In a special morning meeting of the Anaheim city council, Mayor Tom Tait's authority to put items on the agenda in between sessions was stripped from his office. Despite the early 8 a.m. start time, the council chambers were well-attended and public comments on the sole issue at hand lasted for an hour, all critical.
“What are you so afraid of?” questioned resident Cynthia Ward of councilman Jordan Brandman, who she claimed railed in her home when he wasn't on the dais against an attempted call of a special meeting by Tait last year regarding the original $158 million GardenWalk Hotel project subsidy that failed to meet quorum.
Others said that the impending vote was tantamount to censoring the Mayor. Their considerations seemed to be all for not as the meeting played out as a predictable display of entrenched power.
“I brought this as a technical clean up,” Brandman said to Tait once debate turned between council members. “This is about transparency. I don't think this is a retaliation against you.” All other four members played up the supposed technicality issue of the Mayor's authority to unilaterally agendize items for future council meetings between them and during them. Since Tait has been an island onto himself on contentious issues dating back to last year, requiring that such actions be seconded would have potentially put him a politically compromised position.
Councilwoman Lucille Kring took things out of the abstract saying, “The Mayor wanted to put the Angels deal on every single council meeting moving forward.” The memorandum of understanding has been a contentious one since approved, particularly the leasing of 155 acres of city-owned property surrounding the stadium for a dollar a year over sixty-six years to Angels owner Arte Moreno's umbrella company. Assuming the worst, Mayor Tait agendized discussions every third meeting at the onset anticipating he would no longer be able to do so by morning's end.
Interestingly, a minimal salve was put on the Kabuki theater that played out this morning. Brandman's resolution was amended by Kring's suggestion to state that any council member can put an item on the agenda for discussion unilaterally during council communications. “It came within a whisker of me not even having that,” Tait tells the Weekly. “It surprised me.”
A testy exchange between Tait and Murray ensued as she claimed that the eviscerated practice of the Mayor placing agenda items by way of calling the city manager was private, behind closed doors, and not public. Should any issues of urgency arise, Murray suggested the calling of special meetings as the remedy. Tait characterized her transparency arguments as Orwellian.
It was all a bit reminiscent of former councilwoman Lorri Galloway being stripped of her 'Mayor Pro Tem' title last year. The rationale back then was that she supposedly misused it when promoting a 'Let the People Vote Charter Amendment' for hotel subsidies. Murray claimed that the action, supported by her cohorts, was “not personal.” This time around, Mayor Tait was stripped of much more than a symbolic title.
“I think it was a mean-spirited act,” said Tait to close out the special meeting. “The people of Anaheim and democracy are hurt by this action.”
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz