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In my blog of September 21, I explained why the upcoming use of video cameras by Anaheim police officers will not provide transparency. State laws and court decisions will prevent public disclosure of the video evidence police collect. I also noted several reasons for spending $1,100,000 cited by members of the city council to purchase these cameras: accountability, trust, alleviating uncertainty, and decreasing complaints. Contrary to Mayor Tait’s mantra, “little is known about citizen attitudes toward body-worn cameras, most notably whether the technology increases trust, legitimacy, and transparency of the police” (1).

As a writer, editor, and researcher, I am struck by the absence of evidence to support the purchase of body-worn video cameras—about which so little research has been completed. “Scant research exists documenting the decisions made to invest in public surveillance technology” (2). And the evidence for using body-worn video cameras is scanter. Read the rest of this entry »

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:

Read the rest of this entry »

FFFF-Bushala-Zenger

David Zenger (third from left, next to Tony Bushala, Fullerton millionaire gadfly-turned-recluse).

David Zenger has lately become a fixture at Anaheim City Council meetings, where he thunders during public comments against what he considers the council majority’s poor stewardship on behalf of the taxpayers.

The Voice of OC yesterday reported on what has been common knowledge among county insiders for several weeks: Zenger is suing the County of Orange because Supervisor Shawn Nelson fired him from his staff this spring, and is seeking either $1,014,000 of the taxpayers’ money, or a $135,000 a year job of his choice in the county bureaucracy plus $100,000:

Dave Zenger, until recently a senior aide to Board of Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson, has filed a legal claim against the county alleging that Nelson abruptly fired him after other county supervisors complained about Zenger conducting, at Nelson’s direction, numerous investigations into alleged improper use of public funds.

“Mr. Zenger was demonstrably terminated in retaliation for Mr. Zenger’s conscientious inquiries and investigations into questionable or possibly illegal schemes, projects and activities by county personnel,” reads a June 6 letter sent by Zenger’s attorney, Steven Dial – who also represents county Human Resources manager Kathleen Tahilramani in another whistleblower lawsuit against the county, which is scheduled for trial on Nov. 18.

“These projects were initiated and directed by Supervisor Nelson as well as Supervisors [Janet] Nguyen and [Pat] Bates, and often featured the involvement of lobbyist Ruby Wood. These same individuals, as a result of Mr. Zenger’s conscientious inquiries into possible wrongdoing, conspired among themselves and pressured Supervisor Nelson in particular to terminate Mr. Zenger in retaliation for his protected activity,” reads the June 6 claim letter.

Cue laughter.

It’s worth noting here that staff to county supervisors serve at the pleasure of their bosses, and can be fired at any time the boss decides he or she no longer wants or needs their services.

Also from the article:

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In addition to the proposed addition to the governing board bylaws regarding how it is elected, there was another interesting item on the agenda of last night’s Anaheim City School District Board of Education agenda – related to paying for candidate statements.

Candidate statements are probably the single most important communication a school board candidate has with the public. It’s the candidate’s chance to explain their stands and issues in 200 or 400 words, and it goes to every voter in the OC Registrar of Voters sample ballot..

Traditionally, the candidate is responsible for reimbursing the OC Registrar for the cost of the printing and mailing the statement. that is the case in every Orange County jurisdiction with an elected body, and the Anaheim City School District — currently — is no different:

The district shall assume no part of the cost of printing, handling, translating, or mailing of candidate statements filed pursuant to Elections Code 13307. As a condition of having candidate statements included in the voter’s pamphlet, the district may require candidates to pay their estimated pro rata share of these costs to the district in advance pursuant to Elections Code 13307

Last night’s agenda item on the subject asked the governing board members to keep the current policy or replace it with this:

In order to help defray the costs of campaigning for the Board, the district shall pay the cost of printing, handling, translating, and mailing candidate statements filed pursuant to Elections Code 13307.

