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On March 22, the left-wing coalition backing single-member council districts in Anaheim kicked off its campaign to win their approval by Anaheim voters this November. 501(c)(3) groups like OCCORD can actively advocate for a ballot measure within limits on “lobbying” activity. Per the BolderAdvocacy website (published by the left-wing Alliance for Justice):

Under Section 501(h), the overall limit on lobbying starts as high as 20% of those expenditures for small charities and diminishes to a smaller percentage of the expenditures for larger organizations, with a maximum cap of $1,000,000 on an organization’s annual lobbying expenditures. In addition to this overall limit, the 501(h) test imposes a limit on grassroots lobbying, calculated as one-quarter of the overall lobbying limit. For example, a 501(c)(3) that has made the 501(h) election, with an annual budget of $500,000, would have an overall lobbying limit of $100,000 and a grassroots lobbying limit of $25,000.

OCCORD’s annual budget has historically been somewhat over half-a-million dollars, so the above is a solid guide to how much of its budget the left-wing advocacy group can devote to this ballot measure.

Convincing Anaheim voters to re-structure how they elect their city council will take a considerable amount of persuasive voter communication – especially since there is no grass-roots groundswell demanding single-member council districts.  In other words, the pro-council districts coalition needs a benefactor(s) to bankroll its campaign.

Who will do it?

One possibility would be the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA), which definitely has the resources and presumably the interest in replacing at-large council elections with a single-member districts system.

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lorri galloway at rally

Lorri Galloway

She’s been telling people for months, and we’ve been posting about it here for months (and before anyone else). Now she’s making it official via a Frank Mickadeit column: former Councilwoman Lorri Galloway is running for Mayor of Anaheim against incumbent Tom Tait.

Frank writes:

Galloway’s [candidacy] is a shock, however, given their political relationship. Even though she is a Democrat and he is a Republican, they found a lot of common ground.

He may be shocked, but a lot of other people aren’t – for the reasons outlined in his column and this post over at TheLiberalOC.com.

Councilwoman Lucille Kring is likely to enter the mayoral race soon, setting up the three-way contest (four-way, if you count Rudy Gaona) Galloway is banking on as her pathway to becoming mayor.

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Mayor Tom Tait

Mayor Tom Tait

A group of California mayors, including Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, have submitted a request for title and summary for their Pension Reform Act of 2014 initiative. All are Democrats, except for Tait.

From CalPensions.com:

The mayor is proposing a state constitutional amendment intended to allow cuts in pensions earned by current state and local government workers in the future, while pensions already earned through time on the job would be protected.

Reed said private-sector pensions and public pensions in 12 other states have the flexibility to control costs by reducing pension amounts that current workers earn in the future.

Under the constitutional amendment, cuts in the pensions earned by current workers in the future could be bargained with unions or placed on ballots through initiatives. There also could be no change.

“It’s all about empowering cities to solve their own problems,” Reed said after addressing a pension conference last week at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. “How they do it will be up to them.”

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A year ago, I published a post advocating the Anaheim City Council adopt something similar to Costa Mesa’s COIN (Civic Openness in Negotiations Ordinance) ordinance.  Tomorrow night, the Fullerton City Council will begin discussing whether or not to adopt its own version of COIN.

This is a discussion the Anaheim City Council should consider having, as well.

The staff report for the Fullerton council provides a good run-down of what Costa Mesa’s COIN ordinance entails:

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Last week, John Phillips, a talk radio host on KABC AM 790, had PBS SoCal CEO KOCE Mel Rogers on his program. The topic:  PBS SoCal’s (aka KOCE-TV) news partnership with the Voice of OC, an outlet that receives almost all of its funding from public employee unions and Democratic politicians.

PBS SoCal’s “Real Orange” news show relies heavily on the Voice of OC for coverage of orange County government and politics, and broadcasts a regular feature with Norberto Santana, the editor-in-chief of the Voice.

