Doti & Adibi: Angel Stadium numbers game

From The OC Register:

Anaheim is considering whether it should revise its lease with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Chapman University played a role in the 1996 negotiations that ultimately led to the Disney Co. buying the Angels from Gene and Jackie Autry, paving the way for the Angels to remain in Anaheim. So, we have a more-than-passing interest in whether the current negotiations will lead to a new lease that passes muster with both the Angels and Anaheim.

For Anaheim, we believe that the most critical issue is to rigorously and accurately measure the net financial impact to the city of whatever lease terms are negotiated. While we are not privy to the negotiations, we can, as a useful starting point, analyze the initial set of revised lease terms that the Angels presented to the city – terms that have since been a matter of spirited public debate.

Several of the terms in this initial proposal are the same as in the current lease and will have no change in costs to the city. For example, under the current lease, the Angels keep all revenue from concessions, advertising, stadium naming rights, nonbaseball events and virtually all receipts from onsite parking. The city covers principal and interest payments on stadium construction loans as well as all city administrative costs relating to the Angels. Since all these terms are the same as in the current lease, there will be no financial impact to the city regarding these costs and revenues.

Another proposed change is to drop “Anaheim” from the team's name. When the team was called the Anaheim Angels, the “Anaheim” name obviously had some marketing value to the city. But under the current lease, the team is the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Whether the prepositional phrase at the end of the team name – “of Anaheim” – has any measurable value to the city is dubious. So we don't count any.

But there are changes in the proposed lease that will financially impact the city. Under the existing lease, for example, the city receives $2 for each ticket sold after the first 2.6 million in annual attendance. The proposed lease increases this cutoff from 2.6 million to 3 million. Assuming that ticket sales continue to be at or above the 2013 level – 3 million – Anaheim will lose $2 per ticket beyond 2.6 million. This represents a loss of $800,000 to the city.

Anaheim, however, will benefit by new lease terms that call for the Angels to pick up the $600,000 annual cost of stadium maintenance, now paid by the city.

At this point in our analysis, the only measurable financial impacts to the city in the proposed lease terms are the annual loss of $800,000 in ticket sales (assuming attendance of at least 3 million) and the savings to the city of $600,000. These two items result in net additional costs to the city of $200,000 per year.

As Peggy Lee sang, “Is that all there is?” Not quite. The proposed lease terms give the Angels development rights to about 125 undeveloped acres surrounding the stadium, and the lease on other structures on the site, for a total of $1 a year for 66 years. In addition, the city would rebate to the Angels sales and property taxes it would otherwise receive from the property and any future development.

Now we're talking real money. But how much?

The most accurate way to answer this question is to determine the value by publicly auctioning off the land and property rights. No auction, however, is planned.

An alternative way of determining the cost to Anaheim of giving away the rights to develop the land can be estimated by evaluating what the city can do if it retains those rights. Before estimating this cost, however, we need to understand the amount of land available for development.

In the current lease, which runs through 2029, Anaheim gave the Angels the rights to roughly 12,000 surface parking spaces, which occupy about 75 acres of land. Another 25 acres sit under the stadium itself and other buildings. Since the entire site is about 150 acres, that leaves 50 acres available for development.

It should be noted, though, that if Anaheim retains the development rights, the city can wait until 2029, when the parking provision in the current lease expires. The city then could sell the 75 acres currently used for surface parking to a buyer who could build a parking structure and develop the remaining acreage.

The cost to the city of transferring all 125 acres of parking lots and undeveloped land and development rights to the Angels, as called for in the proposed lease, can be estimated by calculating the earnings the city could generate by selling the land instead. At a conservatively estimated land value of $2 million per acre for a mixed-use development of medium density, the present value to the city of giving the Angels the development rights to the undeveloped 50 acres (calculated from 2015-80) and 75 acres of parking lots (calculated from 2029-80) is $209.7 million. This present value calculation is based on an annual return of 3 percent, assuming the land is sold and the money invested in 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds.

Since the proposed lease terms also call for city property tax revenue emanating from the land to be forfeited by Anaheim and rebated to the Angels, it is also necessary to measure the impact of that lost revenue to the city. We estimate the present value of that loss to Anaheim from property taxes for the raw land alone to be $18.5 million.

OC GOP leader calls Lucille Kring a LIAR

From The OC Register:

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait doesn’t get a lot of love from the other three Republicans on his City Council, frequently finding himself on the losing end of key votes. And one of those Republicans, Lucille Kring, is challenging his re-election bid.

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But Tait got a major display of GOP support last month when the county Republican Party announced he was one of its two “Local Legislators of the Year.”

The timing was particularly conspicuous given the criticism he’s been getting from other Republicans on the council as well as from some members of the Anaheim business community. The timing is also notable because Tait is gearing up his reelection campaign.

These awards in election years are typically designed to give favored candidates a boost. The other “Local Legislator of the Year” was county Supervisor Janet Nguyen, who is facing a tight and crucial state Senate race against Democrat Jose Solorio.

“Tom has overwhelming support inside the Republican Party of Orange County,” said county GOP Chairman Scott Baugh, noting that the selections were approved by the party’s executive committee. “Tom and his family have been supporting the Orange County Republican Party for probably three decades, sharing their office space, doing precinct walks and helping financially.”

Among key issues where Tait has been at odds with his fellow City Council Republicans: He argued in vain that the beginning negotiating terms for the Angels’ new lease were too generous; he has favored pure district elections in order to ensure better geographic representation on the council; and he opposed a $158 million tax rebate to two new luxury hotels.

The GOP council majority has also targeted Tait by reducing his mayoral staff and limiting his ability to put items on the agenda.

Baugh said the award was not intended as an endorsement of Tait’s votes – that there was no strong consensus in the party on the more controversial issues – but rather an acknowledgement of his character and contributions to the GOP.

And if the award appears to be a slap at Kring, Baugh didn’t seem to mind.

“Tom’s being challenged by a Republican who lied to the (county GOP’s governing) committee and lied to Tom Tait,” said Baugh, referring to her statements during her 2012 council campaign that she opposed the proposed tax rebate to the hotels – and then voted for a rebate once elected.

Kring responded that the rebate deal had changed by the time her vote came up, and she was convinced it made sense. She said she never spoke to the county GOP on the tax-rebate issue, and she complained that the award for Tait had nothing to do with his position on issues.

“That is a joke, the whole thing,” she said. “Why would four people – three being Republicans – vote against him on the council if he was doing the right thing?”

Former Councilwoman Lorri Galloway, a Democrat, has also declared her candidacy in the race, which is officially non-partisan.

Anaheim Hotelier: Don’t Take 'Family Legacy' for Streetcar

From The Voice of OC:

In 1962, Carmen E. Scalzo, a Sicilian immigrant and entrepreneur, built a hotel in south Anaheim across the street from Disneyland, and in the ensuing decades his family's business thrived due largely to its proximity to the world's most famous theme park.

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Fast forward more than 50 years and Scalzo’s grandson, Paul Durand, says his "family legacy" is under attack by the push for a $319 million streetcar project conceived primarily for the benefit of Disneyland.

The Park Vue Inn, along with an IHOP and Cold Stone Creamery also owned by Durand’s family, could be subject to an eminent domain action the city claims is needed for the streetcar system to become reality. And, Durand says, city officials have been less than forthcoming regarding the specifics of their plans.

“They’re being secretive and deliberate, and it’s harming me,” Durand said. “If it’s going to come through my property, tell me, because I’m trying to run a business here.”

He added that the eminent domain threat is also affecting his plans for another hotel project on the property.

Anaheim Public Works Director Natalie Meeks says the project isn’t far enough along to give Durand more definitive answers. An environmental impact report – scheduled to be released in December – is supposed to identify the preferred route and therefore clarify which properties would be taken, she said.

The proposed 3.2 mile long streetcar system would connect a transit depot currently under construction with Disneyland and other key destinations in the city, including the convention center; the Platinum Triangle development; and the GardenWalk outdoor mall.

A Controversial Project

Supporters say the streetcar will increase connectivity and spur economic investment. Critics, meanwhile, say the project will only benefit a select few in the business community and that an enhanced bus alternative would cost $260 million less.

Orange County Transportation Authority documents show that Anaheim's project topped a cost comparison involving 11 other streetcar systems across the country. A major factor driving up the cost is the right of way acquisition budget, which is over $30 million.

In order to finance the streetcar, city officials are hoping to tap federal grant funds and revenue from Measure M2, the countywide half-cent sales tax that finances transportation improvements.

But the project will ultimately have to be approved by the Transportation Authority's board of directors and some prominent board members don't like the idea of the city spending millions in taxpayer dollars to take property away from a family fighting for its business.

