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Speakers tell Anaheim City Council ways to fix city

Daisy, 18, writes a message for her longtime friend, Manuel Diaz. Diaz was shot by Anaheim police on July 21, 2012.
Bear Guerra/KPCC
Daisy, 18, writes a message for her longtime friend, Manuel Diaz. Diaz was shot by Anaheim police on July 21, 2012.

The last time the Anaheim City Council met protests forced the meeting to end prematurely. Thursday the city held a special closed session. But before they started that meeting, the public had a chance to address Mayor Tom Tait and the council.

The public meeting lasted an hour, speakers weighed in on the recent police shootings, the resulting protests and suggested ways the city could resolve underlying problems in Anaheim.

One person called for current Police Chief John Welter to be replaced by a Latino candidate while other speakers asked the city council to create a police citizens review board.

Many expressed fears that a special city council meeting next week at Anaheim High School could be cancelled because of potential protests and violence instigated by "outsiders."

"My fear is that people from outside the community will cause violence," one man told the council.

The final speaker to address the council was Joanne Sosa, with the group, "Take Back Anaheim."  She urged the council not to cancel next week's public meeting over some "bogus fear factor." 

"If you cancel, it makes it look like you're afraid," said Sosa, referring to the planned Aug. 8 meeting.

Other speakers urged the council to support moving from the current at-large voting system to a district system for council elections.

A lawsuit filed by the ACLU and Los Amigos is challenging the at-large system.

"Let's settle the lawsuit on at-large council elections now, before putting issue on November's ballot," another speaker told the council. "Let's resolve it now for the benefit of the community."

But another speaker told the city council to reject changing the at-large voting system saying representation is not about "race or zip code."

"No one cares about the families," said Anaheim resident Theresa Smith. Three years ago, Anaheim police shot and killed her son.

Smith and other speakers said the attention and investigation of the Manuel Diaz shooting is receiving is a good step, but they called for special investigations into previous officer-involved shootings.

The FBI is investigating the Diaz shooting and Anaheim has hired the Office of Independent Review to investigate the recent shootings.

It was the first Anaheim council meeting at City Hall since July 24, when protesters clashed with police outside and inside the lobby.

The protests caused the rest of the meeting to be cancelled – including consideration of a ballot measure which would change how city council members are elected.

In the closed session, the council was to meet with legal counsel to talk about the lawsuit filed by the ACLU and Los Amigos of Orange County over the city’s voting system. Council members in Anaheim are elected in an at-large system rather than by districts. The lawsuit says the city’s system is flawed and doesn’t allow equal representation for everyone in the city, including the majority Latino population.

The city is scheduled to hold another special public meeting next week (Aug. 8) at Anaheim High School, to allow people to comment on the recent police shootings and other issues.