Matt Cunningham on ARTIC deficit

For once I agree with the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce's Minister of Misinformation. Check out his latest comments on the ARTIC deficit:

"Tapping surplus revenue to cover this deficit isn’t exactly optimal; it’s money that could be used for other purposes and there won’t necessarily always be surpluses to tap. ARTIC isn’t going away, and carping won’t dispel the deficit either. Ways have to be found to realize the promise of it being self-sustaining. Among those is bringing back the freeway billboard proposal, and doing so in a manner that anticipates and prepares for the disinformation onslaught that will almost certainly be mounted by Regency or another outdoor advertising company."

Matt Cunningham  

Matt Cunningham


The failure of ARTIC is good reason to reject all Pringle-backed candidates

Anaheim’s new ARTIC transit center will run into a $2 million operating deficit by the end of June, and Anaheim officials will soon consider how to cover the shortfall, according to the O.C. Register.

Of course we all new this was coming.  Former Anaheim Mayor turned lobbyist Curt Pringle drove the ARTIC project – and lied to everyone about the estimated use of this unneeded building.

Anaheim already had a functional train station, in the parking lot of Angel Stadium.   They did not need ARTIC.  And apparently the business community agrees as ARTIC has been unable to attract a sponsor dumb enough to put their name on the empty building, for the sum of over $160K a year.

By June’s end, city officials expect to earn $391,548 in total revenue for ARTIC, falling far below the anticipated $2.38 million cost to keep the facility’s doors open.

Now the Anaheim City Council, which is controlled by Pringle’s hacks, will have to spend $2 million dollars out of their General Fund, which pays for police and fire services, parks, libraries, road repairs and other city necessities, to keep ARTIC open.

It cost $185 million to build ARTIC.  That money is gone forever.  What a waste!

Anaheim’s coffers are on pace to have a surplus of at least $1.5 million above reserves.  Well that money will be gone now – wasted on ARTIC.

Even worse, Anaheim city officials have to come up with a projected a $5.2 million to cover ARTIC’s costs next year.

Kris Murray & Curt Pringle

Kris Murray & Curt Pringle

So of course Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray, the ringleader of the Pringle cabal, thinks it is OK to blow the reserve money on ARTIC.

“We wouldn’t be dipping into reserves or city services to pay for ARTIC, we would be dipping into surplus revenue from the city,” Councilwoman Kris Murray said. “There are several avenues to explore to earn some revenue for ARTIC, and I want to see any money that goes toward these early operations to be repaid once the station becomes revenue-positive.”

The OCTA paid for the bulk of ARTIC’s construction costs through funds collected under Measure M, the county’s half-cent sales tax approved by voters to pay for transportation projects across the region. Pringle was the Measure M’s pimp – and I don’t know how he can rationalize to voters how their tax money has been wasted.

ARTIC is also failing to meet an opening-day promise of 10,000 riders who either board or depart mass-transit. That figure was used to lure companies that might provide naming rights, advertising or other support for the station. The transit center is still boasted by city officials as eventually becoming a terminus for high-speed rail, but the bullet train won’t likely reach Orange County’s most populous city for another generation, if ever.

10,000? What a joke! “An average of 460 Metrolink and 300 Amtrak passengers boarded trains daily at the Anaheim station during the first month of operation in December.”

I feel bad for the poor restaurants who overpaid to have locations at ARTIC.  Who in the world goes to a train station to eat expensive food?  If you ride the train you have minutes to catch the next leg.  Maybe you might have time to grab a pretzel and take it with you but no one is going to go eat dinner at a train station.  How ridiculous!

There is only one way to prevent these stupidities in the future.  Do not ever vote for ANYONE endorsed by Curt Pringle!  You will find his acolytes on City Councils, School Boards and Water Boards.  Look for the Pringle brand and NEVER vote for anyone he supports.  We have to kill the Pringle machine before it causes more damage.

Don’t forget that Pringle’s minions also control the OC Taxpayers Association and the OC Business Council.  So their endorsements are equally suspect!

The backlash against Pringle has already started by the way.  His chosen hack Don Wagner lost to real conservative John Moorlach a few weeks ago, in their race to replace Mimi Walters in the State Senate.

Anaheim's ARTIC sees $2 million deficit

ANAHEIM – The city’s new transit center will run into a $2 million operating deficit by the end of June, and Anaheim officials will soon consider how to cover the shortfall.

Before it was built, the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center was expected to be a self-sustaining hub that would be primarily financed by revenue from advertising and a naming-rights sponsor.

More than four month have passed since ARTIC opened, and city officials said that they aren’t close to securing a company willing to pay to put its name on the 67,000-square-foot facility, while total advertising revenue during the six months of operation are projected to be $81,675.

By June’s end, city officials expect to earn $391,548 in total revenue for ARTIC, falling far below the anticipated $2.38 million cost to keep the facility’s doors open.

As a result, the City Council will soon decide whether to transfer the $2 million difference from Anaheim’s General Fund, which pays for police and fire services, parks, libraries, road repairs and other city necessities.

“I think there were all sorts of assumptions that were simply wrong about ARTIC, from ridership numbers to revenue projections,” said Mayor Tom Tait, who abstained from voting on ARTIC’s $185 million construction contract three years ago because his business, Tait & Associates, did business with the Orange County Transportation Authority.

“By definition, we’re being forced to reduce city services from what we could have otherwise spent,” Tait said. “The city needs to figure out how to cut ARTIC’s operating expenses as much as we possibly can. Fiscally, it hasn’t worked out so far.”

Anaheim’s coffers are on pace to have a surplus of at least $1.5 million above reserves, which will likely be used to cover ARTIC’s near-term operating shortfall, said city spokeswoman Ruth Ruiz. The City Council will soon consider whether to approve that allocation.

Ruiz said city officials are studying how to reduce ARTIC’s operating costs for the next fiscal year that begins July 1, but an initial estimate released last year projected a $5.2 million spending plan.

“We wouldn’t be dipping into reserves or city services to pay for ARTIC, we would be dipping into surplus revenue from the city,” Councilwoman Kris Murray said. “There are several avenues to explore to earn some revenue for ARTIC, and I want to see any money that goes toward these early operations to be repaid once the station becomes revenue-positive.”

Along with a potential naming-rights sponsor, future revenue could come from developing the city-owned property surrounding ARTIC for housing, retail or office space. Some additional revenue could come from ARTIC tenants.

The OCTA paid for the bulk of ARTIC’s construction costs through funds collected under Measure M, the county’s half-cent sales tax approved by voters to pay for transportation projects across the region. However, the responsibility for ARTIC’s day-to-day costs falls on the city, which owns the facility.

Along with funding problems, ARTIC is failing to meet an opening-day promise of 10,000 riders who either board or depart mass-transit. That figure was used to lure companies that might provide naming rights, advertising or other support for the station. The transit center is still boasted by city officials as eventually becoming a terminus for high-speed rail, but the bullet train won’t likely reach Orange County’s most populous city for another generation, if ever.

An average of 460 Metrolink and 300 Amtrak passengers boarded trains daily at the Anaheim station during the first month of operation in December, which is traditionally one of the slowest months of the year for public transit, said OCTA spokesman Eric Carpenter. First-quarter ridership numbers are still being calculated, and should be released within a few weeks.

(The city’s fiscal projections do not include the part of December the station was open.)

“We need to shore up the operations with funding intended for other purposes so that this transit station has a chance to reach its self-funding potential,” said Councilman James Vanderbilt, who arrived on the panel well after the vote approving ARTIC. “At this point, these cost figures are sobering and should give the City Council pause on other capital projects under consideration that rely on uncertain public-transit projections.”

Kris Murray

Kris Murray

Kris Murray majority set to waste 6.4 million on Tennis Center

A controversial $6.4-million tennis center project in Anaheim, which was pulled  from the city's budget earlier this year after it sparked outrage among Latino activists and Mayor Tom Tait, is likely to move forward anyway, a council study session revealed last week.

The city-owned Anaheim Tennis Center and Wagner House already features several tennis courts, a lounge area with hardwood floors, large windows and a stone fireplace with an ornate mantle.

The renovation will include "additional lockers, showers and restrooms,” a “new historically-themed outdoor garden for social gatherings and weddings” and a tournament-level center court with permanent seating, according to budget documents and city officials.

The $6.4 million to pay for it all would come from developer impact fees generated by the Platinum Triangle development, approved for nearly 19,000 homes, that must be set aside for parks and recreation.

Tait and Latino activists have argued that the money would be better spent creating more public park space in and around the development, which is in a park-poor area of Central Anaheim.

However, it is clear from comments made at the study session that a majority of the City Council remains in favor of spending the money on the tennis center, which is about 1½ miles from the Platinum Triangle, and will at some point put it back in the budget.

“There was a great deal of community support for that,” said Councilwoman Gail Eastman. “Those are amenities that appeal to all of the people in our city, not just people who are a tennis player.”

That is not the opinion of activists like Jose Moreno of the Latino group Los Amigos of Orange County who point to the renovation, which would be the most expensive parks project in the budget, as evidence that the current all-white council is tone deaf to the needs of working-class Latino neighborhoods.

Moreno said it would be "infuriating" if the entire $6.4 million went to the tennis complex.

“That money is better used building a school-park library complex that can really be a jewel of the Platinum Triangle community, versus adding one tennis court and renovating a house at the tennis center that ultimately is still owned by a private company, and our residents and children will still have to pay to utilize,” Moreno said.

Moreno is a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against Anaheim by lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union alleging that the city's current electoral system violates the 2001 California Voting Rights Act, which requires adequate representation for minorities.

Officials defending the project note that the developer fee revenue that would be directed to the tennis center is restricted and may be spent only in the “sphere of influence” of the Platinum Triangle.

Nonetheless, that money can be used to buy more parkland in the sphere of influence. In fact, city officials have been talking to developer Lennar regarding joint-use athletic fields, according to an email from city spokeswoman Ruth Ruiz.

Some other projects that would receive fee revenue include Ponderosa Park's community and family resource center, which was estimated at $6.1 million but has since been revised to $7 million, and an expansion of Boysen Park, which is adjacent to the tennis center.

