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This week, the Orange County Register (OCR, 2014) endorsed the re-election of Tom Tait as Anaheim’s mayor, calling him the “best [candidate] to lead the city.” Examining the rationale presented in its endorsement, however, I found little to justify the paper’s support.

The OCR cited Tait’s quelling anger and potential violence following riots during 2012 and supporting citizens’ oversight of the city’s police department.

t8The paper applauded Tait’s “dissenting voice,” a council member who consistently votes no “on numerous issues.” It cited Tait as the only council member to oppose a tax incentive to build a hotel near Disneyland and the city’s convention center.

Voting to approve a tax incentive to developers is not unusual, so voting no is not necessarily a virtue. The Los Angeles City Council awarded $500,000,000 in tax incentives for downtown economic development for 2015-2016 (Los Angeles Times, 2014).

Whether to offer a tax incentive depends on several factors; for example, (a) the need for a hotel that satisfies current convention needs and its potential to attract larger future conventions, (b) the return on investment that taxpayers would receive by building a hotel, and, most important, (c) whether not offering an incentive means not building a hotel and losing tax revenues. Tait’s vote seems like a no vote without consideration of positive aspects of providing a tax incentive.

Yes, Tait talks about transparency (endlessly), but the OCR did not cite any evidence of increased governmental transparency in Anaheim since he has been mayor. Transparency was confused with Tait’s rigidity and public comments that torpedoed the city’s negotiations with the Angels. And there is a difference between publicly discussing unfunded pension liabilities and solving this problem.

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Jose Moreno megaphone croppedNot ones to let mere partisan formalities separate kindred left-wing spirits, the Democratic Party of Orange County has endorsed Jose F. Moreno for Anaheim City Council — notwithstanding he has only been a Democrat since this month.

To recap: the Democratic Party of Orange County has endorsed Moreno for city council, and Measure L, which would carve Anaheim into single-member council districts.

Moreno also benefited from a $1,900 contribution on August 21 from the United Food and Commercial Workers union, Local 324. UCFW represents workers at the Disneyland Resort, Disneyland California Adventure, Downtown Disney and the Disney-owned hotel stores, among other places.

Convention CenterAnaheim topped a list of most sought-after event destinations, according to a story in the Orange County Business Journal:

Anaheim and Newport Beach were among the most-sought U.S. cities for events in the past year, according to a list released by a McLean, Va.-based online database of meetings venues.

Anaheim was up seven spots to No. 25 and Newport Beach came in at No. 49, up one notch, Cvent Inc. said.

Chicago, Las Vegas and Orlando were the top three cities, based on data from the Cvent Supplier Network database.

San Diego was No. 5, besting both New York City and Washington, D.C.

You can read the entire article here.

kris Murray at 7-22 mtgI don’t think any one doubted the outcome of last night’s meeting, but it was still heartening late last night when the Anaheim City Council voted 4-1 to approve the bonds to finance the expansion of the Anaheim Convention Center. Mayor Pro Tem Kris Murray and Councilmembers Gail Eastman, Lucille Kring and Jordan Brandman all voted yes, while Mayor Tom Tait voted no.

There was a huge turnout in support of approving the Convention Center bonds. Owners and operators of small and large businesses; union representatives; residents; single-moms; and hard-working folks in general asked the council, one after the other, to approve the bonds and get the Convention Center expansion moving forward.

The council majority spoke vigorously its support for the expansion and its opposition to the obstructionism of opponents. Kris Murray delivered impassioned oration drawing upon the examples of her predecessors and the plain requirements of the future.

“The fact is we have an opportunity in time. This is the seventh expansion. This isn’t 1960. This isn’t whether we get into the convention center business. that decision was made – thank God! Because our city is so far ahead of the curve financially from other cities – not just in the county, but around the state. In the Register today, two cities in orange County, Stanton and Placentia — Stanton tonight is considering a sales tax on their residence because they are cutting services because they can’t make ends meet; and so is Placentia. We have cities across the state filing for bankruptcy.  But Anaheim, courtesy of our Resort District, our stadium, the economic engines of this city – the Convention Center being a hallmark component of that – we aren’t in that position.  We are balancing our budget, reinvesting in police and fire, we are reinvesting in parks, and libraries, and roads, and potholes, and graffiti abatement. We are doing everything for neighborhoods because we have a thriving economy.
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This came over the transom earlier today from SOAR – Support Our Anaheim Resort:

SOARPAC_CelebSommeliers_FINALFINAL.105633

It’s a good event with good people for a good cause. You can RSVP to Jill@SOARanaheim.com.

