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

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

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.

OCTA Should Just Say No to the Disney Trolley

From The Voice of OC: 

LETTER IN OPPOSITION TO “Anaheim Rapid Connection Locally Preferred Alternative” — AKA — The REALLY REALLY Expensive Taxpayer-Funded Trolley to Disneyland’s Front Door.

Dear OCTA Member:

Some of you on the OCTA Board of Directors know me, others do not. By way of introduction my name is Jon Fleischman. I am the publisher of theFlashReport.org website on California politics. I am a former Executive Director of the California Republican Party. Here in Orange County I am a long-time elected member of the Orange County GOP Central Committee, a member of the Lincoln Club, and am an activist for conservative candidates and causes.

I admit that most of my attention is spent focused on what is taking place in Sacramento. These days, with the pervasive control that the state’s public employee unions have in the State Capitol, it’s not pretty. I only reference my focus on State Capitol politics as an explanation for dropping you a last minute, brief note on an issue that frankly deserves much more attention.

Let me caveat my remarks below by saying that as a strong advocate for lower taxes, Measure M, and it’s renewal were two local taxes that I actually supported. All you need to do is look attentively as you cross the border between Orange County and any neighboring county to see what our own investment into transportation infrastructure has meant for the standard of living for all who live here.

Carrie Nocella - Disney's resident wicked witch who's goal is not get those Ruby slippers but taxpayer funds to build Disney a $319 million streetcar to shuttle guests to Disneyland.

Carrie Nocella - Disney's resident wicked witch who's goal is not get those Ruby slippers but taxpayer funds to build Disney a $319 million streetcar to shuttle guests to Disneyland.

That having been said, I have been reading for quite some time about a proposal to used well north of $100,000,000.00 in Measure M funds, paired up with an even larger chunk of federal transportation dollars, to contract an elaborate trolley system to run for a few miles through Anaheim, to basically end at the gates to Disneyland.

THIS IS A TERRIBLE WASTE OF TAXPAYER FUNDS.

Since I mention Disneyland I will throw our a few quick points on DL — I am a financial supporter, as I pay retail for my family to all have Premium passes every year. I visited the park myself over 50 times last year. I have gotten to know many of the people that work for DL, and consider them friends. It upsets me to no end when that company, whose national and state corporate level bias is Democrat, pitches in big bucks to statewide stuff I don’t like (most recently in favor of passing last year’s Prop. 30 statewide sales tax increase). It’s my understanding, by the way, that this proposal calls for Disney Corporation’s contribution to this trolley system to be exactly – zero. Great deal for them!

That having been said, it was never envisioned by me that by voting for Measure M that I would be, in essence, subsidizing the Mouse (with all due respect). It seems like a lack of acknowledgment of entry into the 21st Century that anyone would sink vast sums of money into heavy-duty fixed, in the ground transportation systems. Especially here in California. I say this as I look at our state’s quixotic efforts to lay down a massive High Speed Rail System that I think will never see the light of day, and if it does, it doesn’t show up in Orange County in my lifetime (I am 45).

The way I read it, there is a goal of moving people from Anaheim’s train station to Disneyland (and whatever stops happen to be in-between) — and these I guess would be Metrolink and Amtrak users as I told you I am skeptical of HSR, which Congress now opposes funding. That’s’ great. Use buses. You can use more or less of them depending on demand. And the cost is vastly cheaper. And to those “studies” that show more people would ride a trolley than a bus — well, I’m not really interested in using my tax dollars to provide Cadillac transportation when a chevy will due. And I will withhold editorial comment about the type of people that would “scoff” at riding a bus.

Using buses would not only save a lot of federal money here (and let’s remember we are all citizens of the United States — it is not okay to put federal money to a wasteful use here in Orange County as pork spending). But more importantly, it would free up vast sums of money to do what we desperately need Measure M funds to do — widen and make more usable our freeway system. By my “back of the napkin” match, using buses for this project in Anaheim would free up enough Measure M dollars to add an entire extra non-toll lane both N/B and S/B on the 405 freeway! Or think about those funds used to widen that horrific bottleneck at the 91 going out to the Inland Empire.

In case you hadn’t noticed — traffic in Orange County SUCKS. We should be making sure that NO FUNDS that COULD be used to mitigate freeway traffic are spent elsewhere, where permissible under the guidelines of Measure M.

Look, at this late date you have all probably been woo’d and schmoozed by all of the lobbyists pushing this trolley boondoggle. And no doubt the OCTA staff is “in love” with this sort of “signature project” that allows them to play SimCity with other people’s money.

