By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
CIG disbanded in 2004 as some members decided to support Ury in his first run for council while others backed Brad Morton. The fallout of that election left some of the activists not speaking to one another. When Kelley, Ledesma and MacLean ran for re-election in 2006, the fragmented activist community divided its support among seven challengers. Even with split-vote opposition, MacLean appeared to have lost his seat on election night, only to win the next day by only 94 votes once the absentee ballots had been counted.
The ex-CIG rifts endured until recently, with Schlicht’s campaign and, now, the MacLean recall. “There’s something about a common enemy that brings people together,” Lee says.
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The day after being served the intent-to-recall notice, MacLean has dropped any semblance of the amusement he showed at the meeting. Sitting at a coffee shop across the street from the civic center, he wears a pinkish-red collared shirt patterned with a single palm tree running up the front. Sunglasses hang from the his unbuttoned collar; his face is tanned near-orange and framed by silver-haired sideburns. The 6-foot-5-inch, 220-pound MacLean looks like one of those cool-dude Orange County business guys who surf to stay chill. But today, MacLean is not chill.
Eyes darting around, hands fidgeting, he rattles off the exact circumstances surrounding each vote he has taken that is mentioned in the recall letter. He’s a deficit spender? No, he says: The fact that expenditures exceeded revenues in the last fiscal year simply means the council used money saved up from past-year windfalls to pay for city improvements in 2008. He’s a tax-raiser? No, taxes never went up, and he merely wanted to allow voters to decide whether to approve an increase. He supported a 100 percent pay raise for council members? Well, yes, but all that meant was doubling a $500-per-month stipend that hasn’t been adjusted for inflation since 1988.
MacLean points to a blog post by Gilbert on the Orange Juice Blog. “I call it the Gilbert Manifesto,” he says. The post is an annotated summary of Marxist agitator Saul Alinsky’s “rules for radicals.” Most important, says MacLean, are rules 5 and 12: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon,” and “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it.” Gilbert’s is the second name on the notice-of-recall letter.
“This is their tactic. They make it personal and they make it painful,” MacLean asserts. “I’ve got a kid in college; I’m trying to pay college fees. I’m having a hard time getting a job. Look at all the blog shit out there [about me]. I’m not gonna get a job.”
He’s referring not so much to the blogging about MacLean’s spending habits on the city council, but to the personality-driven charges against him. The UCI choking incident is only the beginning; there’s a whole host of reasons why people have called him “dangerous,” “childish” and a “bully.” MacLean thinks it’s based on his appearance: “‘Let’s just pick on the big, hulking guy who looks like he could kill people.’ That’s how I feel now,” he says.
After watching a few council videos and speaking with MacLean, one can understand why some people see him as arrogant. He overenunciates words, with the inflection of a parent lecturing a child. He tilts his chin upward when speaking, giving off an air of righteousness. He walks a line between folksy charm and folksy dopiness, peppering his speech with the phrases “oh, heck” and “well, you know what?” At a council meeting last year, he tried to explain a complicated, contentious deal in which the city would sell cell-phone-tower leases. But he used the weird, forced analogy of being a farmer and having to decide whether to use your cows for meat or milk.
What matters most, though, are the public instances when others have said they’ve felt intimidated by MacLean. A few weeks before the 2006 election, rival candidate Diane Greenwood called 911 on him during a confrontation on a street corner. She says he tried to steal her campaign sign and “exploded” when she challenged him about it. “He got in my face, and he went crazy, absolutely going off at me,” Greenwood says. “I put my hands behind my back and said, ‘Please don’t hit me; please don’t hit me.’”
MacLean calls Greenwood’s account a “complete fabrication” and says that she was the one who flipped out when MacLean moved her sign a few inches away from one of his own. But Greenwood says she is genuinely terrified of MacLean—so much so that she didn’t run in 2008, for fear of having to sit on the same dais with him. “He’s really scary stuff. He was just screaming,” she says. “Maybe I would run in the replacement election, but never if I’m serving with him. I really value my life.”