Measure L: Special Interest Groups—Outsiders—Want It

Several hundred thousand dollars have been contributed by outside organizations to ensure Anaheim voters approve Measure L, a vote to change the process for electing members to the Anaheim City Council. Does Anaheim need to elect members by district instead of at-large? (I also ask the same question regarding Measure M: Does the city council need six members instead of four?) What is the demonstrated need to switch to a different basis for electing council members? Has want been mislabeled as need?

A good reason for passing Measure L would have been that the current system for electing council members does not result in the equal distribution of city resources and services. Mayor Tait and Council Member Brandman (2014) falsely imply a disparity, writing that passing Measure L “ensures neighborhoods get their fair share of city services.” In fact, the distribution of city dollars spent per capita in Anaheim has been remarkably similar. For example, the distribution for 2012 and 2013 is almost the same (City of Anaheim Finance Department, 2013, p. 12):


Tait and Brandman offered no substantive reason or argument in their ballot verbiage for passing Measure L. Behold the purported reasons and implications—and note the absence of a shred of evidence for their support.


Ballot measures such as Measure L, sponsored and financed by special interest groups and organizations, particularly outsiders, more often represent wants, not needs. To date, no compelling reason or argument has been presented to voters for approving Measure L (or M). Despite the warning from Tait and Brandman, and regardless whether Measure L passes, Anaheim will remain “a great place to live.”


City of Anaheim Finance Department. (2013, July). Budgeted costs for core services by neighborhood. Retrieved from

Tait, T., & Brandman, J. (2014). Argument in favor of Measure L. Retrieved from

—Hugh Glenn





  1. Here’s my argument in favor of both L and M:
    Republics and democracies* rest on the concept of legitimacy of the government. If the people in a democracy do not think the government is legitimate, they will take action to change that government. (Forms of authoritarian government don’t have that problem, they impose their will by force.)

    It is apparent to me that many in Anaheim do not believe that the government is legitimate because they don’t feel they are fairly represented on City Council. There is an appearance that Anaheim Hills gets more resources than other parts of the city, even if that’s not the case, as you demonstrate.

    When it comes to people’s feelings about the legitimacy a democracy, appearances are far more important that facts. If people feel that they aren’t fairly represented, they don’t try to participate in their own governance. They don’t even vote, let alone show up to public hearings or contact members of council.

    While I’m sure if voter turnout was the same in all of Anaheim as it is in Anaheim Hills, we’d see some different candidates winning council seats. Unfortunately, because so many don’t believe that their vote matters, they don’t show up to the polls. Creating council districts and enlarging the size of the council will, for some people, increase the legitimacy of our City’s democracy and get them to participate by at least voting.

    Increasing the legitimacy of goverent will be a key challenge for all levels of government throughout the 21st Century. We’ve done such a good convincing people that no government is a good government, and really demonstrating that for most people the government doesn’t represent them, that the very idea of a government by the people, of the people, and for the people is called into question.

    I do not believe these measures are the panacea that some supports claim. I do believe that these measures will help the legitimacy of Anaheim’s republic for some of our citizens. For me, that’s enough of a reason to vote for them.

    * I’ll be using the word “democracy” to refer to both representative and direct forms of democracy from here on out.

    • Grant, thank you for a well-reasoned comment.

      Sooner or later all growing cities will move in the direction of districts, despite all the alleged atomization. It’s inevitable. So the question becomes: when is a city so large that it must have districts that provide political accessibility.

      Anaheim has another peculiar feature. It is almost twenty miles long and only three miles deep. This adds to the disparate demographics and the attitudes you have described.

      The attitudes are also generated by the knowledge that running a city-wide election costs a fortune, and this fortune is generously provided by the public safety unions, SOAR, and the monied interests (ahem, “economic engines”) that have so much on the line. Without big name ID like Kring had in 2012, it’s virtually impossible win without it.

      I support districts and am not an outsider. I have lived here for almost ten years.

      • The balkanization of the City is a real concern with districts, there is no doubt about that. As a check against balkanization, we need an executive mayor that is not a part of the City Council. This is an argument I made more than two years ago online (, it is an argument that I made at the first few Community Advisory Committee meetings, and it is an argument I’ve made in private with current members of Council. Unfortunately, such a large change in the City’s governance structure is not something people want to consider, we’d prefer to fiddle around the edges without making changes at the scale that’s needed.

    • P.S.

      I don’t believe districts will be a cure-all either. In fact, I think the liberals who are so invested in this are quite mistaken in thinking it will be as beneficial to their party’s cause as they seem to believe. Likewise, the pre-fab hysteria about a Democratic takeover of Anaheim. I think districts will be almost as easy for the Establishment to control as the current system. It may even be cheaper.

      Life will go on in Anaheim mostly as usual, in fact some new and interesting alliances may be created.

      • Grant Henninger and David Zenger offered thoughtful comments.
        Henninger asserts that many persons in Anaheim believe they lack representation on the City Council and do not regard local governance as legitimate. He does not, however, offer any evidence for his assertion, but he indirectly identifies a potential argument for passing Measure L: the cost to finance a successful election campaign, a point with which Zenger agrees.

        If Anaheim were sectioned into districts, the campaign cost for a city council hopeful would be much less than the current cost, which requires a financing citywide campaign. Thus, some future candidates could run for a city office who now cannot afford the expense. Believing that approving Measure L would “help the legitimacy of Anaheim’s republic” is an opinion, not an argument.