That issue first arose last year when blogger and activist Cynthia Ward pointed out in public comments to the Transportation Authority board that something big was in the streetcar’s way, and board directors needed to ask Anaheim officials about it.

Vocal Board Members

When Meeks acknowledged to the board that an IHOP and hotel would likely be taken, “that seemed to be a real lead balloon in the room,” said Transportation Authority board Chairman Shawn Nelson.

“If Anaheim is proceeding with some belief that [OCTA] thinks that’s a good idea – that would be making it up,” said Nelson.

John Moorlach, also a Transportation Authority  board member and county supervisor, said city officials should tell Durand whether his property is going to be taken.

“I think that Anaheim has kept it quiet…that’s a disservice to the community," Moorlach said. "And I think it’s a disservice to landowners."

Irvine Councilman and board Director Jeffrey Lalloway, a vocal critic of the streetcar, said there should be a strong bias among government officials against eminent domain.

“There are certain times when eminent domain needs to be used when constructing pure public works projects, like roads or bridges, or schools or things like that, but it should be used very judiciously and only when absolutely necessary,” Lalloway said.

Other board members – like San Clemente Councilwoman Lori Donchak – agree with Lalloway that eminent domain should be a last resort, but they are also more willing to defer to Anaheim officials’ judgment of their community needs.

“I put a lot of weight on what the local municipality thinks is a good idea,” Donchak said. “Because local knowledge is pretty important in programs like this.”

But Ward and others who've investigated the proposal say that in this case the eminent domain action is not necessary and being done simply because Disney wants a drop-off location for visitors that is closer to the main gate than if the streetcar was reroutedto avoid the hotel complex.

Durand makes similar arguments. In addition to violating state environmental law, he says that a city document shows that the city would be swapping his hotel land with Disney property by moving a Disney transit hub to his hotel site.

That would free up Disney land for other uses, and according to Durand’s attorney is a violation of the city’s Measure P, which makes it illegal to take private property for the benefit of another private property owner.

Mayor Tom Tait – who agrees that city officials should be upfront with Durand about the fate of his family’s properties -- says he doesn’t believe there is a violation of Measure P because, while the project is certainly good for Disneyland, the resort isn’t the “primary” beneficiary.

“It’s too broad for the premise,” Tait said.

A Third Gate in the Offing

The first public acknowledgment of how important the project is to Disneyland came in 2013 when Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray told the Transportation Authority's board that the project would help take cars off the road and therefore allow Disney to expand the resort and open a third gate.

Meeks largely confirmed that the project’s most important goal is to deliver tourists to Disney’s main gate when she told the board about the expensive property acquisition. Other routes didn’t make sense, she said, because if riders aren’t dropped off at the gate, studies show that ridership plummets.

The city’s cost estimate for acquiring Durand’s and adjacent properties is likely far too low, Durand said. He argues that the city will have to compensate for not only the value of the property, but also the success of the businesses – a significant amount given that the IHOP and Coldstone are among the top performing in the country, and the hotel enjoys average occupancy rate of over 95 percent.

In total, the businesses employ over 200 people and provide about $750,000 in annual tax revenue to the city, he said.

Durand is quick to acknowledge the irony that Disney is the reason for his family’s business success, and its potential downfall.

“Without [Disney], I wouldn’t have a business. That’s what makes this so hard,” he said.

The Transportation Authority board has asked Anaheim officials to study ways of reducing the project’s total cost. Nelson says he is confident that Anaheim can find other route options that won’t require pricey eminent domain actions.

But according to Meeks, alternatives studied so far are don’t work very well. One problem is the route – and therefore the track – would be longer and more expensive, and then the increased travel time reduces ridership.

Meeks said that the city is following all state and local laws and regulations, and would soon be sending a response to the letter from Durand’s attorney.

Anaheim council members Lucille Kring, Jordan Brandman, Gail Eastman and Kris Murray did not return phone calls seeking comment on this article.

Tustin mayor: No taxpayer money for an Angel stadium

From The LA TIMES:

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Arte Moreno did not send an emissary. The Angels owner met with Tustin officials himself last week, in search of a stadium deal and frustrated by what he perceives as stalled negotiations with the city of Anaheim.

Tustin officials still aren’t quite sure what to make of it. They’re happy to talk with him, but the mayor is not sure whether Moreno is more interested in coming to Tustin or in putting pressure on Anaheim.

“It could be a leveraging opportunity,” Tustin Mayor Al Murray said Tuesday night.

Murray was clear on one thing: Tustin would not be using taxpayer funds to build the Angels a ballpark.

“I don’t think, in our community, that would be acceptable,” Murray said.

Angels spokeswoman Marie Garvey said Tuesday that the Angels anticipate “a public-private partnership,” whether in Anaheim or elsewhere.

“We’re not asking for handouts anywhere,” she said.

In September, the Anaheim City Council approved the framework of a deal in which Moreno would pay $150 million to renovate Angel Stadium in exchange for development rights to the adjacent land at $1 per year.  Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait has fought the deal ever since, arguing that the land is too valuable to lease at that rate without sharing in any development profits.

The Anaheim City Council earlier this month approved the hiring of an appraiser to value the land under two scenarios: the Angels stay or the Angels go.

“They’re looking at all their options, with or without us,” Garvey said, “so we have to do the same.”

Tustin City Manager Jeffrey Parker said Moreno had expressed particular interest in the northeast corner of the property formerly occupied by the Marine Corps air station. That area is across the street from the Tustin Metrolink station and adjacent to the 5 Freeway and Highway 261, the latter a toll road directly to the Inland Empire. The site also is accessible via Highway 55 and the 405 Freeway.

“Their focus was on the transportation element,” Parker said.

On Tuesday, the Tustin City Council approved the sale of 78 acres of land elsewhere on the closed military base for $56 million, plus another $17 million in infrastructure costs, to a housing developer. Infrastructure costs for sports facilities generally are borne by the city or other public authority.

Parker said it would be premature to discuss whether the Tustin City Council would consider including no-cost or low-cost land in a stadium deal, but he said one possibility could be to include a ballpark site in a larger development deal.

“It certainly is clear they want to partner with a community and a developer,” Parker said, “whether that developer is them, or with another developer.”

Murray categorized the Angels discussions as in their “infancy.” Parker said the city would wait to hear back from Moreno.

Moreno last week said talks with Anaheim were “at a stalemate.” Garvey said Tuesday the team had not made “any significant progress” since the deal framework was approved five months ago.

“The city of Anaheim has and will continue negotiating in good faith with Angels Baseball to keep the team playing in Anaheim for many years to come,” the city said in a statement Tuesday. “Early on, the city and the team established mutual goals, the first of which is to keep the Angels in Anaheim.  We will continue to meet with the team in order to accomplish that goal.”



http://www.latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-sn-angels-tustin-anaheim-stadium-20140219,0,1954563.story#ixzz2tybMCald

Mayor on Angels Talks with Tustin: Told You So...

From The Voice of OC:

News that Angels owner Arte Moreno hasreached out to Tustin leaders regarding a possible move did not surprise Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait in the least.

In fact, Tait says, the inevitability of such hardball tactics from the billionaire team owner is exactly why he urged his City Council colleagues last year not to agree to extend the negotiating window on a new stadium lease, something they went ahead and did anyway.

The Major League Baseball team and the city are currently haggling over the financing of up to $150 million in improvements and renovations to the 48-year-old Angel Stadium.

Moreno is already obligated to maintain the stadium under the current lease. But he wants Anaheim to lease him 155 acres around the stadium so he can develop the land and have a revenue source to finance the cost.

The current lease framework proposes giving Moreno and a group of investors the land for 66 years at $1 per year. Moreno would also be able to drop “Anaheim” from the team name.

Until last September, Moreno had only until 2016 to leave before he was locked into the current lease through 2029. But in a 4-1 vote, with Tait dissenting, City Council extended that trigger clause in the lease to 2019.

In order to build a stadium in Tustin, Moreno needs four to five years, the team owner told the Los Angeles Times. Tait finds it curious that this is also the amount of time the council majority gave the team to quit Anaheim.

“To even be able to threaten leaving is only possible because the council majority unilaterally extended the time where they allowed the Angels to leave the existing lease to 2019 from 2016,” Tait said. “If they did nothing, then practically the Angels couldn’t go anywhere. And as I said when they voted on that, if the Angels do leave, you can trace it back to this vote.”

Just as predictable as Moreno's tactics was the response from Kris Murray, the acknowledged leader of the council majority. She quickly pointed to the news as evidence that Moreno does have the ability to leave Anaheim and a rebuttal to critics who say it isn’t possible.

