Former City Manager: Angels Need to Show Anaheim ‘Respect’

As Anaheim officials attempt to restart talks with the Angels baseball team over a new stadium lease, former City Manager James Ruth has offered up a bit of advice for team owner Arte Moreno.

Show the city a little respect.

In a Voice of OC interview last week, Ruth spoke at length about his experience in the 1990s brokering a stadium lease deal with The Walt Disney Company, which owned the team before Moreno, and the problems he sees with Moreno's hardball negotiating style.

From Ruth’s point of view, Moreno has been disrespectful by threatening to move the team from Anaheim if he didn’t get everything he wanted. Talks were terminated last year amid public backlash over the terms of a deal framework that critics said was a massive giveaway of public land to the billionaire owner.

“Something that’s being lost in these negotiations is there’s no respect for the city,” said Ruth, who was city manager from 1990 to 2001. “Mr. Moreno is a very sound businessman in many regards, and that’s to be respected, but he has to respect the community… I don’t like to see these threats, well if we don’t get our way, we’re going to move.”

Ruth, who aspired to play baseball before entering public service, said Disney also wanted a clause in the lease that would allow the team to be moved after six years, but the company conceded that clause after he made it clear it was a deal-breaker. More importantly, he said, there was civility during those negotiations that doesn't seem to exist this time.

Ruth agrees with critics of the deal, led by Mayor Tom Tait, on many points. Negotiations got off on the “wrong foot” because the initial deal outline was lopsided in favor of the Angels, with little to no city benefit, according to Ruth.

Also, city leaders agreed to extend the time the Angels can exit their current lease from 2016 to 2019, a move Ruth said handed negotiating leverage over to the Angels. The team would be locked into the current lease until 2029 if the out clause isn’t exercised.

“I looked at the initial proposal, and frankly, it was very offensive,” he said.

Under the now scuttled agreement, which defenders said was only a starting point, an investment firm belonging to Moreno would have leased over 150 acres around the stadium at $1 a year for 66 years. Moreno would also have been able to drop Anaheim from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim team name.

Supporters of that deal said it would have kept the Angels in Anaheim for decades, with no risk to the city’s general fund, which pays for core services like police and fire protection. Also, development of the land could provide Moreno a revenue source to finance up to $150 million in renovations to the aging stadium.

Ruth scoffs at the idea that the renovations would be a major benefit to the city. He said it was little more than a “nice gesture.” A fairer deal, which Tait has also proposed, would be to have the city and the Angels split revenue from the land development, he said.

“When you look over 20-30 years, for Christ’s sake, $150 million is not a lot of money,” Ruth said.

Meanwhile, Angels spokeswoman Marie Garvey took issue with Ruth’s characterization of the negotiations, calling it unfair and pointing out that the most controversial deal point, giving Moreno city land for a nominal amount, didn’t come from the Angels.

The land contribution proposal originated with city officials as a way to finance stadium renovations in lieu of cash, Garvey said in an email. She also suggested in her statements that frequent turnover of city managers – there have been several since negotiations began over three years ago – was partly to blame for the stalled talks.

“Unfortunately after several city management changes, it remain(sic) unclear if any agreement could be reached,” Garvey wrote. “Only then did we feel it was necessary to look for other options to ensure that our fans and the team had a home in the future.”

Who exactly came up with the land contribution has recently been a point of confusion. Councilwoman Lucille Kring said at last week’s council meeting that city officials were still trying to “ferret out” who first proposed the idea. One source said it was former City Manager Tom Wood, who was later ousted from City Hall and went to work for the Angels as a negotiations consultant.

Tom Wood

Tom Wood

 

Ruth said that when the initial deal framework was on the table, former City Manager Marcie Edwards and then Assistant City Manager Paul Emery met with him to go over the deal points.

Paul Emery

Ruth didn’t leave that meeting with the impression that city officials came up with the proposal. “If the city offered that up, I’d be shocked,” he said.

Ruth said he told Edwards and Emery that the deal was terrible, but couldn't tell whether Edwards and Emery felt the same way. Edwards wouldn’t give her opinion because she was working for the council, and she would do what “the council directed her to do,” Ruth said.

However, Edwards and Emery did leave the impression that they were under heavy political pressure to make the deal happen, Ruth said.

“My answer on that was always no deal is better than a bad deal,” he said.

Ruth expressed confidence that ultimately the Angels and Anaheim can work out a deal beneficial to both parties. He said the recent hiring of local trial attorney Wylie Aitken as a lead negotiator was a positive step.

“There has to be a deal there for everybody,” he said.

Lucille Kring aka The Traitor of Anaheim wants to be Mayor

I have to hand it to Lucille Kring, this woman has no shame. I'd even be as bold to state that she has no conscience. Why you ask would I characterize her in this negative light? Well, Lucille Kring for one made specific campaign promises and then once she was elected didn't abide by any of them. Now I realize that not all campaign promises can be kept but these were very specific ones that helped her garner Mayor Tait's support as well as mine. Specifically she vowed to:

521cc0854beb3.image.jpg
  • Vote no on a controversial $158-million hotel room tax subsidy.
  • Vote yes to a ballot measure for Anaheim residents to vote on all future hotel tax subsidies.
  • Vote yes to changing the City Council's at large election system to a system by which council members are elected by districts.
  • Vote yes to a civilian oversight review board of police.

(the rest of the story is brough to you by the Voice of OC)

Since being elected, Kring has changed her position on all four. She voted for thesubsidy and against district elections; she vocally opposed a civilian police oversight board; and she refused to second a motion by the mayor to place the hotel tax subsidy voters measure on a citywide ballot.

Campaign finance records show Kring received thousands of dollars in contributions from groups and businesses that lobbied for her change of heart. And because Kring loaned her campaign $75,000, some of these donations went toward paying off the debt and therefore straight into her pocket.

