of ordinary residents? Because they see Anaheim First and its members as competition.
Moreno, and OCCORD and political gadflies like the Robbins are have grown accustomed to mobbing council meetings and public hearings, claiming they speak for “the people” and “the community.” They’ve been running their political game for years, with local media never questioning their claims.
They feel threatened by a diverse group of ordinary residents whose involvement stems from a desire to improve their neighborhoods and their city, rather than advance a political agenda. They aren’t thrilled at the prospect of residents they cannot manipulate or control proposing ideas for quality of life improvements that Anaheim residents might find appealing.
The last thing Moreno and his allies want is to share space with a genuinely community-based group advocating a neighborhood improvement agenda rather than a political agenda. – people whose personal lives don’t revolve around haranguing opponents at city council meetings and attending political meetings with the same two dozen people.
Contrast the demeanor of those Anaheim First member with the customary antics of the Mike Robbins and Bobby Donelsons and Duane Roberts – with whom are normal, everyday people more likely to identify. Maybe one motivation behind the desperate to delegitimize Anaheim First: the contrast between its community-based, non-partisan nature and their tendency to politicize everything.
Anaheim First members come from all walks of life. They hold different political affiliations – as well as none at all. Their involvement isn’t political; it stems from wanting to work with other residents to improve their city and their neighborhoods.
The behavior of the Mike and Jeannine Robbins of the city toward Anaheim First members is loutish and dishonest and deliberate. And they’re following the example of their leader on the council dais.