“Our fears were justified,” she told the Orange County Register.

Meanwhile, Gail Eastman – another member of the council majority – publicly admonished Moreno at Tuesday night’s council meeting, saying that she was disappointed in the team owner’s decision to take negotiations to the media.

Eastman said that Anaheim is a public agency – not a player’s agent – and called on council members and Moreno to have patience in the negotiations.

Charles Black, a negotiations consultant the city hired, said last year that the extension was necessary to have Moreno more thoughtfully consider the negotiations. And he doubted that it would give Moreno more leverage.

“All of us make better decisions when not under pressure. … With that sword of Damocles hanging over their heads, they're going to be potentially impulsive and difficult to negotiate with,” Black said.

Now it seems the city has passed the sword to Moreno.

According to the Times, Moreno is eyeing land at Tustin’s shuttered Marine Corps air station, which sits between the 5, 405 and 55 freeways.

Whether Tustin, a city of 78,000, has the resources necessary build a free stadium for Moreno – and match what he already gets construction and rent free in Anaheim -- is another question. Tait says it’s a preposterous idea.

When “pigs fly,” Tait said. “It’s a crazy assumption.”

Arte Moreno Threatening to Move Angels to...Tustin?!

From The OC Weekly:

Arte Moreno - welfare queen

Arte Moreno - welfare queen

It's now officially the silly season for your Anaheim Angels of Anaheim, as owner Arte Moreno is now acting like the billionaire baby he is. Anaheim officials aren't immediately giving him acres of land near Angels Stadium to fund what the Halos insist are much-needed upgrades to Angels Stadium--never mind that Disney refurbished the stadium about 20 years ago. So what has Moreno decided to do? Approach Tustin officials to start discussions about moving the Big A down the 5-to-the-55 and park it on the long-abandoned Tustin Marine Corps Air Station.

Um, what?

The Los Angeles Times broke the story over the President's Day weekend, on the same day that Orange County Register columnist TJ Simers eviscerated Anaheim councilwoman(and fellow 2013 OC Scariest People inductee with Moreno) Kris Murray as a "country bumpkin" and "Chicken Little Councilwoman" for kowtowing to the Angels' every corporate welfare need. Predictably, Moreno's biggest defenders in the pathetic charade that passes as Orange County's blogosphere, Matt Cunningham (who outed sex-abuse victims and ridiculed grieving mothers) and Dan Chmielewski (a perpetually insufferable pendejo who's at his insufferable-est when writing about baseball and recently used the passing of Angels legend Jim Fregosi to slam his opponents)) are joining Murray in screaming that the sky is falling for Anaheim.

Moreno's tantrum is hilarious, especially since Tustin is the Garden Grove of OC: a hick town always dreaming high with publicly subsidized projects that go nowhere. Then again, maybe Tustin deserves the Angels. Any move by Tustin to woo the Angels would no doubt involve giving Moreno the land he wants to not only build a stadium, but to then develop to fund construction. That amounts to a giveaway into the hundreds of millions of dollars to a billionaire. And it would be wonderful for Tustin's super-majority Republican council--as dimwitted a collection of public officials as you can find in OC--to justify their corporate welfare while slashing funding all across town for the city's increasing poor. Hey, Arte: can you do an Irwindale on Tustin and hose those losers for a couple mil?

Moreno using fear to get his way

From The OC Register:

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Hey, Anaheim councilwoman Kris Murray, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

I never thought of Anaheim as a place where country bumpkins might reside, but apparently voters there like their politicians gullible.

Angels owner Arte Moreno huffs and puffs about wanting a new stadium lease, and tells the Register he’s frustrated.

Join the Mike Trout party is what I would have told Moreno, which might explain why Arte and I don’t spend a lot of time together.

But when Murray heard Moreno was frustrated, she had a cow.

That’s how they talk in Kansas.

As soon as Moreno let it be known he was frustrated with lease negotiations, an Angels spokesperson said, the team will “explore all our options to ensure that we have certainty for our fans and the future of the team,’’ and is gobbly goop one word or two?

I take for granted the Angels have explored the option of making the playoffs the past four years, and how has that gone?

I appreciate the Angels wanting to provide “certainty for our fans,’’ but I think everyone is already certain they are dealing with a bully when it comes to Moreno’s Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

But Murray interpreted the spokesperson’s spin differently.

“The critics said that there was no way the team would leave,’’ Murray is quoted as saying in the Register, and I thank her for reading Page 2. “But this shows that our fears were justified.”

I called a PR rep for Anaheim, who called Murray’s aide, who called Murray and was told she had family commitments and would not be able to talk, although she had just done so to her aide.

But “fears” as Murray suggested, is a very good word, and describes what Moreno is counting on in getting his way.

I’ve always thought the better word was “extortion,” having dealt with the NFL and the L.A. market: Give us what we want or we’ll blow up this place and go elsewhere.

Smelling salts, please, for our Chicken Little Councilwoman because L.A. stood firm and they did go elsewhere, but the Angels aren’t going anywhere before 2019.

Mayor Tait's State of the City speech

2014 STATE OF THE CITY

 

Good afternoon.

Thank you all for joining us today for this important annual event when we stop and reflect on what we’ve accomplished and what challenges and opportunities lay before us.

Before I get into the meat of my remarks, I’d like to take a few minute and acknowledge a few people in the room.

I would also like to thank my colleagues on the Anaheim City Council for joining us here today:  Mayor Pro Tem Kris Murray and Council Members Gail Eastman, Jordan Brandman and Lucille Kring.    All of these councilmembers put in a tremendous amount of time and effort doing their job.  Please one more time, let’s all thank them again. 

Let me also thank and acknowledge the hard work and talent of our city staff, starting with our new City Manager, Marcie Edwards.  I’d also like to welcome our new Utility general manager Dukku Lee and our new Deputy City Manager, Kristine Ridge. 

Another new face on our management team is our new police chief, Raul Quezada.  Chief Quezada is a man of integrity and a problem-solver.  I think he is definitely the right person at the right time because he has the experience, the background and the personality to help ensure that Anaheim citizens feel safe, secure and respected. Congratulations Chief Quezada.

Before I move on, I’d like to welcome two more important residents of our city.  This year marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day.  Anaheim is proud to have had three living former councilmembers who served in World War II:  Dr. William Kott and Frank Feldhaus are with us here today and unfortunately Irv Pickler could not be here with us today.  I’d like to acknowledge their service to our city and to our country with a round of applause. And while we’re at it, let’s acknowledge Anaheim’s own adopted Marine Expeditionary Unit, the 13th MEU, and all those deployed for our country around the world.

This is my fourth State of the City address and I can’t believe how fast time has gone by.  It’s like when you have small children and people tell you how fast time will move.  But just as I enjoyed every day of my life as a father, I have enjoyed every day serving as mayor of this great city (well, almost every day). We have accomplished much in the past three years and it’s because we have developed a great sense of community and kindness in our city.

One of the things I really love about my job is meeting people in and around Anaheim.  Whether it is in a neighborhood park, at a local restaurant, or in a barber shop—whenever I meet a constituent, that feedback, that exchange of information and views always informs my work as mayor.

So this past fall, I was invited to a West Anaheim Little League event to celebrate the donation of brand new baseball equipment, and a few dozen new baseballs, coordinated by Northgate Markets.   Julie and I were more than pleased to attend and celebrate this act of kindness.

So there I was, talking with parents and meeting the kids after the ceremony when some of the kids started asking me to sign their new baseballs.  Let me tell you, as a former mediocre high school baseball player with big league dreams, it was kind of fun to be there surrounded by kids waiting for me to sign their baseballs. It felt pretty good… And then it happened—this kid hands me his baseball and I sign it and hand it back to him.  He looks at the ball and, he looks at me and then says, “Hey, that’s not my name.  My name is Adrian.” So I had to write Adrian on the ball and all the other kids wanted me to write their names on their baseball. 

That was short-lived.

            So, let’s get down to business.  Today, I’d like to spend my time with you in three ways:  Tell you about some of the exciting things going on in Anaheim, explain why I believe fiscal stewardship is now so important, and then finally, I would like to introduce new ideas and programs that we’ll be working on in 2014.

So first, let me give you a quick update on what is happening in this great city of ours.  I’ve got to start with the Anaheim Ducks.  They are the best team in the NHL and their record shows it. And just this past weekend they took it to the LA Kings in front of 54,000 at Dodger Stadium.  This team is really unbelievably great; so let’s all cheer them on to bring the Stanley Cup back to Anaheim.    And by the way, if you haven’t been to the new Grand Terrace, you need to check it out.