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Tefere Gebre of the OC Labor Federation

Tefere Gebre of the OC Labor Federation

Apparently, something doesn’t even have to be true to become the subject of media coverage.

Today, the Voice of OC published a story headlined:

“Honda Center Layoffs Could Mean Tax Credits for Company.”

What follows is an entire article claiming that when Anaheim Arena Management hires some 500 food-and-beverage workers as part of bringing that service in-house, it could, maybe, possibly apply for Enterprise Zone tax credits. The VOC even quotes an outraged Ada Briseno, vice-honcho of UNITE-HERE Local 11 (which represents the Aramark workers currently providing food-and-beverage service at The Honda Center):

The workers’ union on Wednesday called the move “absolutely shameful.”

“Make no mistake, this is an attempt by Anaheim Arena Management to undercut workers’ rights, reduce wages and cut benefits,” said Ada Briseno, secretary-treasurer of Unite Here Local 11. “And because the Honda Center is in an enterprise zone, they will receive millions in tax breaks for firing the workers and hiring replacements. It is corporate welfare at its worst, and taxpayers will foot the bill.”

Here’s the problem: what Ms. Briseno’s is saying is totally, completely false. Anaheim Arena Management has never had any intention of applying for Enterprise Zone tax credits and have issued a statement to that effect:

Anaheim Arena Management Will Not Apply for Enterprise Zone Credits

ANAHEIM, Calif. (May 16, 2013) – The Chairman of Anaheim Arena Management, Michael Schulman, released the following statement today, clarifying that the company will not seek tax credits under the State of California’s Enterprise Zone program and hopes and expects many employees working for the expiring food service contractor at Honda Center will apply for positions with the in-house food service operations.

“To make the record perfectly clear, our decision to take food service in-house was based solely on our relentless pursuit of giving our customers the very best entertainment experience possible. It had nothing to do with California Enterprise Zone tax credits, which we never had any intention of utilizing.”

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Marcie Edwards

Marcie Edwards

The uncertainty over exactly who was managing city government was dispelled on Tuesday when the City Council, which would be Bob Wingenroth’s last as City Manager. The council confirmed Anaheim Public Utilities General Manager Marcie Edwards would henceforth take the reins as Interim City Manager.

Edwards, a veteran of Anaheim city government, will not seek the permanent city manager position. To that end, the city council has hired Ralph Anderson & Associates to conduct the CM candidate search.

Edwards will be in the city manager’s chair when the City Council meets on May 14 to once again consider the GardenWalk Hotels agreement. Earlier this week, the Voice of OC made this claim:

At one point when it seemed as if Wingenroth might be out the door, last night’s council meeting agenda included a vote on the highly controversial $158-million subsidy for two local hoteliers. However, after it became clear that Wingenroth would be at the meeting, the item was pulled from the agenda.[emphasis added]

No source quoted, no evidence provided for that claim — which is not surprising considering it isn’t true. Whether or not Wingenroth would be at the April 30 meeting had nothing to do with re-scheduling the GardenWalk agreement, the fate of which does not hinge on the presence or absence of Bob Wingenroth.

I suppose the VOC’s claim is true in the same sense that it is true after it become clear Wingenroth would be at the April 30 meeting, the sun set and night fell on Anaheim – although a causal relationship would be hard to prove.

Some of my Republican friends argue with me over my support for the GardenWalk project TOT rebate, pointing out that it isn’t free market economics and that government shouldn’t subsidize a business enterprise.

My response is that they’re right, but Anaheim isn’t working in a free market. I recognize that state government has gone too far on the regulation and taxation of business activity, and Anaheim itself is bordered by a city that has no compunctions about luring four-star hotels with not only TOT rebates, but free land.

Last week, the Garden Grove City Council unanimously voted to give a luxury hotel developer five-acres of city-owned land on Harbor Boulevard , adjacent to the Resort District. The council also voted to rebate back to the developer millions in TOT generated by the project for up to 20 years.

