Last night, the Anaheim City Council voted to return to using the original, traditional flag that had served as the city’s symbol from 1967 until 2018 – ditching the new city flag adopted last year at the behest of then-Mayor Tom Tait. Tait’s desire to re-design the flag had been sparked by watching a YouTube video of a Ted Talk on flag design.
The once-and-now-present Anaheim flag:
The “new” city flag, retired after less than a year of flying on city flagpoles:
The move to restore the original city flag was spearheaded by Mayor Pro Tem Lucille Kring, who noted uniform criticism from residents after the new flag was adopted.
The vote was 4-3, with Mayor Harry Sidhu, Mayor Pro Tem Kring and Councilmembers Steve Faessel and Trevor O’Neil in support of restoring the original flag. Councilmembers Jose F. Moreno, Jordan Brandman and Denise Barnes opposed the motion.
Moreno led the attack on the Kring’s motion, going into what is becoming his trademark Grand Inquisitor role.
Moreno claimed the new flag was “democratically” selected while calling the original flag “undemocratic.” This is a refashioning of the meaning of “democratic.” Both flags were democratically adopted because they were approved by the City Councils of their time – the duly elected representatives of the citizens of Anaheim. The difference is the new flag was the product of a contest, while the original flag was designed by Mr. Bud Nagel, who was the city’s public information officer in 1967.
Councilman Jordan Brandman offered up a “fusion” flag, incorporating elements both the new and original versions:
Brandman said it was unnecessary to re-start the design and public input process in order to adopt his proposed compromise flag.
“We’re a representative democracy. The community input was made at the polls,” said Brandman. “I think we can make a decision for ourselves and we know where our constituents stand.”
Moreno took issue with Brandman’s statement, saying “We don’t know why they voted for us.” [An astonishing claim given Moreno’s penchant for perorations on why his voters support him.]
“The mayor received one-third of all votes. Is he a duly elected representative and represents the people? Or should he keep checking in,” Moreno said.
It’s strange for Moreno to cite Sidhu’s 32.5% plurality as somehow undermining his duly-elected status, given that he only squeaked into the District 3 council seat in 2016 with 36% of the vote – winning by a mere 72 ballots. That didn’t stop Moreno from behaving like someone who had won a sweeping voter mandate.
Elected officials should continue “checking in” with their constituents. That is a matter of prudent politics. But they remain duly-elected for the entirety of their term, with all the decision-making powers accompanying that status, regardless of how often they “check in.” The validity of their election doesn’t expire until the lawful end of their term.
Moreno’s error stems from the tendency of progressives to conflate processes like public hearings with democratic legitimacy. Members of the public can express their opinions at public hearings, but the voice of the people is heard through the ballot.
Not that Moreno really cares about process or democracy when they pose potential obstacles to achieving progressive political priorities. In neighboring Orange, a Moreno campaign donor sued the city demanding the expansion of the city council to 6 members, an immediate switch to by-district elections, and cancellation of a special election to fill a council vacancy. The plaintiff sued because a close political ally of Moreno’s lost her bid to Orange City Council last year. The plaintiff and his supporters do not want the matter placed on the ballot so Orange voters have their say (as Anaheim voters did).
Orange residents have shown no appetite for district elections. There’s been no organized push for them. The Orange City Council has had at least one and sometimes two Latino councilmembers – from both parties – continuously for the last 50 years.
Nonetheless, Moreno has publicly urged the Orange City Council to accede to these demands (which it has) and have district elections imposed on those citizens without the opportunity to give or withhold their consent.
No chance for Orange voters to have a voice in fundamentally changing how they elect their representatives – and depriving Orange voters of the opportunity to elect someone to fill the vacancy and bring their city council to full strength. And Moreno supports that.
Not that it’s necessarily surprising. Despite his ceaseless references to Anaheim voters 2014 approval of district elections, when Moreno was the lead plaintiff on the CVRA lawsuit against Anaheim, he and his co-plaintiffs rejected an early city request to place districting on the ballot – contending it would be inherently discriminatory against Latino voters.
Situational political morality in action. Moreno’s sanctimony about democracy and district elections is made more pungent by his cynicism and hypocrisy.
Moreno also went after Councilman Steve Faessel, who served on the ad hoc committee that came up with the new flag and voted for it last year.
The flag vote had been continued from the previous council meeting because Faessel was absent. According to Kring, the District 5 councilman subsequently said the continuance was unnecessary.
Moreno – who is clearly preparing to back a candidate against Faessel next year – used that as an opportunity to accuse Faessel of trying to “escape your votes. You cannot escape your votes.” He even lectured Faessel on “decency. That’s quite a claim to lodge against Faessel – who exudes decency and reasonableness – from someone who behavior on the dais increasingly resembles that of a hungry barracuda.
Moreno has a penchant for wedging district elction
Ultimately, Brandman’s compromise flag was rejected and the council voted to re-adopt the original city flag.