How Much Does This Mayor Scare Anaheim's Council Majority?

Anaheim City Hall echoed with grumblings instead of chants of “Sí, se puede” Tuesday evening. Led by Jordan Brandman, the council majority struck down the “People's Map” for district elections and decided to go back to the drawing board. The move followed a previous meeting where the council wanted to delay the sole Latino voting majority district in Anaheim until the 2018 elections while putting four others on the ballot next year. “Even I didn't expect what happened,” Mayor Tom Tait tells the Weekly. “I'm outraged at the actions of the council majority and the complete disregard for the work done by the community in putting this map together.” 

Brandman mentioned lawsuits threatened by Latino groups as a reason why rethinking the district maps to include two Latino voter majority districts instead of one. Political observers saw the district delay and map-sacking by Brandman, Lucille Kring and Kris Murray as a way to block probably candidate Jose F. Moreno from running in 2016. The Cal State Long Beach Chicano Studies chair sued the city along with two others in 2012 to adopt single-member districts before settling. He lives on the outskirts of what had been the Latino voting majority district in Central Anaheim. But Tuesday's move goes above and beyond him politically. “Is it about me?” Moreno tells the Weekly. “I don't think it was about me.” 

Mayor Tait differs in saying that Moreno was a motive for the council majority's petty politics. But if there's anyone who has been the whipping boy for Anaheim's ruling class over the years, it's been Tait, the very man they thought would do their bidding when first elected as mayor in 2010. Since breaking in 2012 with council members aligned with former Mayor and lobbyist Curt Pringle mainly over subsidizing the GardenWalk hotels, Tait has become a thorn, albeit on the losing end, of countless political battles with former supporters. Though he won reelection in 2014, the mayor hasn't been able to put together a council majority of his own. Tait's last chance is 2016.  

Tuesday's council move sets the city back with an election looming next year no matter what. “I need to win two of those districts and they need to win three,” Tait says. The first round of public hearings is slated to start on January 26. Two more hearings will follow. The council needs to adopt district boundaries by July 8. If pushed to the final deadline, candidates would only have a month to decide and file for a council run. In Tait's mind, the time crunch caused by the map do over favors his opponents, especially with Kring and Brandman being incumbments. “I believe they know exactly what districts they are going to vote for and when,” he says.

The sentiment is shared by Moreno, who ran a last-minute campaign in 2014. “It's a real difficult challenge if you don't have the resources to get the information out.,” he says. “I had to make a really difficult choice about which voters to target.” The Los Amigos president doesn't give much credence to Brandman's reason for seeking two new Latino voter majority districts. “Why didn't he say something when he voted for the map?” Moreno asks. “I think it's disingenuous.” 

The Weekly reached out to Brandman but didn't receive comment by press time.

Aside from any potential Moreno run or Tait majority, the mayor says that the delay demeans the spirit of districts and candidates not backed by deep pockets. “A grassroots candidate, which is what districting is all about, needs time to develop an organization of supporters who are going to walk precincts,” Tait opines. “That's time consuming.” 

Anaheim's mayor has been derided by detractors as one who says “no” to everything. If he fails to get a council majority during his embattled tenure, Tait refuses to see himself as a lame duck mayor. He believes Anaheim has become a city of kindness under his watch, but that's not the only shift.

“Whether the election goes in my favor or not, I'm going to continue develop the culture of the city,” Tait says. “Anaheim has been focused on the resort district for decades and it's time that the city be focused on the people. I'd like to think I've been a big part of that.” 

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