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ward conspiracy alertIt’s been a year since the Anaheim City Council voted 4-1 (Mayor Tait in opposition) to approve a non-binding MOU establishing the framework of an agreement between the city and the Angels that would have financed the renovation of the stadium at no cost to taxpayers, and generated economic activity on idle city-owned land in the stadium district. This framework was all upside for the city, with the Angels shouldering the risk.

Not wanting such a good deal for Anaheim to go unchallenged, gadflies Cynthia Ward and Brian Chuchua subsequently formed a non-profit called CATER for the express purpose of filing lawsuits against the City of Anaheim. Their first was against the Angels MOU, alleging Brown Act violations.

Prominent among their raft of allegations of shadowy dealings has been a much bally-hooed claim that an report by Convention, Sports and Leisure on the Angels’; economic impact was furtively altered to mislead the public.

Earlier this year, CATER leader Ward wrote:

When released, the report was City stamped to indicate it was distributed to the Council majority prior to the Council meeting of September 3. Yet the version of the report released for public review was an altered version, edited after the Council meeting and purged of a glaring mistake with the potential to discredit the “experts” findings, upon which the Council based their approvals. The City Attorney’s response to CATER’s letter to Cure and Correct the Brown Act violation confirmed the two versions, as Michael Houston included both copies (one stamped, one not) in his response.

Can you imagine the repercussions should the government begin approving expenditures based on one set of documents — and then alter those records to make them more palatable to the public prior to their release?!

To ensure no one missed the import of these revelations, Ward liberally used bold-type and text  coloration emphasize this was really, truly an important point!

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cater who caresFrom the beginning, CATER gadflies have scoffed at the suggestion that their legal battle — waged in partnership with liberal San Diego litigator Cory Briggs and his Inland Oversight Committee cutout – to obstruct the Anaheim Convention Center expansion would have a negative economic impact on the city. [And if it did, their attitude has been “so what?”]

It’s ironic that a group styling itself as a Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility would be so economically irresponsible.

This August 22 story in the OC Register shows CATER’s deluded attitude is…deluded, and could have cost the Anaheim Convention Center at least two major conventions:

The expansion turmoil has prompted at least one trade-group executive to says his organization would look at options to leave if the expansion doesn’t materialize.

“We’d have to assess our options and current growth. We’ve been going with the knowledge and assumption that it’d be happening,” said Adam Andersen, group show director for New Hope Natural Media, which runs the Natural Products Expo West.

NAMM’s chief echoed that sentiment:

The top executive of the National Association of Music Merchants said he is cautiously optimistic the expansion will be completed a year before NAMM’s long-term contract expires in 2018.

“We are counting on the expansion to hold us. We probably could inhale or tighten our belt for a year or two, or even three, until the expansion is completed,” said Joe Lamond, NAMM’s president and chief executive officer. NAMM is the biggest trade group to visit Anaheim’s convention center.

In the past, Lamond has said an expansion is vital to the trade show staying in Anaheim. Organizers have said the show generates $91.5 million in spending at local restaurants, hotels, and tourist attractions like Disneyland and elsewhere.

Greg Diamond de la Brea, CATER’s lawyer and gadfly fixture at Anaheim City Council meetings, intoned with ominous intent:

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The Ministry of Truth was one of four government bureaucracies that rule fictional Oceania in George Orwell’s classic novel 1984 – the propaganda arm of Ingsoc; its job to twist stated reality to suit the extant needs of the Party.

The full-page political advertisement purchased by CATER in yesterday’s Anaheim Bulletin ad embodies the spirit of the Ministry of Truth, from the “Stop Lying” headline down through the catalog of straw man arguments rolled out by these gadflies:

Ignorance is Strength

Ignorance is Strength

The “Stop Lying” logo is, ironically, more accurately directed at the authors of this ad. Let’s start with the headline:

“The Truth About The Angel Stadium Deal”

The truth is there is no Angel Stadium deal. There is only a non-binding MOU that establishes a framework for the negotiations between the city and the Angels. CATER’s claim that there is an “Angel Stadium Deal” is an untruth.

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When it comes to the relationship between Anaheim gadfly group CATER and liberal litigator Cory Briggs Inland Oversight Group, it seems that one hand washes the other. Briggs’ IOC is CATER’s co-plaintiff in the lawsuit to stop the council-approved expansion of the Anaheim Convention Center.

As it turns out, CATER has joined Brigg’s legal battle against the expansion of San Diego’s convention center, which was filed at the beginning of April of this year.

