We Feel the Consequences of Corruption: The Stories of Two Anaheim Residents


A year ago, the FBI announced an ongoing investigation into political corruption by disgraced former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu. Behind closed doors, Sidhu sought to undersell the Angel Stadium, a publicly-owned property, in exchange for one million dollars for his political campaign. 

The blatant corruption within our City Hall became undeniable. 

For many of us who feel the consequences of corruption, it confirmed what we already knew; the City does not prioritize its majority working class residents. Our elected officials’ loyalty lies with those who have the biggest pockets: special interest groups, like the Disney-funded SOAR political action committee who fund their political campaigns. 

Since then, Anaheim residents have been demanding accountability and transparency – calling for long awaited campaign finance reform. The reality is that the issues that matter most to Anaheim’s working class residents such as housing affordability, police accountability, and environmental justice, remain on hold while the City grapples with finding its way past the corruption scandal. To be clear, these issues were not on the City’s agenda because they were never on special interest groups’ agenda to begin with.

Anaheim residents deserve a complete transformation from our government that goes beyond the resignation of a corrupt Mayor. Residents deserve to live and thrive in a community that is not run by special and corporate interests. We deserve to raise our families in the community we call home.  

As an organization, we believe it is crucial to uplift the voices of Anaheim residents who have been impacted by decades of community divestment. Penelope and Karen share the ways in which the prioritization of special interest groups has negatively impacted their lived experiences. 

Penelope Lopez, Organizing Director:

My name is Penélope Lopez and I live in Anaheim, between the beautiful Little Arabia and the vibrant Mexican-owned panaderias and ice cream shops on Euclid St. 

Anaheim has always been a meaningful place in my life. It is the city where my parents met, despite being from the same pueblito in Mexico, and where they fell in love. It is where I met and married my husband. It is now the place where I’m raising my daughter and where I dream that one day I could own a home and grow my family. 

Despite the immense amount of love I have for Anaheim, this City has brought me the biggest heartbreaks. It is where my brother was beaten by the Anaheim Police Department after he called for help during a mental health crisis. It is where my rent was raised so high that I got pushed out of my apartment. It is where hundreds of our neighbors died and thousands more continue to be devastated by the impact of COVID; yet, our Council gave millions of COVID relief funds to special interest groups. 

Some of the elected officials that turned their back on Anaheim residents are now gone from office. And the electeds that knocked on doors asking for votes, promising to change City hall, now sit at the dais with their backs turned too, while we live the consequences of corruption.

We live with the consequences of corruption every time we are priced out of our homes, when our children can’t safely play at parks, and when the people who work and power our City’s world famous resort industry are unable to make ends meet. 

Karen Romero Estrada, Chispa Member:

My name is Karen Romero Estrada. I was born, raised and currently live in unceded Acjachemen and Tongva land (West Anaheim, CA). As a little girl I couldn’t sleep until the Disneyland fireworks finished. Living less than a mile away from Disneyland, the fireworks would, without fail, trigger screeching car alarms and barking dogs. Most of the time this cacophony frustrated me. Sometimes, my dad would take my sisters and I outside of our apartments to watch the fireworks. I would close my eyes and pretend to make wishes on shooting stars. 

I believe that everyone deserves joy, a healthy community, and stability, and I radically imagine a world where I no longer need to pretend to wish on a Disneyland “shooting star” but where this will be our norm. 

My lived and academic experiences have taught me that those who endure systemic racism directly are best equipped at creating solutions and drafting public policy changes to address these issues. People from my community have the knowledge and skills needed to transform our realities — we are denied access to resources.

As Frederick Douglass said, “power concedes nothing without a demand,” and that is evident with our City Council. As the council discusses lukewarm reform, we must demand transformative change beyond the resignation of individuals. This means organizing to demand changes to our system for processes that can provide us actual material benefits like deep affordable housing, renter protections, climate resiliency measures, community spaces where we can congregate without consumption, and investments in our youth.

As Young People, we have an important role to play in creating social change in our community. Our voices, as our stories, matter and we refuse to be ignored. 

Penelope Lopez

Penelope Lopez

is the Organizing Director of Chispa, a proud mother, and Anaheim resident. She hopes to build a future of justice, joy, and equity alongside other young people for the next generation.

Karen Romero Estrada

Karen Romero Estrada

is a Anaheim resident, an environmental justice advocate, and a Chispa member. Some of Karen’s previous work includes fighting for park equity in central Orange County where she co-founded the Rise Up Willowick coalition. She is also a past Senior Policy Advisor to former Anaheim Council Member Dr. Jose F. Moreno.