Activists Blast Anaheim Stadium Lease Negotiations

From The Voice of OC: 

Former Anaheim Councilwoman Lorri Galloway and a group of activists Thursday morning criticized a pending agreement to lease Angels baseball team owner Arte Moreno 155 acres of land for $1 a year, calling the negotiations lopsided in favor of Moreno and a potential giveaway that will impact residents for generations to come.

The Anaheim City Council earlier this month approved a preliminary framework outlining the terms of a lease that could keep the Angels in Anaheim, but also grant Moreno a large swath of land surrounding the stadium. Moreno could develop the area and use the revenue to finance up to $150 million in stadium renovations. He could also keep a yet-to-be-determined amount of tax revenue from the development.

Lorri Galloway

Lorri Galloway

Negotiations started because of a trigger clause in the current lease that allows the Angels to terminate the lease during a four-month window beginning in late 2016, or be locked in until 2029. The 4-1 council vote this month – with Mayor Tom Tait dissenting -- extended the trigger clause until 2019, which gives Moreno another three years to negotiate a potential move of the team to another city.

City officials, such as Assistant City Manager Paul Emery, argue that the Angels provide an economic engine that would leave with them.

Critics say extending the trigger clause gave away city leverage in negotiations over the long-term deal by allowing Moreno more time to organize a credible threat of finding a new location for the team. A city consultant argued that this threat already existed, and the extension was necessary to relieve pressure on Moreno that could lead him to make "irrational" decisions.

Activists say that machinations to benefit Moreno show that nobody at the city is negotiating on behalf of the public.

“Who is representing the people's interest? Who is representing us?” Galloway said. “Why give [the land] away for nothing? It makes no sense.”

The coalition of activists – known as Take Back Anaheim – formed in response to a controversial $158 million tax subsidy for a hotel developer. They say that the preliminary deal points in the stadium lease are another outrageous giveaway by a four-member council majority controlled by elite business interests.

City Hall blogger Cynthia Ward announced the incorporation of entity that will raise funds to take action – legal or otherwise -- against the council majority's corporate subsidies.

Wally Courtney, a Real Estate broker with Paul Kott Realtors, said he ran into City Manager Marcie Edwards and asked her what would have happened had the council postponed the vote to extend the trigger clause for three weeks, as Tait had requested.

Edwards replied, “probably nothing,” according to Courtney.

“So the question is, what's the rush?” Courtney said.