But you were all elected to the OCTA Board, with an understanding that you represent the interests of those Orange Countians who are funding transportation projects through their sales taxes.

I strongly encourage you to vote against this project. Or at a very minimum continue this proposal and bring in some other points of view both on the folly of spending huge money on trolley systems, and also inviting a broader discussion about best use of Measure M dollars.

If you are a local elected official, looking for GOP support in your next election, you should at least be cognizant that if I feel this strongly about this waste of taxpayer dollars, I’m not going to be the only one.

In closing, I want to reiterate that I am not trying to beat up on my friends at Disneyland. I am used to the idea that corporations in modern times are all about figuring out how to get as much public money spent in ways that benefit them as possible. But it is not their decision to make, it is YOURS.

Remember when you sit in your meeting and the lineup of folks is there to tell you what a great idea this is that there is a reason why taxpayers are not lined up to oppose it — because their representatives in the room, on whom they count, are YOU.

Jon

P.S. My favorite “spin” in a cursory review of the staff report is the minimizing of the VAST AND HUGE cost of this trolley project by somehow comparing it to the even more ginormous costs of some sort of Disneyesque above ground monorail system — when the comparison should be between a permanent trolley system versus amping up more buses, which has the advantage of being totally flexible based on ACTUAL usage (visions of half empty trolleys, with Goofy, Mickey and their friends waving from the back, enter my mind).

 

Disney Streetcar throws Taxpayers under the bus!

By Cynthia Ward: 

Last year, an Anaheim City Council majority approved a $318 million publicly-funded streetcar running about 3 miles from the ARTICtransportation center (train station) north of the 57 freeway through the Platinum Triangle to theResort, with funds from County Measure M2 gas taxes, TID (tourism improvement district) taxes(2% of the 17% bed tax), and anticipated Federal taxes through the FTA (Federal Transit Authority) New Starts program. 

BusContemporary.jpg

“Taxes” means you and I, the public, pay for it. 

The rejected alternative to this over-$100-million-per-mile boondoggle? A $53 million enhanced bus proposal.   That’s still expensive, but over $250 million less than what they voted for.

Who benefits from this project?

The Disneyland Resort, of course, along with hotels, and other resort businesses. That’s because they can use the train station’s remote parking and get extra business that might be coming from the train. It also means Disney can potentially get their parking lot off the old strawberry field they bought and use it as the 3rdpark they have been planning for. 

Read the full story here: 

http://www.orangejuiceblog.com/2013/06/disney-streetcar-throws-taxpayers-under-the-bus/ 

 

Equal Voice for Every Neighborhood

Comments by Cynthia Ward: 

954789_10151432490147816_1184224401_n.jpg

Kris Murray's proposal to mimic Santa Ana with leaders representing Districts but elected at large is the worst of all possible worlds, combining the limited candidate pool of resident representation with the big money stakes of having to reach voters all over the city-using expensive mail. Anaheim's current system has created the train wreck (Resort streetcar wreck?) of seeing elected leaders beholden to the corporate interests who spent enough money on mail and advertising to get them elected.

This is how we end up with deals like the Gardenwalk hotel giveaway of $158 million to one already rich developer, look at who paid for all that mail that elected the current majority, you will find his money in every single one of those campaigns! Enough already!

Give us true representation with voting by district and within the district, no it is not perfect, no system is going to be, but at least a grass roots candidate could cover a smaller district with volunteers and get their message out, perhaps getting elected without owing their souls to the big money of Anaheim's political machine. That Murray and her ilk would even consider the system that maintains their base of power and money tells you exactly what she thinks of Anaheim voters, she does not seem to want you to have the voice in how you are governed, as proposed by Mayor Tait!

They denied the right to vote on this last year when they had the chance, before cubic bucks had been spent on the lawsuit. They denied the right to vote on tax giveaways like Gardenwalk. Even when they insist on forming a citizens advisory committee as a stalling tactic to try keeping their seats a little longer, when the answer they came back with matched the answer the Mayor proposed a year ago, they now dismiss it and come up with what they want anyway.

Are they afraid that unless their friends can shut out opponents with money and advertising the people of Anaheim might very well choose someone else to lead us? You better believe it! 

 

The Two Faces of Disney: word vs. deed on Anaheim Districting.