With the Angels, even though we didn’t make the playoffs, the team drew more than 3 million fans and provided plenty of excitement.  One highlight that I happened to see was Mike Trout hitting for the cycle.  My guess is that if their amazing lineup stays healthy this year, they will be back up on top where they belong.  

            And the Disneyland Resort, in its first full year of operation since the opening of Cars Land and the transformation of Disney California Adventure, had added an additional 1,000 jobs bringing their total to 26,000 local cast members and delivered record attendance — driving tourism, filling Anaheim hotels and providing additional revenue for the city’s budget.

I’m happy to report that business continues to be robust for our Convention Center.  This past year saw an 11% increase in meetings and conventions.  Once again, NAAM drew record crowds of nearly 100,000 people, including my new acquaintance, Terry, who was attending NAMM from Northern California.

Speaking of the Resort District, new hotel construction is robust, to say the least.  There are 5 hotels under construction, 3 hotels with final site plans approved but not yet under construction, and 4 hotels pending final site plan approval.  That adds up to over 2,600 hotel rooms being added! 

Finally, the arts continue to be on the move in Anaheim.  Just this last weekend, I attended the opening of the expanded Chance Theater and because of a very generous gift, the Bette Aitken Theater Arts Center is now open in Anaheim.  This theater is one of the most critically acclaimed theaters in our region.  If you haven’t been there, do yourself a favor and buy some tickets.  It is really a local artistic gem. 

ARTIC

But the arts aren’t the only thing on the move in Anaheim…so is our new transportation hub.  When I’m out and about, one of the most asked questions I get is, “What is that big building going up across the freeway from the stadium?”

I sometimes answer that it’s the new city hall…just kidding.  All of that construction is for the new ARTIC facility. This has been in the process for over 20 years and FINALLY, ARTIC will be completed and open for business this year. 

When it is opened, the public will be able to access Metrolink, Amtrak, OCTA and Anaheim Resort Transportation buses, local taxis, and tour and charter buses, all at that one location.

And we’ve also seen significant improvements on our local highways.  We’re adding a combined seven miles of new freeways to the 57 and 91, which will positively impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.  These enhancements improve the safety our region’s freeways and most importantly get people home to their families quicker.

NEIGHBORHOOD INVESTMENTS

Now, about our city’s neighborhoods.

We’re investing in parks.  Two new parks will be open this year and are now under construction: Paul Revere Park and Miraloma Park.  We are also redeveloping Ponderosa Park & Family Resource Center.  And through innovative public-private partnerships with KaBOOM and Disney Volunteers, Anaheim Family YMCA and the local school districts we’re rebuilding playgrounds at Edison, Stoddard, Schweitzer and Modjeska Parks.  

Building parks creates not just a capital improvement in our city, but develops bonds and social infrastructure in the neighborhoods, creating a sense of community. 

            In other neighborhood news, interest in the Platinum Triangle has kicked into high gear.  During the past year, we approved nearly 1,400 residential units and about 1,000 of these units are expected to begin construction this year.    

Other capital improvements in the city include new traffic signals and neighborhood street lights in a variety of locations. 

We’re also implementing a new system of green corridors, known as the Anaheim Outdoors Connectivity Plan.  These green corridors filled with shade trees, pocket parks and open spaces will help connect residents, business and visitors to existing and planned high density areas.

These are just a few of the many investments the city is making to improve the quality of life for our residents.  But before we talk about new investments and initiatives, I’d like give you a quick summary of the city’s fiscal health.

Over the last couple of years, we've seen significant growth in the city’s “Big Three” revenues, especially hotel bed tax and sales tax, which is a good indication that the overall health of the economy is stabilizing, and consumer confidence is improving. 

But we cannot ignore the significant fiscal pressures we face that threaten our ability to fund vital services for the near and long-term future.  And that is a problem that should concern us all.

The city’s cost of services continues to rise, and we face some significant decisions on programs and projects that will impact the city for decades to come.   The city’s total payroll costs have grown dramatically over the past 10 years.  Payroll costs makeup 75% of our General Fund budget.  As the cost per employee has gone up, it has become increasingly more difficult to provide basic services. So we have to be very careful how we spend our limited resources.

So let’s talk about some of the major fiscal decisions that lie in front of us.

ANGELS LEASE

One of biggest issues—and one that has received a lot of press attention lately—is the negotiation of a new lease for Angel Stadium.  As most of you know, the city has been engaged in talks with the ball club’s representatives. The issues at hand are the details of the club’s lease and the disposition of the surrounding 155 acres around the stadium, referred to as the Stadium District.  The residents of Anaheim own this land, which is one of the largest potential revenue-generating assets in the city.

I believe that we have the opportunity to strike a deal that is a win-win for both organizations.  The city is in a strong position and we have a team that wants to play in our world-class stadium.  I have been vocal with my concerns about the framework of the new lease and will continue to be so.  Nonetheless, I am hopeful that we can go back to the drawing board and work out an agreement that gives the financial return on the land that the residents deserve.   

PENSION REFORM

While we’re talking about tough issues, this might be the time to bring up pension reform.  My wife loves it when I bring up pension reform at cocktail parties. But seriously, here’s the kind of statistic that keeps me up at night:  our city’s cost to fund pensions has almost tripled in the past ten years—rising from $20 million to $58 million per year. That’s every year. That’s real money and means that as the cost to run government increases, the services we can provide decreases.  It is as simple as that.

I continue to advocate for meaningful pension reform for our city. Real reform would protect our ability to provide important services, such as fire and police services.  Just as important, real reform would protect people’s pensions.  Without it, we will not be able to avoid the impact our pension obligation will ultimately have on the city’s long-term financial health and to our ability to honor existing contracts.

CONVENTION CENTER

Another pressing fiscal decision that is looming in front of us is the interest in expanding the convention center.  As we evaluate the need for this project, it is important to look at the project from both a short-term and long-term perspective.  And there are some critical questions to ask. For example, what if the assumptions about the TOT and additional room nights don’t play out?  And are we at risk of taking on debt that could jeopardize our ability to provide basic public services in the future? 

The convention center expansion, the Angels lease and pension reform—these are difficult issues facing our city.  And once made, they will have lasting effects on city finances for 30 years. This is what I’m thinking about and what we all should be thinking about as we consider these important financial decisions. 

I look forward to working on these issues in the coming months with my colleagues on the city council. 

Open Government/Transparency

Enough about finances, let’s talk about some of the new things we’ll be doing this year.

One of the critical components of good government is transparency.  The good news is that modern technology allows us to make information available to the public like never before.  There are some amazing technology solutions that help local governments open their financial information to the public in incredibly easy-to-navigate and robust websites. Think for example of the businesses that were launched when the federal government released its weather and GPS data to the world.  The possibilities are endless. I’m very pleased to announce that Anaheim will be launching a new partnership with OpenGov.com today that will give our residents new insight and access to their city’s financial information. 

Having just returned from the US Conference of Mayors where this subject was greatly discussed, I can tell you that we are not alone—other cities are moving fast in this direction as well. 

OpenGov is a financial data tool, but we don’t want to stop there.  We intend to make other data available as well. 

We believe that when Anaheim begins to make its information available to the public, not only will we be empowering our residents to learn more about their city, but we open the doors to new creative uses of the data that we can’t even imagine today.  More importantly, as we become more transparent and open with our information, we will become more accountable to the people we serve. 

Public Safety Board

Accountability is important in all aspects of government.  That’s why I’m pleased to tell you today that our city manager, after a year of study and analysis of best practices, will soon implement a Citizen Public Safety Board.  This new body will provide our residents with an opportunity to play a larger role in monitoring and reviewing the work of our first responders. This will make our police and fire departments even more responsive and accountable to the public they serve.  And will continue to build trust in the good work they do.

The police and fire department deserve our heartfelt thanks for their sacrifices on our behalf and our gratitude for the work they do to keep us safe.  I’d also like to thank Marcie Edwards for her leadership on this issue.

District Elections

One of the most fundamental issues affecting people is the question of how they want to be governed. I was pleased when, earlier this month, the city council decided to settle the lawsuit that alleged the city’s at-large voting system violated the California Voting Rights Act.  So this November, the people of Anaheim will vote on two separate issues:  the question of whether to expand the city council from four to six seats and whether to stay with at-large elections or change to district-based elections. 

I believe that district-based elections make sense for the modern, urban city in which we live.  I believe it also brings government closer to the people. Having a city council made up of people who represent different parts of our city will be a positive change for Anaheim.  As Americans, we should rejoice that we live with a system of government that is continually responsive to and reflective of our community values and views.

Regulatory Relief

One of the highlights of this annual State of the City event for me is the opportunity to tell the people of this city how their government is working hard every day to serve them faster and better.  Reducing regulations and streamlining our processes has been a priority since I took office.  That’s why I’m extremely proud of the work of the Mayor’s Regulatory Relief Task Force. 