Phillips confronted Rogers with the facts about the Voice: that its existence depends on funding from the Orange County Employees Association and Democratic politicians, and that it’s board of directors is dominated by liberals and Democratic partisans.

Here’s a link to the podcast of the interview. Instead of dealing with those facts, Mel Rogers keeps falling back on the same response, claiming the Voice provides fair, reliable investigative journalism:

“I’m concerned that viewers get fair, solid investigative journalism. Up to this point, we’ve never found an instance where Voice of OC has not given us that. And the day they do, we won’t have a relationship with them.”

Whether or not he meant to, Rogers spelled out a termination clause for SoCal PBS’s partnership with the Voice.

Anaheim Insider here.

KABC-AM conservative talk radio show host John Phillips blasted the Voice of OC this morning for its role in the smear campaign against Carl Demaio, the libertarian gay Republican running for Congress in San Diego.

Phillips was spurred by this post on the FlashReport for Republican activist and consultant Charles Moran, who also asked the question of why KOCE, the Southern California PBS affiliate, has allowed its news coverage to be co-opted by the Voice, which is dependent on the Orange County Employees Association funding for its existence:

To those of us active in Republican politics, we have seen many attacks, some even as hateful as these. But what was really surprising about this smear campaign was the fact that is was strangely connected to PBS. Yes, you read correctly – the same folks that bring us Sesame Street. According to a PBS affiliate’s website in Orange County (PBS SoCal), PBS entered into a “partnership” with the Voice of OC whereby PBS would receive its “investigative news” from the Voice of OC.

At this point, it is important to note that the Voice of OC is not a newspaper nor is it a magazine. The fact is that that the Voice of OC is merely website whereby they describe themselves as a “Non-Profit Investigative News Agency.”

So just who is this so-called investigative news agency that was PBS partners with for their news coverage, and more importantly who funds them? Well to find the answer, one only needs to review their federal tax returns – and so I did.

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One of the arguments made by single-member council district proponents is that Anaheim is so big that the cost of communicating with so many voters prices potential candidates out of the running – especially Latinos – and allows special interests to dominate the elections. Carving the city into single-member council districts, the argument goes, diminishes the significance of campaign warchests by making it easier for a candidate to win in this smaller voter universe by walking precincts.

There is no denying that an ample campaign warchest is preferable to a small one, and that running a robust campaign mailer effort in Anaheim isn’t cheap. However, that isn’t the decisive factor, and the candidate who spends the most money isn’t necessarily the one who wins.

Another mantra of the single-member district cult is “only three Latinos have been elected to the Anaheim City Council in 156 years.” The intellectual dishonesty of that claim aside, it’s illuminating that when one of the those Latinos, Lou Lopez, was first elected, he came in first even while being vastly outspent by the candidate who finished second, Bob Zemel. From a February 10, 1995 Los Angeles Times article:

The cost of being elected to the City Council was dramatically different for Bob Zemel and Lou Lopez.

Zemel, who had placed third in the two previous elections, spent more than $108,000 for last November’s win. Lopez spent $34,000, according to financial disclosure records reviewed this week.

“All the power-brokers said I couldn’t do it my way,” Lopez said Thursday. “People can’t believe I won on that kind of money. I was told I would need a minimum of $60,000 to get elected in Anaheim. But I’ve been involved in politics for 15 years, won three elections and have knocked on a lot of doors. I didn’t just come out of the woodwork.”

Other top-spenders included: Paul Bostwick, who finished in fourth place after spending more than $80,800, about half of which was his own money; fifth-place finisher Sharon Ericson, who spent about $55,300, and seventh-place finisher Leonard Lahtinen, who reported expenditures of more than $47,800, of which $29,000 was his own money.

Candidate Shirley McCracken, running for a council seat for the first time, managed to finish third while spending only $20,500.

In other words, the first and third highest vote getters – Lopez and McCracken — were the candidates with the poorest campaigns in terms of spending.

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John Leos' biggest fan.