From The Orange Juice Blog:

Maybe I was a weird kid, but I never liked or trusted Disney.  Hated Disneyland and the gigantic, grinning, overbearing anthropomorphic animals, and didn’t like Disney’s films or cartoons.  They just gave me the feeling, even as a kid, that they were lying to me, covering up important things about life.  Much preferred Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Wizard of Oz, and the books of Lewis Carroll.

mickey-mouse-trap---graphicshunt.com.jpg

Years later, as a thirty-year old father, I came to appreciate… well, at least Mary Poppins andDumbo.  And as a tolerant American I realize Disney brings joy to millions, employment to thousands, and contributes to Anaheim’s economy although not nearly as much as it could and should.

So maybe I was especially qualified, when Disney released its celebrated August 8 statement last year in support of district elections in Anaheim, to look at it a little skeptically.  The headlines in all the papers read “Disney Comes Out in Support of District Elections!”  But I read the statement closely, and several times.  Here it is, and I’ve taken the liberty of bolding the third paragraph:

Dear Honorable Mayor Tait and Members of the Anaheim City Council:

Anaheim has been the home of the Disneyland Resort for nearly six decades.  As the city’s largest employer and an active community partner, one of our primary areas of focus has always been what is best for the city and its residents.  As communities evolve, so should their policies and structures.  Such is the case in Anaheim, where it is time to consider a change in the way future city leaders are elected.

We believe that city leadership should reflect the diversity of its entire population.  We support a city council elected from districts and encourage the City of Anaheim to move from at-large elections to district voting.  This shift will allow each valued neighborhood to be represented by a local council member of their choosing.  Though there are many ways to accomplish this change, we believe the most responsive way would be to place a charter amendment switching to district elections on an upcoming ballot for the voters of Anaheim to consider.

At the same time, the city could begin an open and transparent, citywide dialogue with an independent, unbiased and equitably distributed group of Anaheim residents to determine the number of seats, district boundaries, and a new governance structure for the city – one that fairly represents residents in every Anaheim neighborhood.

Anaheim is a culturally rich and vibrantly diverse city.  We believe this change would be a step toward an even stronger and more prosperous Anaheim.

Sincerely,
George M. Kalogridis
President
Disneyland Resort.

So.  That hit the world on the morning of August 8, the day that we all knew Mayor Tait was planning to  propose putting the matter on November’s ballot (just as Disney had suggested.)  All the media reported this uncritically as a straightforward endorsement for the reform, but I couldn’t help reading that third paragraph as a blueprint for procrastination and having it both ways:  Disney and its allies could appear to come out on the right, progressive side of history – in favor of democracy and diversity – while still putting off any change for as long as possible (since the status quo is serving them SO damn well) by the mechanism of endless endless study.

Read the full story here:

http://www.orangejuiceblog.com/2013/03/the-two-faces-of-disney-word-vs-deed-on-anaheim-districting/

Pringle's Folly

From The OC Politics Blog:

EB-from-Haster.jpg

About five years ago when he was the Mayor of Anaheim, Curt Pringle dreamed of a regional transportation center for his city — a place they named ARTIC which would be the Orange County station for the equally dreamy California High-Speed Rail system which would be zipping through town on its way to San Diego, or charging northward to LA’s Union Station (over, under or through some of the densest urban residential housing in California) and onto San Francisco and Sacramento.

Curt Pringle

Curt Pringle

The Mayor-for-hire, as he was known at Friends for Fullerton Future, or Master of the Universe as he was tagged last year at the union-funded Voice of OC, didn’t stop with just a $184 million train stationthat would partly be paid for by OCTA’s Measure M where Board Member Pringle sat for years.  From concocted ridership projections, he fantasized that Disney patrons would be coming to ARTIC by the millions, but still needed to be transported to the Mouse’s cash registers, miles away from the bullet train, and on the wrong side of the 5 Freeway.  Since Walt Disney already had a world-famous one, Pringle announced in 2007 that he needed aMONORAIL for the Disney visitors.

Read the full story here:

http://ocpoliticsblog.com/pringles-folly/#more-10591

Anaheim Releases Questionable Emails

Anaheim officials Monday released an email chain that has raised questions at City Hall over whether local officials planned to misrepresent information to a federal agency in order to obtain transportation grant funding.

The emails were released following a Voice of OC article published last Friday that quoted Mayor Tom Tait and other City Hall sources saying that on its face the email was “very disturbing.”

