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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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Unite Here protestorsThe campaign for by-district council elections has received another big union check: UNITE-HERE Local 11 contributed $25,000 to the Committee for District Elections, which is the “Yes on Measure L” campaign. 

Who does UNITE-HERE Local 11 represent? Hotel workers (and food service employees). Of what does Anaheim have thousands? Non-unionized hotel workers that UNITE-HERE not only wants, but needs as members. 

The only hotels in the Anaheim resort area with unionized workers are the Anaheim Hilton and the Disney properties.  

UNITE-HERE wants to change that.  It’s 501(c)4 satellite group, OCCORD, has been fighting the GardenWalk Hotel economic assistance agreement in court. By an amazing coincidence, OCCORD is being represented by Cory Briggs, the same left-wing ambulance chaser who is co-plaintiff with CATER against the Anaheim Convention Center expansion.

[OCCORD is housed in office next to UNITE-HERE, in a building owned by UNITE-HERE, and receives a $5,000 check from UNITE-HERE every month]. 

OCCORD doesn’t object to the city’s TOT subsidy for the GardenWalk project. What they (or rather, UNITE-HERE) want is for the GardenWalk owners to allow UNITE-HERE to unionize their employees. If the GardenWalk investors agreed to that, OCCORD’s lawsuit would go away. In the meantime, the OCCORD/UNITE-HERE strategy is to wear the GardenWalk investors with drawn-out litigation and force them to choose between agreeing to be unionized or giving up the project. 

Bu that is a laborious, expensive approach to unionizing hotel workers. It would be better for UNITE-HERE to have a left-leaning, Democrat-majority on the Anaheim City Council that made it clear to hotel developers that approval of their new or expanded projects hinged on having unionized workers or agreeing to “card check neutrality” as a condition of approval (in addition to incorporating similar demands into the conditions).

Since the at-large council election system has proven a barrier to electing more than one Democrat to the city council, UNITE-HERE and other left-wing constituencies want to replace it with by-district elections, which would structurally tilt council elections toward a Democratic majority. It’s no accident that nearly 92% of UNITE-HERE political contributions go to Democrats.

Orange County Republicans should consider that the pillar of Democratic power in Nevada are the unions representing hotel and casino workers.  Imagine how the political landscape in Orange County would be altered if the Left succeeds in passing Measure L and opening the door to unionizing the estimated 8,000 hotel workers in the Anaheim resort area. That’s a lot of union dues revenue available to fund the election of Democratic candidates.  

UNITE-HERE Local 11 needs members. Or rather, it needs the revenue from member dues. It also represents Aramark employees, and lost members when the Anaheim Ducks decided to get rid of Aramark and bring its food service operations in house.  UNITE-HERE lobbied the Anaheim City Council to require the Ducks to staff their in-house food service operation with UNITE-HERE members. They even pushed for the council to ask the Ducks to allow UNITE-HERE to organize their food service workers via card check. 

Since the four of the five members of the Anaheim City Council are Republicans, UNITE-HERE’s demands were rebuffed. Does anyone think that would have been the case if a Democratic majority were in control?

This is what is at stake in the battle over by-district election in Anaheim. It’s not the naive (and cynical) malarkey about “neighbors electing neighbors” or better city services (neither of which by-district elections would deliver). This is the opening salvo in a political campaign to shift Anaheim and Orange County to the Left. 

Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray

Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray

This came over the transom a little while ago from Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray:

Statement by Council Member Kris Murray on passage of GardenWalk Hotels economic assistance agreements

Anaheim–The Anaheim City Council has voted to approve the GardenWalk Hotels economic assistance program, in a move expected to generate nearly $500 million in new city revenues according to city staff.

Council Member Kris Murray gave the following statement:

 “This is a win-win for our city. 

This program increases city revenues without raising taxes, which allows us to fund neighborhood programs like parks and libraries, along with our vital police and fire services. And no general revenue dollars will ever be spent on this project.

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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.

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.

newTasteMan150The 18th Annual Taste of Anaheim, organized by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, takes place next Thursday, May 9 at the GardenWalk mall.

