The Two Faces of Disney: word vs. deed on Anaheim Districting.

From The Orange Juice Blog:

Maybe I was a weird kid, but I never liked or trusted Disney.  Hated Disneyland and the gigantic, grinning, overbearing anthropomorphic animals, and didn’t like Disney’s films or cartoons.  They just gave me the feeling, even as a kid, that they were lying to me, covering up important things about life.  Much preferred Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Wizard of Oz, and the books of Lewis Carroll.

Years later, as a thirty-year old father, I came to appreciate… well, at least Mary Poppins andDumbo.  And as a tolerant American I realize Disney brings joy to millions, employment to thousands, and contributes to Anaheim’s economy although not nearly as much as it could and should.

So maybe I was especially qualified, when Disney released its celebrated August 8 statement last year in support of district elections in Anaheim, to look at it a little skeptically.  The headlines in all the papers read “Disney Comes Out in Support of District Elections!”  But I read the statement closely, and several times.  Here it is, and I’ve taken the liberty of bolding the third paragraph:

Dear Honorable Mayor Tait and Members of the Anaheim City Council:

Anaheim has been the home of the Disneyland Resort for nearly six decades.  As the city’s largest employer and an active community partner, one of our primary areas of focus has always been what is best for the city and its residents.  As communities evolve, so should their policies and structures.  Such is the case in Anaheim, where it is time to consider a change in the way future city leaders are elected.

We believe that city leadership should reflect the diversity of its entire population.  We support a city council elected from districts and encourage the City of Anaheim to move from at-large elections to district voting.  This shift will allow each valued neighborhood to be represented by a local council member of their choosing.  Though there are many ways to accomplish this change, we believe the most responsive way would be to place a charter amendment switching to district elections on an upcoming ballot for the voters of Anaheim to consider.

At the same time, the city could begin an open and transparent, citywide dialogue with an independent, unbiased and equitably distributed group of Anaheim residents to determine the number of seats, district boundaries, and a new governance structure for the city – one that fairly represents residents in every Anaheim neighborhood.

Anaheim is a culturally rich and vibrantly diverse city.  We believe this change would be a step toward an even stronger and more prosperous Anaheim.

George M. Kalogridis
Disneyland Resort.

So.  That hit the world on the morning of August 8, the day that we all knew Mayor Tait was planning to  propose putting the matter on November’s ballot (just as Disney had suggested.)  All the media reported this uncritically as a straightforward endorsement for the reform, but I couldn’t help reading that third paragraph as a blueprint for procrastination and having it both ways:  Disney and its allies could appear to come out on the right, progressive side of history – in favor of democracy and diversity – while still putting off any change for as long as possible (since the status quo is serving them SO damn well) by the mechanism of endless endless study.

Read the full story here: