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Councilmembers Murray and Eastman Cost Anaheim Taxpayers $2 Million

Posted by Allen Wilson on January 8, 2014

KrisMurrayGail Eastman

The protracted issue regarding how Anaheim councilmembers are elected has come to an end but with a steep price.

Councilmembers Kris Murray and Gail Eastman has cost the taxpayers of Anaheim at a tune of $2 Million.

The City of Anaheim has already racked up $1.2 Million to defend itself and now must bear the cost of paying the litigants legal bills of over $1 Million, the ACLU and Anaheim Community Activists, who brought the issue to it’s head two years ago.

The Orange County Register reports that Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait says, “the cost of fighting the lengthy lawsuit could have been avoided if the City Council in August 2012 had approved his call for similar ballot measure.”

The two councilmembers joined with then-Councilman Harry Sidhu in 2012 as council majority stubbornly rejected Mayor Tait’s proposal.

The issue centers around Latino activists who echoed the need to change how councilmembers are elected from at-large to districts, because no Latino currently sits on the dais and 52% of the community are Latinos.

The settlement was agreed upon from a case Moreno, et al. vs. City of Anaheim that was slated to go to trail on March 17, 2014 regarding the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).

The Voice of OC reported that Councilmember Murray called the deal “a win for our citizens, for our residents, for the taxpayers of Anaheim.”

Ironically, the Orange County Register reports that Councilmember Murray says, “I am still opposed to a form of single-member district election.  I think this lawsuit and the fees attached to it are unfortunate for this city.”

In the January 8th, 2014 edition of The Anaheim Blog contributor Matthew Cunningham asserts that the ACLU and Jose Moreno are at fault for costing the taxpayers huge legal bills:  “The fault lies with the plaintiffs’ stubborn insistence on bypassing the voters in favor of the imposition of single-member districts by judicial fiat.”

Frankly, Mr. Cunningham forgets that Councilmembers Murray and Eastman have an fiduciary duty to protect the city’s assets such as taxpayer funds and settle the issue back in 2012 as suggested by Mayor Tait to let the voters decide how their councilmembers are elected.

Councilmembers Murray and Eastman should realize that the buck stops with them and they have the power by finding a consensus with Mayor Tait instead of fighting against him and the community.

The bottom line is this:  consensus is cheap, litigation is expensive.

35 Responses to “Councilmembers Murray and Eastman Cost Anaheim Taxpayers $2 Million”

  1. Matthew Cunningham said

    Allen: did you actually read the post? The plaintiffs — I repeat, the plaintiffs — told the city they would NOT drop the lawsuit even if the city council put single member districts on the ballot. You understand what that means, right?

    They wanted the court to impose them directly on the city without a vote of the people. They even went so far as to say that putting single-member districts on the ballot would be discriminatory against Latinos.

    • Ryan Cantor said

      So what? That doesn’t mean they cost the city $2MM.

      The council majority took a risk when they voted to oppose the suit and rack up legal fees. Guess what– they caved and now they pay.

      They voted to accept the risk. They’re at fault. End of story. Zero opportunity for spin.

      • Matthew Cunningham said

        Sure it does. This settlement could have been reached much sooner, but for the plaintiffs’ opposition to putting single-member districts on the ballot. That puts the onus on them. That’s not spin. That’s reality.

        And are you saying the council majority should simply have capitulated to the ACLU, surrendering to their demand to impose single-member council districts without any input from voters – simply to avoid legal fees? That’s a sensible way to govern. No way that wouldn’t invite more attempts by interest groups to beat down the council with threats of litigation.

        • Ryan Cantor said

          Yes, a responsible group of city leaders ought to consider the consequences of entering into any litigation and they should make a reasonable informed decision that best reflects the interests of those who selected them to govern. In this case, the majority tried to engage in some misguided crusade against the validity of the CVRA rather than accept the consequence of a law that can only be changed in Sacramento. They were going to lose from the beginning.

