“Help Me, Honda; Help, Help Me, Honda” — A Chance for Tom Daly to Look Good

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That’s right, I’m willing, right here and now, to help Tom Daly, of whom I have been critical, burnish his reputation in the Assembly.  Or … not.

Ducks goalie stops a bad shot.  Can Tom Daly?

In politics as in hockey, the first thing you have to be able to do is to stop the *easy* shots. Slapping this one away should be a piece of cake — if one wants to. (Photo from Anaheim Ducks Facebook page.)

The background is this: there are these things called “enterprise zones,” you see?  And they are supposed to “drive economic development in our state’s minority and underserved communities,” according to their trade association.  (Note: these “zones” have a “trade association.”)  So tell me if you think that this looks like “economic development.”

Anaheim Arena Management, which (surprise!) manages the Honda Center (home of hockey’s Ducks), last week to announced plans to lay off more than 400 food service workers as of June 30, when a contract ends with the company currently providing the arena’s concessions.  Then — and, viewed in a certain way, this is beautiful, like a python swallowing a bull moose — this week, it announced that it will hire 500 other workers to replace them.

“Well, so what?” you may say, “Hiring and firing workers happens all the time!”  Just wait a moment.  It gets better.

Because the Honda Center is within Anaheim’s “enterprise zone” — a geographic area designated to receive tax breaks to stimulate investment and job growth — when Anaheim Arena Management hires those new workers, it will be eligible for a tax credit of up to $37,000 per worker over five years.  It gets this tax credit for — and yes, this is it, the “beautifully horrible” part — “creating jobs.”

Take a look at this story from our friends at the increasingly indispensable Voice of OC:

At Tuesday’s [Anaheim] City Council meeting, city officials confirmed that the new hires — as long as they meet certain criteria such as being a veteran or a resident of certain neighborhoods in the city — would qualify the company for a tax credit worth up to $37,000 per employee over five years.

Based on the formula, the credit could be worth millions to the company, given how many workers it is hiring.

“The Honda Center is within the enterprise zone, and there is nothing that we’ve been able to identify that would make them ineligible for tax credits if they were to hire eligible employees through the termination of the contract with Aramark,” said city Planning Director Sherry Vander Dussen in response to a question by Councilwoman Gail Eastman.

The workers’ union on Wednesday called the move “absolutely shameful.”

“Make no mistake, this is an attempt by Anaheim Arena Management to undercut workers’ rights, reduce wages and cut benefits,” said Ada Briseno, secretary-treasurer of Unite Here Local 11. “And because the Honda Center is in an enterprise zone, they will receive millions in tax breaks for firing the workers and hiring replacements. It is corporate welfare at its worst, and taxpayers will foot the bill.”

 Scandalous, right?  Terrible labor policy plus a taxpayer ripoff!  Well, this is where Tom Daly comes in — or doesn’t.

You see, this thing called a “law” that they are using to get this tax break — it can be changed.  Seriously.  Not carved in stone!

The body that changes laws like this — say, to deny tax credits in situations where, rather than “stimulating investment and job growth” they are simply “ruining workers lives to take advantage of a technicality” — is called the “State Legislature.”  The State Legislature is composed to two bodies, Assembly and Senate, each of which is divided into districts.  The representative for the Assembly district containing the Honda Center is Tom Daly.

In other words, this is Tom Daly’s concern.  It is in his bailiwick.  He speaks for the people affected — or for the arena management companies, it’s his choice.  But let’s say he wants to speak for the workers and taxpayers and people with a moral center: here’s what he could do.

He could sponsor a bill, which could take any of various forms, which would deprive the Honda Center of the benefit of this law.  He could do it, say, next week, giving them plenty of time to rescind the layoffs.

He can then use his political skills to get the bill through the Assembly.  (Not so difficult, probably; I’m told that we have a very pro-Labor Assembly Speaker.)  Then someone (perhaps the also reputation conscious Lou Correa, perhaps new Senator lookin’ to look good Norma Torres) could do the same for the Senate.  This will be facilitated by the fact that Democrats have supermajorities in both bodies.  It will be facilitated by the fact that we have a Democratic Governor who knows a good issue when he sees one.  It will also be facilitated by the fact that this is not only an issue that excites workers that don’t like being abused, but also taxpayers who don’t like being ripped off.

Honestly, it’s a rare political chance to combine “doing good” with “doing well.”  It’s a politician’s dream — and I’m serving it to Tom Daly here on a platter.  It’s a six-inch putt, if he wants to take it.

The best part is that he may not even have to go through with it.  Once Anaheim Arena Management sees the handwriting on the wall, they may decide to backpedal at an exceptional speed just to avoid a situation where they end up looking like cartoon villains.  Because … really, guys?

That leaves one critical question: “Will Tom Daly show leadership on this issue and use his power as the elected Assembly representative in this district to get the Honda Center’s management group to back down?”

Or, alternatively — will we be hearing a lot about this issue from someone else as we move towards the 2014 elections?

You control the puck, Assemblyman Daly.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. A family member co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)