Anaheim GardenWalk Tax Breaks Speak of a Tale of Two Cities

Categories: Politics
Where's the Garden?
Ahead of yesterday's Anaheim city council meeting, a mailer to city residents from the Orange County Employees Association and numerous news reports on recently approved tax incentives for two future GardenWalk-area hotels made sure for a packed house. Mayor Tom Tait had an idea what would dominate the discussion of the public comments section and pleaded for civility.

The chambers were indeed filled--more evenly than the pro-subsidization-stacked meeting two weeks ago--and people spoke for nearly two hours on both sides of the decision to allow for up to $158 million dollars in tax incentives. It was one of the most contentious gatherings at city hall since the Gigante supermarket liquor license desmadre of years past.

The divide on display showed Anaheim becoming a tale of two cities. Opponents noted time after time the hit Anaheim's public services have taken and could take while council members Harry Sidhu, Gail Eastman, and Kris Murray voted in favor of major subsidization of the hotel development. Many gestures of gratitude were afforded to councilwoman Lorri Galloway and Mayor Tait, although both were in favor of an earlier plan passed under the rubric of "economic freedom" which calls for deregulation, including those that would negatively affect public services. Complaints from speakers ranged from streets in poor conditions, cuts to the senior center, and a planned future slashing of one million dollars from the city's public library system. In short, slash the public good and subsidize the private sector.

"I found out about what happened at a Los Amigos meeting I went to last week with OC Dream Team," resident Maria Zacarias says of what motivated her to attend and speak for the first time at an Anaheim council meeting. "I worked at the resort area before and the GardenWalk. When I found out how much the developers were getting I thought it was really unfair while my aunt's neighborhood is still looking depleted," she added.

Taking note of the heavy presence of suits in the house as opposed to grassroots, Zacarias definitely thinks there is a growing reality of a two-track Anaheim. "It's funny how the resort area is lit up, while the neighborhood where I live is dark. My aunt doesn't even let my cousins go out at night because of recent shootings."

Proponents, of course, were present as well coming from the likes of 2012 city council hopeful Jordan Brandman, members of Support Our Anaheim Resort (SOAR), and organized union trade workers. The line was mostly consistent: increased tax revenue--including ad nauseum citation of a hotel developer commissioned study statistic of a supposed $4.4 billion boost to the local economy--and job creation. Larry Slagle, Co-Chair of (SOAR), spoke after Zacarias in support of the controversial decision. "This is a tax break that will breathe life into the GardenWalk resort area, specifically in the area of retail sales" he said, "You can't please all the people all the time."

After Slagle addressed the dais, Jill Kanzler, Executive Director of SOAR took to the podium and spoke against the characterization of the tax break as a giveaway. "This is money that's going to be generated by revenue... It's going to go to make sure these hotels get built, that the jobs are created."

Harrah-style economy coming to Anaheim?
The framing was very similar to that which supported mega developer Mike Harrah's phallic homage to himself in the form of One Broadway Plaza in SanTana: The economy is sluggish and construction jobs would be created, questions of what would be built and how be damned. Such sloganeering was on full display in Anaheim, but nary an inquiry into what kind of jobs would come after the construction of the hotels was made.

Los Angeles and L.A. Live were mentioned towards the end by OCCORD's Eric Altman and a response to him by councilwoman Murray, but the taxpayer subsidization of the hotel/tourism industry in the city of Long Beach could have easily been cited for purposes of comparison. A 2009 Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy Study looked into what $750 million dollars of taxpayer investment into Long Beach's tourist industry had yielded and found concentrated poverty as the result. One of the main drivers was low-wage hotel service jobs with few or no benefits. The same could be the end result in Anaheim, despite all the cheerleading.

Public angst and outrage were expressed, but in the end, Tait noted it was too late. "There is nothing to vote on today," he said at the conclusion of public comments. "There's nothing to discuss. I appreciate everyone coming here...but there is nothing to discuss by law. It is a done deal. It was signed on the 31st."

There is a scheduled KABC-TV Channel 7 town hall on the matter this coming Monday at Saint Anthony Catholic Church from 5 p.m-9 p.m. anyhow, but the discourse could shift beyond the deal, to those who approved it. Council members Eastman and Murray, both Advisory Committee members of SOAR with their vote being consistent with the organizational position, alongside Sidhu, did face folks vowing to recall them, which if ever made good upon as a political consequence for their actions would be the second such move taken against a council trio after Fullerton is already well on its way.

Go get 'em, cabrones.

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Sharon Tipton
Sharon Tipton

shoulda been a clue when they tore down houses decades ago to expand D-land. Why the FUCK are we so surprised. this is quite hilarious. tear the mofo down! cheers!

Francisco Barragan
Francisco Barragan

The City of Anaheim did not have to give away this gift of public funds of $158,000,000 because:

1)  Libraries, parks, or jobs are being closed or eliminated, and other services cut.

2)  The City Manager who is also a long-term Finance Director recommended against this.

3)  The City had other Financing options it could have pursued.

3A) LOAN.  The City could have LENT the money.

3B)  CASH FLOWS.  The City could have added a clause that it would took a percent of Positive Net Cash Flows as they are generated.  This way the financial impact to the City and its citizens was minimized by recouping more and a lot earlier.

4)  HOTEL VACANCIES.  It was not necessary for the City to give away funds because this was not a priority.  For example, if these project/Hotels did not get built, the tourists would still have a place to stay because hotels do NOT run on 100% occupancy (there are always vacancies) and the City would have been collecting revenues, rather than giving away revenues.