Natalie Meeks on the left with Kris Murray

Natalie Meeks on the left with Kris Murray

The Feb. 2008 email chain shows Anaheim Public Works Director Natalie Meeks planning to ask for funds for one phase of the then planned monorail project but actually use the money for something else. The project has since been changed to a proposal for a less expensive streetcar system.

According to Tait, who has questioned the cost of the proposed streetcar system, there were two explanations for the email chain. One explanation has it being little more than confused wording, but another indicates a plan to deceive federal officials, Tait said.

City spokeswoman Ruth Ruiz said Monday that it is the former.

Read the full story here:

http://www.voiceofoc.org/oc_north/article_16bd092e-6f5b-11e2-846b-001a4bcf887a.html

Save Anaheim Artwork

Right to left:

Todd Ament, Carrie Nocella, Reed Royalty, Kris Murray, Harry Sidhu, Curt Pringle, Jill Kanzler, Jordan Brandman, and Steve Lodge.

SOAR, Orange County Business Council, OC Taxpayers Association, Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, Disney

Kris Murray

Harry Sidhu

Gail Eastman

Disney vs. Anaheim

by Vern Nelson of the Orange Juice Blog

We broke the news here back in August, in our seminal and controversial piece “Disney’s Incest Problem,” that Disney and the OCEA had a secret gentleman’s agreement in this year’s Anaheim Council race – Disney would refrain from attacking OCEA’s boy John Leos, and OCEA would refrain from attacking Disney’s boy Jordan Brandman.

Transient

This was around the same time – could it have been exactly the same time? – as the obvious Faustian bargain OCEA made with the Pringle/resort forces where the union would get that sweetheart deal from the Council majority in return for their yanking funding and support away from the “Let the People Vote” initiative.

Such nauseating secret bargains are never quite proven, they’re known first by rumor and then confirmed by the results we all witness.  We civilians only see the shadows of the miscreants flitting against the wall – inexplicably great deal passed, funding suddenly yanked without explanation, two controversial candidates passing unmolested by the moneyed forces, Brandman even receiving the Labor endorsement for Christ’s sake!

It’s never good for the little people when the most powerful forces make secret pacts with each other.  The simple man on the street – for example you or I – mutters to himself, “Shades of Darkness at Noon,” before remind himself that comparing Disney or OCEA to Stalin and Hitler is a bit of a stretch.   But still visions dance through the man on the street’s head of the final scene in Orwell’s Animal Farm:

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

Well, the good news is those days are over – Disney has been busted, by clever internet detectives including Save Anaheim’s Jason Young and Think OC’s Cynthia Ward, funneling money through the fatuous Lucy Dunn’s OC Business Council, which in turn hands it over to a PAC run by Curt Pringle and Councilwoman Kris Murray named “Citizens For Anaheim’s Future”  – who have in turn spent over 30 grand of laundered Disney money SO FAR sending out defamatory hit pieces on Leos and Kring.  (It’ll probably turn out this is also the way uber-hack Matt Cunningham is getting paid to run HIS poisonous little Bandman-Lodge bloglet.)

And this arrangement has not escaped the notice of the OCEA, whose canny general manager Nick Berardino won’t confirm or deny to me the existence of the original truce, but mourns to me with crocodile tears, “We never WANTED to attack Jordan, but seeing Disney’s money trail left us no choice.”  LOL.  Now the natural order is restored, men once again can be men and pigs pigs.  Let’s look at some of the fruits of the new hostilities, shall we?

Read the rest of the story at:

http://www.orangejuiceblog.com/2012/10/the-gloves-come-off-in-anaheim-the-blogosphere-salivates/

Disney funding NEGATIVE campaign

The Walt Disney Company is so desperate to retain power over the Anaheim City Council that they have begun funding a negative campaign against John Leos and Lucille Kring.

Here's how they have funneled their money to hit Mayor Tom Tait's reform team:

1. Disney directly gives $100,000 the Orange County Business Council (OCBC) in addition to $15,000 funneled thru SOAR aka Screw Our Anaheim Residents.

2. OCBC turns around and gives $24,000 to a PAC entitled Citizens for Anaheim's Future chaired by Anaheim City council member Kris Murray.

Transient

3. Citizens for Anaheim's Future spends the following on anti-Kriing/Leos mailers:

a. $11,1136.60 John Leos

b. $12,331.04 John Leos

c. $11,804.07 Lucille Kring

That's a whole lot of money spent on a negative campaign against candidates endorsed by The OC Register and Mayor Tom Tait.

