Over the course of two hours, candidates vying for two open seats on the Anaheim city council fielded questions Tuesday evening from residents of Anna Drive, the neighborhood where an officer-involved shooting claimed the life of unarmed 25-year old Manuel Diaz earlier this summer. The killing and the subsequent firing of less-than-lethal projectiles on a crowd demanding answers touched off long simmering tensions between the Anaheim Police Department and the city's Latino community.
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A large U.S. flag served as backdrop for the panel set up near the black iron gates where a memorial to Diaz still stands. The forum was co-organized by Los Amigos of Orange County and moderated by Voice of OC's Cubano-in-Chief Norberto Santana. Six of the nine candidates participated in the event with the reactionary retired deputy sheriff Linda Linder, invisible law student Jennifer Rivera and dirty ex-SanTana policeman Steve Lodge all failing to attend -- his no show being a blog post onto itself!
There were no reported "Jerbal" sightings either!
The forum was structured such that for the first hour, Santana posed questions directly to Jordan Brandman, Brian Chuchua, Rudy Gaona, Duane Roberts, John Leos and Lucille Kring. As moderator, he got straight to point right away, though, asking the candidates for their thoughts on police brutality with their responses translated to Spanish throughout the night.
Unlike the WAND forum last month where matters of law enforcement were touted with nary a word of dissent, sudden critics arose. "I think that there have been issues of police brutality," former councilwoman Kring said. "We need to change that culture of the police absolutely and I will work to make that happen." All others acknowledged its existence save for Brandman who engaged in a political gymnastics routine around the question.
Following a short break, the second hour belonged to the community of Anna Drive, whose members posed questions they had written down on index cards. The issue arose of what city council hopefuls would do, if elected, to ensure that the streets and infrastructure of local communities looked as nice as the streets around Disneyland.
"I just want to make sure that if we are going to be using our TOT, we're using it the right way and we're reinvesting it in our communities," Leos said referencing the controversial $158 million tax giveaway for the construction of two luxury hotels near the GardenWalk. "It's all about free market fairness to the other hoteliers that are out here with us during the hard times, so let's just [let the] free market take over, it will correct itself on its own." Alright, now I think I know why he's a registered Republican!
Later on, the possible creation of a civilian review board of police with subpoena power was put before the panel. "I do support a local, independent body made of community residents," Roberts mentioned in reaffirming his ballot statement. "Not withstanding in Fullerton, I have no faith in the Orange County District Attorney's Office given the fact police and prosecutors work closely hand in hand with one another."
At that point, Theresa Smith, who lost her son Caesar Cruz in a December 2009 officer-involved shooting at Anaheim Plaza ruled justified by OCDA, stood up from her front row seat and applauded.
Immigration made its way into the night's discussion as the forum neared its end. "This gentlemen just mentioned the undocumented aliens," Kring said in her closing statement after activist Coyotl Tezcatlipoca challenged her support of positioning an INS agent in Anaheim's city jail during her previous terms on the council, "you never agree with anybody 100 percent."
Roberts received strong applause when he pledged to champion the workers of the community "documented or undocumented alike" showing a blue-eyed gabacho can connect with prospective Latino voters with the right policy positions. Brandman, who has been making progressive overtures as of late, used the same "documented or undocumented" refrain right after when touting his record overseeing the education of youth as Anaheim Union High School District Trustee, though he earlier voiced support for local compliance with federal immigration enforcement.
All candidates favored providing translation at city council meetings, so have a field day with that precious Know Nothings of Anaheim!
In the interim, the city finds itself in interesting times when the Chamber of Commerce holds no forum only to have one of Anaheim's many sacrifice zones take up the task. The community of Anna Drive was extremely organized in closing off the street, offering up parking to clear way for the seated audience, and cleaning up after the event. Little chamacos played outside, others transfixed by the PA soundboard in what felt like a balmy summer night, though weeks into autumn. The last word belonged to a woman who was struck by the less-than-lethal rounds shot by Anaheim police on people from the neighborhood that chaotic day in July.
"It's really important for each of us, as a community, to decide who we are going to vote [for]," Anna Drive resident Yesenia Rojas said at the forum's conclusion. "This community has been hurt a lot in the last few months. I really want to decide who I'm going to choose for my community."