          Here’s the issue with your point, Matt: The majority didn’t offer to hold a vote. They delayed, they delayed, and when it became apparent they weren’t going to get their way, they made a grab for as much as they could get. Had the offered to hold a vote as a condition to dropping the lawsuit, well, then maybe your suggestion would hold water. The fact is they didn’t, so it doesn’t.

          They spent $2+ million dollars delaying the inevitable because they lack the skills required to make reasonable decisions. The biggest one they clearly lack is intellectual curiosity. Had they listened to their city attorney, who probably told them they were being stupid, they wouldn’t be in this mess. Instead, they fired her and got a new one who did what he was told, which hands Anaheim taxpayers this bill to pay. Hubris + stupidity = big fat check.

          What the majority in Anaheim should have done was use their position of influence to take action to ensure that members of their city felt represented on their council rather than just mouthing off that they speak for all the people. Had they backed up their talk with action, there probably wouldn’t have been a suit. Instead, they put their time and effort finding new ways to give away public tax dollars and land to their campaign donors.

          This is a losing battle for the GOP, Matt. Instead of complaining about a vast liberal conspiracy theory, the GOP and conservative community leaders ought to be engaging voters who aren’t rich and white and give them a reason to believe that the conservative vision of limited government is best suited with their values and their family’s values. Since the GOP didn’t and GOP won’t, the GOP is going to be irrelevant in North Orange County by 2020 and will likely have its available political capital severely curtailed in 2016 . . . all because they’d rather be “right” than do the right thing.

          The majority in Anaheim is killing the party. This is just the latest reason why.

    • You’re hanging your hat REALLY HARD on one letter. But Moreno, Amin, OCCORD, the whole crowd, were very loudly and publicly agitating in August of 2012 to get the question on that November’s ballot; and then again last fall to get it on this June’s ballot. They tell me the suit would have ended with the public adoption of districts; all public signs confirm that; and Judge Miller would definitely have thrown the suit out as well. Hey, your hat just slipped off.

  2. John Mejia said

    Matt – the city attorney also said that it would be highly unlikely that the judge would allow the suit to move forward if districts had been in place back when Mayor Tait originally called for a vote. This council dragged its feet in order to ensure their re-election which enables them to continue to waste taxpayer dollars on giveaways.

    • Matthew Cunningham said

      John:

      I heard that exchange between the mayor and the city attorney. Let’s examine it for a moment. If the Anaheim already had a single-member council district system in place, then its unlikely the judge would have allowed a lawsuit demanding single-member districts to move forward. Of course not – since the goal of the lawsuit would already be in existence. That’s tautological reasoning.

      • Well okay then, if we’re suddenly being logical here. Kris, Gail, and their seasonal dancing partner chose to put off this inevitable reform – or to be precise, put off letting the people decide on it – HENCE knowingly incurring the $2 million taxpayer expense. Like all the rest of us have been saying. Is that tautological? Or just true?

  3. GMTA Allen … http://www.orangejuiceblog.com/2014/01/districting-wrap-up-how-much-taxpayer-money-did-kris-murray-and-gail-eastman-spend-ensuring-themselves-a-second-term/

  4. LiA said

    Do you really think Murray had an easier re-election citywide than if she had been only running in the Hills? That’s so ridiculous it has to be the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time!

    • vernnelson said

      With at large elections still in place for this cycle, NOBODY will have the access to the money that Kris and Gail will have. Districting would have given their challengers – from left right or whatever – a fighting chance.

      • LiA said

        Except that John Leos and the unions were HUGE spenders in the last election. Honestly, does no one on this blog remember anything about that election?

        • Well, LiA, that is true (not that it helped him much.) I was waiting for someone to bring that up. It still doesn’t negate the need for the districting reform. To run citywide and be viable, a candidate needs a couple hundred thousand, which can only be gotten from the corporatocracy OR the unions. Wouldn’t we like our candidates to be able to run with a lot less money, and not be beholden to either of those big interests; maybe even be able to knock on every door of the folks they hope will be their voters? This is good for those of us who fear the power of unions as well as those of us who fear the power of corporations.