“It's the limitations of the law and the availability of land that constrain me. It's not for lack of trying,” said Community Services Director Terry Lowe. “We will be looking at every opportunity to buy land.”

Tait has argued that if the city scales down the tennis center renovation it will have millions of dollars to buy parkland from a developer in the Platinum Triangle. He said the current park space there — a handful of “pocket parks” and a three-acre green-belt — is not enough to handle the nearly 2,000 families that could live there.

“Of all the needs we have, this isn't one of them,” Tait said. “It's contrary to the needs of the city.”

Yet city officials contended it's more complicated than just shifting money in the budget. They said at least part of the renovation is required under a 2007 city contract with operator Mike Nelson. Though the specific price tag for the city's contribution isn't spelled out in the agreement, the officials say it amounts to between $3.5 million and $4 million.

The banquet area and center court, which make up the rest of the cost, are not required under the contract and can be carved out, according to city officials. But spending the money on the reception area will ultimately mean more rentals, and officials said the city's share of that revenue, which will go to the general fund, will triple over time and the city would recoup its investment in about 20 years.


OC Weekly's Scariest People 2013

From The OC Weekly: 

Kris Murray

Kris Murray


Anaheim's Boss Bitch, Kris Murray went from unknown Curt Pringle puppet to prominent Curt Pringle puppet long before the city burned last summer in riots that made national headlines. Serving as a proxy for OC's eternal Dark Lord, Murray formed a council coalition opposing Mayor Tom Tait (a longtime Pringle ally until the two split under mysterious circumstances) at every turn, from massive hotel-developer subsidies to public calls for police reform to sweetheart proposals to the Angels to an ACLU lawsuit seeking district elections. After a sham committee she prepared to study electoral issues offered a surprise deadlock recommendation that single-member districts go before Anaheim voters, Murray ignored the notion, opting instead for at-large district elections, a proposal as ludicrous as her claims Pringle has no influence on her. She has taken every opportunity to throw her political weight around, no matter how meritless or low the exercise in power may be. 

Matt Cunningham

Matt Cunningham


A pioneer in OC's blogging community, Matt Cunningham was shamed into digital hiding a couple of years ago when the longtime Republican operative outed sex-abuse victims in his pathetic campaign to defend his priest, John Urell, a Diocese of Orange bigwig who had long shielded pedophile priests from the law. Cunningham re-emerged last year to start a new blog funded by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce with the sole purpose of tarring Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait and activists trying to reform the corrupt town. When he's not trashing attempts at democracy, Cunningham hails the status quo and whines that Republicans aren't paying attention to Anaheim, which only proves how influential he truly is. Did we mention he outed sex-abuse victims?

Arte Moreno

Arte Moreno


It was bad enough that Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim owner signed Albert Pujols in 2012 to a mega-deal that means Halos fans get to see the first-ballot Hall-of-Famer turn into Willie Mays with the Mets instead of Willie Mays with the Giants over the next decade. It was even worse when Moreno signed Josh Hamilton this year to a mega-deal that means Halos fans get to see their team's finances shackled for the next five years on two over-the-hill hitters. But Moreno went from merely being a bad owner to becoming a possible welfare queen when details emerged of a package the Anaheim City Council crafted to keep the Angels in town. The deal seeks to give Moreno rights to develop the land around Angels Stadium (and all the subsequent tax revenue) and allow the team to drop any Anaheim references in its name. Meanwhile, Moreno won't speak to the local press, justifying legendary sports columnist TJ Simers' nickname for him: Angry Arte. And he makes all front-office personnel dress in those god-awful red polos that Moreno probably grabbed from a Warehouse Shoe Sale bargain bin.

The Calderon FBI Investigation's Connections to OC

From The Voice of OC: 

Federal agents investigating members of the Calderon family, one of the most powerful families in California politics, have issued subpoenas and search warrants seeking records involving companies in Anaheim and Newport Beach, according to reporting by Voice of OC and other news organizations.

Although the FBI has remained mum on the investigation, reporting by the Los Angeles Times has indicated that it centers around a political consulting contract that the Commerce-based Central Basin Municipal Water District had with Tom Calderon, the brother of state Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, and uncle of Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier.

The water district, which has been issued at least two federal subpoenas for records, has contracted with a subsidiary of Anaheim-based Willdan Group to conduct the agency's fiscal operations. The LA Times reported earlier this year that the subsidiary, Willdan Financial Services, was one of several companies whose records were subpoenaed from the water district.

Willdan Group hired Anaheim City Councilwoman Kris Murray as senior vice president of business development and government affairs in 2011, just weeks before Willdan Financial Services won the contract to run the water district's fiscal operations. The company has made several campaign contributions to water district board members.

Murray did not return a call seeking comment. Robert Lavoie, a Willdan attorney, said that Murray has had no dealings with Willdan Financial Services and was not involved in the district granting contracts to the company.

Read the full story here:


Rick Reiff calls Kris Murray's attempts to smear Mayor Tait "gutter politics"

Watch the roundtable discussion of Kris Murray's attempts to smear Mayor Tom Tait in response to the reprehensible remarks by William Fitzgerald. 

Two words come to mind: gutter politics. You know, there are serious differences in the city of Anaheim, real, substantive arguments are going on in that community, and have divided the council and the rest of the city, whether to subsidize resort area development,  whether to change the way that council members are elected to give Latinos a bigger voice, how much to give the Angels to keep them in town – these are all those kinds of issues.

 To try to link Tom Tait, who whether you agree with him or disagree with him, I don’t know a human being who would say Tom Tait is not a decent human being, to try to suggest that because…frankly, if you look at a video of what happened, he was floored by these comments, and its notable that nobody else on the council, as strongly as they feel now, said anything at that time, at that moment, and Tait, he condemned those remarks, he said “You’re over the line,” he did say you have free speech  and all that but this is over the line. And what more is the guy reasonably supposed to do? 

Now, there are people who are saying he should shut off the microphone, and you should do all that, and then you get sued and you lose. And this guy who made these remarks, has sued the county in the past, and took the supervisors for a whole long thing. And so to try to link this thing — you know, i can almost see now…it’s interesting you pointed out how the council, how Tait’s enemies seem to have back off a little, but you know, I can just wait for the campaign flyers to go out that Tait is anti-Semitic, he’s endorsing anti-Semitic behavior, and you know what this guy said is disgusting, there are kooks out there, we do have a First Amendment, people have a right to speak to speak at a council meeting and you know, I just think it is reprehensible that those who are against Tait are trying to tie him to these regrettable disgusting remarks.

Kris Murray loves censorship

It is a well known FACT that Kris Murray can't stand dissent of any kind online or in print as Jason Young found out.

Kris Murray

Kris Murray

Murray has blocked Anaheim activists from posting on her council Facebook page, on the Keep the Angels Facebook page, and now on a popular Anaheim Hills Facebook group called The Anaheim Hills Buzz.  


For someone who regularly voices her love of democracy, transparency, and citizen involvement, it seems odd that she is he first person to hit the BLOCK button. What are you afraid of councilwoman Murray? What are you trying to hide from the public? 

It is also interesting to note that she hasn't posted the PBS SoCal Insider debate she engaged in with Mayor Tom Tait last week. Does she fear that people will realize what a liar she is? Even the host Rick Reiff could see right through her. +

This is a public service announcement from Save Anaheim regarding and Both of these sites are paid for by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce and run by Matt Cunningham.

Todd Ament and Matt Cunningham

Todd Ament and Matt Cunningham

There is nothing grassroots about either website. The sole intent of these sites is to spin the truth for the ethically challenged Anaheim City Council majority. A council majority that has voted for some of the biggest taxpayer giveaways in Anaheim's history.

Here are some of their greatest hits:

1. $319 million Disney streetcar system

2. $158 million GardenWalk Hotel giveaway

3. $1 per ear lease agreement with Arte Moreno to develop the Angel Stadium parking lot (negotiations pending)

4. $184 million ARTIC train station

Please keep this in mind when you read either site. These people are not on the side of Angel fans or the residents of Anaheim. The only thing on their mind is how can they rip off the taxpayers and enrich their friends. 


Anaheim City Council retaliates against Mayor Tom Tait

From The OC Register: 

ANAHEIM – Mayor Tom Tait on Monday morning was stripped of the ability to place items onto City Council meeting agendas whenever he wants – one of the few powers, beyond those of regular council members, he wielded as the elected head of Orange County’s largest city.

The move came during an unusually early special meeting called for 8 a.m. by the City Council majority, which voted 4-1 to change the policy on how items are added to the agenda. Now, all City Council members must place items onto future agendas during the “council communications” held at the close of a meeting.

Carrie Nocella, Kris Murray, and Jordan Brandman.

Carrie Nocella, Kris Murray, and Jordan Brandman.

The policy change is less restrictive than the idea suggested last week by Councilman Jordan Brandman, who wanted agenda items to be called by two members of the City Council.

Before the vote, each of the council members in the majority repeatedly characterized the move as an “administrative clean-up.”

“I think it was a mean-spirited act. It was bullying by the council and it hurts the office of the mayor and the way the city operates,” said Tait, who cast the dissenting vote. “I don’t know how the city will operate if the mayor or members of the council can’t place items on the agenda in between meetings.”

Brandman requested the policy change last week, when the City Council held a 90-minute debate that essentially rehashed the same set of arguments made Sept. 3 about the ongoing lease re-negotiations for Angel Stadium.

At the start of Monday’s meeting, Tait said the stadium lease should be discussed during every third City Council meeting until the negotiations are completed.
“If you’re going to be asking things (be added to the agenda), it should be done in a public venue at the dais,” Councilwoman Kris Murray said. “There’s nothing harmful here. You’ll still be able to add things whenever you want.”

A couple of dozen people spoke during the meeting in opposition to the council’s move to limit the mayor. None supported the plan.

“(Brandman) wants to stifle the mayor (concerning) things that need public debate,” said Amin David of the community group Los Amigos.

Kandis Richardson, head of the Renew West Anaheim Committee, said she is considering moving from the city because of how the council majority consistently votes against the mayor’s will.