        Zenger predicts greater use of district-based voting in any city with an increasing population. “It’s inevitable,” he opines. It could be argued that political access has become minimized regardless of whether voting is at-large or district-based. I do not understand why the geographic dimensions of Anaheim necessarily cause “disparate demographics.”

        Running for election to the Anaheim City Council is expensive, and its cost would markedly decrease if voting were district-based is a good argument for passing Measure L. More citizens could afford to run. It’s a much better reason for voters’ approval than warning Anaheim would be less wonderful if they don’t pass it.

        • Matthew Cunningham

          Running for election to the Anaheim City Council is expensive, and its cost would markedly decrease if voting were district-based is a good argument for passing Measure L.

          It’s also a false promise, and the pure grass-roots candidate is still at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the candidate who is walking precincts AND able to raise money AND is the beneficiary of IEs.

          And I’ll quote Cynthia Ward before she drank the Kool-Aid and altered her views on by-district elections to conform with the team:

          “Do we want to create a lot of special-interest districts and become like Los Angeles or Chicago? You’re going to have people saying, ‘Hey, you got a substation, I want a park for my area.’ Districts will create pork. Just like Washington, but on a smaller scale.”

        • Hugh, I didn’t make the argument that campaigns will be cheaper to run. While I do think individual campaigns will be cheaper to run, I don’t think it really matters. The pool of donors a grass-roots candidate can draw from will shrink in the same proportion as the costs to run a successful campaign.

          And you are quite right, I don’t have any evidence to show that many people in Anaheim feel they lack representation on City Council. All I have is a lifetime of anecdotal evidence, from living in the city. It doesn’t take long talking with residents to hear people complain about how Anaheim Hills gets more than other parts of the city, or that the Council represents the Hills and not other parts of the city. Maybe your experience is different, but that’s definitely been mine.

          As I said in my first post, perception and not fact is the key here. I agree with your facts that money is spent throughout the city fairly evenly on a per capita basis. Despite that fact, that’s not the perception. Having a member of City Council elected by a district makes the people in that district feel like there is somebody that is suppose to fight for them. They might not like the individual serving in office, but they won’t see that as a structural problem in the way our city government is set up.

        • Hugh, comparatively wealthy people live in the Hills, way over there. Many actually believe they live in a city called Anaheim Hills.

          Comparatively less wealthy people live in my neighborhood. I am surrounded by a veritable melting pot of ethnicities you will not find ten miles to the east. We also have police helicopters doing low-flying, tight circles overhead all the time – just for practice, seemingly. Some of our streets are a mess. Loara had to virtually disappear into the mud before it was repaved.

          The geography does indeed contribute to the reality of dual Anaheims. Tait sees it and wants to do something about it.

          I would not have used the concept of legitimacy to describe the current political regime in Anaheim. I would have used a phrase that reflected the bias of our current council toward a certain class of beneficiary that plays what I consider to be a disproportionate role in electing city-wide candidates it finds acceptable. That also, is an opinion.

          The issue of inevitability of districts as cities is simply an observation. Can you imagine people running for city-wide council seats in San Diego, or Oakland, or Long Beach? And yet Anaheim’s population may soon be half a million.

          The decision is in the hands of the people, exactly where it belongs.

          • Funny fact, when I got my first driver’s license, it said Anaheim Hills and not Anaheim. It no longer says that, despite the fact that I live in the same zip code.

            Also, I think you’re factually wrong about the demographics of Anaheim Hills. Even when I went to Canyon High School 15 years ago, it was a majority-minority school. Over the past twenty years, the families that have moved to Anaheim Hills have been predominantly non-white.

            The real difference between Anaheim Hills and much of the rest of Anaheim is economic. That’s the biggest problem with using race to define the issue of representation. A poor white family has much more in common with a poor Latino family than they do with a rich white family. While race has some impact on representation, it’s much smaller than the impact of economics.

            • I have no doubt that the influx of comparatively wealthy minorities in the Hills has gone up significantly. But I’ll bet the percentages are still comparatively low compared to Anaheim west of State College, say. Latinos make up over 50% of the population. Where do they live?

              I point out the ethnic diversity only to show that are differences in Anaheim that can’t be brushed aside.

              Having said that however, I agree with you about the economic differences, and further assert that the cost city-wide elections does contain an element of disenfranchisement. It’s just common sense. I don’t agree with the ACLU philosophy or reasoning behind their lawsuit but it will result in an opportunity for voters to decide if they want different representation. How can that be a bad thing in a *democracy?

              • Matthew Cunningham

                “and further assert that the cost city-wide elections does contain an element of disenfranchisement.”

                According to that logic, “disenfranchisement” is unavoidable. 4 districts would “disenfranchise” more voters than 6, and so on. What’s the right number of districts to avoid this “disenfranchisement”?

                “I don’t agree with the ACLU philosophy or reasoning behind their lawsuit but it will result in an opportunity for voters to decide if they want different representation. How can that be a bad thing in a *democracy?”

                Forcing an issue onto the ballot with a lawsuit is hardly democratic. There is no significant grass roots citizen desire for by-district elections. Proponents made no effort to qualify a by-district measure for the ballot by gathering signatures. An OCCORD-like group is making the same case in the city of Santa Maria, but at least they tried to put their measure on the ballot by gathering sigs.

  2. ^^^ This is how you compose an argument Anaheim Insider. Take notes.

    Again, well done Hugh Glenn.

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