John Leos’ biggest fan.

Anaheim Insider here.Voice of OC logo

It’s no secret the Voice of OC got its start with very generous funding from the Orange County Employees Association. What many of us didn’t know was how dependent the Voice of OC still is on OCEA funding, which is in turn funded by government employee dues automatically deducted from their paychecks.

According to this press release from Supervisor Janet Nguyen’s state Senate campaign, the Voice gets 63% of its funding from the county employees union.

Sixty. Three. Percent.

Here’s the breakdown from the press release:

TOTAL FUNDS RECEIVED (report from latest 2 year period) : $797,040

Orange County Employees Association
$499,500     63%

California Endowment                                                                          
$121,012     15%

Wylie Aitken (Former Chair Democratic Foundation of OC)    
$85,000     10%

United Food & Commercial Workers                                                
$25,000     3%

Former Democratic Senator Joe Dunn                                            
$14,635   2%

*Major Democrat Donors:                                                                  
 $30,000   4%

Unnamed small donors                                                                        
$21,956    3%

*(donors to: Act Blue, DCCC, Barbara Boxer, Beth Krom for Congress, Alan Lowenthal for Congress, Loretta Sanchez for Congress).

The Voice is totally dependent on the OCEA to meet payroll, pay its rent, fund benefits, and other expenses. When you think about that, the Voice’s outrage campaign against Freedom Communications deal with Anaheim to broker naming rights for ARTIC is comical. How does the Voice question the ability of a Freedom Communications subsidiary (the OC Register) to cover Anaheim government impartially, when it is reporting on county and city governments whose employees are represented by the funding source that keeps the Voice of OC’s lights on? We’re expected to believe Freedom’s deal comprises the OC Register’s Anaheim coverage, but the Voice’s dependence on OCEA has no effect on its coverage?

Think about it another way. At the same time that it was spending $600,000 last year trying to elect John Leos to the Anaheim City Council, we now know the OCEA was also giving hundreds of thousands to the Voice of OC; and the Voice was reporting obsessively about Disney’s spending on behalf of candidates opposed by OCEA, while giving much less attention to OCEA’s campaign activity.

All of which goes to the point of Nguyen’s press release:

Unfortunately, Janet’s efforts to reform CalOptima and outreach to the community have been mischaracterized by the Voice of OC  blog whose only interest is to further their own political agenda through an organized smear campaign.

Some have asked why this Blog has taken such an interest in a smear campaign against Janet Nguyen?

The answer should be obvious. Just follow the money. A check of the Voice of OC’s most recent IRS filings shows that nearly all of their funds come from labor unions and Democrat donors. A full 63% comes from a single public employee union – OCEA.  The remainder from Democrat/liberal donors or groups. These entities all have a huge stake in making sure State Senate Dems keep their 2/3rds super majority.

AMEA Negotiations Coming Up; Watch Voice Of OC Reporting On Anaheim
The Anaheim Municipal Employees Association is an affiliate of the OCEA. It’s contract negotiations begin later this month, and its current contract expires January 3.

The Voice has already hit Lucille Kring with a below the belt piece accusing her of trading votes for campaign contributions (without any evidence). Will we see a continuation of past pattern of targeting City Hall in hopes of freezing and demoralizing it during negotiations. I hope not. But keep an eye on the kind of stories the Voice writes about Anaheim in the coming months.

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.]

Rendering of GardenWalk hotels.

Rendering of GardenWalk hotels.

The GardenWalk Hotels agreement is on the May 14 agenda of the Anaheim City Council.  The cap on the total TOT rebate is still $158 million (which is a tricky number that merits further explanation in another post), but the 80%-20% split has been modified to 70%-30% stretched out over a longer period of time of 20 years (which actually makes it more expensive for the developer). This applies to two hotels — a  convention hotel of least 466 rooms and a resort hotel of at least 350 rooms. These hotels will be built separately in phases, and the TOT rebate “ends on the earlier of twenty years from completion of construction or, provision of assistance up to a not to exceed amount of approximately $158 million gross. The net present value (NPV) of the maximum assistance under the Agreements ($46.6 million) represents 16% of development costs and compares quite favorably with our Southern California competitors as noted above.”