“I’m working toward cleaning up the city on the west side, and you guys want to take the mayor and beat him into the ground,” Richardson said. “I thought you guys were all on the city’s side and my side, but I don’t think you are.”


Stadium's bills more the Angels pay

From the OC Register (Save Anaheim comments in bold): 

ANAHEIM – Over the past 16 fiscal years, Anaheim paid out slightly more for Angel Stadium than it received from the Angels, who use the city's ball park and the expansive parking lot that comes with it, city figures show.

For nine of the years, the city made money, and for seven, it paid more than it took in.


Angel Stadium and the city of Anaheim are in the midst of negotiating a contract extension.

Overall, the city of Anaheim has had a loss of $52,132 since a 1996 lease agreement took effect in fiscal year 1997-98 with the Angels, who not only play their games there but run the venue.

“So, basically, it's free rent,” said Mayor Tom Tait, who voted against the lease during his previous tenure on the City Council.

When that deal was struck with the Walt Disney Co., which owned the baseball team at the time, Disney agreed to pump $80 million into stadium renovations that in part were to reduce what would be paid during the lease. The city kicked in $20 million.

A recent Register article disclosed that city records show that the Angels have averaged paying the city about $1 million a year for Angel Stadium. But then it surfaced that the city actually has slightly higher stadium expenses than revenues.

The city, under the lease, must make payments – about $600,000 a year – to the Angels for building needs. The city also continues to pay off debt on a 1988 expansion, roughly $400,000 a year, for an exhibit hall in the stadium.

The expenditure figures were disclosed at the mayor's request before the Sept. 3 meeting when part of the Angels' contract was revised.

Along with Disney's $80 million, the 1996 lease called for the Angels to take over the day-to-day costs of stadium operations, relieving the city of that financial burden. Arte Moreno, when he bought the Angels from Disney in 2003, inherited the lease.

Councilwoman Kris Murray pointed out that the stadium does help the city's coffers.

A recent Economic Impact Study (the study was flawed as it did not study Anaheim but based it's findings on other cities), completed for the city, estimates that Anaheim reaped $3.6 million in tax revenues in 2012 from guests and visiting teams staying in hotels, eating hot dogs and buying Angels gear.

“It's a win for the city,” said Murray, who wasn't on the council when the 1996 lease was approved.

Former Mayor Tom Daly, now a state assemblyman, led the charge to approve that lease. He declined to comment for this story through a spokesman. So did Tim Mead, an Angels spokesman.

David Carter, a sports-business expert at USC, sees the $52,000 as an “irrelevant loss.” He said the city has received benefits from the lease with the upfront lease money and the elimination of stadium operating costs.

“The city has only lost a little bit of money, relative to what could have happened,” Carter said.

City-team stadium deals are wide-ranging in regard to ownership and the flow of cash. In San Diego, for example, the city owns 70 percent of 9-year-old Petco Park while the Padres, who play there, own 30 percent. They share costs.

Petco cost $474 million to build, not including interest and bond-financing expenses. An estimated $301 million in public money, much of it from the city, paid for the ball park.

In Anaheim, city officials hope to get more money out of Angel Stadium in the future.

Under a proposal the city and the Angels are eyeing, the city would get rid of the annual $600,000 to care for the stadium. In exchange, the city would receive less from game tickets. Anaheim's revenue comes from tickets, non-baseball events and parking when certain figures are reached.

Further, in 2021, that $400,000 the city pays for the stadium exhibition hall is set to end.

By then, based on 2012 attendance and the proposed new deal, the city would be in the black with the stadium for hundreds of thousands of dollars, said Tom Morton, Anaheim's executive director of conventions, sports and entertainment.

“The potential is that the city will be better off than it is currently,” Morton said.

Earlier this month, the City Council voted 4-1 to move forward on a lease proposal that could end up allowing the Angels to lease the stadium's parking lot for $1 a year. Tentatively, the Angels could develop part of the lot and use profits to cover upgrades to Angel Stadium that could come with a price tag of up to $150 million.

Tait, who dissented, said the city would lose out more if it leases the city-owned land for development.

“That (1996) deal was a bad financial deal,” Tait said. “This new one is even much worse.”

The upcoming negotiations will be over more than money.

During the 1996 negotiations, the council majority partly gave concessions so the team would be named the Anaheim Angels.

But Moreno, in 2005, changed that to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, adhering to a lease clause requiring “Anaheim” in the name. The city lost a lawsuit over the name change.

Now, Moreno wants the lease to let him remove “Anaheim” from the name.

Councilman Jordan Brandman, elected in 2010 (wrong date), is focused on a new deal that benefits the city and keeps the team in town – a team that to him would always have a local ring.

“They believed they were making the best deal in the interest of the city and getting the team renamed Anaheim,” the councilman said of his predecessors. “And that's not on the table anymore. They will be the Angels of Anaheim as long as they are in the city of Anaheim.”


Fatal Flaw in Economic Impact Analysis of Angels Baseball Revealed

From the Orange Juice Blog: 

1. Tom Tait’s Intuition

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait has long had this feeling that something deeply wrong about the study submitted showing the economic impact of Angels Baseball on the City of Anaheim — the one claiming to show how much each adult and child spends in Anaheim outside the stadium while attending a game.

(We specify “outside the stadium” to see how much money is injected into the City’s economy; money spent inside the stadium, with some relatively small exceptions that don’t depend on spending beyond admission tickets and parking, belongs entirely to the baseball team — and doesn’t circulate through Anaheim’s economy.  The profit primarily enhances the economy of where Arte Moreno lives, in Arizona.)

Tait hasn’t been shy about expressing this intuition from the dais.  It doesn’t make sense to him that the average fan living in Anaheim spends about $11.50 outside the stadium but within Anaheim each time they attend a game.  It doesn’t make sense to him that the average person coming to the stadium from outside of Anaheim spends about $14.25, nor that the rare average person coming from far enough away to make an overnight trip of it is spending about $103 outside the stadium but within Anaheim.  But the results of the study are the results — and one has to respect them, right?

Not quite.  It’s legitimate to explore and test those assumptions.  People doing studies often can’t measure things directly; they have to do the best they can and argue that those assumptions make sense.  And so, during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Tait tried to get at exactly what sort of survey had been done to establish that fans were spending that much money outside of Angels Stadium but inside the city.  And he finally got a cogent answer.

None.  The researchers did no study of Anaheim itself before reaching this critical conclusion.  It was based on studies of fans attending games in other cities.

That matters because Anaheim is not like other cities.  I don’t mean that in some global and fuzzy “Anaheim has the bestest fans in the world” sense.  I mean that, literally, it is not like other cities.

It’s a matter of simple geography!  Just look at a map!

2. Anaheim is Long and Skinny and Its Stadium is on the Very Edge of Town

That section heading sort of gives away the game, but let’s literally look at a map anyway.  Here — let’s use the one posted inside the City Council chamber itself.

If you go to a Dodgers game and eat outside of the stadium, you’re probably still in LA. If you go to an Angels game, where do you eat?

Let’s take a closer look at the “baseball stadium” portion of the map.

Angels Stadium is at the bottom right — the circle towards the right end of the darkish pink area, not in the purple part.

For the benefit of anyone who may be unfamiliar with Anaheim — such as, perhaps, the people paid big bucks out of the public treasury to do an economic study of the impact of Angels baseball on the city’s economy – that big diagonal freeway west of the stadium is I-5 and the vertical freeway just to the left is SR-57.  Where they come together just outside the photo, you’d find a third freeway, SR-22, which is not in Anaheim.

Why does “not in Anaheim” matter?  Because the sales tax, hotel (TOT) tax, etc. from that big white areadoes not go to Anaheim.  It goes to someone in Orange County, sure — but not Anaheim.  That’s important because Anaheim is the place being asked to foot the bill.

The small brown dot in the center of the gold circle is the stadium. The larger the periphery around it gets, the more of the land it covers is not in Anaheim — initially, Orange to the east and Garden Grove to the south.

Let’s take a bird’s eye look at the whole region:

The map of Anaheim imperfectly superimposed over the Google Map shows the Anaheim Police Department’s four districts. The black star is the stadium; the two yellow circles show a 5-mile and 10-mile radius around it.

So now you can ask yourself: how likely are those attending an Angels game to eat outside of the stadium but still in Anaheim?  If they’re looking to eat within a five-mile radius of the stadium, not very likely.  If they’re looking to eat within a ten-mile radius, far less so.  And, of course, some people will eat further away than that.  (Yes, there are potential expenses beyond eating, but except for street parking a similar analysis will apply.)

A scrupulous analysis would look at the range of restaurants, how many cars usually use each exit at this time of day, how many cars use the Gene Autry Way exist from which one passes pretty much nothing edible on the way into the stadium, etc.  Or there’s another sneaky way to find out what people do: ASK THEM DIRECTLY.  Create a questionnaire, publish a draft, post it to get feedback, and then assign a survey company blind to the desired result to interview maybe 50 people per game.  Then you’d have a reasonably good idea of how much visiting fans stimulate the local economy.

But that’s not what our pricey consultants did!  (More on what they did do below!)

The Angels Stadium deal may be very good for the people of Orange or Garden Grove or Placentia or my beloved Brea, where people might stop to buy gas en route to the game.  (City motto: “come check out our Mall!”)  It may be nice for the cities of Fullerton or Huntington Beach or Irvine or Brea — come check out our Mall! — where we may eat before we go to the game.  But except for people driving to the stadium on surface streets from the north or northwest, there’s not much reason to expect that they’re going to stop and spend in Anaheim itself on the way to or from the game — especially because that area is crowded on game gays — unless they have a particular hankering to go to a particular restaurant.

This is very much unlike other cities — Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland, San Francisco, etc. — hosting stadiums.  If you were compared Angels Stadium to, say, Minute Maid Stadium in Houston, it would probably be fair to compare how much extra money is generated in Orange County overall to how much is generated in the City of Houston.  But if you’re sitting on the Anaheim City Council — and if you’re trying to represent the people of Anaheim — then comparing Anaheim to Houston in terms of tax revenue generated for the City is puzzling.

Or — it’s not “puzzling” so much as absurd.  Why?

The money spent outside of Anaheim does not go into Anaheim’s General Fund.  Is that clear enough?  IT DOES NOT BENEFIT ANAHEIM.