          • LiA said

            With 4 districts, there will still be 90,000+ people per district. With 6, there will be 50,000+. No one’s going to “konw on every door” or “elect their neighbor.” I’d suggest you stop living in la-la land (if you like that, move to LA!) and get a grip on real-world politics! I know that some people dream that Nixon’s “Silent Majority” still dominate the land, but if you want to make a difference in the world it’s important to live in the real world: a district where Democrats significantly outnumber Republicans is likely to elect a Democrat, especially when a seat is up in a Presidential election year.

    • Greg Diamond said

      In an Anaheim Hills district, she could conceivably be in a one-on-one race with either Tait or Galloway (if one of them didn’t run for Mayor, which both deny is possible.) She’s have quite a decent chance of losing such a race, as she’s not a particularly gifted politician and as people there would know both her and her opponents personally. (Of course, she’s not the sort of longtime resident that the others are.) Citywide, she can count on Disney and the Angels and the ACOC to flood the whole city with mailers on her behalf. It’s not ridiculous to think that she’d have a better chance in a citywide race.

  5. LiA said

    I also find it surprising that this blog is such a big fan of district elections in Anaheim, since such a system would have a high chance of electing 3 Democrats to the Council. Perhaps that’s why the Executive Director of the OC Democratic Party has declared getting district elections in Anaheim one of his top priorities?

    • You really have that much doubt that independent grass-roots conservatives will emerge, or be able to get support from their neighbors, or that they EXIST? I don’t doubt that.

    • Greg Diamond said

      While I don’t speak for the DPOC in saying this, I think it’s fair to presume that our interest is in supporting the interests of the ethnic minority majority in Anaheim. It’s the Executive Director’s priority because the Board told him — by passing a resolution that I helped draft — that it should be. And that’s less about it being partisan advantage than about it being the right thing to do: legally required and in any case inevitable.

      Passing districts SHOULD be the Republicans’ interest as well — you keep making noise about trying to attract Latino votes, right? — but I guess that it’s hard for some of you to turn your back on wealthy white areas. When we passed our resolution favoring districts, I publicly pleaded with the OCGOP to match our action, so as to depoliticize the issue. Some Republicans have been smart enough to see that that was the right move — but not enough of them. The smarter ones are now reaping the benefits of that wisdom.

      • TheMarshallPlan said

        You say that the interest of the DPOC is in ensuring that the “ethnic minority majority” is represented, but, does that mean districts that are drawn with race or ethnicity being the only factor.? Is this for every minority in Anaheim? Do Blacks, the various Asians ethnicities (Japaneses, Korean, Indian), and Latinos all get districts drawn specifically for them, or will there be only majority Latino districts?

        • Greg Diamond said

          Your question sounds like quibbling rather than good faith inquiry, but I’ll bite. There’s a whole lot of case law on how one complies with CVRA (and the CA Constitution.) I won’t review it all for you, but your starting point can be that an ethnic group that comprises half of the population (although not half of the electorate) gets more consideration than one that comprises 1-2%.

          No, race/ethnicity is not the only factor, but districts which substantially (or intentionally) undermine the ability of such a group to elect candidates to office would not satisfy the law.

          Off-topic — why you think that you have to hide behind a pseudonym to ask that particular question is beyond me.

          • TheMarshallPlan said

            First off. I have used the name TheMarshallPlan since Matt Cunningham’s Ocblog and later Redcounty. I also use it on other conservative/right leaning blogs. Second, I do not live in Orange County, nor am I involved actively in politics, so I have never will meet you or anyone else who is a regular contributor or commenter here.

            I believe the my question is a legitimate one, because the issue of minorities as a whole and representation of a minority population by a member of another smaller minority group has and is currently an issue. The fact is that the use of the VRA has been used by politicians and political parties, both Republican and Democrats for their benefit, under the guise of injustice and racism.