The donations include, among others, thousands of dollars from Support Our Anaheim Resort SOAR, a Disneyland-funded group that has not taken an official position on district elections but has several advisory board members who lobbied against the electoral change and for the subsidy; the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, which was also for the subsidy and against district elections; and hotel partnerships connected to Bill O'Connell, the recipient of the hotel tax subsidy.

Kring's actions have led some outraged supporters to state publicly that she betrayed them.

“You lied to me,” said resident Larry Larsen during public comments at the May 28 council meeting. Larsen had agreed to place a campaign sign promoting Kring in his yard after she told him she was adamantly against the hotel subsidy.

“Madam, you cannot be trusted or believed. You will say or do anything for a vote. How much was your integrity worth? Was all your campaign debt paid off?”

And it's not just residents who say that Kring broke promises.

Mayor Tom Tait said that he endorsed Kring for City Council because she changed her position from opposing an initiative, called "Let the People Vote," that would require a citywide vote on future hotel tax subsidies to supporting it. But when Tait proposed that initiative at a council meeting, she changed her mind again, remaining silent and allowing the motion to die for lack of a second.

In a brief interview, Kring denied that she changed her position in exchange for the campaign contributions.

She said the subsidy deal evolved into a package that was better for Anaheim. For one thing, the time the developer can collect room tax revenue was extended by five years so the city could share in 10 percent of the revenue as opposed to none. Critics counter, however, that it's a worse deal, because the developer's deadline to begin construction on one of the hotels isn't until 2019.

When asked why she didn't support the mayor's ballot measure, she insisted that it didn't come up for a vote. But at the May 14 council meeting during which the subsidy was approved, Kring refused to back the mayor's motion to put the "Let the People Vote" initiative on the ballot.

Kring said she couldn't recall favoring civilian oversight of police during the campaign, but she is on record as stating so at a Voice of OC candidates forum on Anna Drive. She said even if she had supported it at first, there are several layers of oversight already.

Kring also insisted that the contributions and votes are legal.

When questioned about the campaign contributions and votes, Kring said: “That's your impression. It's not true at all. If I get a check from you, it does not preclude me from voting on an issue for Voice of OC.”

But Kring is legally precluded from engaging in a quid pro quo, that is casting a vote with the understanding that she would receive money in return.

Curiously, Kring has in the past made statements implying that Disneyland and former mayor Curt Pringle, who is now the foremost lobbyist in Anaheim, finance campaigns with the expectation that they would receive the right policy votes in return.

In 2006 during Kring's last stint on council, Pringle refused to throw her a promised fundraiser because she “never voted his way,” she wrote in an Oct. 10 email to a former supporter.

“I told [Pringle] my vote was not for sale,” Kring wrote.

In another email to supporters on Oct. 26, Kring noted that Disney had dramatically increased its campaign spending by funneling cash through various political action committees and pondered whether the company was spending large sums in an effort to control the council.

“Why is Disney spending so much money on candidates that receive $18,000/year in salary? What do they expect from these candidates,” Kring wrote. “I never believed that Disney ran the city but I've changed my mind.”

A Case of Curious Timing

Fast forward to 2013, and Kring seems to no longer have such concerns about Pringle, Disney and the rest of the business establishment.

When confronted with the emails, Kring said that Pringle had never tried to buy her vote and that she once again has changed her mind about whether Disney runs the city.

“No, I don't believe that Disney controls the city,” Kring wrote in an email Monday to Voice of OC. “I don't believe that Curt tried to buy my vote. No one ever has or will.”

Yet the timing of a Pringle-organized fundraiser for Kring raises questions. Pringle was the lobbyist for O'Connell and his partner Ajesh Patel, the two hoteliers whose GardenWalk hotel project was the beneficiary of the $158-million subsidy.

In “mid-April,” Kring met with Pringle, O'Connell and Patel to discuss the tax subsidy, Kring wrote in an email obtained by Voice of OC.

Two weeks after the vote to approve the subsidy — and only one day after Larsen berated Kring publicly for betraying her campaign promise — Pringle held a fundraiser for her at The Catch restaurant near Angel Stadium, campaign finance records show.

Anaheim Park Place Inn, an O'Connell partnership that the hotelier claims is controlled by his son, contributed $1,000 to Kring's campaign May 29, the day of the fundraiser, records show. And on two occasions in February, Stovall's Inn LLC and Orangewood LLC — other O'Connell partnerships — contributed $300 and $250, respectively, according to the records.

By the end of the campaign finance filing period in June, Kring had repaid herself $37,500, records show.

Kring didn't deny that the contributions came from O'Connell and defended them. She said that she had received support from Pringle and O'Connell because she has known them for many years. And the May 29 fundraiser was originally set for April — around the time of her meeting with Pringle, O'Connell and Patel — but was moved because of a scheduling conflict, she said.

“There was nothing conspiratorial about it,” Kring said in an interview. “Bill and I have been friends for more years then you probably have been alive.”

Others said the circumstances at least strongly suggest a quid pro quo. City activist and blogger Jason Young, the former supporter whom Kring had emailed, said that the email and the fundraiser show that Pringle had successfully purchased her vote after previously failing to do so.

“It's clear,” Young said.

While the emails, campaign contributions and votes may give the public the appearance of an illegal quid pro quo, they don't constitute proof, according to Tracy Westen, CEO of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental studies. To prove it, there needs to be direct evidence of a vote-for-cash deal, like an email chain showing clearly that a council member asked for and received money in exchange for a vote.

The Kring emails, however, “generate exactly the kind of thing you get from that constituent: feeling a betrayal, feeling that they're selling votes,” Westen said. “Unless you've got a microphone in the room or somebody stupid enough to write it down, you'll never prove it.”

Nonetheless, the appearance is damaging to the public's confidence, Westen said. The circumstances surrounding Kring's fundraising has sparked a debate among good-government experts, a San Diego-based attorney and Kring over what is and isn't public corruption.