Created in my first year in office, this task force was charged with finding ways to help the city reduce costs, decrease delays and improve certainty for local businesses.  In other words—cut red tape.

Since that time, the task force, chaired by Dr. Tom Turk of Chapman University’s Argyros School of Business, has worked with the business community, city staff and the city council to create and implement new strategies to streamline some administrative processes and eliminate others.  And our work is paying off.

Here are some quick facts about how we’ve changed how the Anaheim city government does business.

First, because of recommendations of the task force, we have eliminated the requirement for conditional use permits for many businesses. 

 Second, we have changed our application requirements to allow business owners to prepare their own parking studies instead of having to hire consultants for this work. 

Finally, the Planning Department can now process simple CUPs in as little as 35 days. 

These changes have saved Anaheim business thousands of dollars, months of delay and have given business owners certainty in the process that didn’t exist before.  Through the core values of freedom and kindness, we have changed the culture of our city so that city staff feels empowered to make things easier for businesses or homeowners to pursue their dreams. 

BEING RECOGNIZED AS LEADER IN REG RELIEF

I’m pleased to say that our accomplishments are getting a little attention.

The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development recently recognized our Business Assistance Program in the Planning Department—known as our concierge—for its personalized assistance and fantastic customer service. 

The value that office provides its customers was validated with unprecedented customer service satisfaction results.  In 2013, more than 600 customers were surveyed and fully 100% said that they were either impressed with the service the city offered or that the service exceeded their expectations.  An impressive 94 percent reported effective coordination between City departments during the permit process.

This is exactly that kind of service and customer satisfaction that we were aiming for when I created the Regulatory Relief Task Force. 

Today, I’d like to recognize the management and staff of the Planning Department for a job well done. 

CHAMPIONING ENTREPRENEURS/NEW INDUSTRIES

Getting the message out that Anaheim is the easiest place to do business in the entire state is key to creating more jobs and more economic activity for our city.   

As we think about the way to attract new businesses and jobs to our city, I believe that Anaheim really needs to sharpen its focus on entrepreneurs. 

So how do we do that?  How do we capture the next generation of entrepreneurs? 

We need to start by making our city the friendliest and freest city for startup businesses.  And the first step is removing unneeded regulations that could get in the way of the next Steve Jobs or the next Walt Disney. 

BREW CITY

A fun example of how Anaheim is showcasing its business-friendly attitude involves one of my favorite topics:  craft beer. 

Anaheim’s German heritage means that we’ve actually been brewing beer here since city was founded.  And in the last several years, the craft and microbrewery industry has seen tremendous growth.  Anaheim will soon have more craft and micro-breweries than any other city in Orange County.  

The city has been working on making it easier for these artisan beer makers to practice their craft in our town. 

As a beer enthusiast, I’m really excited about the attraction of micro and craft brewers to our city.  We have all of the elements that these entrepreneurs need—space, great water, a super-friendly regulatory climate, and Southern California’s tremendous population of thirsty residents and visitors.

This budding industry has great potential for our town.  Think what the wine industry has done for places like the Napa Valley or Paso Robles over the years.  And we’ve seen what the brew industry has done for the city of Portland.  It has brought that city new jobs, lots of tourists and events, not to mention bringing the community together. 

            That’s why we’re branding Anaheim as the Southland’s BrewCity. In Southern California, when you think about craft beer and all that goes along with that scene, you’re going to think about Anaheim. 

Moving beyond craft beer, I think Anaheim’s future can be summed up with what’s happening in the center of our city:  it’s cool, diverse and authentic.  It’s the type of place that young entrepreneurs are drawn to.

DOWNTOWN FOCUS

Anaheim is lucky to have a group of some creative business people who want to work with the city to develop a downtown atmosphere that will truly be a destination.  New restaurants, new retailers and new food shops will draw people from within our city, within the region and from our convention center and tourist population.

One of the most exciting developments is the new packing district.  For any of you who have visited (?) The Camp in Costa Mesa, San Francisco’s Ferry Building or New York’s Chelsea Market, you’ll understand this vision of a local gathering place of great food, drink and atmosphere.  This historic building will house 25 different merchants and will reflect the unique character and spirit of our community. 

If you haven’t been there, you will need to go. Let me show you what I mean. 

[VIDEO]

LOCAL FLAVOR

It’s super exciting to see what’s happening in our city.  I believe that a vibrant downtown will help give our tourists, conventioneers, and residents a new place to explore and spend money. Today’s conventioneers and travelers really are looking for a local, authentic experience when they are going out to eat, to shop, to listen to music and so on.  To really showcase our city, we need to play to our strengths.  People want local flavor.  They want to know where the locals go.

We all know that Anaheim has some of the most authentic and diverse neighborhoods in the state.  Our city is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the U.S.  Take for example, Brookhurst Street, or as the locals refer to it, Little Arabia.

Home to halal butcher shops, restaurants, beauty salons, travel agencies, bakeries and more, this neighborhood is really a cultural destination in our city.  Whether you are stopping by Olive Tree for delicious lamb or picking up some baklava at Papa Hassan’s, Little Arabia gives visitors a different experience than a typical convention city.

I look forward to working with the city staff, the convention staff and local business organizations to create an ambitious marketing plan. This plan will share Anaheim’s cultural diversity and authenticity with our region and our 20 million plus annual visitors to create new economic vitality in our city

WEST ANAHEIM

Speaking of the neighborhoods of West Anaheim, let’s talk about what we’re doing for the broader needs of that section of town. 

West Anaheim is home to many great neighborhoods and businesses, but there are definitely pockets in that area of town that need our attention and support.  That is why we will be commissioning a comprehensive study of the Beach Boulevard corridor to explore development opportunities in the area.

In the meantime, the city continues to work with residents and businesses to create more economic activity, to stimulate new housing development, to prevent crime and to create opportunity for the youth and families of West Anaheim.

            I’d like to bring our focus on what I think is the key to improving our city’s future:  and that is making Anaheim THE City of Kindness.  You have heard me say it before: injecting and encouraging kindness and connection in all parts of our community will make our city stronger, more resilient and healthier in every aspect.  Kindness is the mortar that holds the bricks of our community together.

Coming Home Anaheim

A priority for the city that we are addressing is the rising problem of homelessness.  Anaheim and North Orange County have seen homelessness become more of a challenge these past few years.  Rising housing prices and a slower-than-expected-economic recovery have contributed to more people finding themselves without shelter.  Last year, the Anaheim Poverty Task Force counted 447 homeless people living across the city. 

We are not going to ignore this problem.  And that’s why we’ve come up with a citywide initiative that we’re calling “Coming Home Anaheim.” The City, the County and all of the groups involved in this effort are working together to create a multi-faceted plan to address the problem of homelessness.  It won’t be solved with just government organizations at the table—we need all parts of our community involved. 

I’d like to commend the Anaheim Police Department for their new Homeless Outreach team.  The officers on this team work closely with local churches and nonprofit groups to connect people living on our streets with motel vouchers, bus passes, clothes, food and other items of necessity. Already, the department reports dozens of people have been moved into transitional housing or reconnected with relatives.

I’m proud of our police department for taking on this issue with such energy and heart.  There is no denying that homelessness is a multi-faceted problem.  But no matter the reason that one of our fellow residents may find themselves living on the street, we all have an obligation to lend a helping hand.   But with the entire community working together, I am confident that we will go a long way to solving this problem.

HI NEIGHBOR

When I talk about Anaheim as a City of Kindness, one of the most important outcomes is creating a city that is truly connected.  That is why one of the first kindness-related initiatives that we kicked off was creating the Hi Neighbor program.  Hi Neighbor continues to be a powerful part of our community because when neighbors are connected, good things happen. 

When people are connected, we are better prepared for that unforeseen disaster or emergency.  That’s why the city continues to invest time and money in training our citizenry in basic disaster response skills.  Last year alone, Anaheim Fire and Response trained more than 140 people.

To support the Hi Neighbor program, we will soon be launching a feature called Map Your Neighborhood.  This program is designed for neighborhoods to meet and identify the needs of their street, block or apartment complex should an emergency or disaster occur.  With this kind of preplanning and organization within a neighborhood, it will allow neighbors to help other neighbors during large scale disasters.

ACT Anaheim

 When we talk about creating a City of Kindness, giving attention to our underserved youth is an important part of that effort. 

When our young people struggle with problems like truancy, gang violence, illiteracy and other challenges, they can be tempted to start down a path that is not healthy. Keeping our kids in school, out of trouble, away from drugs are keys to keeping our kids on track and our city safer and more stable.