            I do not believe that any group should be represented in government by someone of the same group, which is why I am suspicious when I see individuals or groups claiming they are not “represented” in an elected form of government. I have seen individuals race and ethnicity challenged because of this, and I honestly believe that it contributes to a “Balkanization” not only of politics, but society. There have obviously been cases of certainly racial/ethnic groups who were discriminated against in terms of voting and situations were groups were intentionally discriminated against in terms of elections. However, just because not enough or no members of a particular race/ethnics have won an election does not mean that racism or discrimination is the reason, which is behind the push for not only district elections in Anaheim, but particular districts based solely on race through out California.

            • Greg Diamond said

              “…just because not enough or no members of a particular race/ethnics have won an election does not mean that racism or discrimination is the reason…”

              What you suggest should not be the legal test … is not the actual legal test. So you’re boxing at shadows or your own devising. I could try to explain voting rights law to you, and the test used (which was used here) for assessing the presence of discrimination, but it’s easier just to warn people that you don’t know what you are talking about, at all, and to suggest that you go read some primers on the topic.

              • LiA said

                If this were an honest answer, DPOC would be filing a CVRA lawsuit in Santa Ana on behalf of Asian-Americans. But too many Vietnamese-Americans are Republicans, and the Santa Ana Council is Democrat-dominated, so the DPOC’s only active in Anaheim. Nice try, but no one’s buying this spin job!

                • Greg Diamond said

                  Well, I’ll grant you that at least one person fearful of presenting such a “controversial” position under their own name is pretending not to “buy” it.

                  DPOC rarely brings lawsuits of any kind. It didn’t bring the lawsuit in Anaheim; it just supported it. If such a lawsuit were brought, and could show the required basis for action under CVRA, I’d propose a resolution supporting it. So that’s about all I can do — unless some Vietnamese group in Santa Ana wanted to retain me to file a lawsuit — and I’m doing it. I don’t think people should buy your anonymous hatchet job.

  6. […] acceding to a citywide vote on the measure.  Allen Wilson takes that one apart at OC Political (to which I will link), eliciting some nonsensical Cunningham […]

  7. LiA did you really just say, “I also find it surprising that this blog is such a big fan of district elections in Anaheim, since such a system would have a high chance of electing 3 Democrats to the Council.” ?

    I hear this from many “conservatives” as the reason to oppose District Elections. What I just heard you say is you know that the current system is the only reason Republicans continue to maintain a majority in Anaheim despite many areas being filled with residents who align more closely with Dem values. This is nothing more than an admission of deliberate and intentional disenfranchisement of our neighbors, trying to block the effectiveness of their votes with our own rigged system, for fear that their votes won’t end in the result WE prefer. That is evil and I will not take part in it. I understand the risk Anaheim takes in creating Districts, I live in a Census Tract/Voter Precinct where I am a little red dot in a sea of blue, and Districts will provide that sea of blue with a local representative highly unlikely to agree with my conservative values. The only thing worse than liberal leaders is seeing my neighbors unable to choose leaders for themselves because I found a mechanism to get my own way. I will take my chances with a fair election rather than cheat for a predetermined win, thanks anyway.

    If I fear my neighbors may elect someone radically liberal, then i better get off my butt and go door to door, and explain to those neighbors how truly conservative values are far more closely aligned to who I see them being in their day to day lives than the liberals they may be tempted to follow because someone says they represent minorities.

    This task becomes a LOT harder when my neighbor’s newly activated political views were alerted by the incredibly self-serving behavior of leaders boasting awards as “Rising Stars” in the Republican party! Now add the obstacle of the GOP leader who goes out publicly defending bigotry in the local newspaper, so that even if the GOP sponsored a voter registration push in Anaheim (you may stop laughing now) how am I to tell anyone that Republicans are not the selfish jerks they see giving away revenues to their friends? How do I explain that while our fearless leader admits that all he ever knew of Latinos was learned sitting at the feet of “Mr. Multi-Cultural” Matt Cunningham, not all of us are that limited or ignorant in our understanding of those we share our blocks with.