5)  The City could have negotiated terms favorable for its citizens or associations in return for this giveaway:  A)  Better competitive salaries and benefits; B)  Discounted room nights, or use of conference facilities at favorable DISCOUNTED rates for Anaheim residents and Anaheim based not-for-profit groups/associations or chambers of commerce.

6)  SEPARATELY:It appears the will of the people has been ignored and proper process violated, especially given the unusual way in which this DISCUSSION item became an ACTION item.

This is more suspect given the Conflicts of Interests that have surfaced both in terms of Thousands of Dollars in donations, and the too-cozy relationships giving also the appearance of improper conflicted relationships by the council members voting for this rushed action item.

7)  PREVENT FURTHER RECURRENCE.A)  What avenue do citizens have or should have when give-away of funds are "voted on"?B)  What should happen when elected or appointed officials violate their FIDUCIARY Responsibility; Ignore the recommendations of Staff, and are no longer relying on experts?; or Act but NOT in the best interests of its citizens; or act in a Conflicted manner?

Should the ONLY avenue be the courts (Preliminary Stay or Permanent Injunction etc?)I say NO.

FAIL-SAFE/CITIZENS VETO power Option through new State Law.  Another solution is to protect the Citizens/Taxpayers interests by making City Council decisions SUBJECT TO Citizen review within a reasonable period of time, and if no citizen action is taken, then the City Council decision is FINAL.

A decision to give away public funds, could be SUBJECT TO citizen review by requiring a certain percent involvement and within a reasonable period of time.  For example, of how this would work is as follows:

i)  If 10% (or some other percent) of total citizens WHO VOTED in the last local election gather SIGNATURES in opposition from the local registered voters, within say 30-45 days, then the City Council decision is STOPPED and PENDING.ii)  Then if the citizens gather in opposition a total of 33% SIGNATURES (or some other percent) of total citizens WHO VOTED in the last local election within say 30-45 days, then the citizens have VETOED THIS DECISION.iii)  For similar action, to be reconsidered at a later date, at least 75%-80% of the City Council,  must state their intention within 30-days to bring this matter up again within ONE-YEAR, or 66% within TWO-YEARS, otherwise a similar motion can not be considered until after THREE-FOUR years have lapsed.

The purpose for this is to Protect the interests of Citizens/Taxpayers and to give notice to the community of those council members who are voting against the will of the people.

Francisco "Paco" BarraganCandidate for State Assembly 69th (website under construction)FranciscoXAsamblea@gmail.comMy opinions only and not those of any group

Denis Fitz
Denis Fitz

Just as the strawberry fields at Harbor and Katella went to Disney in secret decades ago, so will GardenWalk and the $158 million.


There's a lot of anger out there about this hotel deal.  Again and again, the SOAR types tell us how darned lucky we are to have this "economic engine" powering our town -- but drive out of the resort area, and you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between most of Anaheim and Santa Ana, Garden Grove, or Stanton.  Where does all that money go?

Not sure where to take that anger on my next appointment with the ballot box, though. On one side, you've got Brandman, a slick operator from the same slimy mold as Murray, and some guy named Steve Lodge, who I've never heard of before -- but he's endorsed by Tait, Murray, Eastman, and Pringle, so he can't be any good.  On the other side, you've got John Leos, who is as dumb as a rock.  Where are the smart, neighborhood-focused candidates for those of us who'd just like to *live* here and tell the special interests to go to hell?


First world problems...

Occupy Everywhere
Occupy Everywhere

Maria Zacarias,  Gabriel, or others can you please stop by Occupy Santa Ana Friday night to brief the members of Mondays meeting-action.    You need all the numbers that you can get.  Why not do a re-call?     

Art Pedroza
Art Pedroza

Lucille Kring is running - and she will definitely stand up to the resort cabal.


Nelson ran a grassroots campaign in 2010, fueled entirely by volunteers, spent only $5,000 and still beat Hoagy Holguin, who spent 10 times as much and had name recognition. Robert Nelson's message resonated with voters, and if he can be persuaded to run again, he can win this. Folks are looking for that leader who understands that some of that fuel from the economic engine needs to return to the neighborhoods and not be trapped in a closed system controlled by the Chamber. Voters need to contact Robert Nelson (through the website posted by Jason above) and encourage him to please run again. Pledge money and time to help him get elected, he will be outspent by special interests and needs all the help we can get him, but he CAN win I this environment, Anaheim voters have had it with professional politicians like Lucille Kring (who is running again, backed by the king of special interest, Frank Elfend)

Address For Web Posting
Address For Web Posting

Lucille Kring? Seriously? Because obviously the problem with the current Council is that it doesn't have *enough* blandly forgettable white pro-business Republicans with Chamber of Commerce ties -- let's see if we can make it five out of five in 2012!


I agree with you about encouraging and the supporting of Robert Nelson for Anaheim City Council and I will take advantage of the contact link to voice my support as well as offer my time to his campaign.

I also agree with the idea that some professional politicians can over time be a negative.  It seems that most end up being long removed from the needs and perspectives of those that put them in office.

Now I ask you if you feel the same towards the Up and Coming Hopeful "Professional Politician" as the already seasoned ones? Jordan Brandman comes to mind!

I know I've learned a great deal the past year and hope others have as well.



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