2_medEditorials like the one this morning opposing the Anaheim Convention Center expansion cause me to wonder if the editorial page staff at the OC Register has any understanding or institutional knowledge of Orange County government and politics.

The editorial opines:

But the taxpayer shouldn’t be on the hook if that 2 percent tax doesn’t meet its projections, especially with municipal governments creeping more and more into territories outside the fundamental scope of government and into places they simply don’t belong. The convention center industry is certainly one of those places.

A better solution: cities should stay out of the convention center business or any of the other landlording niches that local governments, in Anaheim and elsewhere, have carved out for themselves. In these cases, it is preferable to let the private sector take the lead.

News flash for the OCR: the City of Anaheim is already in the convention center business, and has been for 47 years. The editorial’s opinion that the city shouldn’t get into the convention center business would have been far more timely in the 1966 – but it’s a little late for that in 2014.

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The OC Register published an article a couple of days ago reporting that – no surprise – that the top-performing stores in various franchises are located by Disneyland:

The Cold Stone Creamery outside Disneyland’s gates, at roughly 600 square feet, is smaller than most of the chain’s locations.

But don’t let that deceive you.

As many as 400 customers, including many tourists, come through each day during the summer. That’s enough to make the shop one of the top 10 performers among all Cold Stone franchises in the U.S.

In fact, the half-mile or so of South Harbor Boulevard leading up to Disneyland, laden with hotels and kid-friendly eateries, houses some of the top-performing stores for several national chains.

Those high achievers tend to be accessible, all-American brands that benefit greatly from their proximity to the Disney crowds – and the fact that tourists, many of whom are families on budgets, want decently priced food and goods, especially after an expensive day at the theme parks.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Liberal San Diego litigator Cory Briggs

Liberal San Diego litigator Cory Briggs

In his May 16 letter to the City of Anaheim, Greg Diamond of Brea – the “government accountability attorney” who represents his buddies from CATER – explains the secretive group’s lawsuit against the Anaheim Convention Center expansion “largely follows the reasoning sent to the City Council prior to its vote by Cory Briggs, Counsel for our Co-Plaintiff…” 

That’s helpful because CATER, self-proclaimed champions of transparency that they are, haven’t released their lawsuit to the public for whom they claim to be fighting. So if the public wants to have some inkling of the grounds on which CATER is driving up the cost of a Convention Center expansion they profess to support, they’ll have find their way to Diamond’s May 15 post on Orange Juice Blog. That’s a tall order since very few Anaheim residents have ever heard of Orange Juice Blog (lucky devils). Transparency in action – CATER-style!

In the sentence quoted above, Diamond pontificates about Brigg’s communication to the City Council, which he says “the City Council chose to ignore in approving the bonds without a legally mandated vote of the electorate.”

Diamond is talking about an e-mail Briggs sent to the Anaheim City Council. And when did councilmembers receive this warning they “chose to ignore”? At 3:06 p.m. on March 11 – a few minutes after the council convened for its workshop on the Convention Center expansion, prior to going straight into regular session.

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Anaheim Insider here.

Let’s begin  with the self-evident: stopping the Anaheim Convention Center expansion makes it harder (if not impossible) for Anaheim to compete-for and retain top tier conventions. Without the conventions, Anaheim hotels go unfilled. When the hotels are empty, local restaurants and tourism-dependent business suffer and close.

So then why does CATER seem so insistent on shutting this project down? They parade a list of obscure reasons but as far as I can tell it boils down to this: a small group of people without any background in public finance, public administration or with any credentials qualifying them as experts on multi-million dollar finance deals decided they didn’t like it.

Why don’t they like it? I suppose we should ask Mayor Tait or his handler. It seems this is just another part of the apparent War on Tourism launched in the last year or so.

Convention Center expansion: No.
Luxury Hotels: No.
Transportation projects for Anaheim: No.
Negotiations with the Angels: No.

Disneyland and the Ducks remain the only targets they haven’t attacked…yet. How long before that changes?

Complementing the preceding chorus of “Noes,” I have yet to see any action from the Mayor and CATER in support of Anaheim’s tourism industry or expanding Anaheim’s most critical source of general fund financing.

Why would these folks oppose Anaheim’s most important industry? Why would they try to hamstring expansion? Why would they seemingly take every step possible to hamper the expansion of Anaheim’s tax base? To undermine the city’s ability to provide services for residents?

