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When a new lease of Anaheim’s stadium to Angels’ owner Arte Moreno was being drafted over the past months, nobody appears to have been negotiating on behalf of the City.
As Councilwoman Kris Murray, ever-loyal to Anaheim uber-lobbyist Curt Pringle, appears to have been in charge of negotiations, “no one negotiating on behalf of” the City of Anaheim may be literally true. The game of Murray and her Council cohorts since at least January 2012 has been to give away as much of the city’s revenue stream as possible to private enterprise. She’s negotiating, all right — but it’s only by the twisted logic that any amount of money taken from taxpayers to wealthy interests benefits the city can she be said to be negotiating on the city’s behalf.
(Murray does this at the same time as she demonstrates her fiscally conservative bona fides by making a big show of squeezing every last penny out of small public interest non-profits who come to them hat in hand. Because, without this juxtaposition of treatment of rich vs. poor, maybe these giveaways to the likes of Arte Moreno and Bill O’Connell and — most of all — middleman Curt Pringle just wouldn’t be obscene enough.)
The proposed stadium lease (which you can read here – PDF warning) is so bad, surpassing even the previous monstrosity, that it is doubtful that Moreno even asked for all of what he got. In fact, let’s make that a challenge: let’s have Kris Murray and her crack negotiation team publicly identify anything and everything that Moreno asked for that he did not get. My bet is that, unless he wanted the City to provide him dancing girls to rock him to sleep every night, this lease gives Moreno far more than he asked for. (And if he did ask for all of this, it may only be because he was first assured that it was his for the asking.)
And why not, from Murray’s perspective?
This isn’t her money she’s forking over — and her bet is that enough of it will come back to her in campaign contributions (and more importantly “uncoordinated” independent expenditures) to keep her on Council and beyond. And if by some chance she loses — well, a lot of wealthy people owe her a lot for her service, and it’s good form (in recruiting future people like her) for such debts to be paid. Murray has already gotten some nice private sector positions to supplement her income; maybe Arte Moreno will show his thanks on down the line. (Not that there’s an actual arrangement of such a sort, of course; that would be wrong. Worse than wrong, it might be provable.)
So, once again, Anaheim’s Council acts as if they were using public money to bribing wealthy private interests for their personal and political gain — whether or not they are technically doing so.
How can you tell that the Council is trying to slip one over on an unsuspecting public? The secret, as in all farce, is timing. Get ready for this:
They released news of what may be a final vote on this massive giveaway on a Friday night — a Friday night that began a three-day weekend — with the Council meeting beginning on the afternoon of the next working day.
This, for the benefit of our less-attentive readers, is Sunday morning of Labor Day weekend. Lots of high-level movers and shakers — as well as lower level moved and shaked — are out of town. (Sole voice of reason on council Mayor Tom Tait is apparently among them — and I wonder whether he even knew that this was coming before he left.) So by releasing new of the vote on Friday night, the Council Murrjority made sure that even if a gutty ragtag band of activists could get together to oppose this massive giveaway of public funds, few people would be listening to us until Tuesday — when they’re going to be pretty busy.
“Stacking the deck” doesn’t even begin to describe what they’re doing. People don’t pay Curt Pringle the big bucks to play fair! They don’t want a public debate over this; they want to do the equivalent of slipping the public a sedative and having it wake up in an icy bathtub missing a kidney.
“Surprise! We just leased PRIME REAL ESTATE to a developed to DO WHATEVER HE WANTS WITH for a term of 66 YEARS! Here’s the number of the emergency room; you’ll need dialysis.”
The only real question is whether the public will be outraged over this.
It should be. I’ll review the lease arrangement later today or tomorrow. For now, let me just provide you with a short snippet from the Voice of OC story on this sorry development:
Beyond full naming rights over the team, franchise owners under a proposed framework for negotiating a separate land lease would also get a 66-year lease of the stadium land, including a 50-acre parcel called the “Stadium District,” for free.
Under that arrangement, the city would be freed from spending about $600,000 annually for stadium upkeep, according to a staff report.
The land lease outline being considered next week could allow team owners to keep all tax revenue, such as hotel room taxes and sales tax generated from developing the area.
The land around Angel Stadium is estimated to be worth $300 million.
With the land lease, the owners could develop a range of tax revenue generating businesses, including hotels and shops.
The focus of coverage thus far has been focused on the fact that the lease agreement will finally allow Arte Moreno to remove the name “Anaheim” from the name of the Angels altogether.
That’s just the insult, folks. There will be lots of time to focus on the insult.
For now, pay attention to the injury. Very little will be coming into city coffers for the rest of this century from this prime real estate — and the prime real estate surrounding it. The City needs money — and it will not get it this way.
If the City of Anaheim owned a bunch of solid gold bars, like those in Fort Knox, and decided to just give them away to a developer while claiming that the City would eventually profit from the deal — wouldn’t that piss you off?
Wouldn’t you at least have wanted to see a full debate about it?
Well, that is in essence what’s happening on Tuesday.
Focus on the injury. Focus on preventing the injury.