ANAHEIM, Calif. — After the resignation of former Council Member Jordan Brandman, Anaheim City Council appointed longtime resident and neighborhood advocate Gloria Ma'ae to represent District 2.
Ma'ae has lived in District 2 — which encompasses parts of west Anaheim, including Little Arabia — for more than 40 years and retired from UPS after 34 years.
"Gloria is District 2 through and through," said Mayor Harry Sidhu, who voted for her during the appointment process. "For more than 20 years, she has worked to better her neighborhood after deciding to take on challenges facing her family and those of others in the community. That will now be her focus on the city council, where she will help us address and improve quality of life in District 2."
However, some council members questioned the appointment process and claimed Ma'ae's selection was pre-determined.
"This decision was pre-ordained," said District 3 Council Member Jose Moreno, who questioned some of Ma'ae's qualifications and abstained during her nomination vote.
The appointment comes a month after the resignation of Brandman, who served a second term on the council and resigned in August after vulgar and offensive text messages he sent to a resident aimed at a former female council member came to light.
Brandman apologized to former city council colleague Denise Barnes, whom the inappropriate text messages were regarding. But the Democrat resigned amid both growing public pressure and a recall effort.
In Anaheim, if a council member steps down during their term, the city council must decide and appoint a replacement member within 60 days. If the council did not agree, then a special election, costing about $200,000, would be held.
Anaheim is one of Orange County's most populous cities and home to Disneyland, the Los Angeles Angels and the Anaheim Ducks. District 2 encompasses parts of west Anaheim, which traditionally has not seen many economic developments and investments compared to other neighborhoods in the city.
Ma'ae was among 10 people vying for the position. She told the council about her years participating in neighborhood organizations, civic and city boards, and high school booster clubs. She explained to the council that she would be a fierce advocate for her neighborhood.
"I would be a fierce advocate for neighborhood reinvestment," said Ma'ae. "We must address the homeless crisis across the city, especially in west Anaheim, and do so with compassion and firmness that gives our residents their parks and public spaces back."
Moreno, however, questioned her ability to understand policies and budget implications that have affected the people in her district. When asked what city policies, budget and codes have negatively impacted District 2 residents and how she would address those, Ma'ae was stumped.
Moreno also took a shot at the city's appointment process, calling it "counter to what I consider fair to all candidates." He added that the appointment process was not fair, inclusive, nor equitable.
"We are making a decision on behalf of people that we don't represent formally in a district," he said.
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Moreno and fellow District 4 City Council Member Avelino Valencia abstained from the vote. Still, other council members believed that Ma'ae was the best-qualified applicant.
"Gloria stood out having the best balance of that experience with the city, knowledge, and understanding of citywide issues and a proven track record of advocacy and results in west Anaheim," said District 6 City Council Member Trevor O'Neil.
District 5 City Council Member Stephen Faessel lauded Ma'ae's longtime connection to the community and believed she could learn on the job.
Sidhu also backed Ma'ae, who received four votes to be appointed and will serve out Brandman's remaining term, which ends in 2022.
"She also understands the importance of a strong Anaheim economy and what that means for our neighborhoods. You will not find a more genuine representative for District 2 on our council."
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated Ma'ae's former employer, which was UPS. The error has been corrected. (Sept. 16, 2021)