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CHA Hit paid by Tait Family TrustAnaheim Insider here.

If you could spend $49,750 on anything in your community, what would you spend it on? Just to make it a little easier, here are a few options of what that kind of money buys you in Anaheim:

A. Annual tuition for 199 low income kids to attend the Anaheim Boys and Girls Clubs after school programs.

B. One week of tuition for 239 toddlers to attend preschool at the Anaheim YMCA.

C. Underwrite 497 Anaheim kids living in violent families to attend Youth Violence Prevention Programs at the Orange County Family Justice Center.

D. Pay for 829 Anaheim at-risk youth to attend the 24-week Cops 4 Kids Junior Cadet Program.

E. Fund a malicious mail campaign against your (conservative Republican) council colleagues.

It appears Mayor Tom Tait, who has spent his entire first term of office espousing a platform of “kindness,” prefers option E. 

As this FPPC filing shows, the Tait Family Trust is funding $49,750 in campaign attack mail aimed at Mayor Pro Tem Kris Murray and Councilwoman Gail Eastman, his two Republican colleagues. And the hits are just getting started with a hit piece dredging up their votes on GardenWalk from nearly two years ago.

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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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It was a loooooong Anaheim City Council meeting (I did not attend as it is my youngest daughter’s birthday, but caught as much as I could on the Internet), the Anaheim City Council voted 4-1 to approve the GardenWalk economic assistance agreement.

Mayor Pro Tem Gail Eastman and Councilmembers Lucille Kring, Kris Murray and Jordan Brandman voted “yes.” Mayor Tom Tait voted “no.” No real surprise there.

It is interesting to reflect on the differences between tonight and last year’s vote on a different GardenWalk agreement. Orchestrated council chamber drama from the UNITE-HERE/OCCORD drones aside, opposition to the TOT rebate has waned. remember, GardenWalk was made an issue during the 2012 council elections, and Jordan Brandman was attacked rather severely for it in several hit pieces from a variety of sources – and he was still the top vote-getter.

Last year it was approved on a 3-2 vote. Tonight the vote was 4-1.

Last year, the vote was followed by an initiative campaign to require voter approval of TOT rebates for hotels, fueled by $64,000 in funding from Orange County Employees Association (which later stopped the money train, causing the initiative to sputter to a halt).

Anyone expecting a repeat of that?

This long and divisive drama (much longer and more divisive than was warranted or ever should have been) has come to a close. The vote has been taken, the agreement is done, and other issues are on their way to the City Council in the run-up to what looks to be a real donnybrook in 2014.

Anaheim Councilwoman Lucille Kring

Anaheim Councilwoman Lucille Kring

Yesterday, Anaheim Councilwoman Lucille Kring sent out this e-mail regarding the GardenWalk agreement coming before the City Council this evening:

To the Residents, Business Owners and Workers in the City of Anaheim,

There has been so much misinformation about the Garden Walk issue that I feel the time has come for my voice to be heard on this subject. First of all, the city is NOT writing a check to a developer for $158 million. There will be no cuts to police, fire or city services.

Some background on the subject of tax subsidies for development in our City:

In May, 1999 on a 5-0 unanimous vote by the council consisting of Mayor Tom Daly, Shirley McCracken, Frank Feldhaus, Tom Tait and myself, The Pointe Anaheim Project, later named Garden Walk was approved and was to consist of three hotels, high end dining and retail, public art displays and the possibility of a public aquarium. An additional 400 Time Share units were also planned above the parking structure. Included in the footprint of that project was the Anaheim Plaza Hotel, which would have given the mall a frontage on Harbor Boulevard, across from Disneyland. After the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the economy suffered a period of uncertainty that halted a great deal of building; the developer of this project did not have the funds to buy the hotel and the main entrance of the mall ended up on Katella. There were a few starts and stops because of the economy. The mall opened in June, 2008 with about 65% occupancy. The six restaurants all opened between 11-07 and 4-08.

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Mayor Tom Tait

Mayor Tom Tait

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait recorded a robocall that went out yesterday (I don’t know how wide a voter universe it went to):

This is Mayor Tom Tait. At tomorrow’s city council meeting, special interests and lobbyists are returning to ask taxpayers to subsidize two luxury hotels.

If passed, our city will be forced to pay one developer $158 million dollars over the next 29 years, taking away money meant for vital city services such as police, fore protection and libraries. If you oppose this, as I do, please call City Hall at 714-7655247 to express your view.

Thank you.

My committee, Tom Tait for Mayor 2014 has paid for this call.

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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[EDITOR’S NOTE: For reasons I don’t understand, when a reader clicks on the title of a post to read the full post, the byline disappears, which often leaves readers confused as to the authorship of the post. To allieviate that confusion, going forward I will insert an editor’s note at the beginning of posts not written by yours truly to clarify the authorship. In this case, it is Anaheimocrat.]

Something seemed off when I read yesterday’s OC Register editorial on the GardenWalk project (which the editorial writer mistakenly believed to be on tomorrow’s council agenda), so I searched out last year’s OCR editorial opposing the agreement and compared the two.

In the February 7, 2012 editorial, the Register blasted the TOT rebate as “an outright subsidy;” that criticism was nowhere to be seen yesterday, but instead commends the Anaheim City Council for seeking a policy “growth and economic development for the city.”

The editorial up-dated its call for applying this tax incentive evenly. I say updated because last year the OCR’s proposed alternative was lowering the TOT tax for all Anaheim hotels, which also showed the writer didn’t really understand the policy he was criticizing. The writer said the GardenWalk TOT rebate agreement was unfair to existing Anaheim hotels.

A year later, the OCR editorial page is instead recommending the City Council adopt a uniform tax rebate policy for new developments, not just hotels. Of course, this would exclude existing hotels, which an about-face from last year when the OCR denounced the GardenWalk agreement partly on those grounds that existing hotels didn’t get the same subsidy.

The OC Register’s claim that the GardenWalk deal is favoritism is still doesn’t reconcile with the facts.

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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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Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray

Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray

During councilmember comments at last night Anaheim City Council meeting, Councilwoman Kris Murray proposed the return of a most excellent policy: the Home Improvement Holiday (HIH).

It’s been almost 10 years since Anaheim launch the original HIH under Mayor Curt Pringle. It was one of the emblematic policies of the “Freedom Friendly” days.

HIH by-passed the top-down, bureaucratic and expensive governmental approach to neighborhood revitalization in favor of decentralized, free market policy that tapped into the natural desire of residents to improve their homes in a way that suited themselves — and in the aggregate, improved the city through their own time, money and effort.

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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.

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