“These emails are kind of dynamite. They show why the public is suspicious,” Westen said.

Cory Briggs, a San Diego-based attorney who has called on the Orange County district attorney's office and the state attorney general's office to prosecute Kring and the council majority for violations of the California Political Reform Act, said that the circumstances surrounding Kring's vote on the hotel subsidy would likely persuade a jury on charges that she engaged in a quid pro quo.

“If I were Lucille Kring, I would hire a criminal defense attorney, and I would pray that I would never have to face a trial,” Briggs said.

Breaking The Law, or a Call for Reform?

Beyond the other circumstances, Briggs claimed in his correspondence to prosecutors that two $500 contributions from SOAR — whose advisory board includes O'Connell — to Kring's campaign before and after the vote are enough to indicate a quid pro quo.

Briggs' argument is that SOAR is essentially a shell corporation for O'Connell to launder campaign money. The Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, which also contributed to Kring's campaign before and after the vote, lobbied publicly for the hotel subsidy and against district elections.

“SOAR itself might not actually make money off of [the hotel subsidy], but I don't think you can evade these rules to set up a shell corporation in order to put an extra bureaucracy between you and the politician,” Briggs said. “If you could, then people would just set up these shell corporations and there's no way to prove a bribe to a public official.”

Robert Stern, president of the center for governmental studies and the expert who helped write the political reform act, has cast doubt on such claims, saying that it has never been illegal in California to make contributions to elected officials who then vote on the contributor's projects.

Westen said that the circumstances surrounding Kring — her emails, contributions, fundraiser and flip-flopping — taken together are an example of a campaign finance system that desperately needs reform.

“That's why it's so hard to get good health care and good public education, but if you want to bail out the banks, that can happen in one day,” Westen said. “Because those are the people giving the money. … One percent of the people give well over 90 percent of the contributions in congressional and senatorial races.”

For one thing, some jurisdictions restrict fundraising to pay off candidates' campaign debt to themselves to a short time right after an election, Westen said. After that, the debt must be forgiven.

“I think personal loans are more problematical, because there's a greater danger that the elected official will feel even more charitable to the people paying their debts. … That is viewed as an especially pernicious problem,” Westen said. “There's a greater danger of a quid pro quo.”

Westen also advocates a switch to a public financing system. The New York City and Los Angeles, for example, match several times the dollars candidates raise, making it easier for candidates with less money to compete.

But selling a public financing system to the public can be challenging. Most residents would be unwilling to give taxpayer money to Kring after reading her emailed statements about city politics, Westen said.

“Most would say, are you kidding me? I wouldn't give those guys the time of day,” Westen said.

AnaheimBlog.net + KeepTheAngels.com

This is a public service announcement from Save Anaheim regarding AnaheimBlog.net and KeepTheAngels.com. 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.”

 

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?”

“PLEASE DON’T TAKE AWAY THE ANGELS.”

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

1) Yell “FIRE!, RUN FOR YOUR LIVES OR YOU WILL ALL DIE!”

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.

WOW.

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 . . .

NOT A GOOD DEAL.

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

Anaheim-Council-side-view-spotlights.jpg

[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.

EXACTLY WHEN AND WHERE DO YOU EXPECT THAT DISCUSSION TO TAKE PLACE, JORDAN?

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: 

http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/2013/09/anaheim_homeless.php 

 

 

The Story Behind Lucille Kring's Recent Flip-Flops

From The Voice of OC:

When Anaheim Councilwoman Lucille Kring was campaigning for office last year, she took the following positions on four issues that have dominated city politics:

  • No on a controversial $158-million hotel room tax subsidy.
  • Yes to a ballot measure for Anaheim residents to vote on all future hotel tax subsidies.
  • Yes to changing the City Council's at large election system to a system by which council members are elected by districts.
  • Yes to a civilian oversight review board of police.
521cc0854beb3.image.jpg

Since being elected, Kring has changed her position on all four. She voted for thesubsidy and against district elections; she vocally opposed a civilian police oversight board; and she refused to second a motion by the mayor to place the hotel tax subsidy voters measure on a citywide ballot.

Campaign finance records show Kring received thousands of dollars in contributions from groups and businesses that lobbied for her change of heart. And because Kring loaned her campaign $75,000, some of these donations went toward paying off the debt and therefore straight into her pocket.

The donations include, among others, thousands of dollars from Support Our Anaheim Resort or SOAR, a Disneyland-funded group that lobbied for the subsidy and against district elections; the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, which was also for the subsidy and against district elections; and hotel partnerships connected to Bill O'Connell, the recipient of the hotel tax subsidy.

Kring's actions have led some outraged supporters to state publicly that she betrayed them.

“You lied to me,” said resident Larry Larsen during public comments at the May 28 council meeting. Larsen had agreed to place a campaign sign promoting Kring in his yard after she told him she was adamantly against the hotel subsidy.

“Madam, you cannot be trusted or believed. You will say or do anything for a vote. How much was your integrity worth? Was all your campaign debt paid off?”

And it's not just residents who say that Kring broke promises.

Mayor Tom Tait said that he endorsed Kring for City Council because she changed her position from opposing an initiative, called "Let the People Vote," that would require a citywide vote on future hotel tax subsidies to supporting it. But when Tait proposed that initiative at a council meeting, she changed her mind again, remaining silent and allowing the motion to die for lack of a second.

In a brief interview, Kring denied that she changed her position in exchange for the campaign contributions.

She said the subsidy deal evolved into a package that was better for Anaheim. For one thing, the time the developer can collect room tax revenue was extended by five years so the city could share in 10 percent of the revenue as opposed to none. Critics counter, however, that it's a worse deal, because the developer's deadline to begin construction on one of the hotels isn't until 2019.