Unlike the earlier GardenWalk assistance agreement, this time the staff is recommending a “yes” vote by the council. Here’s the staff report’s conclusion:

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PrintIf you’re looking for an opportunity to pump your fist and demand your fair share of other people’s money, then head on over to Anaheim City Hall for the May Day rally being organized by the Orange County Labor Federation.

May Day — or International Worker Day — was established in 1891 by the Second Socialist International.

The OC Labor Federation is a major supporter of carving up Anaheim into 8 council districts – limiting Anaheim residents to voting for only one councilmember rather than having a vote in the election of every councilmember.

The chanting, sloganeering and acts of solidarity begin at 11:00 a.m., and at some point a march will commence — ending at 12:30 p.m. at La Palma Park.

It will be a proletarian good time. Be there, or be a One Percenter square!

Guaranteed jobs...it works for Cuba!

Guaranteed jobs…it works for Cuba!

Thus far, UNITE-HERE Local 11 has been trying to spin their dispute with Anaheim Arena Management into an issue of whether their members will continue working at The Honda Center when AAM takes over food service operations from Aramark on July 1.

Judging by the media coverage, the spinning is working. This Voice of OC article from last week is a good example:

Labor unions are increasing pressure on Honda Center management amid concerns that more than 400 workers who serve food and drinks at the Anaheim arena could soon lose their jobs.

Arena management will take control of food service in July, and it isn’t ruling out layoffs.

And by corollary, they haven’t ruled them in, either.

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My frend Chris Emami at OC Political has posted about an Anaheim Campaign Database project he is launching. It is a worthy endeavor, and the information about council candidates is useful. I do have some suggestions for making it more complete.

The profiles of the candidates’ campaign finances don’t include how much of their own mony they donated to their campaigns. Brian Chuchua, for example, pumped about $60,000 (if memory serves) from his own pocket (and the pocket of a family member). Not that it did him any good, but it does belong in any pie chart or profile of his campaign finances.

Also, independent expenditures aren’t included. The post includes this illustrative pie chart about John Leos’ campaign contributions:

johnleospicture

But the real story is the staggering $531,000 the unions — mainly the Orange County Employees Association — spent in independent expenditures on behalf of Leos.

Still, this project is a good start, and I’m sure Chris will be incorporating improvements along the way.

 

OCCORD LogoI’ve attended most of the Citizens Advisory Committee meetings, and as I’ve noted in previous posts, it was clear from early on that a left-wing coalition was forming to push the CAC toward recommending a switch to electing the Anaheim City Council from single-member districts; that is, Anaheim residents would only have a vote within their council district, and have no voice in the election of the rest of the city council.

The leading members of this left-wing coalition are UNITE-HERE (a militant union representing workers in hotels, food service and similar sectors), Los Amigos of Orange County,  Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (commonly known as OCCORD) and the Orange County Labor Federation.

What is OCCORD?

OCCORD is a 501(c)3 founded in 2005 by Eric Altman, a former union organizer. Since then, it has been a fixture on the Left-side of the Anaheim political spectrum. Earlier, its main focus was lobbying the city to impose low-income housing set-aside requirements on developers. Last year, OCCORD was in the thick of the protests against the GardenWalk hotels agreement, in support of the effort of the Take Back Anaheim initiative and  in favor of the ACLU’s lawsuit seeking to force the city to move to single-member districts.

OCCORD Executive Director Eric Altman and another OCCORD staffer, Clara Turner, have been fixtures at CAC meetings, distributing fliers full of data-points and graphs designed to buttress OCCORD’s advocacy of single-member council districts.

It’s Board of Directors is stacked with union activists, and also includes Amin David, one of the plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit seeking to impose single-member districts on Anaheim.