To that end, I’d like to take a moment now and thank Disney, the Ducks and the Angels for coming together and funding a $3 million grant to a new initiative called Accelerate Change Together for Anaheim.  Last month, these three organizations announced their plan to invest $3million in a new, collaborative program that will address gaps in services for Anaheim’s underserved youth.  Partnering with local non-profits, this new initiative embraces a more collaborative approach to serving our youth. 

I’d like to thank Michael Colglazier, Henry Samuel, and Arte Moreno and their organizations today for their dedication and commitment to our young people.  Now I would like to invite all of the business leaders in Anaheim to join in this effort.  Not only will your time and talent truly touch the lives of young people in a real and lasting way, but it will have a tremendously positive impact on our city.  So please join us.  Let’s make this happen.

One Million Acts of Kindness

But folks, the good news doesn’t stop there.  Business leaders are not the only one making a difference in our city. 

Listen to this:  the schoolchildren of Anaheim have embraced a challenge to complete a combined One Million Acts of Kindness this year.  Led by Superintendent Linda Wagner and the school board, the Anaheim City School District is challenging each school to encourage their students to log at least 50 acts of kindness this year.  If they do that, 20, 000 kids as a whole will have committed one million acts of kindness.  Who says kids can’t change a city?

And here’s an interesting tidbit.  In one school alone—Ponderosa Elementary—since they started this program at the beginning of the year, they have seen discipline trips to the principal fall by nearly 50%. 

P21

            I am really pleased to be working closely with our schools this year. Another exciting project –is bringing the community together to help high school students become better prepared for the global marketplace. This endeavor is part of a national effort called P21-Partnership for 21st century skills.  In Anaheim, we’ve become the first P21 City in the nation.  We’ve created a P21 taskforce to work with the Anaheim Unified High School District and local businesses to, among other things, develop mentoring programs that will help prepare our student for future job success.  In addition to the core subjects that students study at school, the P21 program aims to give students five critical life-skills:  critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration and character.

We have team of community and business leaders that make up this task force which will work with our education and business leaders on this important program.  Here’s the ask: we need more businesses to get involved in this effort. Please contact my office if you can participate. Our students need you.

As mayor, I understand how every element of our city is interrelated.  Kindness, fiscal responsibility, civic upkeep—all of these issues relate to each other and have a tremendous role in creating a strong, healthy, vibrant community.

Since taking office, I’ve kept some basic goals in mind for our city: 

First, be fiscally responsible. 

Second, be freedom loving and encourage everyone in city government to be freedom loving.

Third and finally, I took office wanting to inspire Anaheim to become a city of kindness.  I believed then, and I believe now, that creating a kind city creates a successful city because of deeper personal connections and a stronger sense of community among residents.  

The response that I have received by the people of this city embracing this idea of a City of Kindness has been inspiring.  There is hardly a day that passes that I don’t hear about some act of kindness in our city. 

In fact, I’d like to share three quick stories with you about fellow citizens who truly exemplify Anaheim’s kindness and character.

Last month, the City Council honored 89-year old Malcom McDonald, a local man who has spent the past three decades building wooden toys for children across the globe.  The self-taught woodworker collects woods scraps and transforms them into trains, animals, racecars, and even rocking horses for underprivileged children. Despite the widespread popularity of his toys, Mr. McDonald refuses to take any sort of monetary compensation for his work, and he likes it that way.  

Then there’s Felipe Perez.  Last November, Felipe, who works at Keno’s restaurant on East La Palma, discovered an envelope stuffed with $5000 in cash when he was cleaning the restroom.  There was no issue in Felipe’s mind upon finding the money—he needed to help find the person who lost it.  You can only imagine the relief that the 90-year-old customer who lost the money felt when it was returned to him later that evening. 

And finally, I’d like to tell you about the Gauer Elementary School community.  Amber Delos Santos is a 6th grader at Gauer who has been battling leukemia for several years.  Throughout her time at school, the entire school community has rallied around Amber and her family, supporting her with a variety of events, including a penny drive to benefit leukemia research. 

From start to finish, this elementary school is special.  Not only have the students of Gauer embraced Amber and her family, but they have embraced kindness campus-wide.  In fact, they have already surpassed the school goal of acts of kindness with more than 36,000 individual acts and it’s only January!

That, my friends, is what a kind community looks like.  We should all be proud to live in a city that is filled with people like Malcom, Felipe and community of Gauer Elementary School. 

I am so proud to be the mayor of this great city.  We may not always agree on every issue, but we can agree that Anaheim is a special place to live. 

It is a city of Ducks, Angels and Disneyland.

It is a BrewCity.  

It is a city of the West Anaheim Little League…the city of Amber Delos Santos and kids of Gauer Elementary.

It is a city of freedom. 

It is a City of Kindness. 

Anaheim is our city. 

 

Now if you would, please join me in welcoming the band “Public Rocks”, made up of city employees from our Public Works and Utility departments, and joined by our outstanding Loara High School Choir.

THIS IS OUR CITY VIDEO

            Thank you.  I am humbled and honored to serve as your mayor.  God bless you and God bless this great city of Anaheim. 

Scott Baugh clarifies Kring's flip flop on $158 million giveaway and more . . .

First here is some commentary that was posted on OCpolitical.com (must see video below):

The OCGOP held it’s monthly meeting last night at the (newly renamed) Hotel Irvine (Fka the Irvine Hyatt). The speakers for the evening were Lucille Kring and Kris Murray. These council members have been under attack for their vote on permitting hotel developers to have a rebate on the Transient Occupancy Tax, (TOT) once and if the hotels are built by the developers. This issue came before the council in 2012 and the council was split 2-3. More important is the May 2013 vote, when the issue was again considered and the vote was 4-1, Mayor Tom Tait being the only vote against the rebate.

The other hot topic of discussion was the ongoing negotiations with the Angels to extend their contract with Anaheim.

We heard over and over again from Kring and Murray that these were “complicated” issues. It seemed to me they had forgotten that their audience for the evening were 1) Grown-up people whom have all presumably stayed at a Hotel at some point in their lives, 2) Live in Orange County and know a few things about the Angels and Arte Moreno and 3) Are all politicians of one ilk or another.

It’s not complicated. It is not new math. It is not brain surgery or rocket science, but here’s the message they delivered.

Read the rest via this link:

http://ocpolitical.com/2014/01/21/anaheim-council-members-make-or-attempt-to-their-case-to-the-central-committee/

Mayor Tait's comment on settlement with ACLU - LISTEN

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Today is an important day for Anaheim—this council has agreed to settle the voting rights lawsuit against the city, clearing the way for a public vote on the matter.  It is the right thing to do but frankly, I am disappointed that it took us so long to get here.

For those who do not understand why we were sued or why this issue requires a public vote, let me provide a little background. 

The Anaheim City Charter—think of it as the city’s constitution—was adopted in 1965.  In addressing the issue of elections, the charter called for an at-large voting system.  In other words, each councilmember runs for election citywide and every voter gets to vote on every candidate.  Under this system, councilmembers must campaign and seek votes from the entire geographic area of the city, roughly 20 miles from east to west. 

In their claim against the city, the plaintiffs asserted that the city’s at-large voting system violates the California Voting Rights Act, a law that was passed in 2002.  They argue that, under the law, Anaheim councilmembers are required to be elected by individual districts.  That is, the city should be partitioned into districts and only voters in that district can vote for the candidate running in that specific area.  The candidates are also required to live in the district in which they are running.   This electoral system is called district-based voting.  It is the system used by the vast majority of large cities, including all of the 10 largest cities in our state, except our city. 

Anaheim is not the first city in the state to be sued under the California Voting Rights Act.  We knew that and we knew how other cities in the same position we were in had fared with the courts.  This is why I have been arguing that the city should settle the lawsuit and allow the people to vote.  We would have saved over a million dollars and lots of time.  But unfortunately the majority on the council did not agree with my perspective and we spent perhaps $2 million taxpayer dollars fighting a losing case. 

My support for this settlement is not about whether or not I prefer district elections.  It’s no secret that I do and others on this council do not.  But my major issue with this lawsuit and the council’s handling of it comes down to my knowledge of the law and my commitment to the democratic process.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what we at this dais think about district elections.  Our electoral system cannot be changed by this or any city council.  Because our system of voting is authorized in the city charter, it must be decided by the people through a charter amendment vote at the ballot box.

This settlement finally allows the people of Anaheim the opportunity to exercise their right to vote on how they want to be governed.  That question is a most fundamental one and should be decided by the people.  If the voters decide that they want to continue to be represented by leaders elected at an at-large basis, then that is what will happen.  But if the voters decide that they want to be represented by leaders elected in individual districts, then that is what will happen.  It’s the beauty of America and it is something that we should be celebrating, not fighting.