When asked why she didn't support the mayor's ballot measure, she insisted that it didn't come up for a vote. But at the May 14 council meeting during which the subsidy was approved, Kring refused to back the mayor's motion to put the "Let the People Vote" initiative on the ballot.

Kring said she couldn't recall favoring civilian oversight of police during the campaign, but she is on record as stating so at a Voice of OC candidates forum on Anna Drive. She said even if she had supported it at first, there are several layers of oversight already.

Kring also insisted that the contributions and votes are legal.

When questioned about the campaign contributions and votes, Kring said: “That's your impression. It's not true at all. If I get a check from you, it does not preclude me from voting on an issue for Voice of OC.”

But Kring is legally precluded from engaging in a quid pro quo, that is casting a vote with the understanding that she would receive money in return.

Curiously, Kring has in the past made statements implying that Disneyland and former mayor Curt Pringle, who is now the foremost lobbyist in Anaheim, finance campaigns with the expectation that they would receive the right policy votes in return.

In 2006 during Kring's last stint on council, Pringle refused to throw her a promised fundraiser because she “never voted his way,” she wrote in an Oct. 10 email to a former supporter.

“I told [Pringle] my vote was not for sale,” Kring wrote.

In another email to supporters on Oct. 26, Kring noted that Disney had dramatically increased its campaign spending by funneling cash through various political action committees and pondered whether the company was spending large sums in an effort to control the council.

“Why is Disney spending so much money on candidates that receive $18,000/year in salary? What do they expect from these candidates,” Kring wrote. “I never believed that Disney ran the city but I've changed my mind.”

A Case of Curious Timing

Fast forward to 2013, and Kring seems to no longer have such concerns about Pringle, Disney and the rest of the business establishment.

When confronted with the emails, Kring said that Pringle had never tried to buy her vote and that she once again has changed her mind about whether Disney runs the city.

“No, I don't believe that Disney controls the city,” Kring wrote in an email Monday to Voice of OC. “I don't believe that Curt tried to buy my vote. No one ever has or will.”

Yet the timing of a Pringle-organized fundraiser for Kring raises questions. Pringle was the lobbyist for O'Connell and his partner Ajesh Patel, the two hoteliers whose GardenWalk hotel project was the beneficiary of the $158-million subsidy.

In “mid-April,” Kring met with Pringle, O'Connell and Patel to discuss the tax subsidy, Kring wrote in an email obtained by Voice of OC.

Two weeks after the vote to approve the subsidy — and only one day after Larsen berated Kring publicly for betraying her campaign promise — Pringle held a fundraiser for her at The Catch restaurant near Angel Stadium, campaign finance records show.

Anaheim Park Place Inn, an O'Connell partnership that the hotelier claims is controlled by his son, contributed $1,000 to Kring's campaign May 29, the day of the fundraiser, records show. And on two occasions in February, Stovall's Inn LLC and Orangewood LLC — other O'Connell partnerships — contributed $300 and $250, respectively, according to the records.

By the end of the campaign finance filing period in June, Kring had repaid herself $37,500, records show.

Kring didn't deny that the contributions came from O'Connell and defended them. She said that she had received support from Pringle and O'Connell because she has known them for many years. And the May 29 fundraiser was originally set for April — around the time of her meeting with Pringle, O'Connell and Patel — but was moved because of a scheduling conflict, she said.

“There was nothing conspiratorial about it,” Kring said in an interview. “Bill and I have been friends for more years then you probably have been alive.”

Others said the circumstances at least strongly suggest a quid pro quo. City activist and blogger Jason Young, the former supporter whom Kring had emailed, said that the email and the fundraiser show that Pringle had successfully purchased her vote after previously failing to do so.

“It's clear,” Young said.

While the emails, campaign contributions and votes may give the public the appearance of an illegal quid pro quo, they don't constitute proof, according to Tracy Westen, CEO of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental studies. To prove it, there needs to be direct evidence of a vote-for-cash deal, like an email chain showing clearly that a council member asked for and received money in exchange for a vote.

The Kring emails, however, “generate exactly the kind of thing you get from that constituent: feeling a betrayal, feeling that they're selling votes,” Westen said. “Unless you've got a microphone in the room or somebody stupid enough to write it down, you'll never prove it.”

Nonetheless, the appearance is damaging to the public's confidence, Westen said. The circumstances surrounding Kring's fundraising has sparked a debate among good-government experts, a San Diego-based attorney and Kring over what is and isn't public corruption.

“These emails are kind of dynamite. They show why the public is suspicious,” Westen said.

Cory Briggs, a San Diego-based attorney who has called on the Orange County district attorney's office and the state attorney general's office to prosecute Kring and the council majority for violations of the California Political Reform Act, said that the circumstances surrounding Kring's vote on the hotel subsidy would likely persuade a jury on charges that she engaged in a quid pro quo.

“If I were Lucille Kring, I would hire a criminal defense attorney, and I would pray that I would never have to face a trial,” Briggs said.

Breaking The Law, or a Call for Reform?

Beyond the other circumstances, Briggs claimed in his correspondence to prosecutors that two $500 contributions from SOAR — whose advisory board includes O'Connell — to Kring's campaign before and after the vote are enough to indicate a quid pro quo.

Briggs' argument is that SOAR is essentially a shell corporation for O'Connell to launder campaign money. The Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, which also contributed to Kring's campaign before and after the vote, lobbied publicly for the hotel subsidy and against district elections.

SOAR itself might not actually make money off of [the hotel subsidy], but I don't think you can evade these rules to set up a shell corporation in order to put an extra bureaucracy between you and the politician,” Briggs said. “If you could, then people would just set up these shell corporations and there's no way to prove a bribe to a public official.”

Robert Stern, president of the center for governmental studies and the expert who helped write the political reform act, has cast doubt on such claims, saying that it has never been illegal in California to make contributions to elected officials who then vote on the contributor's projects.