So what did the researchers do instead of the sort of survey of fans that I suggest?

If I understood correctly, they did not study Anaheim directly at all – but simply created a model for Anaheim based on data for a few places like Houston.  (“Close enough for government work!”)

This is bad!  What economic benefit baseball brings to the City of Houston is not a good guide of what will come to the City of Anaheim.  Why is that?  Take a look at this map — with the “A” pin representing Minute Maid Stadium, home of the Astros, and with the boundaries of the City of Houston superimposed:

Map of Houston showing baseball stadium (at pin “A”) and borders (in gold).

Do I need to spell this out?  If you are going to a Houston Astros game and want to have dinner, you are pretty much going to have that dinner within the boundaries of the City of Houston!  And that isnot true Angels fans and dining in Anaheim.  And when the promised economic benefits from an Angels deal don’t materialize – this will be one big reason why!  (That’s OK from the Council’s perspective — the argument’s purpose is just to give the Council political cover, not to accurately predict the future.)

Of course, as stated above, there is an exception: maybe people just really want to go to a restaurant in Anaheim.  And it’s true that there are some restaurants that people absolutely do target as their dining destination.  Of course, if you want to predict how well Anaheim businesses will do overall from just one such restaurant, you should know that there is a catch!

3. There is Only One Catch …

One restaurant in particular that does do really well on game days is actually on the grounds of the stadium parking lot area itself  — you know, the 155-acre parcel potentially being leased to Arte Moreno personally for $1/year – although as I read the proposed MOU all of the revenue from this restaurant would go to Arte Moreno rather than to the City!

That restaurant is called “The Catch” — sometimes known as “Curt Pringle’s second office,” he dines and does business there so often.  And in fact, at the September 3 Council meeting — and at the September 24 Council meeting and at the tiny “Keep the Angels” rally at City Hall prior to the Sept. 24 Council meeting — the manager of this restaurant was trotted out to give speeches about how important the Angels were to his business.  And, the example of The Catch was cited by members of the City Council Majority repeatedly to justify why keeping the Angels was so important to Anaheim’s business community.

There is only one catch to this argument: There Is Only One “Catch.”

OF COURSE the Angels baseball games are a great boon for The Catch – THEY ARE LOCATED INSIDE THE FREAKING PARKING LOT ITSELF!  How many other restaurants have valet parking in a blocked off area within the Stadium Parking Lot?  I think that it’s roughly “none.”  There is only one “Catch” — and you can’t reasonably generalize from its experience to that of other restaurants!

If trying to estimate how much income baseball spending will bring to Anaheim restaurants based on what happens in Houston is a 7.5 on a scale of ten point scale of absurdity, trying to estimate that benefit based on the economic effect on The Catch itself has to be at least a 9.8. But look at the video, friends — that’s really what the Council Majority — everyone but Mayor Tait — was doing.

And, of course, the irony is that what money we get from The Catch won’t benefit the City either, just as if it were a restaurant located in Westminster.  Here’s a proposal that I’d like to see written into the lease: the City gets to own all restaurants within the 155-acre parcel, paying Arte Moreno rent of $1 per year for the lot of them.  THEN Anaheim taxpayers would at least be profiting from the deal.  We can even keep the same restaurant manager — he seems like a nice guy — and the same employees.  And the current owners can set up a new storefront around Magnolia and La Palma – freeway close — and presumably still benefit from the great boon Angels baseball offers to the City overall.  (That’s the theory, right?)

By the way — Kris Murray said from the dais on Tuesday that Arte Moreno’s character was being assassinated in the local blogs.  While the Murrbot doesn’t seem to have the sort of crush on me that Lucille Kring has apparently developed, I have a feeling that she may have been referring in part to the work of your humble author.  So let me make this clear: I cast no aspersions on Arte Moreno or on the owner of the Catch.  Each of them, so far as I know, are just good businessmen taking advantage of a Council that seems intent on serving the interests of Curt Pringle, Todd Ament, SOAR and a few others to the exclusion of everyone else.

I’d love it if Arte Moreno responded to the overture by Charlie Black by saying that the deal was too generous to him and would smear his reputation if he accepted it, so it should be scaled back — but that would be too much to expect of most businessmen, especially when they don’t even live in the state and can tune their critics out.  He’s one of the people who will profit — although probably not nearly as much as the entity (commonly suspected to involve Curt Pringle or others in the Pringle Ring as agents or part-owners) — and if he has made a deal with someone to sell the rights to them, then he is doing something bad.  (So don’t do that Arte, not even tacitly.)  But that doesn’t make him a bad person.

The bad people are the people making it easy for him to do it.  Four of them are sitting on the Anaheim City Council — and a bunch of others are paid City staff, like City Attorney Michael Houston and his former mentor (can you BELIEVE that?) former San Diego Padres President Charlie Black.

I’m besmirching Murray’s reputation, nor Moreno’s — but I’m doing so only by writing honestly about what she’s doing.

4. Responses to the Big Reveal from the Podium

I truly thought that Tom Tait might fall over sideways when he learned that the study on which a major argument for the proposed MOUs were based — the beneficial economic income for the City of Anaheim’s General Fund — was derived from studying very dissimilar cities like Houston rather than Anaheim.  Whether he’d fall over laughing or crying or both, I can’t say.

But the Mayor kept his composure.  He pointed out that this pretty much bolstered his intuition that the judgment about how much money fans brought into Anaheim’s coffers was deeply flawed.  The Murrbot had been attacking him relentlessly for raising his concerns about the proposed MOU in part by talking about the great economic benefits of the stadium proven by this solid scientific study — why, just consider the example of THE CATCH! – and for a moment I thought that she actually understood that her contention that this was a sound study of economic impact had a direct hit from a powerful truth missile.

I haven’t reviewed the video — I don’t really have time — but from my second-row venue it looked to me as if the Murrbot faltered for a moment.  Did her programmer Pringle himself not know that the study was a bunch of bullflop?  Did he know and for some reason just not prepare her for this sort of challenge?  What we she supposed to do?  THEY HADN’T EVEN STUDIED ANAHEIM AT ALL!  HOW CAN THIS STILL BE CONSIDERED A STRONG AND RELIABLE SCIENTIFIC STUDY???

I thought that I saw the Murrbot wobble for a moment.  It looked like the Murrbot couldn’t remember all of her programming — an even greater problem than her never having understood it in the first place.  But then, during the course of a long and unpunctuated sentence, the programming finally kicked in.  If Pringle had just neglected to tell her this little tidbit, it was obviously the right call.  She had nothing to rely on other than the direct script that she had been given.  And so — she recited from it.

The Murrbot assured us that this was an excellent study, very reliable, top-drawer, undeniable in its conclusions — soup sort of stew along those lines, the details of which I could not recall because I was inwardly weeping for Kris Murray’s robot essence.  (Repairs to a CPU can be expensive.)  She knows “good” and this study was “good” and shut up.  The end.

Now, though, Murray’s going to have to explain — over and over again during the next 400 or so days before the next election — why she thinks that a study of Angels’ baseball’s economic benefit to Anaheim that is based on a model from cities like Los Angeles and Houston without reference to Anaheim itself makes any kind of sense.

And of course there’s the follow-up question — I’ll be sporting and put it right out front so that her programmers can get started on it — which is this: when she tells us other things about economic benefit to Anaheim, are they also based on nothing more than the ability to parrot Curt Pringle’s bullshit as directed?  In other words, is this disaster for her credibility an aberration — or is really just business as usual?

Oddly, I’m starting to think that the woman among the majority who may be the first to figure this out is Gail Eastman — the one who stands the least to gain personally from being part of the Pringle Ring.  If Eastman turns, what will Jordan Brandman do?  He’s so rarely without the cover provided him.

And let’s just internalize one final lesson from last night.  We only learned this incredibly important factabout the model being used to predict the economic benefits to Anaheim for one reason: because Tom Tait asked City Staff the right question.  And that makes Jordan’s proposal to keep Tait from putting these sorts of concerns onto the agenda really, really, REALLY bad.

Would Jordan prefer that we didn’t know about this travesty?  Because if he had already gotten his way and passed his Pringle-crafted proposal a month ago — we wouldn’t!  WE WOULD NOT KNOW.

How’s a court going to feel about that?


Batting Cleanup, Angels’ Arte Moreno Blasts One Deep into Foul Territory

From the Orange Juice Blog: 

BREAKING NEWS:  Arte Moreno’s Demand for Keeping Angels in Anaheim Includes Curt Pringle’s First Born Child
Arte Moreno

Arte Moreno

OK, so that didn’t happen.  But based on the current MoUs, one can’t but wonder — if Arte did make such a demand, would it be met?

The Anaheim City Council has worked diligently over the past few weeks knitting a rather large wool blanket.  The latest attempt at hoodwinking comes in a new Facebook Page:  Keep the Angels

This is a VERY interesting page.  It makes gratuitous use of trademarked Angel logos and proprietary photos, is apparently well staffed at 8:30 on a Monday night (I made two rather benign replies, which were both removed inside of five minutes along with banning my user ID,) and the posts reveal insider access to negotiations surrounding the MOU.

Of course, this naturally begs the question, who’s running this page?  The Angels?  The council majority?  The Chamber of Commerce?  Think about that while reading this post.  The page claims to be “grassroots”.  Anyone else smell the horrible stench of astroturf?  Someone got paid to do this.  Someone should be getting a refund, too.  I’ve seen plenty of bad turf jobs, but this is just sad.

A quick review on the current state of affairs: During the last city council meeting, the City of Anaheim approved two Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) outlining the terms of future negotiations for Anaheim Stadium and separately for the surrounding land.   While not all of the terms are explicitly immediately binding, the city did make a commitment to negotiate in good faith — which for the sake of brevity means that Anaheim can’t just say “no” to any of the individual terms.  The Council will discuss the recently approved MoU Tuesday night; both sides have mobilized their propaganda machines to pack the council chambers with their supporters.

“Keep the Angels” apparently seeks to make use of general ignorance related to the MoUs.  Just take a quick look at a few comments attached to posts:

“I thought they were just changing the name?”

