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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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Anaheim Blog top commenter Ryan Cantor proposes putting the Anaheim Convention Center expansion on the ballot, echoing Mayor Tom Tait’s position. I have a few thoughts on this approach.

First, I wonder, sincerely, if Ryan and some of his compadres in the commentosphere would advocate for putting the expansion on the ballot if the mayor commanded a council majority could kill it at tat level. call me cynical, but in my experience, calls for putting something to a vote of the people usually emanate from the side unable to stop that something at the council level because it lacks the ability to win elections.

The mayor cited the size of the bond issue as the reason for placing the convention center on the ballot:

“If the people of Anaheim are going to take on that kind of debt for this expansion, they should at least be able to vote on it in November because this is an extremely expensive price to pay for the amount of square footage that we get.”

That position begs the question: what, then, is the debt threshold for placing a bond issue on the ballot? What is “too expensive”? $300 million? $200 million? $119,543,888? Or is it akin to Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography: you know it when you see it?

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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.

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