Theories are welcome, because logic doesn’t apply.

Liberal San Diego litigator Cory Briggs

Liberal San Diego litigator Cory Briggs

Cory Briggs is at it again in Anaheim. The left-wing enviro-litigator from San Diego wants the Anaheim City Council to take his word that last week’s vote authorizing the expansion of the Anaheim Convention Center was illegal, per typically breathless, uncritical disclosure on the local fever swamp blog.

This is the same Cory Briggs who alleged, on behalf of the radical activist group OCCORD, that city councilmembers who voted last year to approve the GardenWalk economic assistance agreement were guilty of violating conflict-of-interest laws. Briggs called on the state Attorney General and the Orange County District Attorney to prosecute those four councilmembers. Briggs was blowing hot air back then (as was subsequently shown). It was a request for prosecution by Briggs that – per the OCCORD press release — was “a required legal step before the filing of a private lawsuit.” Despite his utter certitude that conflict-of-interest laws had been violated, Briggs never (to my knowledge) filed a lawsuit – not surprising given the flimsiness of the allegation.

Color me unimpressed by Cory Briggs’ latest allegation.

Heywood Sanders

Heywood Sanders

Who is Heywood Sanders?

He occupied a starring role as one of two experts in the Voice of OC extremely skeptical coverage of the Anaheim Convention Center expansion; and it was largely on Sanders’ views that Mayor Tom Tait based his opposition to the proposed expansion project.

It’s quickly apparent from a Google search that Sanders, a professor of public administration at the University of Texas’ San Antonio campus, is on a one-man crusade against municipal convention centers, flying all over the country to testify at city council meetings against plans to build or expand convention centers.

He carved out a voice-in-the-wilderness niche for himself with the publication of this Brookings Institution white paper in 2005, and it appears he’s never met a convention center proposal he didn’t dislike. Sanders’ contention then and now is that the convention center industry is overbuilt – and his views have fueled the critical coverage in the Voice of OC (“EXPERTS: ANAHEIM’S CONVENTION GAMBLE SURE TO FAIL”).

Sanders makes some valid points, but they are far more germane to attempts by smaller cities to jump-start a convention business in their communities. In his 2005 study, Sanders admits as much:

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The Anaheim City Council voted to approve the seventh expansion of the Anaheim Convention Center in its 47-year history. A long parade of speakers representing a broad spectrum of Anaheim – large and small businesses, labor, homeowners, activists — spoke enthusiastically in favor of approving the expansion.

Only Mayor Tom Tait dissented, unsuccessfully requesting to continue the item for another month.

The official staff presentation laid out various aspects of the expansion: how it would be built, how it would be financed, how it would enable the Convention Center to attract more business, what the economic benefits would be, etc.

Some of those cited:

  • an increase in 705,000 room nights to an upper range of more than 1,000,000 hotel room nights a year.
  • 4,600 with the status quo versus 9,800 when the expansion is completed.
  • An increase in direct spending in Anaheim from $133.8 million today to $160 million annually.
  • An increase in annual TOT revenue from $27.9 million today to $41.8 million.

The weight of evidence really was overwhelmingly in favor of approving the expansion. It was a big win for the city as a whole, and a smart investment in Anaheim’s future. And it was refreshing to be at an Anaheim City Council meeting that was civil, positive and not dominated by ranters and ankle-biters.

Kudos to the council for making a good deal a reality.

Voice of OC logoReading the two Voice of OC articles (here and here) that are very critical of the proposed Anaheim Convention Center expansion, it’s hard to miss repeated claims that “experts say” this and “experts say” that – and these “experts” have a uniformly negative attitude toward the expansion. The headline of the first article goes so far as to shout “Experts: Anaheim’s Convention Center Gamble Sure to Fail.” Now, that’s an astonishing thing to say: astonishingly ignorant, that is. Look out a window at the Resort area: yep, all this investing in the Convention Center has been a failed gamble, alright, and continuing such investment is doomed to failure.

Now, the repeated reference to the plural “experts” would lead the average reader to conclude this is a consensus opinion among convention industry experts. But is there? Who knows. The “experts” the Voice of OC points to consists of two guys. Unless they are America’s only existing experts on the convention business, two guys are hardly a consensus. Are we to believe there are no convention industry experts who hold a contrary opinion?

When it comes to the Convention Center expansion (and the Angels negotiations, as well), professional studies have been lambasted as generalities that aren’t specifically based on Anaheim’s situation. And yet, these two experts whom critics are relying have based their skepticism on generalities and not the specifics of Anaheim’s situation. One can’t have it both ways.

