Anaheim Hotel Tax Giveaway Dominates Town Hall Forum

Categories: Politics
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Anaheim residents filed into an auditorium at St. Anthony Claret Catholic Church last night for a KABC-TV Channel 7 town hall. The space in the heavily Latino neighborhood is usually situated for bingo nights, but a majority of the capacity crowd attended in order to express anger for a city council approved GardenWalk-area hotel development that already hit the tax break jackpot!

ABC7 President and General Manager Arnold Kleiner was on hand alongside a number of his colleagues seated to his left and right to facilitate the evening's discussion that was not an emergency forum, but had been planned in advance. In his opening spiel, he acknowledged he knew why so many had gathered. "We're not going to talk about this all night because this is not why we came down," Kleiner said in reference to the 3-2 vote last month to approve two new hotels with a $158 million subsidy over 15 years.

"It might be part of why we came down, but we want to hear about everything in your community. We want to hear what's on your mind, but when it starts getting repetitive, when we start hearing the same thing over and over and over, we're not going to hear it anymore."

Kleiner then mentioned a conversation he had with OCEA General Manager Nick Berardino beforehand, who the network president called out for not being in attendance, and later felt that the public employee union leader had co-opted the town hall with flyers, emails and robocalls hammering at the "giveaway three."

As people lined up, council members were first to speak. Lorri Galloway, who cast a dissenting vote alongside Mayor Tom Tait, drew the biggest applause of the night. "It's a gift of taxpayer money," she said of the hotel subsidy. "There is no guarantee that this gift of government money benefits directly the citizens of Anaheim and its communities. Now you can bet that the investors involved will get all of their money paid back completely, plus 16% interest," Galloway continued on. "We have no guarantee that the jobs that people are clamoring about are local jobs and we have no guarantee that these jobs are living wage jobs."

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Setting up at St. Anthony's

Councilwoman Kris Murray was next to walk up to the microphone and as she did she was greeted with a chorus of boos from the crowd. Her comments were brief and only topically touched upon the prevailing issue noting the number of jobs it would purportedly create. Gail Eastman, the only other council member in attendance as Harry Sidhu was not on hand, was spared the jeers as Kleiner had already stepped in on that front. "I'm very anxious to hear what you all have to say about your concerns other than this particular subject," she said to moans in the crowd. "This one has been voted on, that part is over and done with."

By and large, Anaheim residents and community leaders were very anxious to voice their displeasure with the vote, using all of the one-and-a-half minute they were allotted by the town hall format to do so. "Fifty-two years I've been in the city of Anaheim and I'm really tired of the 1% getting it all," Windflower Ochoa said in the rhetoric of Occupy firing off the first comment of the night. For the next hour-and-a-half, others went on to question the enormity of the tax subsidy in light of public service cuts such as those to libraries and schools. The quality of jobs for future hotel employees was brought up by a woman who had experience working as one. Longtime activist and Los Amigos chair emeritus Amin David stated a need for a referendum allowing for the people to vote.

Todd Ament, President and CEO of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, was one of the few who spoke against the tide of discontent. "This hotel project, while many have kind of spun it as a tax giveaway, we're actually by this incentive attracting a developer and an investment firm to invest over $280 million dollars," he said while mentioning the thousands of jobs that would result from it. Ament would be later questioned from the microphone by a man asking if the construction work would be from Anaheim or out of state.

The pulse of the outrage was palpable. Recall buttons were worn by some naming the three council members who voted in favor of the development deal, others adorned "Heart of Anaheim" stickers that were passed out and a petition circulated. There was plenty of anger present on this February night in the city. By the end, folks were ready to file out as chairs were stacked up and put away.

Will Anaheimers still remember come November?

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33 comments
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Boston Park Plaza Hotel
Boston Park Plaza Hotel

the new resorts will be aggressive with present resorts where the bed tax would receive money to Anaheim or to other close by locations. If a guest remains at the new destination instead of an present hotel.

Joanne Abu Qartoumy
Joanne Abu Qartoumy

The voice of the people was heard and... it's not over yet!

Guest
Guest

I hate to break it to you, but the people with money have the power. And the people with no money and a loud voice end up with a sore throat, and that's about it.

Occupy Everywhere
Occupy Everywhere

 The people with money go to the bank again, the people without are watching Disney DVDs when instead they should be Occupying. 

Bill T.
Bill T.

The tea-baggers still won't care.

Occupy Everywhere
Occupy Everywhere

 Who's talking about sitting in a park?  Go to City Hall.  Go to the corporations. Occupy everywhere.

Bill T.
Bill T.