“What the hell, Anaheim.  What are you thinking?”


How does one capitalize on ignorance exactly?  Well, it’s actually not that hard.  The formula is about 4000 years old:


2) Get 10 of your friends to get up, scream, and run away.

3) Relentlessly mock the intelligence of those who question if there actually is a fire or the need to run away.

Let’s take a closer look at this in action.  Keep the Angels was very busy today.

Post #1: “Special interests and politicians want to drive our Angels from their home in Anaheim. Don’t let them! Like us and stay tuned for updates on how you can help Keep the Angels!”

I’m sorry, who are these “Special interests”?  Dodger fans?  No one is trying to drive the Angels away.  No. One.  No one has made a motion calling for the Angels to leave; no one has circulated a petition calling Arte Moreno a douche bag; no one is organizing a villainous scheme to deprive greater Orange County of professional baseball as part of their secret plan to take over the world.

Post #2: “In case you think it can’t happen, remember, Anaheim and Orange County used to have an NFL team too. Other cities will give the Angels hundreds of millions to move. Don’t let this happen!”

Really?  Hundreds of millions?  Do we have an offer from another city?  If so, let’s see it, because I’m pretty sure that breaks about 50 rules in both MLB’s anti-trust waiver and the MLB operating agreement.  We’re talking big time fines.

No one is going to give the Angels hundreds of millions to move.  No. One.  Why?  The Angels have one of the best television contracts in the business.  They can’t move outside of LA.  If they stay within their designated marketing zone (southern California, north of San Diego), any stadium that they want to build has to go through the CEQA permitting process.  For something that big, we’re looking at a decade for an approval.  This statement by Keep the Angels is a lie.  It’s the functional equivalent of yelling FIRE in a crowded theater.  Step one complete.

Post #3: “Wow, already almost 900 likes. Thank you Angels fans! Let’s spread the word and help us keep our Angels! Please share this page with your friends and ask them to like it too. More news soon including how you can help Keep The Angels!”

And there we go.  There are their 10 friends screaming and running out of the theater.  Next up, mockery.

Post #4 “Here are some key facts on what is going on with the City of Anaheim and Angels Baseball.  #1 – The Angels have the right to opt out of Angels Stadium in 2016, with one year notice. The negotiations underway would extend the lease to 2057. That’s 45 more years on Angels baseball in Anaheim!”

Well geez, who wouldn’t want to do that?  <– Begin mockery.

But wait a minute . . .45 more years?  That doesn’t sound right . . .

That’s because it isn’t right.  The Angels have the unilateral right to abandon the contract, without penalty, in 2019, 2037, 2043, and 2051.  So . . . that’s not 45 more years of Angel baseball in Anaheim.  It’s 7.  Since the existing contract expires in 2016, it’s really only 3.

3 vs. 45.  Big difference.

Post #5:  ”Fact #2 – Angels Stadium needs almost $150 million in upgrades. It is one of the oldest stadiums in Major League Baseball. In the current lease, it is not clear who is responsible for paying that $150 million, but if the Angels leave, then Anaheim is left with an empty stadium that needs $150 million in upgrades. We all know no team would come here unless the taxpayers paid the $150 million. In the last two decades, the average public subsidy for a baseball stadium has been 60%. Under the terms being negotiated with the City and the Angels, the Angels would agree to take on this $150 million. That is a good deal for taxpayers!”

Oh, no!  If they leave . . . then what will we do with an empty stadium?  I mean, jeez, all that vacant land in Southern California . . what could we possibly build?  Oh, right . . . ANYTHING.  That’s a separate discussion for another blog post.

For now, let’s look at this rotten egg from Facebook.  Let’s assume they’re right.  If Anaheim is to be consistent with other MLB hosts, Anaheim should pony up 60% of $150MM, or $90MM.  Remember that number.  $90MM.  That’s what they claim is fair.

Anyway, they’ll leave if we don’t give them something!  Give them something!  Anything!  THIS IS A GOOD DEAL!  If you don’t approve, you’ll burn us all alive!  Mock mock mock!

Post #6: “Fact #3 – the City has been trying to get someone to develop part of the parking lot around the stadium for almost 20 years. No one has been willing to do so, in part because the lease with the baseball team has required any developer to pay for a parking structure to replace any surface parking taken by the development. That would cost $100 million or more, maybe as much as $150 million. But if it is the Angels developing the entertainment and restaurant district around the Stadium, it starts to make sense. At stadiums around the country, there are really cool shopping and entertainment and dining districts right next to the Stadium. We can finally have that in Anaheim under the deal being negotiated. This would also bring thousands of jobs and tens or hundreds of millions of economic activity to Orange County, generating a lot of tax revenue to pay for city services.”

Whoa whoa whoa.  No one wants to develop the land because of the terms and conditions in the existing lease, so we have to change the lease to giveaway the land to the Angels so they can develop it?  What kind of crazy backwards world is this?  If no one wants to develop the land, THEN CHANGE THE LEASE SO THEY CAN DEVELOP THE LAND.

Note the additional mockery.  If Anaheim doesn’t agree, we aren’t as cool as other cities and we turn down thousands of mythical magical jobs that spontaneously appear as if from no where and millions, excuse me hundreds of millions of dollars, of economic activity (that’s A LOT of beer.)  In other words, we’re stupid if we don’t agree.

Post #7: “So the basic framework which would keep the Angels in Anaheim seems pretty simple to us. Anaheim gets the Angels to extend their lease for almost 50 years, the Angels agree to pay the $150 million in needed upgrades to the Stadium instead of the taxpayers, and the Angels develop part of the parking lot into a really cool shopping/dining/entertainment district which brings jobs and vitality to the Stadium area. A lot of details remain to be worked out, but the start of the negotiations seem like a great deal.”

Again, if you don’t agree, you’re an idiot, because this is simple.  Compelling.

The basic framework is exactly the opposite of how Keep the Angels describes.  Anaheim gets the Angels for 3 years, not 50.  The Angels absolutely do NOT agree to spend $150MM in needed upgrades.  By leasing and not selling public land, the taxpayers give away their right to collect property tax on land.  They also give up any sales tax generated from the site as well and fees generated from parking and whatever else.  They agree to provide economic assistance to developers in exchange for mythical magical economic benefit.

What the MoU actually states is that the Angels will agree to maintain Angel Stadium “to a standard to be agreed upon during negotiations.”  Well, that’s pretty darn open ended.  Considering we’ve given away the cow, we can’t exactly dictate terms to Arte on what that standard should be.  It could be $150MM, it could be $5MM.  It certainly won’t be the $900MM some other bloggers are suggesting for a brand new stadium.

Let’s consider for a moment what Keep the Angels conceded earlier.  If Anaheim is to mirror what other MLB hosts have done in recent years, they need to contribute roughly $90MM to renovate Anaheim stadium, with the team contributing $60MM.  What exactly are we paying?  Let’s take a look at the MoU.

Hmmm . . . wait a minute . .  there’s nothing here that monetizes the giveaway!  You mean to tell me the Anaheim City Council voted to enter into good faith negotiations without understanding the value of the terms to be negotiated, without providing a compelling and transparent value for consideration before the taxpayers?  No.  I don’t believe it.  Surely, surely somewhere in Anaheim someone can tell me what Anaheim agreed to bargain for?

Nope.  Nada.

I know you’re as shocked as I am.


The problem with the 4000 year old model of yelling fire and mocking those who don’t listen to you is that the people who ask legitimate questions don’t die a horrible fiery death in the end.  Eventually, the myth floats away with the hot air that blew it in and the truth comes out.

If this is really a fantastic deal for the taxpayer, the combined MoUs (which actually aren’t linked, but lets assume they are . . . which is a horrible benefit to grant, but I’m doing it anyway) ought to be worth less than $90MM.  Any dollar above is a bad deal; any dollar below is a good deal.

What’s the value of the parking lot lease?  Is it more or less than $90MM.  Let’s take a look.

The city’s analysis calls out 50 specific acres for a development area formerly known as Sportstown.  The actual proposed ground lease is substantially greater than 50 acres (of note, there’s nothing in the MoU that binds the Angels to not develop the entire parking lot, we’ll have to assume they won’t because they’re either prohibited elsewhere or that it’s just bad for business.) but we’ll stick with 50 for simplicity.

That’s 50 acres of prime commercial real estate for the grand total sum of $1 a year.  How much is that worth?  Well, working backwards, $90MM over the term of 66 years is $1.37MM per year.  That’s about $2300 an acre per month or roughly $0.05/sq ft (FYI, going rates for vacant land in the area?  $0.12 to 0.44 per square foot.)

Does anyone out there REALLY want to try to sell the idea that Anaheim taxpayers are getting a good deal?  Other MLB hosts: 60% of costs.  Anaheim: we give away free land for two generations.


Oh, but wait, it gets worse.

Not only do the Angels get the use of 50 acres, they get to develop it as they see fit.  Here’s where it gets tricky.  The city of Anaheim owns the land, which means it doesn’t pay property tax.  This means the Angels get to develop the land, rent it to a tenant at market rates (making that value shoot way beyond the $0.05 they’re paying), all the while avoiding property tax payments that they rightfully owe to the county.

How much is that worth?  I’m gonna throw a dart out there of a quarter billion dollars over the term of the lease.  Anyone want to argue?

Oh, but wait again!  It gets even worse!

The city is going to pay to develop the land for the Angels!  We’re looking at “Gardenwalk Part Deux: Bend Over and Say Halo!”  That’s right, the city agreed to provide economic assistance to develop the land.  How much?  Too be “negotiated” and “general fund neutral.”   This means they uses fuzzy math, bad assumptions, and a ridiculous discount rate to extract as much as possible from the taxpayer before they get swatted.  Kinda like a really big blood sucking mosquito that takes $150MM out of your wallet.

Here’s why the MoU doesn’t tell list how much it’s all worth.  It’s too ridiculous to add up.  Free land, free construction, no taxes . . . all for $1 a year over 66 years.

Average MLB host: $90 million.  Anaheim: $850 million?  $2 billion?  Your guess is good as mine, but one thing is clear . . .


