Recent police shootings cast spotlight on the 'other Anaheim'

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Anaheim resident, Gabriel Bermirez, 14, says that he sympathizes with feelings of frustration among the Latino community with city leadership and police.

Anaheim Leaders

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Anaheim resident, Rabiya Shakil (center), 20, stands with other community members during a July 31, 2012 press conference calling for city leaders to address a lack of Latino and minority representation in City Hall.

Anaheim Leaders

Bear Guerra/KPCC

On July 31, 2012, Anaheim community members held a press conference in front of City Hall to bring attention to the lack of representation for the city's large Latino and minority populations in the city's leadership.

Anaheim Leaders

Bear Guerra/KPCC

An Anaheim community member holds a sign during a July 31, 2012 press conference in which city leaders were asked to address a lack of Latino and minority representation in City Hall.

The July police shootings of two Latino men in Anaheim have brought into sharper focus other issues festering in the city. One community leader wants the city to take a look at the “other Anaheim."

The image of Orange County depicted in TV shows — sunny beaches, fashion, wealth, prosperity — is a narrow view. For many people who live in Anaheim, life is not so wonderful or prosperous.

There are a number of people, the “working poor,” barely making enough to get by. And that includes two-income families.

Census numbers show more than 20 percent of people in Anaheim live below the poverty level. The U.S. government defines the 2012 poverty level for a family of four at $23,000.

In 1970, nearly 90 percent of Anaheim was white. Today, the city's population, based on recent U.S. Census figures, breaks down this way: nearly 53 percent Latino, 15 percent Asian and 27 percent white.

The police shootings in July have brought protests and calls for change, a surprise for some people in Anaheim.

“A number of people are saying, who have been in Anaheim since the 1950s, ‘You know, I just want my Anaheim back. I don’t know what happened to my Anaheim,’” said Jose Moreno, president of Los Amigos of Orange County.

“When many of us reflect on that, we think, ‘Wow, you know, that’s what’s being communicated to you, is that you are now being exposed to different people’s Anaheims,'" said Moreno. "Maybe it was an Anaheim for you that was positive and supportive and full of hope and ambition. But unfortunately, in other neighborhoods, that is not the Anaheim they’ve experienced or that they’re still experiencing.”

Moreno and others said the resort district, which includes Disneyland, gets the bulk of city funds. He said Anaheim’s poor neighborhoods get shortchanged — and he wants the City Council to pour some of the resort district revenue into Anaheim’s neglected neighborhoods.

“For too long, but in recent times, really the last 10 years, this city council has really chosen to focus its attention and to preserve and protect the resort district," said Moreno. "Unfortunately it’s been in a way that is almost mutually exclusive to the rest of the city.”

Moreno’s group, Los Amigos — along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — has sued the city of Anaheim over its at-large voting system. He and other community leaders say moving to a council district system would ensure representation for Latinos and neighborhoods.

Moreno, who is also a trustee of the Anaheim City School District, said the lawsuit was a “last-ditch effort” after working with city leaders over many years.

On Wednesday, the Anaheim City Council will consider whether to place a council district proposal on the November ballot.

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