A Man Apart

By The Voice of OC:

In a stark display of how politically isolated Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait has become, the City Council majority Tuesday night refused to increase funding for the mayor's policy aid position, leaving him without any staff to help with the daily work that faces his office.

Tait had requested that his office budget be increased by $30,000 so his policy aide, Mishal Montgomery, could be compensated through the end of the fiscal year in June. As it stands, the money to pay her ran out last month.

Tait made a motion to approve the increase, but none of his colleagues would second it. The mayor was visibly angry and loudly pounded his gavel when Councilman Jordan Brandman interrupted him to say the motion had died.

Tom and Julie Tait

Tom and Julie Tait

“I thought I'd seen it all, but apparently not,” Tait said.

Last June, the council majority -- then consisting of Kris Murray, Gail Eastman and former Councilman Harry Sidhu -- slashed the aide's maximum allowable compensation from $100,000 to $60,000, allocating the revenue saved for weekly computer and job training class at the Ponderosa Elementary School library.

The compensation cut, which brought Tait's aide budget to the same level as the other council members, was the only adjustment council members had made when approving the city's nearly $1.2 billion total budget.

The action was widely seen by City Hall watchers as political retribution for Tait's opposition to decisions the council-majority had favored and the mayor's numerous attempts to undo a controversial, $158-million tax subsidy for a hotel developer who helped finance council members' election campaigns.

Murray, nonetheless, had at the time said the cut wasn't personal. “My look was at the budget. Sixty thousand dollars for 30 hours a week is more than ample,” she had said.

Before Tait made his motion, he presented slides showing the staff and compensation for mayors of other cities. All had more staff members and had higher compensation. For example, in Riverside, a city smaller than Anaheim, the mayor has six staff members, with the highest compensated at $106,000 annually, according to Tait's slide.

Montgomery also had a $100,000 budget during the eight years she was aide to former Mayor Curt Pringle, a lobbyist who now represents many business interests in the city and is close to the council-majority.

Pringle and Tait, once friends, became political opponents after Tait won the mayor's race in 2010.

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