Westen said that the circumstances surrounding Kring — her emails, contributions, fundraiser and flip-flopping — taken together are an example of a campaign finance system that desperately needs reform.

“That's why it's so hard to get good health care and good public education, but if you want to bail out the banks, that can happen in one day,” Westen said. “Because those are the people giving the money. … One percent of the people give well over 90 percent of the contributions in congressional and senatorial races.”

For one thing, some jurisdictions restrict fundraising to pay off candidates' campaign debt to themselves to a short time right after an election, Westen said. After that, the debt must be forgiven.

“I think personal loans are more problematical, because there's a greater danger that the elected official will feel even more charitable to the people paying their debts. … That is viewed as an especially pernicious problem,” Westen said. “There's a greater danger of a quid pro quo.”

Westen also advocates a switch to a public financing system. The New York City and Los Angeles, for example, match several times the dollars candidates raise, making it easier for candidates with less money to compete.

But selling a public financing system to the public can be challenging. Most residents would be unwilling to give taxpayer money to Kring after reading her emailed statements about city politics, Westen said.

“Most would say, are you kidding me? I wouldn't give those guys the time of day,” Westen said.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adamelmahrek

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Anaheim Council Majority Ignores Reality – Enterprise Zones are Dead

From The Liberal OC

Periodically we find ourselves here at LiberalOC puzzled by our agreement with Libertarians on policy issues, particularly when it comes to spending taxpayer funds. We see such expenses as investments, while Libertarians see needles boondoggles of uncontrollable government overreach. But for the past couple years we find that Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait is more often the only person of reason on the Anaheim City Council. While we can understand the political policy disagreements with his colleagues over the $158 million in corporate welfare forhotel development as a matter of philosophy, the Anaheim Council majority’s refusal to recognize the end of enterprise zones in California has us mortified.

Only Mayor Tait is listening. Eastman, Brandman, Kring, and Murray are all tuned into Radio Disney.

Only Mayor Tait is listening. Eastman, Brandman, Kring, and Murray are all tuned into Radio Disney.

The convoluted rationale of the majority was that the details of “the end” are not determined. To accept that conclusion one would need to suspend reality, and time. The law is pretty clear that enterprise zones will end on December 31, 2013. The rationale that this irrational majority wants you to accept is more likely fueled by the same people who have funded their campaign coffers and independent expenditures to get them elected.While the legislation to end enterprise zones was being written, the council increase their funding to the Anaheim Chamber contract supporting them by more than $600,000 with no modifications of scope of work. On Tuesday, the council refused to decide to notify the Chamber that that contract would end in December, once the now signed legislation ending enterprise zones takes effect.

We can only surmise that the majority want’s more time to figure out how to continue to fund the Chamber, at the same level, when the enterprise zones go away.

 

Enterprise Zones - GAME OVER

Despite the fact that the CA Enterprise Zone program ends December 31st, the Anaheim City Council majority voted against terminating the contract with the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. Mayor Tom Tait, the lone voice of reason, brought forth the motion. This is the same council majority that also increased the contract even though legislation was in process to end the program. 

Now please enjoy this 3 minute condensed version of last nights debate:

And finally the best of Jordan Brandman's comments from last nights meeting:

Breaking News

Anaheim, CA - A prominent California attorney alleged that members of the Anaheim City Council violated state law when they voted on behalf of a $158 million hotel subsidy, after accepting contributions from a PAC tied to the project's developer. Attorney Cory Briggs urged California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas to prosecute the council members in a letter sent Thursday. Briggs’ request for prosecution was made on the behalf of a community organization, Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development and a private Anaheim resident named in the letter.

click to enlarge

The letter alleges that Anaheim City Council members Lucille Kring and Jordan Brandman had an illegal conflict of interest when they voted for the Garden Walk Hotel subsidy in May, within months of accepting donations from the political action committee formed by Support Our Anaheim Resort (SOAR.) Hotelier Bill O’Connell, who benefited from that subsidy, sits on the SOAR Advisory Committee. The letter also names council members Gail Eastman and Kris Murray, who voted in favor of the subsidy and are SOAR Advisory Committee members. Eastman and Murray did not disclose their business relationships with SOAR and O’Connell at the time of the vote, as required by law.

The request for prosecution issued by Briggs is a required legal step before the filing of a private lawsuit. A potential filing would result in another in a recent series of lawsuits faced by the city council on behalf of residents. Last month, a judge ordered a trial in a case brought by the ACLU on behalf of Anaheim voters, alleging that the city’s election system violates the California Equal Voting Rights Act.

The Garden walk subsidy caused controversy, even before the allegations made last week. The subsidy was first passed in January 2012, but that vote was voided after a Superior Court Judge ruled that it violated the Brown Act, California’s open government law, because the public did not receive proper notice.

Mayor Tom Tait raised $49,825 for his re-election

Mayor Tom Tait

Mayor Tom Tait

I'm quite frankly surprised Mayor Tait was able to raise that amount in a single night. Especially considering he wasn't apart of all the Disney/developer giveaways that Kris Murray was.

 

 

 

 

Kris Murray aka The Giveaway Queen is responsible for the following wastes of taxpayer funds:

1. $158 million GardenWalk Hotel giveaway

2. $319 million Disney streetcar project

3. $184 million ARTIC train station

Kris Murray, Gail Eastman , and Lucille Kring love to tout that the new budget includes "additional programs and services that will enrich the quality of life for Anaheim residents." The reality is they only earmarked an additional $9 million. You compare the numbers. Do you think their priorities are in the right place? 

Anaheim's changes not enough

From The LA Times: 

It began with violence: Anaheim police firing beanbags and a police dog breaking loose and lunging into a crowd of men, women and children, some of whom had confronted the officers over their fatal shooting of a Latino man.