One more post from Keep the Angels:

Post #7: “On September 3, 2013, the Anaheim City Council voted 4-1 to begin negotiations with the Angels around this general framework. City Council Members Gale Eastman, Jordan Brandman, Lucille Kring, and Kris Murray voted for this framework. Mayor Tom Tait voted against it and has been trying to stir up opposition to the Angels.”

There is no fire and you aren’t stupid.  The Angels aren’t going anywhere.  If they do, well, the sky won’t fall.

I’m sure there’s no shortage of developers chomping at the bit to get to what’s essentially greenfield space with direct access to rail and three major freeways, a publicly owned power and water utility, 20 minutes from an airport, and with potentially direct tram access to both Disneyland and the California High Speed Rail project.

But, I guess you can always believe the city’s analysis that the surrounding land value just evaporates without the Angels.  Yeah, on second that, no one would want a piece of land like that.  Definitely not Disney.

Tell Eastman, Brandman, Kring, and Murray that their manufactured crisis is a joke and Anaheim wants its billion bucks back.


‘Instructing the Negotiators’: Jordan Brandman Really Doesn’t Understand His Job

From The Orange Juice Blog: 

1. An Introduction to Public Service


[Note: if you're Jordan Brandman or someone who cares about him, you'd best read through all the way to the end.]

Yesterday’s Anaheim City Council meeting was, once again, the best entertainment value in town.  I’ll have more than one story on the meeting.  The most important story will regard the revelation that the data on which the rosy projections of the economic benefits of Angels baseball seem to be deeply and almost comically flawed, the disclosure of which caused a momentary glitch in the Murrbot’s operation before her gyroscopic controls put her back on course.  That one will require actual research work, so you’ll have to wait for it.

(For those new to Orange Juice coverage of the Anaheim Council story, the “Murrbot” is Curt Pringle-programmed Councilwoman Kristin Murray, who is supposed to ignore information such as “these projections for Anaheim regarding baseball fan spending in the City were actually based on places like Houston” without even a momentary sign of comprehending their implications.  The least important story, if I write it at all, will be my musings on Councilwoman Lucille Kring’s apparently burgeoning crush on me and what it is doing to her math skills, but there are a trillion — 10 to the 12th power — reasons not to get into that one.)

This story is between those two in substantive importance.  We finally discovered last night why the Council majority has been so hostile to Tom Tait’s attempts to instruct the people who will be negotiating a deal with Arte Moreno on behalf od the City: they apparently have no idea that it is part of their job to instruct the negotiators.  They seem to think (and this would be funny if it weren’t so tragic) that they are not supposed to state publicly what they want out of a deal.  Their own aspirations and preferences are not of public interest – a finished deal is just supposed to come to them ready-made for their rubber stamp.

And they’re really upset that Mayor Tom Tait is trying to get in the way of such an immaculate and anti-septic process.  So Tait thinks that a pushing for joint venture — giving the City some direct financial stake in and benefit from property development on the 155-acre parcel rather than leasing it out for $1/year — is a good idea and that the negotiators should push for it?  Well, from the apparent perspective of the Council majority, who asked him?  This isn’t his concern, after all, it’s the concern ofthe negotiators — and what Anaheim should want out of a deal is not something that should be discussed in public in front of witnesses, but off-camera and out of the public eye, say at a private table at the Catch.

(This view, by the way, is what we may call “legally problematic.”)

The only thing missing was Councilman Jordan Brandman looking directly at the camera and saying “look, everybody knows that these public policy decisions are being made by Curt Pringle outside of public view, right?  Why are we bothering with putting on a show of policymaking for the audience?  It’sannoying!”

More on Jordan later; let’s first get to the recap.  The Council dealt with several big issues:

  • the continued overpayment of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce (which is now apparently deficit-spending part of its budget on t-shirts to support a cause — keeping the Angels in Anaheim — that no one really opposes in principle)
  • a new proposed ordinance dealing with treatment of the city’s homeless that has been characterized as “criminalizing homelessness”
  • setting into motion the process of drawing new district lines (or “fake-district” lines if the Superior Court doesn’t intervene) for the 2014 elections
  • instructing its negotiation team as to what terms should seek it should seek in its negotiations for a new lease agreement with the Angels

Did I say “dealt with”?  Yeah, that’s the right term — but “dealt with” has very different meanings for each bullet point.

  • The Council rammed through the overpayment of the ACoC — not as bad of one as had once been proposed, at least — on a 3-1 vote (Tait dissenting, Eastman absent yesterday.)
  • The Council wisely decided that its ordinance was being misunderstood by the public — which I hope is true, although my fear is that it is perhaps being correctly understood — and deferred action on the matter until next meeting to allow time for more public outreach and explanation
  • The Council listened to a well-crafted and professional presentation by outside counsel as to how the districting process would go forward, including what criteria they would use both in putting the requirements of the ordinance into effect and hiring an expert to advise them, then agreed with the plan
  • The Council is apparently prepared to punished Mayor Tom Tait for putting onto the agenda the item calling for public discussion on what general goals the City would be seeking in its negotiation with Arte Moreno

One of these “dealt with” actions, you’ll notice, is not like the others.  The last one is, to put it mildly, nuts.  Or, actually, it’s either nuts or corrupt.  I’m hoping that it’s just nuts.

2. Why oh Why am I Picking on Jordan Brandman?

It pains me to pick on my fellow Democrat and social liberal Jordan Brandman.  (This isn’t because I dislike doing it on it’s own merits; I think that everyone should be evaluated on their actions regardless of party.  It’s because it leads to fellow Democrats throwing sharp objects at me.  That’s usually just a metaphor.)  So, left to my own devices, I’d probably leave the criticism to Vern, Jason Young, Cynthia Ward or David Zenger — who don’t have to meet every month with his closest friends.  But he keeps making that impossible, because he keeps on inserting himself into the very center of the story, in a way that demands attention.  He is obsessed with going after the deportment of Tom Tait.  Ideally, Jordan would simply be wrong in doing this, but he’s not just wrong — he’s weirdly and bizarrely wrong, and histrionically over the top to boot.  (And, again, that’s not even the worst-case possibility.)

At yesterday’s meeting, we saw four examples — this based on memory, not the video — of this behavior, of which the last one is the truly important one:

  1. Jordan went after Tait for putting on his own slide show presentation critical of the draft Memoranda of Understanding (“MOUs”) prior to the presentation of the staff report.  This was a particularly difficult criticism to understand because the staff report was supposed to be an answer to Tait’s criticisms of the draft MOUs.  It would therefore make sense for Tait to go first, then to hear the response.  Every non-robotic adult in the room other than Jordan probably understood this, but he apparently wanted to hear the criticism of Tait without letting Tait make his critique.  When I’ve reviewed it, I will link here to the video of Jordan melodramatically taking on Tait over his going first.  Eventually cooler heads — it may have been Kring — prevailed on him to let the Mayor make his case.  Tait’s reaction to Jordan, meanwhile, seemed to be somewhere between that of an adult holding out his arm to keep away a five-year-old child taking wild windmill swings at him and someone looking for a broom to swat away a confused fruit bat. 
  2. Then, when the paid City staff — led by a much calmer than usual former San Diego Padres President Charles Black, who appeared to have been shown videos of himself being too pugnacious with Tait more than once earlier in the month — started giving their rebuttal presentation, Tait interject at various points asking some (fair and pertinent) questions.  These were important questions for the task of instructing the negotiators, which Tait (and possibly Kring, not likely Murray) knew was the task at hand.  One of those questions in fact elicited an absolutely critical revelation about the basis for the financial projections currently being thrown around by Todd Ament’s group like gospel.  But to Jordan, Tait’s asking questions of staff was a deep affront.  He rolled his eyes and went into about a half-power “LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE”-style attack on Tait’s temerity.  It was at this point that I began to realize that Jordan fundamentally did not understand why the Council was discussing the lease at all — having already referred the matter to Curt Pringle.  After looking at Jordan quizzically, Tait defended his right to ask questions of staff during a report but let them continue the rest of the report without pressing them on any points in real time.  This made the staff presentation less useful to the Council — which, to give Jordan credit for effectiveness, was apparently the point.
  3. At two points during the agenda item, Jordan challenged Tait’s right to act as Chair.  First, Jordan tried to officially appealed Tait’s “decision of the Chair” to start off the item with his own report.  This was odd because that’s really not an appealable “decision of the Chair” — Jordan could have turned it into one, but didn’t, and didn’t apparently know how to, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to teach him at this point — and at any rate the issue went away when Kring tired of the hot breath flowing onto her from the other side of the room and said to let the Mayor go ahead.  Then, after the resolution of either than or another point, Jordan asserted that Tait was interrupting him because he still had the floor.  Tait correctly pointed out that Jordan did not have the floor — and that, as Chair, he should know who had the floor, because he was the one who gave out and then reclaimed the floor.  Jordan seemed unconvinced of this.  It reminded me of the reaction of some people who think that Obama doesn’t really have any power because he’s not really the legitimate President.  But surely Jordan understood that Tait was the Mayor and had certain prerogatives as a result, right?
  4. Wrong.  The final insult — and this actually happened at the end of the meeting, following the end of business, so I missed it — was that Jordan announced that he was calling for a special meeting of the Council.  The purpose of the meeting would be to strip away the Mayor’s right to put items on the agenda without the support of at least one other Councilperson — not easy to get for someone in a 4-1 minority on the Council.  The benign explanation for this is that Jordan was just being a rhymes-with-stick and wanted to get back at Tait for his temerity.  (Yes, that’s the benign one.)  The less benign explanation is that Jordan is laying the groundwork for a cover-up of corruption.

It’s time to switch to second-person singular.  This is now an Open Letter to Jordan.

3. Jordan: Sit Down, Shut Up — and Listen

You are making it look like you are participating in a conspiracy to misuse public funds.  Stop it — now!

(Note: I’ve hit on “Padawan” as a preferable alternative to other terms of address that I might use below.)

The participation of Kris Murray, Gail Eastman, and Lucille Kring in such a conspiracy is not my problem.  They’re Republicans; let the Republicans clean their own house.  You’re a Democrat; I heard former DPOC Chair Frank Barbaro say 834 times at meetings and events that you were the future of the Democratic Party.  You are my problem as a Democrat– and as anything less than a slap in the face seems to be ineffective with you, you may want to plant your feet.