So today, with this settlement, we move forward with letting the people decide. And that is all that I have sought from the beginning…certainly since I made the motion in August 2012 to put this issue on the November 2012 ballot. 

Although I am pleased that this settlement is finally here, because it is the right thing to do, I will say that I am frustrated and disappointed that it has taken so long to do the right thing—allow the people to vote. 

As we announce this settlement, I’m sure that the public will likely have a few questions of this council, including: 

Why does letting people vote makes sense now and somehow didn’t make sense in August of 2012 before the city spent perhaps $2 million in combined legal fees? 

Also, why didn’t the council move to settle this case several months ago when the Citizens Advisory Commission unanimously advised that the question of district elections should be put before the voters?  Why did they ignore the commissions’s recommendations?

And finally, I imagine that the people will want to know why the council delayed allowing the people to vote on district-based elections when the council was presented with credible concerns that the city was in violation of the California Voting Rights Act.  These are all good questions to ask. 

In any event, I am pleased that we are moving forward.  I want to thank my colleagues who voted to finally settle this costly litigation.  It was the right thing to do.

In closing, I look forward to putting this issue on the ballot for the people to decide and moving forward to work cooperatively on job creation, on public safety and on all parts of city to ensure that Anaheim continues to offer an unrivaled qualify of life for all its residents. 

Kris Murray wastes $800,000 on legal fees

From The Voice of OC:

The Anaheim City Council Tuesday night will likely OK a settlement of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit that would put the issue of district elections on the November ballot, according to sources close to the situation.

Neither side would talk publicly about the proposed settlement, but sources said it will pave the way for Anaheim residents to begin electing their City Council by districts in 2016.

The agreement would end a battle over the city’s electoral system and whether it adequately represents Latino neighborhoods that has been raging in court and in the public arena for more than a year.

The ACLU suit argues that under the California Voting Rights Act, Latinos, who constitute 54 percent of the city's population, are not fairly represented on the City Council.

All members of the current council are white, and none live in Latino neighborhoods. Activists say the result of this inadequate representation is a council that represents major business interests and affluent communities over the needs of working-class neighborhoods fraught with social and economic challenges.

A system that elects council members by districts would require candidates to run in the geographic district where they live, thereby guaranteeing adequate representation of Latino neighborhoods, say ACLU attorneys and activists.

Opponents of the lawsuit have said a council districts system would balkanize the council and result in political gridlock. They also say it actually diminishes voters’ representation by limiting their votes to candidates in their districts.

Members of Anaheim council's majority seemed intent on fighting the suit, having spent nearly $800,000 in city funds on outside lawyers as of last October. But they entered into settlement talks just as depositions of city leaders and former council members — such as former mayor turned influential lobbyist Curt Pringle — were being scheduled.

A settlement means Anaheim would join a wave of transitions to the system that has broken across the state. Many cities made the change after lawsuits from the ACLU, and Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, has pushed for a new bill that would require noncharter cities to adopt district elections.

 

City Officials Claim to Not Have Names of Chamber Consultants

From The Voice of OC:

Voice of OC has been unable to verify the names of consultants improperly hired by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce under a city contract -- – despite having requested them over a week ago -- because the only person who has the list has been unreachable, city spokeswoman Ruth Ruiz said Thursday.

Ruiz couldn’t identify the person, but said that he works for Sacramento-based Sjoberg Evashenk Consulting, the outside firm that conducted a performance audit of the Chamber’s contract.

Ruiz said he is unreachable because of a death in the family and won’t return to work until Monday.

Maryanne Evashenk, a partner with the audit firm, said she hasn’t heard of a city request for a list of Chamber consultants under the contract. She did confirm that the project manager for the audit, George Skiles, was out “on vacation” until next week.

But Evashenk also seemed perplexed by Ruiz’s contention that the audit firm is unable to provide the city with a list of the chamber’s subcontractors.

“If the city asks us for information, we’re very responsive,” Evashenk said.

The audit of the Chamber’s contract, which was to be Anaheim's administrator of the state's enterprise zone tax voucher program for businesses, revealed that the business group hired consultants without seeking contract-required city approval. The audit did not name the Chamber's consultants.

This finding has particular significance because of activists’ contention that the Chamber is funneling taxpayer funds to controversial blogger Matt Cunningham.Cunningham outraged many last month when he posted a photo of a defaced teddy bear near a Virgin of Guadalupe candle, clearly mimicking memorial sites to young Latinos killed in police shootings.

The furor over the post culminated with a candlelight vigil last week outside City Hall and the chamber’s downtown headquarters. Activists demanded that the chamber end its consulting contract with the Cunningham, a Republican Party insider with significant ties to the city’s political elites.

In a Chamber response attached to the audit, the organization contends that the hiring of consultants without city approval did not violate the city contract because the contractors only served in advisory roles and did not directly do work under the contract.

After the controversy erupted, Chamber President Todd Ament said that the business group doesn’t pay Cunningham to blog, but has refused to explain the nature of Cunningham’s work.

A Chamber website had previously called Cunningham’s blog the “Anaheim Chamber of Commerce Blog.” The reference was removed after outrage over the post became a national story.

Audit Confirms Chamber’s Spotty Expense Tracking

From The Voice of OC:

Curt Pringle, Kris Murray, and Todd Ament.

Curt Pringle, Kris Murray, and Todd Ament.

A long overdue audit of Anaheim Chamber of Commerce spending under a city contract shows that the Chamber's expense tracking was so shoddy that auditors could not determine if the business group spent taxpayer funds on other -- perhaps political -- activities.

The five-year, $1.8 million contract, awarded to the Chamber in early 2012, was to administer Anaheim's enterprise zone, a now-defunct state program that gave businesses tax breaks for hiring people in depressed areas. Then in May, the Chamber received a $1.1-million increase to the contract, citing the need to hire more staff for day-to-day tasks.

The city granted the increase, bringing the contract's total value to $2.9 million. But a month after the city granted the contract increase; the state legislature voted to kill the enterprise zone program. 

Meanwhile, a contract-required performance audit by Sacramento-based Sjoberg Evashenk Consulting found that the Chamber’s tracking of staff time was unreliable, so verifying the organization’s spending under the contract was impossible, according to the audit.

The audit largely confirmed details of a draft Voice of OC reported earlier this year based on sources who had seen it.

Perhaps the most important issue described in the audit was the chamber’s unreliable timekeeping system. Among other problems, staff were not required to log hours worked on tasks unrelated to the Enterprise Zone, used several different methods, and timesheets couldn’t be verified, the audit says.

“Without requiring timekeeping for the entire workday, the Chamber could not reasonably determine the allocation of time between Chamber activities and Enterprise Zone responsibilities,” the audit reads. “The city cannot be assured that it was receiving the level of services it was paying for, and the city did not have sufficient information to assess the reasonableness of budgeted resources." 

The Chamber claims – and the auditor agreed -- that contract language was confusing and ambiguous, combining a “time and materials fee” structure with a contradictory “fixed-fee” structure.  

The business group’s assignment of blame to the contract notwithstanding, it implemented a new timekeeping system in March to resolve its staff time recording problems, a city response to the audit says.

However, the audit -- which according to City Hall sources was delayed for months because Ament had delayed his responses to the auditor’s questions and findings -- found other problems as well, including potential conflicts of interest, inadequate cost control measures, the hiring of sub-consultants without contract-required city approval, and advance payments from the city for work not yet complete, among other issues.

The death of the enterprise zone program means that the contract is terminated this week, meaning that it is likely most of the $2.9 was not spent and some of the audit’s findings and recommendations are now moot.

But some of the findings, especially those regarding sub-consultants, remain relevant in light of recent allegations from activists that the chamber steers taxpayer money to blogger Matt Cunningham. The controversial writer outraged many when he posted a photo of a defaced teddy bear near a Virgin of Guadalupe candle, clearly mimicking memorial sites to young Latinos killed in police shootings. 

Cunningham is a Chamber consultant. But it is not yet clear whether he was one of the sub-consultants the audit says was hired without contract-required city approval. The audit does not identify the sub-consultants.

The Chamber in its audit response argues its hiring of sub-consultants did not violate the city contract because they served merely advisory roles and did not directly do work under the agreement.

The furor over Cunningham's post culminated with a candlelight vigil last week outside City Hall and the chamber’s downtown headquarters. Activists demanded that the chamber end its consulting contract with Cunningham, a Republican Party insider with significant ties to the city’s political elites.