Guests get to enjoy the food proferred by the raft of restaurants – 40 eateries and breweries — participating in the event, and live entertainment will be featured as well.

Tickets are $35 pre-sale and $45 at the door.

It’s a great event; a lot of fun. Don’t miss out!

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.

[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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I had high hopes for the Voice of OC when it launched a couple of years ago, but its coverage of Anaheim in general and GardenWalk in particular has been very biased. The Voice is almost a surrogate for the agenda of people and organizations like Dr. Jose Moreno, OCCORD and Los Amigos.

Take, for example, this paragraph from today’s Voice story on GardenWalk:

“The City Council first granted the subsidy to O’Connell’s partnership, GardenWalk Hotel I, in January 2012. The 3-2 vote revealed a spit on both the City Council and in the community, with neighborhood activists and good-government advocates pitted against a group of construction trade unions and influential business lobbyists closely linked to O’Connell.”

So if anyone who opposes this project is a benevolent “neighborhood activist” and a “good-government advocate,” but supporters are “construction trade unionists” and “influential business lobbyists.”

How incredibly biased and inaccurate. How unfair to individuals like myself who support this project, and aren’t unionists or “iinfluential business lobbyists,” but think the facts show GardenWalk to be a good deal for Anaheim.

The agreement with GardeWalk is good government. It is sound, forward-thinking economic development policy. It will make possible the development of a four-star hotel that will create thousands of jobs, strengthen the Resort Area’s competitive position as a tourist and convention destination, and will increase the city’s long-term TOT revenues.

The city is putting no cash into this deal. The 80% share comes from TOT revenues that don’t currently exist and will only come into existence if the project is built. There is no “giveaway.”

It is particularly disappointing to watch the vilification of Bill O’Connell, a wonderful man who has been a pillar of the Anaheim community for many years. This man, who has given back to the community for many years, is being publicly attacked and torn don by people and groups who are takers and constantly trying to extract “community benefits” from business and government.

There are many of us in the city who have no direct stake in this project but want the City Council to re-affirm its support and move the city forward on a path of continued economic growth and development.

Opponents of the GardenWalk agreement — the 15-year, 80-20 Transient Occupancy Tax revenue split with the project’s developers — are doing a victory dance over yesterday’s Superior Court decision. And that’s to be expected. But it’s important to be clear about what this decision is, and what it isn’t. Let’s take the latter, first. The court was not making a judgment on the merits of the agreement. Indeed, the agreement was really beside the point — it could have been about garage sales or ice cream vendors. The ruling really came down to the language of the January 24, 2012 council agenda item regarding the GardenWalk project:

“Discussion to consider an amendment to an existing economic assistance agreement and provide direction to staff to develop an agreement with the developer (GardenWalk Hotel Project).”

Given that language, I believe another judge could have reasonably decided the other way and upheld the vote (admittedly, I haven’t seen the decision, so I may have to revise that belief). It seems very clear to me from the phrase “discussion to consider” that it is was very possible to council would vote on the matter than evening; after all, “to consider” means “to think carefully about, especially in order to make a decision.” However, that’s now a moot point (unless the city appeals the decision).

This decision is also an opportunity to revisit the oft-repeated complaint by GardenWalk opponents that they were “denied the opportunity” to speak at the January 24 council meeting because they did not know there would be a vote that evening.

That’s a tough one to swallow, for several reasons. For starters, it’s not like OCCORD, Los Amigos or any other similar pressure group only show to speak at Anaheim City Council when there is definitely going to be a vote on an issue they care about. On the contrary.

Secondly, the amended GardenWalk agreement had been working its way through the city for months – it didn’t suddenly burst from obscurity. And it is important to remember it is an amended agreement — a TOT split was already in place.

Let’s face it: OCCORD, Los Amigos and other elements of what became the “Take Back Anaheim” coalition were asleep at the switch. The GardenWalk agreement was on the agenda. It was clear from the language that a vote might very well take place, and veteran council watchers like the above groups should have known that.

I’m sure we’ll now have plenty of opportunities to re-hash and re-hear the arguments for and against the project in the weeks ahead.

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