At the same meeting, the council unanimously approved a water park resort-and-hotel project, with the city putting up the land and issuing $42 million in revenue bonds to finance it.

Where was the outrage from Adam Elmahrek of the Voice of OC, or the OC Register editorial writers?

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The OC Register has published New Year resolutions from the two newest members of the Anaheim City Council, Jordan Brandman and Lucille Kring:

Jordan BrandmanHere’s Brandman’s (who was the top vote-getter in November’s election):

A time of reflection and new beginnings

Each new year brings forth a time of reflection and new beginnings filled with hope and opportunity. As I begin my term of service on the council, I am thankful for the trust placed in me to provide independent leadership and respectful understanding of the issues facing our city.

The “can-do” spirit is alive and well in Anaheim. Our city can be first in property values, first in public safety, first in business activity, first in infrastructure investment and first in schools.

It is my resolve to lead with clear priorities, including: creating jobs, fighting crime and eliminating gangs; maintaining world-class police and fire departments; and ensuring neighborhoods, schools, parks and libraries are safe and well-maintained.

Working together, we can make Anaheim an even better place to live, work and raise a family – with each coming new year.

lucille kringAnd here is Kring’s (now beginning her third non-consecutive term):

I resolve to make residents first priority

For many, the new year marks the start of a second chance, an opportunity to have your slate wiped clean, a chance to make plans that lead to new goals. As we prepare to enter 2013, I appreciate this opportunity to set some goals for the new year.

I resolve to remember that the residents of Anaheim are my first priority, and my job is to always consider them in every action I take as a council member. They are our city’s greatest asset. I resolve to stay connected with the people of Anaheim, to listen to what they have to say about their city and their desires, hopes and dreams for their community.

I will strive to work cooperatively with the mayor and my fellow council members, and I’m looking forward to working with City Manager Bob Wingenroth, as well as city staff and our police and fire chiefs, to allocate our city’s resources to most effectively serve our residents and businesses.

During my campaign, I walked neighborhoods and was struck by residents in every part of the city telling me about nighttime gang- and drug-related activities in our parks. I will work aggressively with police and neighbors to solve this problem and take back our parks. In years past, we had flashlight walks in some of our parks that proved to be very successful in ridding our parks of this element. We must renew this effective tool of police officers and residents working together.

I resolve to seek opportunities that bring new jobs to Anaheim while also working to improve the quality of life for Anaheim residents.

To improve neighborhoods, I’m advocating that a portion of city hotel Transient Occupancy Tax (“bed tax”) revenue be earmarked specifically for neighborhood revitalization and maintenance.

I want to wish all residents of Anaheim a very happy, healthy, prosperous and especially a peaceful 2013. I am looking forward to working with all of you for the next four years to create a better Anaheim!

Like the New Year resolutions from Mayor Tom Tait and Councilmember Kris Murray, these are basically in line with promises and positions previously enunciated by Brandman and Kring.

Councilmember Kring re-commits herself to earmarking a specific percentage of TOT revenue for neighborhood revitalization.  As I posted a few days ago, I agree with providing the funding necessary to repair and improve the quality of life of Anaheim neighborhoods, with special emphasis on those areas with a special need for it. That’s what local government is supposed to do.

I do think it is a mistake to earmark a specific percentage of a specific revenue stream for that purpose. Good intentions and sloganeering notwithstanding, it will acquire the patina of an entitlement and will have a distorting effect on future budgeting. At some point in future, the problems necessitating this special fund will be addressed (again, that is the point); once the problem it was created to solve is solved, will the Council then dissolve this earmark in order to shift the funds to other purposes? Good luck with that when, over the years, organized groupings have arrived at a proprietary attitude toward those funds.

The end is what is important here, not the means. The point is to make the improvements, rather enact a “see what we’re doing for you” special fund.

Sometime next month, the Anaheim City Council will consider setting aside a portion of the Transient Occupancy tax (TOT) to fund a neighborhood improvement fund. Mayor Tom Tait asked staff in December that this idea be part of 2013 budget discussions.