Sitting in the park making a statement is fine but I'm skeptical it's going to precipitate any real action. What's going to make a difference is to get it through to the tea-baggers that the Koch brothers' interests are not necessarily theirs. Why would the Koch brothers care about maintenance of the infrastructure in this country? They'll be dead before it's crumbling affects them.

Guest
Guest

The people who are against the tax reduction are pure genius. How much local business and sales tax do you think these hotels are going to generate? That maybe too difficult a question, so let me ask this. How much business and sales tax do you think the hotels will generate if they don't exist? Zero. And if they don't build the hotels, how jobs will be generated? Zero. But, all of you against the tax reduction can always apply for a job at the bowling alley.

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

Gosh, I feel terrible for the poor ickle hotel developers. They can't afford to build their bougie hotels without $158M in bed tax, so they go crying to the city.

Does anyone actually think the hotels are going to save that waste of prime real estate called the Gardenwalk?

Ten (or twelve, since the hotels haven't been built) years from now when the hotels are tired and run-down, they'll come in and say, gosh, we need to remodel, we need to do all these things, and beg for an extension of the holiday, hoping that memories won't be ten or twelve years long.

Shame on those council members, and especially shame on them for skipping the meeting. If you're going to make unpopular decisions, you ought to have the testicular fortitude to defend your decision instead of hiding in your fancy Anaheim Hills houses like cowards.

Guest
Guest

If these were the only hotels in Anaheim, this argument might make some sense.  But in fact, the new hotels will be competing with existing hotels where the bed tax would be paid to Anaheim or to other neighboring cities. If a guest stays at the new hotel instead of an existing hotel, there a loss of revenue.

Jackberg123
Jackberg123

Visitors of the proposed hotels would still be paying the bed-tax. But instead of the revenue going to the city, it's going straight to the developer's pocket.

That's what makes this so outrageous.

Plus there are no guarantees that these will be union jobs, living wage jobs, etc. The city negotiated nothing on behalf of the people. In fact, without those guarantees, there most likely will be no union jobs. They just gave it all away...

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

This might be the dumbest argument I've ever heard...

Guest
Guest

Gustavo, you don't understand economics, so don't even try. It's way beyond your intelligence. Just stick to your anti-development attitude. And, add yourself to the long list of people that have absolutely no understanding of what kind of tax they are even talking about, how much the city would still get from that tax, and what the other benefits would be of buidling those hotels. Benefits that would directly go to the community.

Guest
Guest

Hey, I can do whatever I want too. Go ahead, try to ban me. You can't stop me, and you know it. I'll post something EVERY day. Guaranteed.

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

And now I see you're using a new IP address? LOL. Can't hide from our all-seeing eye, pendejo!

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

We can ban whoever we want—just try me, son! And I'll tell you what to do: from this point forward, DO NOT claim your email as being from OC Weekly, or your loser ass is gone. Capice?

Guest
Guest

My point about you not understanding economics still stands. You don't have a clue about that or finance. That is what the real issue is.

Guest
Guest

Lol. You are a complete joke. How many times are you going to threaten to ban me? You can't do that. And even if you did, I would sue the fuck out the OCW, AND you personally. Don't ever try telling me what to do again. Ever.

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

Oh, and Steve? Why'd you ditch your name? Go back to it, as we don't allow sock puppetry and you WILL be deported.

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

I understand corruption, and I understand my hometown's politics, so best you stay quiet lest your stupidity show itself further.

909Jeff
909Jeff

Even dumber than uninformed people bitching about a "Bed Tax" which none of them paid anyway? 

909Jeff
909Jeff

Sorry I was going off of memory from a prior article but either way the example still works. 

Define Bed Tax

bed tax. A levy imposed by a local government on hotel stays within its jurisdiction. A bed tax is a way for local governments to raise taxes without incurring the wrath of voters since, by definition, the people paying the tax are out of towners who don't vote in local elections.

"Edited" to include an apology for lumping you into my fight with moxley yesterday it was only an "example" of his flawed logic

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

909, dude, the bed tax is not 1-3%. It's 15%.

(Edited to fix the typo I had where I mistyped 14%.)

909Jeff
909Jeff

C'mon gurrrrrrl nothing but respect to you! Happy Valentines day by the way. 

I'm not 100% where they are pledging the tax credit from but int he first story here in the weekly it was the "bed tax'...  if you rent a hotel room you may or may not see a 1-3% bed tax charge so if a room runs you $200 bucks a night that 2 bucks (assuming a 2% rate) is put into a fund to go into the cities effort to market its touristic appeal.  Anaheim has that tax but lets just say that Disney markets itself. BUT remember that tax is paid by people renting a hotel room, teh number of people who live in Anaheim who also spend money on a htel in Anaheim is very slim. therefore the city council isnt spending or pledging the city residents money.. they are spending my money because even though I live 20 min from Disneyland when I run the half marathon on labor day i stay in the are and pay the tax.  

