The California Voting Rights Act was passed in 2001 and has led to most cities switching from “at large” to “by district” voting. What that means is instead of voting for the entire city council, you live in a district, much like your voting districts for state and federal representation, and you vote for a single person from your district. The entire city council still represents you, but you vote for just one. Some have a modified version of this where the mayor is “at large,” and everyone in the city votes for them.
The way a city typically ends up going to by-district voting is kicking and screaming from a demand by a lawyer representing some aggrieved person or group. Most cities in California are by-districts now. The handful in South Orange County that were still at-large all received notices at the start of Summer 2023 to switch to by-district, and all but one of them are doing it; one is foolishly fighting it, Laguna Hills, which will cost their city millions and they will lose. This story, however, is about the sleepy hamlet of Rancho Santa Margarita (RSM), population 48,000.
RSM City Council (a brief history)
Incorporated on January 1, 2000, the RSM City Council has five members, and between themselves, they choose who gets to be mayor for the year. Over the years, as the same people have stayed in office or gotten hand-picked successors, they arrange it so that the most at-risk council person in the current election, who is part of the cabal, gets to be mayor to boost their cred for the election. In office, we currently have:
- Jerry Holloway — Mayor
- Carol A. Gamble — Mayor Pro Tempore
- L. Anthony (Tony) Beall — Council Member
- Bradley J. McGirr — Council Member
- Anne D. Figueroa — Council Member
For this article, Jerry is not an issue; he has always been outside the cabal. As we get to the district Election map that the city council favors, this will all matter, so stick with me. Let’s give a little history on each.
Elected to the inaugural city council in 2000 and served till 2004. There was a lot of weirdness in her tenure, including relationships with the city attorney, who the mayor suddenly fired after the relationship ended. However, the fact that the mayor was in a relationship with her at that point made it all the more strange. That mayor resigned at some point, and Carol was appointed back to the city council in 2011 with no vote from the residents. Incumbents always have the edge, so she is still there, making her total time on the city council so far to be 17 years. Carol has also been found guilty of violating campaign finance laws.
Tony was the Planning Commissioner for Carol from 2000 to 2004, and when Carol left in 2004 for “personal reasons,” he was appointed to the city council with no election. Tony has been on the council for 20 years and at city hall since it was founded in 2000.
Tony’s wife, Jennifer, is the office manager for state assemblywoman Kate Sanchez, the two of them are deeply involved behind the scenes for a lot of things in South Orange County, and not in a good way. Both Tony and Jennifer have been found guilty of violating campaign finance laws.
Brad was the Planning Commissioner for Tony (notice a pattern yet?) from 2009 to 2012. He was appointed to the city council in 2012 after a vacancy. Records are a little unclear; it might have been that the election was so close to someone else leaving that he was elected, but he stood again for re-election just two years later. Brad has stayed clean, but he pretty much does whatever Tony tells him to. He has now been on the council for 11 years and has three more years before he is up for re-election.
Anne was the Planning Commissioner for Tony (there’s that pattern again) from 2015 to 2018, when she went on to have the distinction of spending the most to get a local city council seat in our city history. The job pays about $250 a month, and she spent about $25,000 to get the job. Her day job is working in the office for Assemblywoman Kate Sanchez with Tony Beall’s wife, Jennifer. She also lives about ten doors from Tony. Are you noticing a pattern?
Voting District Maps
To the city’s credit, they rapidly moved to make it easy for city residents to submit district maps. Almost all the submissions were similar to this map, which was called 112. This map makes a lot of sense; it follows the roads and neighborhoods logically and has an excellent population balance.
In our city history, districts 2 and 4 have never had representation, and district 3 would be Jerry Holloway, who isn’t part of the cabal. The problem for the entrenched power group is that Tony, Anne, and Brad would all be in the same district. All four maps that the city council prefers have been gerrymandered to make it possible for all 5 of the same council members to stay on the council, and they do this by only having four districts, with an at-large Mayor, which would be Tony. I’ve posted their preferred map here, with the approximate location of each of their houses.
Tony claims that random residents sent in this map variation because he thinks you are stupid and can’t see what’s happening. City residents spoke up at multiple public hearings, and the overwhelming support is for Map 112, but the council doesn’t care; they only pretend to care, so they will almost certainly push through Map 113. Sadly, that will almost certainly violate the Fair Maps Act, and Tony and Carol’s desire to bitterly cling to power by Tony and Carol, will cost the city even more money. I recently made a video on Facebook on this topic, which leads to the crazy part.
Tony Beall Attacks
Our city has a two-day festival once a year at about this time. I volunteered for years but didn’t do it this time; I was just enjoying the show. While there on Sunday, October 8, at about 2:00 P.M., I was in an out-of-the-way corner talking to a rep from our state senator Catherine Blakespear, which Tony stumbles up, and starts saying to the rep “Don’t listen to a word this man says, he is a liar, he is a cancer in our city” and some other incomprehensible things. I laughed and told him he needed to look in a mirror. The list of lies from Tony is long and documented. He can’t point to any lie from me because there hasn’t been one. I’m the only person who has constantly held his feet to the fire for so long over his corruption, which makes him big mad. This isn’t the first time Tony has libeled or slandered me from his official position as a city council member and even as mayor. The poor kid working the booth, who also knows Tony, was stunned, said he’d never seen that side of him and was shocked. Just think about how inappropriate it is for an Official of the city to go out of their way, to slander a private citizen to their state representative.
It’s weird how all these small cities with their part-time city councils seem so corrupt and power-mad. District voting is going to go through; the city council will try and gerrymander it so they all stay in power; they will get sued over the Fair Maps Act and lose. Recently, in Mission Viejo, a court had to force out some city council members after they refused to leave when they went to district voting. Why? Why do these people crave power in these small ponds so much? There is something deeply wrong with people who do that. Hearing the city council get an earful from residents about how reviled most of them are the other day was likely eye-opening.