On May 12, CATER and IOC filed their lawsuit against the Anaheim Convention Center expansion. Two weeks later, on May 27, CATER jumped into the San Diego Convention Center legal fight, with Greg Diamond of Brea filing an answer to a Briggs “reverse-validation complaint.” I’m not a lawyer, but a lawyer tried to explain it to me. Even though CATER is clearly allied with Briggs, it is technically a defendant in the San Diego case but it’s “answer” to ask the court to find in Brigg’s favor:

WHEREFORE, Defendant CATER prays for the following relief against Defendants City of San Diego, City of San Diego as successor agency to the Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Diego, Housing Authority of the City of San Diego, and Public Facilities Financing Authority of the City of San Diego (and any and all other parties who may oppose Defendant CATER or Plaintiff in this proceeding):

A. A judgment determining or declaring that the Bond Approvals do not comply with all applicable laws in at least some respect, rendering the Bond Approvals null and void, invalid, or otherwise without legal effect;

B. Injunctive relief prohibiting Defendants City of San Diego, City of San Diego as successor agency to the Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Diego, Housing Authority of the City of San Diego, and Public Facilities Financing Authority of the City of San Diego (and any and all other parties who may oppose Defendant CATER or Plaintiff in this proceeding) from taking any of the action contemplated by the Bond Approvals unless and until said Defendants comply with all applicable legal requirements, as determined by the Court;

C. All legal fees and other expenses incurred in connection with this proceeding, including but not limited to reasonable attorney fees as authorized by the Code of Civil Procedure; and

D. Any and all further relief that this Court may deem appropriate.

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I thought I’d share this May 27, 2014 Voice of San Diego article on Cory Briggs, the left-wing ambulance chaser working hand-in-glove with CATER to stop the council-approved expansion of the Anaheim Convention Center:

Cory Briggs, the attorney who helped end the political career of Bob Filner, wants to stop a lot of other things in San Diego, too.

Like an expansion of the city’s Convention Center. And a half-dozen new neighborhood libraries and refurbished fire stations. And even a Jack in the Box drive-thru in North Park. All told, Briggs’ lawsuits are tying up more than $2 billion in projects across San Diego. No one paralyzes City Hall’s ability to do anything more than him, City Councilman Scott Sherman said.

“People are just scared to death Cory Briggs is going to sue over something,” Sherman said.

In fact, Briggs instills the same fear in politicians and developers all across Southern California. No attorney sues under the state’s main environmental quality law more than him.

These lawsuits all tend to follow a formula: A local City Council approves a big-box development, like a Wal-Mart. A nonprofit with a watchdoggy name sues, with Briggs as its attorney. The developer settles the case and pays Briggs for his trouble. It’s often unclear who is against the project other than Briggs himself.

It’s a fascinating article, and you can read the whole thing here.

Given how closely CATER works with Briggs and his front non-profit Inland Oversight Committee; and given that Cynthia Ward and other allies of Mayor Tait established CATER for the express purpose of filing such lawsuits, one has to wonder if it wasn’t Cory Briggs who gave them the idea to start CATER.

Anaheim Insider here.

At the end of Tuesday’s Anaheim City Council meeting, City Attorney Michael Houston reported out actions taken during closed session.

With respect to closed session item number 1, “CATER et al versus Anaheim Public Financing Authority .” the City Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency and the Anaheim Public Financing Authority met in joint closed session and by a vote of 4 to 1, with the Mayor voting “no,” approval was given to defend litigation entitled “CATER and IOC, or Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility and the Inland Oversight Committee, v. the Anaheim Public Financing Authority et al,” with respect to an action alleging that actions taken on May 11 relating to the issuance of bonds violated various provisions of the California Constitution and the City Charter.

So, Mayor Tait voted against defending his city from a lawsuit filed by the non-profit arm of his re-election campaign. Why? Maybe the Mayor can explain at the next council meeting why he doesn’t won’t a fight a bogus lawsuit that is seriously jeopardizing the Anaheim Convention Center’s ability to keep its biggest convention, NAMM, and sign other big conferences like the American Heart Association.

On the other hand, Tait joined the rest of the council in voting to defend the city from OCCORD’s lawsuit against the May 2103 economic assistance agreements with the GardenWalk Hotels. Why one and not the other?

 

Anaheim Insider here.

CATER propaganda quote

As Dan Chmielewski of TheLiberalOC.com has already noted, the CATER claque has published a website for their club: www.anaheim-cater.com. CATER is run by a very loud person who has said very little about her non-profit 501(c)4. We know it is her, camp follower Brian Chuchua and her blogging sidekick Greg Diamond. They’ve filed two lawsuits against the City of Anaheim to undermine negotiations to keep the Angels in town and to torpedo the vital expansion of the Anaheim Convention Center. Although they demand transparency from others, they refuse to say who funds their activities.