Dr. Evil aka Curt Pringle and Mini-Me Kris Murray

Dr. Evil aka Curt Pringle and Mini-Me Kris Murray

When another fatal police shooting of a Latino followed, and the anger finally spilled over, people smashed windows, and police in riot gear rushed the street, even as the fireworks from Disneyland on the other side of town erupted in the night sky.

The unrest, and the street protests in the ensuing days, exposed long-simmering tensions in this resort city, not just over the police but because of a deeply rooted sense that those who live in Anaheim's densely packed core were being marginalized and excluded by the town's leadership.

Now, a year later, many of the issues that drove last summer's fury have again bubbled to the surface. The results of the shooting investigations have come in, and city officials — in response to calls for greater representation for Latinos — have altered the way voters select their leaders.

But to many who live in the so-called "flatlands" of Orange County's largest city, the investigations and decisions fall far short of what they've fought for. In some cases, they've only served to underscore frustration.

"They're not interested in working for our community," said Yesenia Rojas, an organizer who lives on the street where the unrest began. "We've gone, we've spoken with the City Council, and the reality is they have not responded."

::

The midsummer rallies and protests were seen by some as evidence that Anaheim's Latino community was finally flexing its political muscle.

Once staid City Council meetings were packed with local activists calling for election reform, citizens' oversight of police, and increased spending in poor and working-class neighborhoods. People booed and applauded raucously and called council members out by name.

"They can be very aggressive," said Councilwoman Lucille Kring. "They'll be clapping and whistling and applauding, and they're giving us the finger ... I cannot believe there's no respect."

Juan Alvarez, a middle school teacher who began attending council meetings after the summer protests, saw it differently.

"These people who have been running the city politics are relying on the fact that citizens are ignorant about what's going on," Alvarez said. But, he added, "we're figuring out how broken the system is."

Latinos now make up about 53% of the 340,000 people who live in Anaheim, but there are no Latinos on the City Council. A census analysis by The Times showed the town is deeply segregated along ethnic and economic lines.

One major demand spurred by the unrest was a call to change the city's at-large voting system to elections by district. The issue is also the subject of an ACLU lawsuit.

But the push for change seemed to stall when the council put off a decision on council districts, appointed a committee and then put aside the committee's recommendation that the matter be put to a citywide vote.

Instead, the council approved a requirement that council members live in specific districts but otherwise left at-large voting intact. Local activists saw the change as little more than a slight variation of the status quo. Again, some said they felt tuned out.

Councilwoman Gail Eastman said she believes the council district model pushed by Latino activists would actually leave residents with fewer representatives to respond to their calls.

She said meetings have become a sort of "endurance thing."

"I have to sit there, because I can't respond. I can't explain anything, I can't clarify anything. All people do is come and yell and try and beat us into submission."

Eastman and others say the city has increased spending on struggling neighborhoods. They point to such projects as a new neighborhood center, a community center, increased library hours and a half-acre park near the site of one of the police shootings

Others say the spending pales in comparison with money spent on the city's glittering resort district — a grand train station, a proposed streetcar project and a $158-million tax incentive given to the developer of two luxury hotels.

In his State of the City address earlier this year, Mayor Tom Tait described a sense that two Anaheims now exist. Some called his language divisive. On key issues Tait, a Republican, often finds himself advocating for the positions of local activists and at odds with the rest of the council. He said that city leaders have been reluctant to embrace change and that people can feel it.

Those advocating for change have seen "some differences from the community," he said. "On the bigger political issues, they're still waiting."

Balloons, flowers and a bottle of sweet red wine still stand as part of a memorial on Anna Drive marking the spot where Manuel Diaz, 25, was killed last summer.

Diaz, who was unarmed, was shot once in the back of the head and once in the buttocks. Officers said that he was a member of the Eastside Anaheim gang and that they believed he had a gun and was turning to shoot.

The tension between residents and police was immediately clear.

"Maybe where we thought we had a really solid relationship with the community, maybe those relationships weren't as solid as we thought," said Interim Police Chief Raul Quezada.

Weeks after the unrest, hundreds of law enforcement officers made their way to back to Anna Drive.

As they fanned out in the neighborhoods, they arrested dozens of Eastside Anaheim members and seized dozens of guns. Some felt it was retaliation for confronting police over Diaz's death. Officers said it was a long-planned offensive against the real menace in the flatlands — gangs. Earlier this year, the district attorney's office put Anna Drive and its surrounding neighborhoods under a gang injunction.

The crackdown and injunction are meant to make people feel safer, police said. Others said it paints youths in those neighborhoods as criminals. Quezada said his department is doing its best.

"We're listening," he said.

On larger operations, police began distributing fliers explaining what they were doing. Complaint forms and policy manuals became available on the department's website, which "hadn't been updated in years," Quezada said. And officers must now digitally audio-record their interactions.

Donna Acevedo, the mother of the man who was killed by police after Diaz, has met with Quezada and said she feels "like I'm being heard now. But I think these are just baby steps."

Acevedo and others believe a citizens' oversight commission is needed to investigate allegations of police misconduct. They were disappointed that D.A. investigations into last year's police shootings found them legally justified. The mayor agrees with setting up a commission, saying in his address to the city that any "organization that investigates itself will always be challenged." So far, the idea appears to have little traction.

On the one-year anniversary of her son's death last Monday night, Acevedo and a few dozen people gathered for a vigil on Guinida Lane, in the parking lot where her son was shot. Police said Joel Acevedo, 21, shot at a pursuing officer before he was killed. His mother believes a gun was planted on him.

On the sidewalk nearby, someone had sketched the police outline of body in pink chalk.

"We miss you Joey," it read.

Disney in control of Charter Review Commission

Enough is Enough Mickey! You've already siphoned off $319 million of taxpayer funds for your private streetcar project. Not to mention the sweetheart deals connected to the Honda Center, Angel Stadium, the GardenWalk Hotel, and the resort area improvements. Now you want to get your white gloves on the charter (constitution) of the City of Anaheim. When are you going to learn to be a good citizen and not the rat you've become. 