The chamber thus far has refused to explain the nature of Cunningham’s consulting work for the business group. And chamber President Todd Ament declared that the organization will not end its relationship with Cunningham.

A response from the business group attached to the audit pointed out that the audit’s findings show that the enterprise zone’s core requirements were met, and even exceeded. It disagreed with some of the auditor’s findings, saying they are best described as best practices recommendations.

Anaheim protest targets chamber, blogger over online post

From The OC Register:

NAHEIM – Indignation reached the steps of City Hall on Monday night when more than 50 people held a candlelight vigil and marched to the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce to show their anger at online statements by blogger and political insider Matthew Cunningham.

The vigil stemmed from a Dec. 12 post by Cunningham, a conservative blogger who writes about Anaheim’s civic affairs at anaheimblog.net. Cunningham said Monday that the post originated from him walking past City Hall when he noticed a stuffed teddy bear with its face ripped off. He placed votive (prayer) candles next to the toy and posted pictures of the scene on his blog, one day after another candlelight vigil was held on the anniversary of the fatal Anaheim police-involved shooting of Cesar Cruz in December 2009.

Anaheim residents and others gathered on the steps at Anaheim City Hall for a candlelight vigil sponsored by the the Orange County Labor Federation to protest an incident in which Matthew Cunningham, a local political operative, posted comments and a photo on his blog that critics say were insensitive to Latinos.

Shortly afterward, Cunningham was panned by local activists who said the post demeaned mourning rituals adopted by Latinos. Cunningham said he was unaware of the service for Cruz and didn’t intend to be racially insensitive, given the fact that his wife was born in Mexico and moved to the United States when she was a child.

“The whole point was to satirize how I think liberal interest groups use tragedies to push a political agenda,” said Cunningham, who has since replaced the blog post with an apology.

“I wish I had been aware at the time how this would have been taken the wrong way,” he said. “I really am sorry if it has exacerbated the pain that anyone has felt from losing a child.”

The group assembled at the foot of City Hall before walking together to the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce – a site selected because Cunningham critics want the chamber to sever ties with him. The crowd formed a circle, dotted in the dark by the candles that each demonstrator held. Cesar Cruz’s mother, Theresa Smith, was among those holding a sign with photos of him. When the group finished singing “Silent Night” to the empty-looking office building, Smith spoke to the somber bunch.

“For him to post that photo with the candle of the Virgin (Guadalupe) on the 12th,on her day, is disgusting,” Smith said. Dec. 12 is a Catholic day of celebration for Our Lady of Guadalupe, the title given to the Virgin Mary in Mexico.

Julio Perez, executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation said Cunningham often says contentious things, but involving faith crossed the line.

“I can take personal attacks or disagreements but once you attack a culture and people’s way of mourning, it shouldn’t be tolerated.”

Cunningham, president of Pacific Strategies, said he’s already paid for what he called an “unintentional mistake.” He resigned last week from the county Parks Commission amid pressure from local labor leaders calling for his removal.

One of his clients, the Orange County Transportation Authority, has temporarily suspended a yearlong $48,775 contract that started in September and that called on Cunningham’s political-consulting company to gather feedback on the future of the region’s transportation needs from unelected but influential local leaders, said agency spokesman Joel Zlotnik. That deal will be re-evaluated at a later date, he said.

A separate $50,000 contract that required Cunningham to report back to the OCTA any transportation issues discussed by city councils and other government agencies over the past year is set to expire on Dec. 31.

In each case, the contracts were put through competitive bids with Pacific Strategies receiving the highest ratings, Zlotnik said.

However, officials with the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce said Monday they will continue to retain Cunningham’s services. Chamber officials declined to say how much Cunningham is paid or the nature of his work, but said that they do not pay him to blog.

“I’ve done a lot of reflecting on that post and I realize how things can be taken the wrong way,” Cunningham said. “It bothers me that some people felt hurt by that, because this was never about hurting or attacking people.”

Demonstrators argued during the vigil that the Chamber of Commerce’s continued relationship with Cunningham is condoning his actions. They held signs and stood quietly, each one waiting for their turn to speak.

Abraham Medina, 25, of Santa Ana addressed the circle.

“We don’t need someone making money off of our pain and our anguish,” Medina said. “He (Cunningham) said he was trying to be funny but our pain and suffering as a community is not funny.”

Cunningham Loses OCTA Contracts and Parks Post

From The Voice of OC:

Anaheim blogger Matt Cunningham on Friday resigned from the county parks commission and apparently lost two transportation authority contracts totaling nearly $100,000, the latest repercussions from a post he wrote that mocked Latino mourning traditions.

Anaheim Chamber of Commerce contractor Matt Cunningham.

Anaheim Chamber of Commerce contractor Matt Cunningham.

Meanwhile, labor leader Julio Perez and the mother of a young man slain in a police shooting are calling for a candlelight vigil and protest Monday at City Hall in response to the post. At the vigil they will demand that the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce – which has a consulting contract with Cunningham – terminate its business relationship with the blogger.

On Dec. 12, Cunningham – a longtime Orange County GOP insider whose Anaheim Blog is considered representative of the city’s political establishment– published a photo of a defaced teddy bear next to a Virgin de Guadalupe candle, clearly mimicking memorial shrines Latino families place at the locations where their sons and brothers have been shot by police. 

The post sparked outrage among Latinos, most notably the mothers of young men killed in police shootings. Cunningham took the post down after learning that Voice of OC would be publishing an article and has since issued an apology.

And it has added fuel to an already racially charged atmosphere in a city that has been bitterly divided since back-to-back police shootings killed two young Latino men and triggered a downtown riot of mostly Latino youth in July of 2012.

Latino activists and the American Civil Liberties Union have sued the city to change a city election system they say disenfranchises the Latino community. Settlement talks are ongoing.

Until Friday, Cunningham’s consulting firm Pacific Strategies had two contracts with the Transportation Authority. One expires in the coming weeks and will not be renewed. The other has been put “on hiatus,” according to OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnik. 

The contract that is to expire without renewal is for local government outreach services and pays Cunningham up to $50,000 annually. According to contract documents, tasks include monitoring public meeting agendas, cities’ transportation developments, and developing a matrix of “stakeholders,” among other things.

The contract placed on hold, dated Sept. 25 and totaling $48,775, calls for Cunningham’s firm to identify county “thought leaders” and obtain feedback from these “thought leaders” regarding “transportation priorities and opinions.”

Former Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle, who today is the city's most influential lobbyist, is a sub-consultant under this contract. Pringle provides "strategic advice" and is to be $21,150, according to contract documents.

Cunningham resigned his post on the county’s parks commission Friday after a Voice of OC article quoted Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson as saying Cunningham should step down.

Nelson also made clear that he would push for an end to Cunningham’s consulting contracts at the Transportation Authority.

Facebook invitation written by Perez, executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation, places accountability for the post squarely on the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, which has a consulting contract with the blogger.

Perez writes that he and others will call on the chamber to terminate its business relationship with Cunningham, and, if that is refused, they will call on city leaders to end funding of the business group. 

Smith said protesters plan to march from City Hall to the Chamber of Commerce headquarters on Center Street.

“These actions are beyond insensitive and offensive, not only to every mother who has lost a son, but to every Latino resident who is working to have our voices heard above the drum beat of special interests that have for so long controlled the City and diverted resources away from struggling neighborhoods,” Perez wrote in the invitation.

“To make matters worse, the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce is a lobby group that receives taxpayer money – your money. And they’re using that money to defile Latino traditions and disgrace the memories of all the young people we’ve lost to violence.”

In a brief interview at Tuesday night’s council meeting, chamber President Todd Ament took pains to distance the organization from Cunningham's Anaheim Blog, insisting that the Chamber has "nothing to do with" the blog. 

Ament’s remarks contradict the chamber’s previously stated association with the blog through a recent post on a chamber website that referred to it as "Anaheim Chamber of Commerce Blog."

Ament said that it is true the chamber has a consulting contract with Cunningham, but that it is for “special projects” that he refused to specify.

He has since changed his tone regarding the controversy, releasing a statement saying that, while Cunningham’s post was insensitive, the chamber would stick by its contract with the blogger.

Perez said he doesn’t believe the chamber president’s statements that the group doesn’t fund the bog. If the chamber pays Cunningham for communications work, it cannot be separated from his writings on a blog that consistently touts the chamber’s positions, Perez said.

“It’s naïve for them to say they don’t pay for the hate things that come out of his mouth,” said Perez.

Cunningham – who at first explained that the post was a benign critique of the organized left and called an offended Latino OC Weekly reporter a “PC idiot” -- apologized for the post after the furor it caused became a national story.

The vigil is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Monday at the steps of City Hall.