At least CATER is being truthful about its purpose: “carrying on propaganda.” Yes, CATER really does says that on the “About” page of its website, which also says:

“[CATER] shall not participate or intervene in any campaign (including the publication or distribution of statements) on behalf of any candidate for public office; and, it shall not, except in an insubstantial degree, engage in any activities or exercise any powers that are not in furtherance of the purposes described above.”

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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.

From Bloomberg News:

Citigroup Inc. terminated a deal to purchase $265 million of revenue bonds from Anaheim,California, after opponents sued over plans to expand the city’s convention center, a city spokeswoman said.

Citigroup was the lead underwriter on the bonds offered March 24, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The bonds were rated AA- by Standard & Poor’s, according to a disclosure document. The deal was set to close May 14.

A local group that calls itself the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility filed the suit May 12, alleging that the public financing authority wasn’t allowed to offer the debt because California lawmakers dissolved redevelopment agencies, one of which was a member of the financing authority.

“Unfortunately, the originally targeted investors were not willing to accept the litigation risk and chose not to proceed even though the city, the city attorney and bond counsel were of the opinion that such litigation would not likely succeed,” Anaheim spokeswoman Ruth Ruiz said by e-mail.

Scott Helfman, a spokesman for Citigroup, declined to comment on the termination.

The city council in March approved the funding and plans to build a 200,000-square-foot expansion of the convention center, which is less than two miles south of the city’s star attraction, Disneyland.

Proceeds from a 2 percent hotel room tax were to pay for the bonds.

Ruiz said city officials are trying to determine if they can move forward with the project.

“It is unfortunate that a few local activists, in contradiction to the overwhelming community support shown at the council meeting where the bonds were authorized, have taken legal action against this project,” she said.

Ms. Ruiz is exactly right, although I’m sure Cynthia Ward and her little band of mystery members are pleased with themselves.

Ward, Brian Chuchua and their consigliere from Brea have cost Anaheim jobs. They have also cost the city money for parks, a new fire station and other civic improvements because the cost of the next financing deal will escalate. Bully for them.

Amazing how a group that bills itself as supporting “economic responsibility” in reality does everything in its power to undermine the city’s economic development efforts, fueled by an irrational hostility toward the council majority.

diamond me tooTheLiberalOC.com reports that CATER (Concerned Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility) yesterday sent a letter to the City of Anaheim regarding left-wing San Diego attorney Cory Briggs threat to sue the city if issues bonds to finance the Anaheim Convention Center expansion. 

The letter says that if Brigg’s actually does sue, then CATER will, too.

Greg Diamond – Brea resident and lately a fixture during the Anaheim council public comment period — is CATER’s lawyer and author of the letter – which means it takes two pages to state what could have been said in two paragraphs.

You can read the letter here.

Greg Diamond, "counsel" to CATER

Greg Diamond, “counsel” to CATER

Back in September, Anaheim’s notorious and fickle gadfly Cynthia Ward announced “the incorporation of the entity that will raise funds to take action against the council majority’s corporate subsidies.”

Now we know the name because, according to sources, her little group has filed  a complaint with the Anaheim City Clerk alleging a Brown Act Violation by the Anaheim City Council. Her group is called Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility or CATER — as in CATERing to the narrow political agenda of some very squeaky wheels.

The complaint was penned and filed by — you guessed it — CATER “counsel” Greg Diamond. This explains why the letter is confused, confusing and far, far longer than it needs to be. Fair warning: down a Red Bull or some hi-octane coffee before attempting to read Diamond’s opus, or risk falling asleep.

When you boil it down, the complaint claims the city staff’s recommendation to adopt the Angels negotiations MOU and the Anaheim City Council’s 4-1 vote to do so on September 3 all hinged entirely on a report by the consulting firm Convention, Sports and Leisure (CSL) about the positive economic impact of having Angels baseball in Anaheim. The clear implication of Diamond’s assertion is that none of this would have happened absent the CSL report.

But that’s just an opinion. Where’s the Brown Act violation? It’s a very convoluted letter, but it comes down to when Cynthia Ward was able to get a copy of the CSL report. Diamond also says the Public Records Act was violated because the CSL report given to the city council on September 3 was allegedly different from the version that was provided later to Ward.

The complaint doesn’t state exactly which sections of the Brown Act and the Public Records Act were violated (unless those specifics are buried somewhere in the eight dense pages). Despite several references to the CSL report being altered — “…a later copy of the report…appears to have been edited to remove at least one factual error…” — but Diamond never says exactly what was edited or what the supposed factual error was. Was it a substantive change? Who knows? Diamond clearly implies that it is, but never tells us what it was. His omission of the sinister edit/alteration makes it hard to seriously consider Diamond’s implication that the council might have acted differently but for the mysterious “edited” information from the “first” report “upon which the Council based their decisions at the September 3 meeting…

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