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IMG_6494The Anaheim Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections and Community Involvement meets again this Thursday, March 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Anaheim Central Library, 500 West Broadway. On the agenda: an overview of the cost of Anaheim elections and the size of the city council, plus a staff update on the ACLU lawsuit against city.

If past CAC meetings are any guide, Orange County Labor Federation Political Director Julio Perez will be there as part of the ongoing union effort to drives bodies to the meetings to call for single-member districts during public comments, in order to create the impression of overwhelming public support for this scheme.

Readers may remember Perez, a liberal Democrat, was the union candidate in last year’s 69th Assembly District primary. At his campaign kick-off, Perez said, “There’s not less money in the economy, there’s just less money in government coffers.” Jeepers.

Perez and other union staffers want Anaheim carved up into single-member council districts because it would make it easier to elect liberal and union-supported candidates to the Anaheim City Council, where they can push for left-wing policies like the “living wage” and a gate-tax and oppose any efforts to outsource city services to private sector providers.

Chairing the Citizens Advisory Committee will be Vivian Pham, a political supporter of Julio Perez. Last year, Pham  (who was appointed to the CAC by Mayor Tom Tait) contributed $100 to Perez’s Assembly campaign:

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IMG_6494The Anaheim Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections and Community Involvement meets again this Thursday, February 28 at 6:30 p.m., at the Brookhurst Community Center. This will be the seventh CAC meeting, with eight more to follow.

I’ve attended most of them, and they are assuming a definite pattern. At the actual committee-work level, the CAC members have been taking presentations from experts on voter participation and engagement, on the basics of the California Voting Rights Act and on various election systems (ranked choice, cumulative voting, etc.).

All the presenters have participated as neutral experts in their fields, with the exception of Steve Chessin of the Californians for Electoral Reform, who was there as an advocate. [When asked by CAC Chair Vivian Pham what he recommended Anaheim do, Chessin urged an immediate switch to cumulative voting followed by a transition to fully proportional voting when OC’s voting systems technology permitted it. Other presenters have declined to offer their opinions, feeling it was not their role to do so.]

On the political level, there is an organized effort, led by OCCORD and unions like UNITE-HERE, to push the CAC toward recommending single-member council districts. Last week, the OC Democratic Party announced its support for single-member council districts.

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If there were a way to bet on media headline predictions, I could have wagered my savings and retired on how Voice of OC would headline its coverage of the Anaheim State of the City speech:

“Mayor Tells A Tale of Two Anaheims”

I realize that OCCORD, Los Amigos, Take Back Anaheim, the OCEA and the rest of the coalition of the left-leaning have been selling that storyline hard for months, but I just do not buy it. There are no more “Two Anaheims” than there are two of any city (except maybe Aliso Viejo and Laguna Beach). Every city of any size and duration will have affluent areas  and poorer areas, older section and newer sections.  Anaheim is not unique in this respect. That is the reality of the human condition. Hammurabi could well have spoken of “Two Babylons” and with considerably more justification.

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$900,000? Sure it's a lot of money, but there's more where that came from.

$900,000? Sure it’s a lot of money, but there’s more where that came from.

The year-end Form 460s — those are campaign finance disclosure forms — were due yesterday, but a number of them were filed over the course of January.

I opened up the Form 460 for the OCEA-sponsored “Committee to Support John Leos for Anaheim City Council 2012,” and did a double take when I saw the final total spending on behalf of Leos:

$531,055.17

One would have to do the research, but I’d wager that is an Anaheim record for IE spending on a single candidate by a single entity (with a sub-category of spending it and losing).

$365,622.65 of that was spent in the final 17 days of the campaign, with a large chunks uncorked in the last days to fund phone banks and paid walkers.

Ouch.

$390,000 of that $531,055 came from the pockets of OCEA members, the rest from other labor unions (some of which also receive campaign fund transfers from OCEA, so the latter’s total may be higher).