The big questions is. Why would Disney spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to try and elect Jordan Brandman and Steve Lodge if there wasn't something in it for them? They have already been given $158 million for two luxury hotels they plan to brand/operate at GardenWalk. Puppets Eastman and Murray have green lit the $300+ million streetcar to ferry their guests. What more could Disney want in the next few years?

Where does all the Anaheim Resort revenue go?

TOT, for those first-timers to Save Anaheim, stands for Transient Occupancy Tax. It is charged to each guest who stays in an a resort area hotel. The funds generated are used by the City of Anaheim in various capacities.

At a recent Anaheim City Council candidate debate the idea of setting aside 1% of the TOT for various city services was proposed. I personally think this would be the ideal way to fund a pro-active code enforcement dept., increase graffiti abatement efforts, clean up our parks, and provide for services that directly affects the residents.

Pringle sympathizers have stated that "In fact, what this approach does is compresses elected officials’ room to maneuver when setting budget and policy priorities — which is what we elect them to do."

The problem is, the priorities of this current council majority have not been focused on the needs of the residents. Instead they have focused on spending millions on the Anaheim Resort area. That is why the idea of a gate tax or setting aside 1% of the TOT revenue has been proposed. If we don't set aside funds specifically for residential services the council majority will simply continue to giveaway vital TOT revenue to Anaheim Resort causes.

Did you know that 50% of the TOT revenue generated goes right back to the resort area to pay off debt (according to City of Anaheim spokesperson Ruth Ruiz)? Debt the city incurred that directly benefits the Disneyland Resort. Such as new landscaping, road improvements, custom street lighting, fencing, etc. . .  

So out of $90 million collected only $45 million remains in the City of Anaheim's general fund. Asking for a mere 1% to be diverted to fund services that directly benefits the residents doesn't seem like a whole lot to ask for.

Disney lobbyist Carrie Nocella, Councilwoman Kris Murray, and their puppet candidate Jordan Brandman.

Disney lobbyist Carrie Nocella, Councilwoman Kris Murray, and their puppet candidate Jordan Brandman.

Disney wants more Anaheim tax $$$$$

It isn't enough that Disney and their minions at SOAR, OCTAX, OCBC, and The Anaheim Chamber of Commerce pushed thru the GIVEAWAY of $158 million in future tax revenue to build 2 luxury hotels at the GardenWalk Ghost Town. Hotels that were, and I believe still are, slated to be operated and branded as Disney properties. 

Disney President George Kalogridis and Jordan Brandman.

Disney President George Kalogridis and Jordan Brandman.

To jog your memory, read this portion of a City of Anaheim staff report and then watch SOAR aka Disney members vocally supporting the $158 million giveaway:

click to enlarge

Now Disney wants Anaheim and federal/state tax dollars to fund a ridiculous rail system to shuttle its guests between ARTIC, their future 4 star Disney branded and operated GardenWalk hotels, and the Anaheim Convention Center.

Disney's business model is absolutely genius. Here's how, I believe, they pulled off the $158 million GardenWalk Hotel deal:

Step 1: Mayor Curt Pringle begins subsidizing hotel development under his administration. GardenWalk Hotel developer and Pringle pal Bill O'Connell applies for the subsidy. The City of Anaheim hires Keyser Marston and Assoc. to determine how much subsidy is needed. O'Connell receives a $40 million subsidy and Disney gets on board to operate and brand the hotels once built. GardenWalk fails and goes bankrupt before the hotels are built.

Step 2: Disney spends hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2010 to elect a puppet council consisting of Eastman, Murray, and Tait. All backed by Disney, SOAR, OCBC, OCTAX, and the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. Unfortunately for them, Tom Tait can't be bought but that's no problem  cause they still have Sidhu when it comes to voting to increase the subsidy.

Transient

Step 3: O'Connell comes back to the council (with Pringle now his paid lobbyist) and asks for an increase of $118 million (80% of the TOT for 15 years) due to the current market conditions. Without any study whatsoever to determine if this amount is reasonable (as they had done in 2009), Kris Murray, Gail Eastman, and Harry Sidhu vote to giveaway $158 million in future tax revenue. Mayor Tom Tait, Lorri Galloway, and our current City Manager and former finance director Bob Wigenroth OPPOSE the plan. Subsequently a lawsuit is filed against the City of Anaheim and a drive to allow voters to  approve future subsidies is set in motion. 