Councilwoman Lucille Kring campaigned on diverting 1% of TOT revenues into neighborhood youth and social programs.

Mayor Tait’s proposal is more focused on the physical aspects of neighborhood improvement, in addition to intensifying community policing. According to this December 26 story from the OC Register:

Tait wants a neighborhood-improvement fund established that could use some tax revenues to upgrade neighborhoods through additional graffiti removal, street repaving and increased community policing.

 Several council members have called for a similar idea. Tait suggested that the improvement fund be included in discussions about the city’s 2013-14 budget. 

I know the residents of West Anaheim have specifically called for more attention to issues that they uniquely face in maintaining a better quality of life,” Tait said. “And there are other neighborhoods that – with a little more attention – can provide a safer, more livable environment for the residents.”

These are all good, legitimate and necessary responsibilities of local government. My question – or concern, really – is about creating a special fund with a dedicated revenue source.

These are needs that can be identified and budgeted for in the ordinary course of establishing city spending priorities. If a street that needs re-paving gets it, does it matter whether or not the money comes from a special Neighborhood Improvement  Fund with its very own TOT set-aside?

The danger of setting aside a set portion of TOT revenue for a special fund is it immediately acquires the qualities of an entitlement, with its own set of attached interests who will take a proprietary interest in the revenue , continually pushing for increasing the percentage or fighting any downward adjustment.
This kind of set-aside budgeting looks gimmicky, has a poor track record and tends to distort municipal budgeting and unduly tie the hands of future councils facing different priorities.

Putting more city resources into neighborhood improvements of the sort described above is all to the good, but the council would be better advised to do so through ordinary budgeting rather than revenue set-asides and special funds. These are ordinary city government responsibilities that are best met through ordinary methods.

No flip-flopping allowed.

Former Anaheim Councilman Frank Feldhaus has pulled his endorsement of council candidate Lucille Kring (with whom he served on the council from 1998 to 2002).

The reason: Kring’s changing her position on the “Take Back Anaheim” initiative, a ballot-box budgeting measure that would take one specific revenue stream — the transient occupancy tax — and require a city-wide vote on its use in one specific instance: to subsidize hotel development.

Kring had opposed the “Take Back Anaheim” initiative, which was spearheaded by a coalition of liberal activists and funded by the county employee union. Then, a few weeks ago, she switched her position. As the Voice of OC reported:

Kring received Tait’s endorsement after she decided to support the “Let the People Vote” initiative, which would transfer power to approve hotel room tax subsidies from the council to the ballot box.

Kring, a former councilwoman, at first opposed the initiative.

“I changed my mind because I’ve seen polling, and people are really interested in voting. So why not?” Kring said.

At the Anna Drive candidate forum last week, most of the candidates in attendance endorsed the idea of imposing a tax of $1 a ticket on the Disneyland Resort, Anaheim Stadium and the Honda Center in order to fund “youth programs and neighborhood development.”

Those pro-tax candidates include government union activist John Leos, Green Party activist Duane Roberts and Brian Chuchua (who, amazingly enough, is endorsed by the OC Republican Party).

Leaving aside the fact this ticket tax is bad public and economic policy, as a practical matter it is unworkable. It doesn’t appear to have occurred to Leos, Roberts or Chuchua that the city cannot single out those venues for a ticket tax, while exempting other venues in the city. The tax would have to e applied across the board, or not at all. So if John Leos wants a new admission tax (because that is what it is) to provide dedicated revenue to fund social programs, he’ll have to slap it on movie theaters, on the Grove of Anaheim, or any other venue where people are charged for admission.

Anaheim is a major city, the 10th largest in the state of California, and being a councilmember requires significantly more than this kind of seat-of-the-pants policy improvisation, or glibly endorsing a half-baked admission tax idea tossed out at a street-side candidate forum.

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