For the uninformed, here is the cast that Disney has chosen (Disney lobbyist Carrie Nocella pictured below):

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Craig Farrow  - GardenWalk Hotel giveaway afficiando

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Gloria Maae - card caring SUCK OUR ANAHEIM RESOURCES (SOAR) member

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Todd Ament  - employer of Matt Cunningham who supported pedophile priest enabler John Urell amongst other nefarious activities. Mr. Ament also is the show runner for the Anti-Anaheim Blog that on a daily basis spins the truth for Disney.

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Keith Olesen  - Anaheim's biggest sellout and lap dog of Kris Murray.

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Amanda Edinger  - known for her anti-immigrant online rants, which comes as no surprise as she was given this post by Lucille Kring.

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Anaheim Council Majority Tells the People: “Up Yours!”

By Cynthia Ward: 

There is a fine line between conceit and arrogance.  Conceit assumes that you know better than all others, that your way is best.  Arrogance presumes not only that your way is best, but that the rest of us are ungrateful curs for not readily thanking you for that brilliant leadership.  Arrogance rubs your nose in the funky-spot of the bad decisions made to the detriment of others.  Arrogance was displayed with a hey-nonny at tonight’s Anaheim City Council meeting.  [July 2, 2013]

Gail Eastman

Gail Eastman

Tonight a 3-2 vote of the Council majority, Eastman, Kring, Murray, essentially told the people of Anaheim “Up Yours.”  There is just no other way to say it.  OK perhaps substituting the F word… (which I did repeatedly while watching their arrogance on my computer screen but we won’t go there.)

Following through on their previous meeting’s discussion, they were now able to agendize the Santa Ana model of voting, to be put on the upcoming ballot.  As usual, the mild-mannered man we voted to lead us as the independently elected Mayor tried to inject some level of wisdom into the discussion, and as usual the deliberate, intentional stubbornness of the majority prevailed.  Mayor Tait pointed out that what they were offering was a “choice” between the At-Large system we have now or the At-Large system they are promoting, which really is no choice at all.  Oh, and by the way, it is not really a Charter change, because it is really not “District” elections;  thus voting for this on a ballot is superfluous because the change can simply be enacted by Ordinance.  But they voted 3-2, Tait and Brandman against.  Then they put the REAL Districts up as the next Agenda item, and while Tom Tait challenged them to explain why leaders would not allow voters to actually have a say in how we will be governed, they arrogantly voted…surprise!  3-2, Brandman and Tait voting for Districts, Eastman, Kring and Murray voting against.

I have to echo the thoughts of Mayor Tait.  Why would any leader in a truly free society not allow their constituents to choose how we are to be governed?  And because I am nowhere near as nice a person as Tom Tait, I will answer that rhetorical question:

I think their stranglehold on the election system of Anaheim is rooted in fear, a fear so deep it wakes them up at night, sweating, panicked.

They know, despite the assurances of Dennis DeSnoo and Curt Pringle and Lucy Dunn, they know how utterly resented they are in some areas of Anaheim.  And after the latest hypocrisy that resentment may very well turn to hatred.  They do not dare allow us a voice or our shouts will be heard out to San Bernardino, with the echo of “Throw the Bums OUT!”

Read the full story here: 

http://www.orangejuiceblog.com/2013/07/anaheim-council-majority-tells-the-people-up-yours/ 

 

Pringle chickens out . . .

Curt Pringle, clearly afraid of Mayor Tait's call for 700 forms, has withdrawn from the Charter Review Committee. If he had been forced to fill one out, all of Anaheim would see his fingerprints on every sordid financial deal that his corrupt majority has pushed thru. 

Curt Pringle with Kris Murray

Curt Pringle with Kris Murray

Save Anaheim recently verified that Curt Pringle was in fact the lobbyist for the $158 million GardenWalk Hotel Giveaway via a PRA request. The request asked for information regarding any meeting between council members and folks connected to the giveaway.

This was Lucille Kring's response:

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Pringle's ARTIC train station sucks $133 million from budget.

Let's do the math folks.

According to the OC Register the new budget includes $307 million in capital improvements.

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Kris Murray

Kris Murray

Of that, $133 million is earmarked to build the ARTIC train station and only $11.7 million will be set aside for renovating or building parks throughout the city, including a half-acre pocket park at Guinida Lane and completion of the Miraloma Park and Family Resource Center.

Once again, clearly the priorities of the council majority led by Kris Murray are not those of the residents. 

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Anaheim Council Priorities: Tennis Anyone?

From The Liberal OC: 

While the priorities and antics of the current majority on the Anaheim City Council have been both entertaining and disturbing, the latest bit of budget news has us asking WTF? Voice of OC’s Adam Elmahrek reported yesterday that someone on the Council directed staff to resurrect a $6.4 million budget allocation for the renovation of the Anaheim Tennis Center and Wagner House, a city-owned property that is not free to the public. The allocation is the single largest capital improvement allocation in the parks and recreation budget for FY 2013-14.

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In a city where there is a dramatic and disproportionate allocation of resources targeted to the more affluent areas of the city, and in the context of the civil unrest of last summer, we can think of no better example of how the elected leadership is out-of-touch and unrepresentative of the population of the city. Elmahrek points out in his article that Mayor Tom Tait claims to have previously had the item pulled from the budget allocations last year characterizing the expenditure as a waist of public funds.

Read the full story here: 

http://www.theliberaloc.com/2013/06/18/anaheim-council-priorities-tennis-anyone/ 


Millions Budgeted for Tennis Center Sparks Outrage in Anaheim

From The Voice of OC: 

On a late Friday afternoon at Little People's Park in Anaheim's heavily Latino central core, a group of residents gathered across the street from the park's urban mural, an aging brick facade emblazoned with cultural images to commemorate a 1978 Latino riot at the park triggered by anger at police mistreatment.

