Anaheim Council Members Make (Or attempt to) Their Case to the Central Committee
Posted by Brenda McCune on January 21, 2014
The OCGOP held it’s monthly meeting last night at the (newly renamed) Hotel Irvine (Fka the Irvine Hyatt). The speakers for the evening were Lucille Kring and Kris Murray. These council members have been under attack for their vote on permitting hotel developers to have a rebate on the Transient Occupancy Tax, (TOT) once and if the hotels are built by the developers. This issue came before the council in 2012 and the council was split 2-3. More important is the May 2013 vote, when the issue was again considered and the vote was 4-1, Mayor Tom Tait being the only vote against the rebate.
The other hot topic of discussion was the ongoing negotiations with the Angels to extend their contract with Anaheim.
We heard over and over again from Kring and Murray that these were “complicated” issues. It seemed to me they had forgotten that their audience for the evening were 1) Grown-up people whom have all presumably stayed at a Hotel at some point in their lives, 2) Live in Orange County and know a few things about the Angels and Arte Moreno and 3) Are all politicians of one ilk or another.
It’s not complicated. It is not new math. It is not brain surgery or rocket science, but here’s the message they delivered.
Kris Murray beat the drum of unity of the City Council, indicating they were all in agreement on this and that and a whole bunch of other things. It is noteworthy, that the Central Committee meeting is open to anyone who wishes to attend, and in general, whomever is speaking is also not a secret. It would seem to behoove good local Republican politicians to know what the goings on are in their county’s Central Committee, particularly when a monthly meeting might be featuring one of their cohorts on their own council. Mayor Tom Tait was a guest speaking at the meeting just a few months ago. He delivered a very different message. His message was that he stood alone fighting the battle of fiscal conservativism on the Anaheim City Council. The 4-1 vote in favor of extending tax rebates (TOT’s) to hotel developers (Tait was the only dissenter) seems to bolster this claim by Mayor Tait.
Ms. Murray went on to discuss the “complicated” issues arising in the negotiations with the Angels over extending their contract with Anaheim. She emphasized the long history of the partnership of the city and the team, (no mention of the protracted litigation over the name just a few years ago) and the huge risk to the city should the Angels decide to up and move to a nearby city that will build them a new stadium, such as happened in Atlanta. She prepared a Power Point but time constraints did not permit her to go through it. She was kind enough to email it to the Central Committee members today for our review. It was interesting in that the Power Point contained one map of the United States that showed the teams that are receiving substantial subsidies from their city. These included four teams, Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks, Washington Nationals, and Tampa Bay Rays. Each are purported to be receiving in excess of $300 million dollars in facilities funding. She emphasized that the city “makes” money on the Angels franchise in that it brings people to the area who support local retail and hotels. There are 30 MLB teams, there was no information or statistics on the averages, or any other variations, only the four teams getting subsidy’s of $300 million or more.
Tom Tait, when he recently appeared before the Committee, had argued that the city was not making money on the current deal with the Angels, and that the Angels were in essence being provided “free rent”. The Orange County register in September reported that over the past 16years that the current agreement has been in place, the city made money in nine of those years, and lost money in the past seven, for a net loss of $52,000.00. A sports/business expert interviewed by the Register called it an “irrelevant” loss. Tom Tait’s demeanor on that evening, was emotional, self serving, and desperate to convey to us that he was fighting the good fight and holding the line as a fiscal conservative. From that initial perspective to the message of last night, it is clear to see the emotionality in this divided Council. If Council Members Kring and Murray accomplished anything last night, it was to explain the emotionality and bolster the credibility of Mayor Tom Tait.
Lucille Kring discussed the TOT. This has been widely debated and criticized as the “$158 million dollar give away”. She went on into a lengthy discussion and explanation of the TOT, of the fact that in the ‘90’s some hotels chose to build in Garden Grove instead of Anaheim, because of such tax advantages, and that Garden Grove at that time gave away free land. She failed to note that those Garden Grove hotels have undergone several ownership changes since they were built. No discussion of whether the lack of success of those hotels has to do with the lack of proximity to Disneyland. She also noted that travelers frequently choose to stay in “four star” hotels in beach cities. There was no discussion of what these proposed hotels getting the TOT rebates would be, but one report was that the plan was for a three story structure. If that is what is proposed, that’s not a luxury hotel. She was terribly condescending in her repeated statements that the “city is not writing a check”. Well, maybe not now, but if this is indeed a “rebate”, that is exactly what the city will do. Again, she seemed to forget her audience, and stayed firm on her position that it was just too much for us to understand, and that if only we understood we would see what a great idea it was. She further, had great difficulty in admitting that she campaigned on representations that she would not support such tax breaks fro developers. Only after several questions from the typically forceful Debra Pauley, and then after the same question was restated by Chairman Baugh did Ms. Kring ultimately, finally admit that she “only discussed that with a few people, yes.”. She continued to assert that it was never stated in her “campaign materials”.
As public servants, both of these women serve our community at a substantial sacrifice to themselves, and nowhere could this be more appreciated than by this audience of public servants. However, in taking up the cloak of leadership, credibility, responsibility and message are relevant. Local politics is a blood sport and it appears they have engaged in this battle essentially unarmed. Overall, both Council Members were unconvincing in their message that everything is coming up roses in Anaheim and there is peace and harmony and that campaign promises are alive and well all around the Council Chambers in Anaheim. When Ms. Kring made the statement regarding her “campaign materials”, she turned away from the audience to face Chairman Baugh and spoke very softly. Nevertheless, it garnered an audible sigh from the audience.
There are a number of business people in Anaheim who support the Hotel deal, even though the most vociferous discussion on this TOT vote has been negative. Maybe there is a really good economic policy behind this and maybe it will ultimately be a wonderful outcome and bring business and revenue to the city, but we did not hear anything that sounded like that. There was a recurring excuse from both the speakers that these actions are similar to actions that have been taken before. That “well they did it back then” attitude and theme was as unpersuasive as every other part of the presentation.
Neither one of them appeared to believe in what they were selling. They were well prepared, rehearsed, polished and articulate and said what they came to say, but it was weak and unconvincing to say the least. If they believed in what they were doing, had absolute confidence in the positions they have taken on these issues, then there should have been no reason to sidestep actions contrary to campaign promises or to deny the obvious and well documented division among the council. This is certainly the wrong room to come to and be timid, apologetic,defensive, or untruthful.
In litigation we have a saying for silly or non-meritorious arguments, “That dog don’t hunt”. In the public forum as well as the political gathering last night, not only do these positions and policies “not hunt”, these politicians now and in their re-election bids will continue to be the hunted if they persist on a platform of excuses and half truths.