    No, we as people or a party should NOT dishonor ourselves by perpetuating a rigged system simply because it is rigged in our favor, leave that to the liberals, I do not expect better of them, I thought The Right was supposed to take the moral high ground. So we ensure everyone has their votes counted and then we get our uber-white Republican butts out into the streets and we register as many Republicans to count their votes as we can get to. And the best way to register those votes is to visibly clean house within our own party, show residents we do NOT allow selfish crony capitalists to represent us, and show we will stand with those who may not have felt heard or represented. Mayor Tait is the best weapon in our arsenal when it comes to this, he is the ONLY reason many people i speak with have not condemned all conservatives as being like Murray and Kring. So are GOP big wigs going to keep showing up on Host Committees for those candidates who openly abuse the best Republican outreach Anaheim ever had in a Mayor? Or do we stand with him, condemn the very unRepublican buddy deals, and clean house?

    Anyone else in that with me? Or do you prefer to paint Anaheim completely blue out to State College?

    • Greg Diamond said

      And that, as I note above, is the Smart Republican take on districts.

      One quibble: I favor “by-districts” in Santa Ana (if the public there wants it, not as something I’d impose from without) despite the likelihood that Democrats would lose at least one Council seat.

      Why? Because it’s right. It’s not that complicated.

      • I console myself by considering how badly that city’s been run by an all-Dem council. As I’ve asked in other contexts, how could things be worse?

        • Greg Diamond said

          It’s not the Council; it’s the Mayor — who for a long time had the benefit of a totally compliant Council.

          The new City Manager, Mayoral Term Limits, etc. are all part of the process of bringing sunlight into the government. Meanwhile, districts aren’t going to change that. Right now the 100% Democratic Council is at odds with the Mayor — and you can’t get a lot better than that.

          • Dave Heffernan said

            “It’s not the Council; it’s the Mayor ”

            I can’t think of a more out of touch reply. Try visiting this city, it is completely out of control.

    • LiA said

      No Cynthia. The reality is that districts are based on total population, not voters. It’s likely that 2x or more votes will be cast in the “hills” district as in the central district. So a voter in the core gets twice the voting power of a voter in the Hills. Districts are segregation: rather than encouraging turnout in low-turnout areas, districts isolate people so that a district may be made up entirely or mostly of low-turnout voters. Whoever wins that district has no incentive to encourage voter registration or turnout (especially, as seems likely, if that winner is from the Colony). District rhetoric is all about “fairness,” but the reality is about packing as many high-turnout voters as possible into one district, even if that means other voters have two times or more the voting power of high-turnout area voters.

      • Greg Diamond said

        What exactly troubles you about representing the “total population” of a district?

        That Anaheim Hills will be represented by one district (under a 4-district system) and one plus part of a second (under a 6-district system) is purely a function of geography. It is connected to the rest of the city by a narrow bottleneck. There’s nothing sinister about it. By contrast, suggesting that minors shouldn’t count towards the population from which a district is carved IS sinister (and the practice is against the law.)

        The notion that, say, Democrats would have no incentive to encourage voter registration and turnout overlooks three things: (1) the Mayor’s race, (2) other local, state, and federal legislative races and local and state ballot initiatives, and (3) pretty much everything else we know about local politics. I promise you: Democrats will continue to try to register and turnout Anaheim Flatlands voters under a district system. I hope that that puts your mind at ease.

        • LiA said

          Greg: I was rebutting Ms. Ward’s comment “What I just heard you say is you know that the current system is the only reason Republicans continue to maintain a majority in Anaheim despite many areas being filled with residents who align more closely with Dem values.”

          That’s what the “reply” button is for, after all.

          • Greg Diamond said

            I know that you were replying to Mrs. Ward. In doing so, you were also evincing a pretty stunning attitude that it is only voters from a district, and not the overall population of that district, that warrant representation.

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