One of the residents, a young Latino man named Sergio, walked over to the park's small grass field, took a swig from his brown paper bag and gazed across the yellowing patches to where the children ran. Sergio wondered aloud when the park is going to get restrooms, which he says are part of the park's “blueprints.”

“Some of the kids piss in the bushes,” he said. “The blueprints say the park has restrooms. Well, where they at?”

Curt Pringle

Curt Pringle

Anaheim leaders said that they are aware of such issues and that next fiscal year's budget, scheduled for a public hearing at Tuesday's City Council meeting is sensitive to the Latino community's frustration over unfair distribution of city resources. A city news release and budget overview highlights scheduled construction plans for parks and community centers in Latino neighborhoods.

But not included in the news release or budget overview is Anaheim's largest planned parks and recreation expenditure for the 2013-2014 fiscal year:  a $6.4-million renovation to the city-owned Anaheim Tennis Center and Wagner House, which is a few miles away from Little People's Park in a wealthier neighborhood.

The pay-to-play tennis club has a "multimillion-dollar look," according to its operator, and features several tennis courts, a lounge area with hardwood floors, large windows and a stone fireplace with an engraved mantle. The $6.4 million will go toward "additional lockers, showers and restrooms...and new historically-themed outdoor garden for social gatherings and weddings,” among other things, according to budget documents.

The planned improvements to the tennis club have not only outraged members of the Latino community, but also Mayor Tom Tait.

“Spending that much money on the [tennis center]? what about Little People's park?” said activist Seferino Garcia. “They need help. They need a lot of help there.”

There is $1.5 million in the budget for various other park improvements, including "restroom improvements," across the city. But it is not clear whether Little People's park is on that list.

'Incredibly Tone Deaf

Tait agrees with Garcia on this issue, which is why he halted the renovation plans to the tennis center when he took office, arguing that it was a waste of public funds that could be used to buy more parkland or for multiple improvements across the city.

How the tennis center made it back into the budget is unclear -- Tait was unaware until a Voice of OC reporter informed him. The mayor was livid when he found out.

“Incredibly tone deaf. You would do that now, after you have civil unrest in two Anaheims, your biggest project is a tennis facility, with banquet facilities, and catering, and so you can have your finger food?” said Tait, who has made bridging the gap between what he calls the "two Anaheims" a goal of his first mayoral term. “Unbelievable.”

Members of the council majority who will be setting priorities for the budget, including council members Jordan Brandman, Lucille Kring and Gail Eastman, did not return phone calls seeking comment. Councilwoman Kris Murray could not be reached for comment.

City spokeswoman Ruth Ruiz pointed out that the budget hasn't been adopted yet, and that the City Council will have the ultimate decision. She said funding for the tennis center improvements (and those for Ponderosa Park) come from the Platinum Triangle development, and are to be specifically used for improvements that are geographically close to the Platinum Triangle.

"These funds cannot be shifted to projects outside the sphere of the Platinum Triangle development area,” Ruiz wrote in an email to Voice of OC. “As with a lot of projects in the CIP their inclusion in the CIP is not an automatic guarantee those projects will be built in a certain budget year.”

Ruiz's words won't placate Latino activists, who cite the budgeted renovations as proof that, despite a downtown riot of mostly Latino youth last year and a contentious battle over Latino representation on the City Council, city officials are not sensitive to the needs of their communities.

“I don't know nobody that goes there and plays tennis,” said Garcia, who is also executive director of Solevar Community Development Corp. “And yet the downtown gymnasium is overcrowded.”

The tennis center is, however, important to one prominent Anaheim resident. Former Mayor Curt Pringle is a "tennis buff" whose children had played at the center while on high school tennis teams, according to Mike Nelson, the center's operator. Pringle was a strong supporter of the center's rehab, which has been in the works for years, Nelson added.

Tennis Center Rehab Comes Amid Tense Time

The budget planning comes during one of the most sensitive times in city history. Latino activists have been pushing to change the city' at-large council election system to election by district, which they believe would yield not only more Latino representatives, but also representatives who cater to their underserved neighborhoods.

“They've been excluding us for quite some time,” Garcia said of city leaders. “They have forgotten about us.”

Fair representation is also at the center of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the city alleging a violation of the California Voting Rights Act, which requires adequate council representation for certain minorities. More than 50 percent of the city is Latino, but none sit on the council.

Yet, the all white, five-member council in a split 3-2 vote last week rejected a ballot measure that could have changed the city's at-large election system to district elections.

Latinos say the planned tennis center spending is a perfect example of why the electoral system needs to be changed.

“I don't know anybody that plays tennis,” said Marisol Ramirez, a 21-year-old resident of West Anaheim. “If they would have approved district elections, then we would have a better sense of our priorities in each of the districts.”

There is some spending slated for improvements in Latino neighborhoods, the budget documents presented so far. Among other expenditures, a half-acre park at Guinida Lane is projected to cost $375,935. And the city is to spend $470,000 on the Miraloma Park and Family Resource Center.

But the tennis center renovation will cost $1.1 million more than the rest of the parks projects combined for next fiscal year. A community center and gymnasium planned at Ponderosa Park is projected to cost $6.1 million. But according to budget documents, the spending for that project won't begin until fiscal year 2015-16.

The tennis center, while a city-owned facility, is a privately run business. Nelson said that the tennis center is a community asset because, while there's no free use of the courts or free rental of the reception area, membership at the club is substantially less expensive than at private clubs.

Nelson acknowledged that there are free tennis courts in the city, but that they aren't safe courts. By providing a safe place to play tennis – at five dollars a session – and a location for cheaper wedding receptions than in swanky Newport Beach, Nelson said he is providing a valuable public service.

“It gives the city a place that's not out of reach for people,” Nelson said. “We're doing a great service for the city.”