Anaheim's First Latina Councilwoman Votes Against Pro-Immigrant Task Force

Barnes: No better than Lodge on immigration?
Barnes: No better than Lodge on immigration?
YouTube screenshot

Denise Barnes quietly made history when she won an Anaheim council seat in District One last month. The morena is the first Latina councilwoman ever elected in the city, but she never campaigned on her ethnicity, only briefly mentioning on her campaign website that she was born to Marie and Abelardo Avila in La Mirada. Barnes presented herself as Mayor Tom Tait's choice for West Anaheim instead, promising to oppose massive tax breaks for hoteliers.

The other thing going for Barnes? She isn't Steven Chavez Lodge, the Republican dirty ex-cop the Weekly exposed in story after story and who lost the council race to Barnes by less than 300 votes. (Quick aside: Hey Steve, it doesn't take a homicide detective to figure out who killed your campaign, eh?) Lodge hired immigrant-hater Amanda Edinger to manage his failed campaign and railed against sanctuary cities after the issue arose at a candidate forum both he and Barnes didn't show up to. But where did Barnes, also a Republican, stand?

Anaheimers got a peek into that question when councilman Jose Moreno, Ed.D., put a pro-immigrant, pro-refugee "Welcoming Anaheim" initiative on the agenda. The lone Democratic on the dais, Moreno would have no hope of passing a Sanctuary City resolution like SanTana recently did that pledges non-cooperation with the coming Drumpf deportations. Plugging into the more moderate Welcoming America nonprofit and joining 70 other cities nationwide seemed more feasible. This is a city that has a German "Willkommen in Anaheim" sign at La Palma Park, after all!

Willkommen! Bienvenidos?EXPAND
Willkommen! Bienvenidos?
Photo by Gabriel San Roman / OC Weekly

With the first step being establishing a mayoral task force, Tait noted that Moreno could request a vote from council but didn't really need to.  He sought one anyway, stressing that the effort would join the city up with faith-based groups and nonprofits to make immigrants and refugees feel more welcomed in an action orientated way. "Linguistic and social integration, that's what we're talking about," Moreno said.

Councilwoman Kris Murray claimed the initiative was too vague to garner her support. Her colleague Lucille Kring pestered Moreno if council members would have a say in seating the task force to provide a diversity of opinions, races and sexes. Barnes was the first person to invoke Sanctuary City fears. "I had several communications from District One regarding the actual definition," she said. "I need to explain 'Welcome Anaheim' versus 'Sanctuary City.' I think people get this notion that sends up a red flag."

Fair enough, it seemed. Barnes' district has its share of Know Nothings reared in the Esther Wallace School of Hate. Maybe she just needed the assurance of an explanation to assuage their misguided fears about the mild salsa initiative? When time came for a vote, the task force passed despite Murray and Kring's abstentions. The sole vote against it belonged to Barnes. How's that for district elections and Latino representation!

The Weekly asked Barnes to explain her vote, but the councilwoman didn't respond.

Hey, Denise: District One isn't just home to West Anaheim Neighborhood Development Council (WAND) Wallace-types bitter about "illegals" but also Latino students at Western High School who wanted to walk out against Pendejo-elect Donald Trump last month only to have the administration snuff out their plans. They form part of the district's majority-Latino population and you pledged during your oath speech to be "a voice for West Anaheim residents who have, for too long, been ignored at city hall."

Is being no better than Lodge, and especially the notoriously xenophobic Kring, on immigration really where you want to be? Especially with Democratic weenie-tot Connor Traut being groomed to possibly run for your seat? The choice, as they say, is yours...and we'll be watching.


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