Seven of nine candidates vying for two open seats on the Anaheim city council gathered last night for the first--and hopefully not the last--forum in the lead up to the November elections. Hosted by the West Anaheim Neighborhood Development Council (WAND), the event, which took place at the Magnolia School District Boardroom near Maxwell Elementary School, drew less attendants than the 100 seats provided for.
There were no potential "riots" as had been irrationally feared by some and since the format wasn't that of a debate, there were few fireworks over the course of an hour and a half. The League of Women Voters moderated questions submitted by audience members on handwritten index cards. Improving traffic light wait times, the loss of Meals on Wheels, and designating bicycle routes were all discussed, and while all important, let's get to the good shit!
Early on, the seven candidates (John Leos, Brian Chuchua, Linda Linder, Lucille Kring, Steve Lodge, Jordan Brandman, Duane Roberts) were asked what they would have done had they been on the council on the evening on July 24 when major social unrest over officer-involved shootings and police brutality exploded onto the streets outside City Hall.
Kring, who has run a rather quiet campaign so far, said that the meeting should have been adjourned and moved to a place that could accommodate more people.
"You had instigators outside that regardless they were going to cause a problem," chimed Lodge as he praised the efforts of Anaheim Police, later saying he would hire 54 more of them if elected. "A lot of them were from outside our city. They were not our residents."
Leos opined that frustrations people felt about not being allowed to speak could have been allayed though dinging some "outside agitators" at the same time, while Roberts placed partial blame on the 5 p.m. start time of council meetings in pushing his populist idea of moving it to 7 p.m. instead. During the entire forum, the West Anaheim resident was also the only person to directly address the need for a civilian review board with subpoena power in terms of police misconduct. Outside of that, much of the mantra from most was: Gangs, gangs, gangs! Graffiti, graffiti, graffiti!
Fast-forwarding, the last question of the night focused on the headline grabbing lawsuit over creating district elections in favor of the city's current at-large system. "If I get elected to the council, I will reach out to the plaintiffs and stop that lawsuit from continuing," Leos responded, quoting potential estimated legal fees from between 2 to 13 million dollars from an ACLU victory in court.
Brandman paid fealty to the notion of districts while promoting the sham study committee that the current council majority passed on the contentious August 8 special meeting at Anaheim High School. Kring noted that she didn't believe in districts, but also concluded the city was 'apparently' not in compliance with the California Voting Rights Act, which is at the center of the suit.
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Amusingly, at one point in the forum, there was a new spin on the ol' $64 question. Call it Anaheim's $158 million dollar question and it came in the form of, 'Are you now or have you ever been a member of...the Communist Party? No, SOAR!' All seven responded no. Brandman acknowledged in full disclosure that he was proudly endorsed by them, something that Lodge did not do -- because despite vowing to hire more police to protect the resort, no, he didn't get that endorsement either! Chuchua said that Support Our Anaheim Resort wouldn't touch him with a ten foot pole.
For those who missed it all, the eyebrow-raising ban on audio/video recording that was originally set out for the WAND forum was ultimately lifted by the neighborhood group and the entirety of the event, including opening and closing statements from the candidates, was filmed. Look to the Save Anaheim Blog in the coming days for complete, unedited footage.
In the meantime, members of the Orange County Congregation Community Organization (OCCCO) were present and mentioned to the Weekly afterward that they were looking into hosting a forum on October 22 in the city. Hopefully, they will allow space for debate-style responses in order to make for some entertaining desmadre!