Transient

Step 4: The Anaheim City Clerk gives incorrect information to the group trying to get a ballot measure passed to allow voters to approve future subsidies. Signature drive fails. Mayor Tait brings forward a motion to put ballot initiative on the ballot and it is voted down by the Disney majority. Murray, Eastman, and Sidhu claim it's all about jobs when the reality is there is no agreement that calls for anyone local to be hired, to pay prevailing wages, or hire union labor. In addition there is no community benefit (ie. parks, affordable housing, etc. .) like there was for LA Live in downtown LA (which was heavily subsidized). LA residents received the following community benefits in relation to the LA LIVE Project:

$1,000,000 for the creation or improvement of parks and recreational facilities.

$25,000 per year for a term of five years for the creation of a residential parking permit program.

An agreement to comply with the city’s living wage ordinance and to make all reasonable efforts to reach the goal of ensuring that 70% of the jobs created by the project pay a living wage.

An agreement to give priority hiring to persons displaced by the project and to low income individuals residing within three miles of the project.

Job training programs to be coordinated with community groups.

$100,000 in seed money for a first source (i.e. local) hiring program.

A requirement that 20% of the residential units in the project be affordable.

$650,000 in interest-free loans to non-profit housing developers for the creation of additional affordable housing.

An agreement to cooperate with the coalition to establish an advisory committee to assist with the implementation and enforcement of the agreement.

Step 5: The heavily Disney funded groups (OCBC, SOAR, OCTAX, Chamber of Commerce) work to elect new puppets to replace Galloway and Sidhu. Choosing to run Jordan Brandman and Steve " Chavez" Lodge. Apparently they didn't vet Lodge cause it turns out he was found liable for using excessive force against a jaywalker and cost the City of Santa Ana hundreds of the thousand of dollars. Documents from the case, obtained by our sources, show that the federal judge called Lodge a liar.

click to enlarge

Then we have Jordan Brandman who:

a. Vocally supported the giveaway of $158 million in future tax revenue at two city council meetings.

b. Takes credit for Oxford Academy for which he had nothing to do with.

c. Is being investigated by the DA for wrongdoing at AUHSD.

d. Opposed the Let the People vote initiative that would have put future giveaway decisions in the hands of Anaheim voters.

e. Supported by SOAR, OCBC, OCTAX, and The Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. The four entities that could care less about our community and who's sole purpose is to line their own pocketbooks.

Jordan Brandman with Disney lobbyist Carrie Nocella inside Disneyland.

Step 6 (the future): Brandman gets elected, cause we all know Lodge is toast, and continues the master plans of Eastman/Murray/Pringle/Disney. Which would include:

1. Expanding the Anaheim Convention Center by using the nonexistent additional TOT revenue that they gave away to the GardenWalk Hotel developer for 15 years.

2. Pushing forward Disney's taxpayer funded rail system to shuttle their guests. to their new GardenWalk Hotels and theme parks.

3. Use the failed ARCTIC transportation hubs massive parking garage to house Disney's 3rd gate parking lot. Why build it themselves when they can have one built on someone else's dime and reap all the benefits?

4. Grant more and more extensions to the GardenWalk hotel developer and maybe even approve a larger more outrageous TOT subsidy. Cause we all know it's really about jobs not corporate welfare to the elite of OC.

Curt Pringle enjoying an event thrown by OCBC.

Mr. Pringle, do you realize that I would never have created this blog, spent money promoting candidates and opposing yours, spoken out at council meetings, commented on articles online, distributed lawn signs, filed public records requests, etc. . if you and your council majority simply took care of the basics:

1. A pro-active code enforcement department to keep property owners accountable for maintaining their properties. I shouldn't have to call the city to come out and force my neighbors to simply mow their lawn, paint their house, pick-up trash, etc. . .

2. A graffiti abatement program staffed by full time employees not the part time folks we have working on it now. A full time problem needs a full time staff. Funny how I never see graffiti in the Disneyland Resort area.

3. Curbing the swap meets that take place on my neighbors lawns on a weekly basis. Garage sales are for getting rid of unwanted junk once a year not to supplement ones income.

4. Limiting the amount of ice cream trucks who annoy me and my neighbors on a daily basis. We are up to 4 right now. One plays Christmas music year round. :(

5. Cleaning up our parks, expanding library hours, replacing retired police office etc. . .

It's all about balance really. All of Anaheim needs to be supported not just the Anaheim resort. That's where you made your biggest mistake Mr. Pringle.

Curt Pringle giving his orders to Disney lobbyist Carrie Nocella.