Here’s the theory behind my — and many other people’s — concern:

I’ll spell this out to you simply: you have often stated your admiration for (and I think it’s fair to say fealty to) former Republican Assembly Speaker and now local super-lobbyist Curt Pringle.  Wide speculation is afoot that not only is Pringle behind the framework of this pair of MOUs — Moreno’s not a developer, so development rights mean nothing to him except as something tosell — but that Pringle himself may be one of the main people to profit from it, either as a participant in the development project or as the commission-earning broker for such a deal.  That’s not an assertion of fact, it’s just a theory — but it’s a theory that could well be borne out by future facts, which will lead to aggressive investigation of how the hell this happened.

One critical moment in how the hell this will have happened would be your calling a meeting that would allow Mayor Tait to put his concerns about the misuse of public funds onto the agenda without having to get permission from one of the four Councilmembers who seem to be in the bag.  That is: five years from now, it may be your idiotic motion that is identified as the linchpin of a cover-up of a conspiracy to defraud the public.  And that, Padawan, is something that you don’t want put onto your personal bill.

You have to let Mayor Tait have his say — in public, where public business is supposed to be conducted. You don’t have to like it; you can grimace and eye-roll all you want when he speaks; you don’t have to stay in your chair during that part of the meeting.  But you had better not try to put a stop to it, Padawan.  Do you want a good example of why this is a bad idea?  Take last night.

Had this provision you’re seeking been in place a week ago, then Mayor Tait would not have been able to agendize this item.  This would be highly unfortunately for the Council, because Tait is apparently the only one on the Council who understands that it is the role of the Council to spell out with some clarity what the Council wants out of the agreement.

Now, up until last night, I thought that the Council had done that.  I thought that you understood that there is a difference between the jam-packed draft provisions of an MOU and an MOU that says solely “we wish to enter into negotiations over the renewal of the lease with the Angels, signed Arte Moreno and City Manager Marcie Edwards” and is otherwise blank.  If you don’t want those provisions to have anypresumption, any weight in influencing future negotiations, you’re supposed to take them out.  If youdo want them to have any weight, then OWN THEM – stop saying that nothing is final and anything can be changed.

Do you know what you’re supposed to do before sending your negotiators into a negotiation?  You’re supposed to instruct them about general goals.

As a public entity, are you supposed to instruct them about general goals in private or in public.  In public, because of the Brown Act.

Have you given them instructions on what you want on behalf of the city?  NO — because you’re colleagues keep saying that despite all that meaningful verbiage on those sheets of paper, negotiations haven’t yet begun.  Or … YES — because the only thing that the negotiators have to guide them right now are the terms in those MOUs.

So this is why your criticism of Tait is idiotic at best: either (1) you have to give the negotiators initial instructions about what you want from negotiations or (2) you already adopted initial instructions last week when you signed the maybe-meaningless, maybe-not MOU – in which event it’s Tait’s prerogative to seek to modify those instructions.

THAT’S HIS JOB AS A COUNCIL MEMBER.  It’s YOUR job too, even though you don’t seem to get it.

Tait has suggested that the City consider a joint venture on the property.  Charlie Black says that the City can propose that, but it may not be a good idea.  OK, sounds like a reasonable disagreement to discuss.


Do you know what would have been a really appropriate time?  Last night.  Everyone except Eastman was there!

Do you know what would be the next best appropriate time?  When Mayor Tait agendizes an item seeking to instruct the negotiators – pay attention to that phrase, Padawan! — to seek a joint venture rather than a $1/year lease!

But do you know what the problem becomes?  You’re saying that he can’t do that unless one of the four in the majority give him permission!  And you’re not likely to do so because so far you’ve indicated complete deference to the paid staff regarding the terms.  It’s like you think that these decisions as to how to instruct the negotiators are someone else’s to make.

Do you know what else should be debated openly?  My pugnacious semi-colleague David Zenger here made an excellent proposal that the two MOUs should be merged into one so that the City is dealing withone legal entity — and that their expiration be made explicitly co-terminus (or, he’d probably agree, that termination of one MOU should give the city a painless opt-out as to the other.)  Is it worth discussing at a public meeting whether you should instruct the negotiators to seek such a change in the “overall framework” of the agreement.  (Hint: “yes.”)  Can Tait — the only declared skeptic of the five of you — agendize an item to do so if you “punish him” as you (or whatever redhead wrote your proposal) intend?  No he could not!  And that means that, when the Angels leave in 2037 but whoever Moreno sells the rights to the 155 acres holds onto them through 2079, you will personally have prevented this possibility — which Zenger wisely counsels to avoid — prior to negotiations.  And if your mentor Pringle profits from it, you will suffer, because Pringle’s left middle toe is smarter than your whole head and he’ll make surethat you’re left holding the bag.

Here’s another idea, which I raised at public comments: if one reason that the developable land in the parcel hasn’t been developed is that Arte Moreno can block it due to his claim on the lease to 12,000 parking spaces, then instruct the negotiators that the City wants to figure out a way to eliminate that veto.  Maybe this will require building a huge parking structure or two — if Moreno’s going to build, something like that is going to happen anyway, right?  Well, there’s a nice joint venture itself!  Maybe the City can put up the land and Moreno (and maybe Disney, if they want in) can put up the capital, build a parking structure so that people can park at the Angels’s games and other attractions and the City can get more revenue from that for its general fund — and then the new building takes place but on less favorable terms to Moreno (or whatever Pringle client to whom he sells the rights.)

Will THAT get onto the agenda under your new proposal?  No — none of the rest of you have any apparent interest in instructing the negotiators.  But there’s another reason — the one that you will be accused of having as your motive: such a change would lead to more money going to the City of Anaheim and less to whoever (such as Curt Pringle or his clients) owns the development and leaseholding right. And that, Padawan, starts to look like a conspiracy and a cover-up.  I hope it’s not true.  If not, then transparency is your friend here.

One last point: if none of these proposals receive a second to allow them to be added to the agenda — which, by the way, puts you in violation of the Brown Act if you decide to act on them — then you’re either (1) not interested in doing your job or (2) you’re trying to prevent official public debate or (3) all four of you have already decided that the proposal to instruct the negotiators is not even worth considering.  And in that case, the question will arise:

how did all four of you come to the exact same conclusion, without having heard any public debate on the merits, that a certain proposal by Tait to instruct the negotiations was not worth even considering.?

And the problem for you would be that the most obvious explanation is that either you four colluded among yourselves or that someone instructed you to keep that proposal off of the agenda — despite that you’re pretending that the MOUs are completely non-binding.  And that, Padawan, is a violation of the Brown Act and probably worse.

Let me clue you in on something: pretty much everyone expects that despite your saying “oh, all of this is just advisory, you’re eventually going to get a proposal from Charlie Black’s group that will be very veryfavorable towards Arte Moreno, you’ll agendize it on some Friday night before a holiday again, and then you’ll shrug and say “look, the whole thing is already worked out, we don’t want to get in the way now” — despite your complete failure to instruct the negotiators.

That’s going to be bad enough as it is, Jordan.  Don’t make it this much worse.

Republicans — go talk to your trio now and see if they can figure this out.  (If you don’t want to bother talking with Murray, I can’t blame you.)


Anaheim City Council gives away MILLIONS while criminalizing homelessness.

The Anaheim City Council is posed to pass an ordinance banning the homeless from camping in city parks. This should come as no surprise from this out of touch council. What's even more alarming is that many of the council members call themselves Christians. Gail Eastman even went as far as posting In God We Trust above the dais. A wonder if she has forgotten this key piece of scripture:

Anaheim City Hall  

Anaheim City Hall


Gail Eastman

Gail Eastman

Matthew 25:40-45 ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ ..

Where is your compassion Kris Murray, Gail Eastman, Lucille Kring, and Jordan Brandman?

For the rest of the story, here is Gabriel San Roman from the OC Weekly: 

A week after activist Stephen Baxter held a 'sleep-in' protest in downtown Fullerton over the city's war on the homeless, Anaheim will try to one-up them with a punitive ordinance of its own. The city municipal code already forbids staying in a public park between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 5 a.m., which has the homeless laying their head elsewhere for the night--but that's not enough for councilwoman Kris Murray and her crew!

On Tuesday, council members will decide on a proposal aimed at banning camping and storage of personal property on public property at any time.

In a staff report submitted by Director of Community Services Terry Lowe, the ordinance is framed as one that will "serve as a tool in the City's effort to promote and support safe, clean and accessible neighborhoods and eliminate blight." Never once are the homeless referenced directly, but it couldn't be clearer who the intended target is.

If Anaheim's city council should approve the crackdown--and it almost assuredly will--no homeless person can use a tent for living purposes at any hour in public areas including parks, alleys, parking lots, or any other publicly owned property. Nor could they store personal belongings such as the tents themselves, sleeping bags, bedrolls, cooking equipment, books, money and appliances in addition to other possessions in such spaces.

Public parks are the most visible places where the city's homeless population set up tents during the day. Since the eviction of a sizable homeless encampment in Fullerton by the shuttered Hunt Library earlier this year, many of those displaced turned up on the east lawn of La Palma Park in Anaheim.

Read the full story here: 



Anaheim Council Plans Giant New ‘Sneak Attack’ Giveaway

From the Orange Juice Blog: 

When a new lease of Anaheim’s stadium to Angels’ owner Arte Moreno was being drafted over the past months, nobody appears to have been negotiating on behalf of the City.

(Read this Voice of OC story– and this OC Register story, if you can get past the paywall — for recent background about the deal.)

As Councilwoman Kris Murray, ever-loyal to Anaheim uber-lobbyist Curt Pringle, appears to have been in charge of negotiations, “no one negotiating on behalf of” the City of Anaheim may be literally true.  The game of Murray and her Council cohorts since at least January 2012 has been to give away as much of the city’s revenue stream as possible to private enterprise.  She’s negotiating, all right — but it’s only by the twisted logic that any amount of money taken from taxpayers to wealthy interests benefits the city can she be said to be negotiating on the city’s behalf. (Murray does this at the same time as she demonstrates her fiscally conservative bona fides by making a big show of squeezing every last penny out of small public interest non-profits who come to them hat in hand.  Because, without this juxtaposition of treatment of rich vs. poor, maybe these giveaways to the likes of Arte Moreno and Bill O’Connell and — most of all — middleman Curt Pringle just wouldn’t be obscene enough.)