Anaheim RV villageThe OC Register reports that Disneyland has purchased the 11-acre Anaheim RV Village, with plans to convert it into a 1,400-space employee parking lot to accommodate increased demand for parking stemming from increased attendance at its parks:

The plot holds 293 trailer and camping spots aimed at Disney tourists, as well as an auto-repair facility, according to documents.

The new parking lot would replace spots in an employee lot off of Katella Avenue, which would be converted into visitor parking and be adjacent to the Toy Story lot.

Brown said the addition is needed because of the increase in attendance since the June 2012 unveiling of Disney California Adventure’s expansion that included immediately popular Cars Land. California Adventure had a 23 percent jump in attendance last year, up to 7.8 million, according to an industry report. Next door, Disneyland attracted 16 million.

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Anaheim Insider here.

Did you see the Orange County Register article about how the Orange County Employees Association shuffled political funding through various PACs in order to disguise who was paying the campaign mailers? Among other things, OCEA gave a PAC called California Citizens for Fair Government $75,000 in start-up donations, and provided 81% of the PACs funding during its three-year lifespan:

[OCEA General Counsel Don Drozd] said he checked with the treasurer of the OCEA PAC that funded CCFG and confirmed that OCEA had nothing to do with creating CCFG or deciding how CCFG should spend its money.

That’s pretty hard spin to swallow: “Here’s $75,000 of our members’ dues money. We don’t care what you do with it.”

One of the commenters on the OC Register story reacted this way:

Drozd and Bernadino have a firm grip on every decision OCEA makes. For him to say he didn’t recall the specifics, then specifically deny any strings were attached, is not credible. The proverbial hand in the cookie jar.

The story reminded me of one Adam Elmahrek wrote near the end of the Anaheim city council elections last year called “Disney’s Latest Adventure: Local Campaign Attack Ads.” In it, Elmahrek pointed to Disney’s participation in political committees that paid for campaign mailers advocating for and against Anaheim council candidates and unfavorably compared it to the OCEA’s above-board approach:

Labor unions have also spent big, nearly matching the business establishment dollar-for-dollar in their support of former labor leader John Leos. The difference is following the labor money is relatively easy, while keeping track of Disney’s spending is a bit like riding a roller coaster in the dark [emphasis mine].

Martin Wisckol and Morgan Cook of the OC Register sure made a hash of that claim.

It’s not like Voice of OC can’t analyze campaign reports. Elmahrek spent a lot of time doing that for the above article and for another one called “Disney’s Hidden Hand  In The Anaheim City Council Race.” It seems it’s the hidden hand of its major funder, the OCEA, that escapes the Voice’s notice. [Although the Voice did take advantage of the opportunity to say “See! We’ll criticize the OCEA!” by printing a summary of the OC Register’s article.]

As the home of Disneyland, Anaheim is ground zero for tens of thousand of Disney fans on a daily basis. That population will spike by 45,000 this weekend as the D23 Expo comes to the Anaheim Convention Center.

From the OC Register:

It’s the third biennial D23 Expo, the official Disney fan club’s get-together, at the Anaheim Convention Center, running today through Sunday.

“As we grow, this is probably the biggest and best year yet,” said Steven Clark, the head of D23.

Actors Billy Crystal and John Goodman will accept awards. Disney Channel stars from “Teen Beach Movie” and “Shake it Up” will appear. Tim Gunn, a “Project Runway” host, will do story time for children.

In the past, actor Johnny Depp made a surprise appearance. Officials one year announced that the Star Tours attraction at Disneyland would be updated.

This year?

Maybe Tom Hanks, playing Walt Disney in an upcoming movie, will show up. Or a new “Star Wars” attraction will be announced.

“There are always a few surprises that we don’t announce,” Clark said. “We have a pretty good track record from the past.”

There will be panel discussions and displays, too.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Saturday is sold out, but tickets for today and Sunday are still available.

 

Is this what passes for news nowadays?

Today, the Voice of OC reports that Disneyland has had input into the development of the Anaheim Rapid Connection system. Wow, what a shock. Public agencies (the smart ones, at least) always consult with and seek input from the public — which includes businesses — when developing transportation projects.  Yet, the Voice of OC and squeaky wheels like Cynthia Ward attempt to create the perception that doing so is suspect — at least when it comes to Disney.