There are actually battles all across the country where cities are trying to redirect those funds to the general fund... so in that case yes it is revenue lost to the city but there is also a debate that if that money isnt used for the marketing purposes it was meant for it should be eliminated.

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

Ok...riddle me this...while I understand that waiving the "bed tax" isn't coming directly out of anyone's pocket (or city coffers) isn't it still revenue lost to the city in the long run?

Be kind...it's Valentine's Day... ;-)

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

Could you possibly be any more condescending? Funny thing how there's always money and tax breaks for developers while city services get cut. And how is being a hotel worker so much better than working in a bowling alley? Yeah, let's create more jobs in an industry where the workers are more easily exploited. Hooray.

Guest
Guest

Almost forgot to address a few of your other points. First, hotel workers generally join a union, so exploiting them is not easy. Also, how many workers do you think the hotel could employee versus the bowling alley? Oh, just a couple of hunderd. At least.

Bill T.
Bill T.

Given the apparent sweet-heart deals maybe their arithmetic show they'll be able to out-compete. I've see new strip malls going in in communities where there are empty store fronts, it's never one-dimensional. 

The events of the last few decades have not lived up to the promises.

Why does being wealthy, seeing as how trickle-down theory has not been born out, justify the their carrying a lesser tax burden?

The other side of the equation is the erosion of income at the middle and especially lower levels. Expecting families to barely eke by, even with two wage earners, while the top earners get huge bonuses and are taxed at a lower rate is not sustainable. The Soviet Union failed, for a large part, because of the lack of incentives to workers. This is a similar situation by a different route.

I keep hearing about taxation as wealth redistribution.  So is capitalism, so what?

Guest
Guest

I appreciate your attitude. I apologize if I was a bit rough with you as well.

But here is something I find very interesting. People always complain about the rich getting richer. But how do they keep getting richer? By taking risks. These guys are willing to put out literally hundreds of millions of dollars to build the hotels. What happens if the project fails, which is a real possibility? They're out this money. And I don't know if you have been to Garden Walk, but that place hasn't been the model of success. Atleast on the retail side. That is why the owners are looking to change things up.

I think people need to look at the big picture when looking at these things instead of just focusing on certain aspects like the bed tax. Consider the jobs it will create, the other types of tax revenue (sales, real property, personal property) that will be generated, the additional resources the city will need to service the hotels, will the additional services be covered by the additional tax revenue. Then, after you consider everything you can think of, then judge whether tax break is a good idea or not.

And for the people that think there are enough hotels in the area, ask yourself this. If the developers are willing to build the hotels, don't you think they've done their due diligence? They aren't going to spend millions on a project if they don't think it will work.

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

You're right."Voodoo Economics"..."Trickle-Down Economics"...it's all a load of bunk as far as I'm concerned. Funny how corporations are given handouts and tax subsidies ensure their survival...but an individual demanding the same treatment would be lambasted as a lazy, freeloading tax-dodger who brought their financial problems on themselves. Why do the rich get help staying rich but the rest of us just get lectured to "work harder" when we ask the government for a little help to get through tough economic times?

(PS...not backing down but figured I would try to have an adult conversation with "Guest") :-)

Bill T.
Bill T.

Don't back down too fast Fish, despite surface appearances I believe you got it right. Much of the vaunted growth in employment in the last 20 years (what there has been of it, of course negative to minimal the last few years) has been at the lower end of the wage scale. Meanwhile the wealthiest segment has done very well (and they think they haven't done well enough, whatever). Hence Ms. Galloway's crack "... no guarantee (of) living wage jobs ...".

Slays me when folks like "Guest" (what an original name) cry about the wealthy being put upon.

When voodoo economics were foisted upon us we were promised that the wealthy were going to reinvest that money and everyone would do better. You get your share yet? Oh, it's only been about 30 years, what's the rush?

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

Fair enough. Perhaps hotel worker unions could ensure some protections for the workers. And you're right about the number of jobs. Pardon me for being a little short with you but I've been through a few versions of this discussion before and I still say the city (and potential employees) will lose out in the long run. Why does a rich developer need "subsidies" of any kind? It just doesn't add up...

Guest
Guest

Well, a job at a big hotel might be a little more stable than say at a bowling alley that has already been gone through one owner in a short period of time. Did you know that?

So, why don't you propose a better solution for people that need jobs? Don't build the hotels?

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