By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
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.”
The recall notice also lists an incident that is on tape. In August 2008, MacLean scolded Reavis for taking notes during a closed-session meeting of the council. The audio recording of what happened next was released by the council a month later after public pressure to do so:
Reavis: Sweetie, I’ve been taking notes for eight years. If you don’t like it, I’ve got drawers full.
MacLean: You know what, let me tell you something. I don’t like you. I haven’t liked you for a long time. . . . Shut the hell up. Shut up.
Reavis: I’m really glad that . . . I’m glad that’s been recorded because, um, I’m not going to take abuse from Mr. MacLean. Mr. City Manager and Mr. City Attorney?
Reavis said the “shut the hell up” comment made her fear for her life. MacLean says the transcript exonerates him: What he said was rude, he says, but certainly not dangerous.
“What it was was an opportunistic time for [Reavis],” MacLean says. “I had this incident at UCI, I tell her to shut up, and any other time or place in the past six years I’ve served with her, no big deal. But now, it’s, ‘Ah-ha! Gotcha! I can now make these claims.’”
MacLean’s relationship with Reavis was fairly fraught before the closed-session exchange. Reavis was the most outspoken member of the council for eight years, consistently at odds with her colleagues and not shy about saying why. A master of the mocking grin, the dismissive sideways glance and the facetious eyelash flutter, she consistently upped the entertainment value of council meetings. City secretary Kathy Rios filed a claim against Reavis in 2004, alleging that, among other things, Reavis had stroked Rios’ hair inappropriately and grabbed the ass of a male staffer. The city settled the suit for $10,600 without investigating the claims. In return, Reavis filed a claim against the city and a few council members for $10 million. When she received no response, she initiated a lawsuit for an unnamed amount against MacLean, Kelley and Rios. A judge threw out the suit and ordered Reavis to pay $3,105 in legal fees. Even so, the other council members like to point out that if she had won, she could have cost taxpayers a lot of money.