Suppose the City of Anaheim and OCTA developed a transit system for the Anaheim Resort without any input from Disney, the largest single business in the resort? Suppose they broke ground and began construction without ever meeting with Disney and asking “Hey, you guys have 58 years of experience and loads of data on traffic patterns and resort visitor attitudes and habits. What do you think about having ARC stop at Disney Way.” Would anyone consider that intelligent planning?

[Maybe Cynthia Ward, whose published attitude is that the city can and should build some bare-bones system and Resort visitors should just suck it up and ride.]

Transportation projects are improved by seeking the input of impacted business and residents. Although the Anaheim Resort area is more than just Disneyland, it exists because of Disneyland. Millions of people come there every year, spending enormous sums of money and creating and sustaining thousands of jobs, because of Disneyland.

The usual Anaheim suspects have been demanding that Disney pay for the system. I expect that sort of talk from leftists like Jose Moreno, who have never met a corporation whose wealth they didn’t want to re-distribute. Indeed, Moreno and his cohorts want the city to impose a head tax on entry into Disneyland, Angel Stadium, the Honda Center (and likely growing list of attractions) fund their program for increased city spending.

Disney-phobia’s Warping Effect On Reason and Logic
But it is strange to hear self-identified conservatives echoing a leftist policy theme. Conservatives routinely — and rightly — blame much of the high-cost of housing on exactions and fees imposed on builders to “mitigate” the impact of more live bodies moving into an area. Want to build homes on your property? Then you’ll have to donate land for parks, pay to build streets, etc.; after all that infrastructure benefits the developer’s customers.

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comic-con-cosplay-jpgThe OC Register ran an editorial on Monday lending its support for the huge and influential Comic-Con re-locating from his its San Diego birthplace to Anaheim:

Simply put, the convention, now a marketing bonanza for science-fiction and fantasy films, TV shows, video games and other pop-culture media, looks forward to an unknown future, it has grown too large for the venue it has called home since nearly its inception and if the organizers wish to grow any further they will have to spread out to larger accommodations or hang up their capes in Southern California.

It is the same predicament Comic-Con faced in 2010 when the event had to cap attendance at 130,000 because of the limited space the 550,000-square-foot San Diego Convention Center could offer. But a last-minute offer from downtown San Diego hoteliers to provide 300,000 square feet of free space and a multiyear, more than $300,000 a year, convention center discount was enough to lock in the organizers until 2016, as reported by the U-T San Diego.

But, as the Coastal Commission drags its feet on a proposed expansion of the San Diego Convention Center over concerns of rising sea levels, the nonprofit Comic-Con International clearly has to keep other options open if organizers wish to grow and maintain the ties to its Southern California origin story.

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Last month, the Voice of OC ran an article on the Anaheim Rapid Connection project that basically made the argument that the whole reason for building ARC is to help Disney but Disney isn’t being asked to pay for it. I thought it was a silly argument, which strikes me as akin to condemning economic activity and the automobile companies for necessitating freeways.

A reader sent me an e-mail that made excellent points that regarding the VOC article, and I’d like to share it to further inform the discussion:

Adam’s argument makes no sense at all. The reasons he gives for the higher cost per mile of Anaheim’s proposed system over other recently proposed systems in other cities are:

1) Higher labor costs in California generally and Orange County specifically, which isn’t Disney’s fault.

2) Higher costs related to environmental regulations, which aren’t Disney’s fault.

3) More vehicles per mile, due to greater demand, which arguably is Disney’s fault but only because they’re a successful business and tourist attraction, which in turn serves the public interest by bringing people here to stay in our hotels and buy goods in our stores and restaurants.

4) Undergrounding of power to the streetcars, which again is arguably Disney’s fault, but it also serves the public interest in keeping the Resort Area one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

5) Purchase of right-of-way within the Resort Area to build it, which isn’t Disney’s fault.

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I posted the other day about the radical manifesto issued by Donna Castro Acevedo and Genevieve Huizar, calling on “the people of Southern California” to descend on Anaheim on July 21 to honor last year’s Anaheim riots and proclaim the struggle against the “epidemic of police brutality” and the racist power structure. I guess it’s still 1969 in some corners of the universe.

Among those joining in proletarian solidarity with Huizar and Acevedo is the Worker Student Alliance, UC Irvine Chapter. Here is their logo:

WSA logo
That’s an M-14 automatic rifle in the logo. Not exactly a peace sign.

Which befits a radical left-wing group that seems to spend all of its time struggling against this and struggling against that. Struggling and struggles are very big on the Left.

According to the Worker Student Alliance blog:

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