Now, if you had this to the $200,000 spent by OCEA in its unsuccessful attempt to elect Leos to council in 2010, and the estimated$100,000 it spent in 2011 on a series of city-wide mailers promoting Leos and his “transparency ordinance,” then OCEA has spent $700,000 over the course less than three years to put John Leos on the Anaheim City Council.

Now, add the $32,360.79 spent by the OCEA Independent Expenditure Committee to fund attacks on Jordan Brandman.

Let’s further broaden the scope to include the $64,000 that OCEA put into signature gathering for the anti-GardenWalk Take Back Anaheim initiative, which failed to qualify for the ballot. And then add in the money OCEA spent on mailers hitting Councilmembers Harry Sidhu, Kris Murray and Gail Eastman over the GardenWalk vote — which was likely another $100,000 (and I’m estimating conservatively).

We’re talking at least $900,000 the OCEA has spent on Anaheim politics in less that three years. That’s almost a million dollars, and with very little to show for it: two Leos losses, a failed initiative campaign, and an alienated new councilmember.

Liberty, anyone?

Liberty, anyone?

Like the county’s TIN CUP ordinance, the city’s campaign ordinance allows the city council to increase the campaign contribution limit in January of odd-numbered years, to account for increases in the Consumer Price Index.

In practice, that translates into $100 increase every two years. On Tuesday, the Council will bump the limit from $1,800 to $1,900.

For many years, the contribution limit in Anaheim and at the county level was stuck at$1,000 per person. Then along came Chris Norby to the Board Supervisors. Norby pointed out that TIN CUP permitted a biennial cost-of-living increase, which the Board had never done. Norby pushed the Board of Supes to overcome its fear of Shirley Grindle and approve such an increase. Now it has become routine at the county and cities like Anaheim with campaign ordinances modeled on TIN CUP.

Now, the freedom-friendliest thing to do would be to abolish campaign contribution limits altogether. Campaign contributions are a form of political speech that ought not be abridged. And it is time for even the most die-hard advocates of “campaign reform” to finally admit that contribution limits is a reform that has been tried — and tried and tried and tried and tried — and failed to accomplish anything but advantage incumbents and make elections less competitive.

Just think: if campaign contributions were eliminated, the OCEA could just dumpy $400,000 directly into his campaign account rather than running an “independent” expenditure campaign. Leos’ consultant — the brother of immediate past OCEA President Robert Gibson — would sure make a lot more money, and he could hardly do worse than the OCEA’s standard consultant.

Here’s hoping someone makes a motion for increasing free speech and more competitive elections in Anaheim.

oc-register-logoI’d like to share some more thoughts about last week’s OC Register editorial, especially the worrying about “hastily” putting the GardenWalk agreement on the agenda and concern that “other interested parties deserve more notice.”

The GardenWalk agreement isn’t exactly being rushed back to the City Council. The judge’s decision voiding the council’s January 2012 approval came out on December 10. One month later, developer Bill O’Connell, Sr. notified the city he would the agreement to be placed on the January 29 council agenda. The agreement is not on tomorrow’s agenda, as it turns out.

The Register’s concern is misplaced. Anyone tuned into to Anaheim politics knows the anti-GardenWalk forces like OCCORD and Los Amigos have been busy organizing for some time now in anticipation of another council vote on the agreement. It’s well-known among insiders that Mayor Tait has on several occasions said the anti-GardenWalk people will be out in force.  The Register’s worrying about project opponents having a chance to speak shows how out of touch the editorial writers are with Anaheim politics.

And it is hard not to notice the editorial board only seems concerned that opponents of the agreement have the opportunity to have their say. The convention wisdom in Anaheim political circles is that Brian Calle, the editorial page director, is good friends with Mayor Tait and is using the Register editorial page to support the mayor’s political agenda. That would at least explains why the libertarian paper went all-in in support the support the OCEA’s candidate for city council, John Leos.

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