The proposed stadium lease (which you can read here – PDF warning) is so bad, surpassing even the previous monstrosity, that it is doubtful that Moreno even asked for all of what he got.  In fact, let’s make that a challenge: let’s have Kris Murray and her crack negotiation team publicly identify anything and everything that Moreno asked for that he did not get.  My bet is that, unless he wanted the City to provide him dancing girls to rock him to sleep every night, this lease gives Moreno far more than he asked for.  (And if he did ask for all of this, it may only be because he was first assured that it was his for the asking.)

And why not, from Murray’s perspective?

This isn’t her money she’s forking over — and her bet is that enough of it will come back to her in campaign contributions (and more importantly “uncoordinated” independent expenditures) to keep her on Council and beyond.  And if by some chance she loses — well, a lot of wealthy people owe her a lot for her service, and it’s good form (in recruiting future people like her) for such debts to be paid.   Murray has already gotten some nice private sector positions to supplement her income; maybe Arte Moreno will show his thanks on down the line.  (Not that there’s an actual arrangement of such a sort, of course; that would be wrong.  Worse than wrong, it might be provable.)

So, once again, Anaheim’s Council acts as if they were using public money to bribing wealthy private interests for their personal and political gain — whether or not they are technically doing so.

How can you tell that the Council is trying to slip one over on an unsuspecting public?  The secret, as in all farce, is timing.  Get ready for this:

They released news of what may be a final vote on this massive giveaway on a Friday night — a Friday night that began a three-day weekend — with the Council meeting beginning on the afternoon of the next working day.

This, for the benefit of our less-attentive readers, is Sunday morning of Labor Day weekend.  Lots of high-level movers and shakers — as well as lower level moved and shaked — are out of town.  (Sole voice of reason on council Mayor Tom Tait is apparently among them — and I wonder whether he even knew that this was coming before he left.)  So by releasing new of the vote on Friday night, the Council Murrjority made sure that even if a gutty ragtag band of activists could get together to oppose this massive giveaway of public funds, few people would be listening to us until Tuesday — when they’re going to be pretty busy.

“Stacking the deck” doesn’t even begin to describe what they’re doing.  People don’t pay Curt Pringle the big bucks to play fair!  They don’t want a public debate over this; they want to do the equivalent of slipping the public a sedative and having it wake up in an icy bathtub missing a kidney.

“Surprise!  We just leased PRIME REAL ESTATE to a developed to DO WHATEVER HE WANTS WITH for a term of 66 YEARS!  Here’s the number of the emergency room; you’ll need dialysis.”

The only real question is whether the public will be outraged over this.

It should be.  I’ll review the lease arrangement later today or tomorrow.  For now, let me just provide you with a short snippet from the Voice of OC story on this sorry development:

Beyond full naming rights over the team, franchise owners under a proposed framework for negotiating a separate land lease would also get a 66-year lease of the stadium land, including a 50-acre parcel called the “Stadium District,” for free.

Under that arrangement, the city would be freed from spending about $600,000 annually for stadium upkeep, according to a staff report.

The land lease outline being considered next week could allow team owners to keep all tax revenue, such as hotel room taxes and sales tax generated from developing the area.

The land around Angel Stadium is estimated to be worth $300 million.

With the land lease, the owners could develop a range of tax revenue generating businesses, including hotels and shops.

The focus of coverage thus far has been focused on the fact that the lease agreement will finally allow Arte Moreno to remove the name “Anaheim” from the name of the Angels altogether.

That’s just the insult, folks.  There will be lots of time to focus on the insult.

For now, pay attention to the injury.  Very little will be coming into city coffers for the rest of this century from this prime real estate — and the prime real estate surrounding it.  The City needs money — and it will not get it this way.

If the City of Anaheim owned a bunch of solid gold bars, like those in Fort Knox,  and decided to just give them away to a developer while claiming that the City would eventually profit from the deal — wouldn’t that piss you off?

Wouldn’t you at least have wanted to see a full debate about it?

Well, that is in essence what’s happening on Tuesday.

Focus on the injury.  Focus on preventing the injury.


The OC Register censors Save Anaheim while negotiating lucrative deal

From The Voice of OC: 

Freedom Communications, owner of the Orange County Register, is poised to strike a highly unusual partnership with the city of Anaheim whereby the media company would be the city's broker as it pursues corporate sponsorships for its controversial transportation hub project.

News of the deal has drawn criticism from Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, and warnings from media ethics experts that the county's largest newspaper could be seen as an “agent of the government.”

Freedom Communications co-owner and OC Register publisher Aaron Kushner defended the deal as just a new twist to traditional advertising sponsorships and speaks to the media company's commitment to the region's future.

Freedom Communications would have the exclusive right for 12 months to solicit corporations for the opportunity to display their names on the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC), a massive dome that would house the city's train station, a letter of intent from the city states.

In order for the deal to be complete, the City Council must still approve it.

Register owner Aaron Kushner

Register owner Aaron Kushner

Kushner acknowledged that the company would receive a cut of the revenue from any sponsorship deal.

"Effectively, we are acting as an additional source of marketing muscle to try and bring private support to this project because our mission, we believe, is to help Orange County grow," Kushner said. "We believe this is an important project."

Media ethics experts reached for comment said they have never heard of such a deal and said it has the potential to damage the Register newsroom's credibility as it covers the ARTIC project, which has already proven to be controversial.

“It’s just a terrible spot to put them in,” said Al Tompkins, a senior faculty member at The Poynter Institute for Media Studies of the journalists assigned to cover the city and the project. “And the question really does become: are the finances of this type of deal worth the erosion of public confidence that comes with it?”

Marc Cooper, a USC journalism professor who has called foul on past Register controversies, was stunned when told of the deal.

“That's too unbelievable... I would classify this as mind-boggling,” Cooper said after taking a few seconds to collect his thoughts. “It really stretches the imagination.”

On June 20, the Register published an article about a new naming rights broker division and announced contracts with three entities.  The article did not say anything about a pending deal with Anaheim, even though the city's letter outlining terms of the deal is dated June 19.

When contacted Thursday evening by a Voice of OC reporter, Kushner said that the paper had yet to report on the deal because "it doesn't exist yet."

Then, later in the evening, the Register published a brief story on its website outlining the deal.

In his defense of the agreement, Kushner stressed that just like with advertisers; there will be a strict firewall between the coverage of ARTIC and the business side of the newspaper.

“We've basically at no cost -- frankly as a public service -- offered to help the city of Anaheim attract one or more major including national or international sponsor to help lower the taxpayer costs of building a great regional transportation hub,” Kushner said. “I don't think there's a single advertiser with us that we don't cover in some way.”

Tait, meanwhile, said the deal could compromise the newspaper's objectivity.

"Not only do I question the need for such an agreement, I have serious concerns about creating a financial partnership with our local newspaper, which also serves as a watchdog for the citizens over matters at City Hall.”

Cooper also said he disagrees with how Kushner defines public service.

"You don't become a booster of Orange County by becoming a partner with institutions of power," Cooper said. "As a newspaper you do it by making the county the most honest, most efficient, most accountable county in the country. And newspapers should be on the frontlines of that. That's the role of a newspaper. Not to be a PR agent.”

This is not the first controversial business move for Kushner since he bought the Register last June.

While gaining praise for adding 175 newsroom staffers and expanding its news content at a time when most papers have been cutting back on coverage, he's been hammered by critics for other business deals and what they say are efforts to appease the political establishment.

Voice of OC revealed in February that the Register changed its political ad policy after two Anaheim councilwomen complained to Register co-owner Eric Spitz earlier this year about ads from a local activist that criticized their votes for a controversial hotel subsidy.

In the wake of that controversy, Kushner raised eyebrows in the media industry when he told newsroom staff that journalists shouldn't abide by the long-held journalism credo of “afflicting the comfortable.”

Then in March, the Los Angeles Times revealed that the paper struck a deal whereby the county’s three main universities each pay the Register $275,000 per year for the paper to publish weekly news sections focused on positive happenings at the colleges.

The arrangement calls for the university’s public relations team to as “content advisors, idea generators and collaborators” on the inserts, according to an internal UC Irvine memo cited by the LA Times.

The Register’s top editor said the arrangement wouldn’t affect its coverage.

Kris Murray  

Kris Murray


Jason Young, the activist whose ads sparked complaint from the councilwomen, was also the first to uncover the letter of intent on the sponsorship deal. He said in an interview today that it is now clear why the Register responded the way it did to the pressure from the politicians.

“I knew something shady was going on, and here it is,” Young said. “Of course the Register is going to bow down to Kris [Murray] and Gail [Eastman] to curtail my first amendment rights, because they wanted this deal.”

Cooper said that the potential business relationship creates a conflict on several levels. First, it makes the Register appear as an agent of city government. Second, the newspaper's ownership has to have comfortable relationships with its host of major corporate contracts. Also, it places pressure on the reporters to offer favorable coverage to ARTIC.

Also, Cooper said transportation is one of the most important local issues a newspaper can focus on. Such a business partnership threatens the perception that the Register can objectively cover the transit hub.

“Maybe [ARTIC] is going to be wonderful I don't know, but I certainly won't trust the Orange County Register on it,” he said.

Although the ARTIC project is still in the middle of construction, it has already proven to be highly controversial.

In 2010, the county grand jury criticized officials for committing millions of dollars to ARTIC while cutting back on bus service for poor and disabled people. A later grand jury panel supported the project.

And when then-Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle sought $200 million in funds for ARTIC from the California High Speed Rail Authority – where Pringle served as board chair – the move was criticized for being set for a vote without any public hearings or application process to determine that it was the best use of public funds.

That ultimately sparked an investigation by the California Attorney General into whether Pringle had a conflict of interest in serving both as Anaheim’s mayor and chairman of the rail authority.