If the Anaheim City Council Majority Were Serious People, What Would They Have Done?

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Wally Courtney speech

The sad thing is that serious and responsible reasoning about Anaheim’s spending decisions has by now become unusual enough to capture your attention.

I had the pleasure this last week of meeting Wally Courtney, who is a friend of Cynthia Ward, a leading figure in a prominent Realty practice, and about as serious a member of Anaheim’s civic establishment as you could find.  I walked away from our conversation having an unusual sensation among my meetings with the Anaheim business community: that I had been talking to a sensible and rational adult.

Courtney was among those who spoke at the Take Back Anaheim rally on Thursday morning.  Most of his short speech was recorded, and can be found in the last couple of minutes of this video.  It’s unusual enough — not so much political agitation as pure bemusement at how elected leaders can do something like what they’ve done — that I thought that it warranted broader exposure, so I’m giving it its own story.

Courtney’s theme was that the City Council had no business — as well as no business sense in — rushing to approve a Memorandum of Understanding on a deal this big without doing their due diligence and letting the public do the same.  Here’s a set of excerpts from his speech.

“I’ve sold, leased, many multi-million dollar properties in Anaheim.  Looking at the financial portion of this MOU, obviously it doesn’t make sense for the citizens of Anaheim or for any other business entity.

“I made a couple of phone calls to Major League Baseball and talked to a CPA with Major League Baseball — and within three minutes the CPA looked at the MOU and said that it makes absolutely no sense.  So my curiosity would be: why didn’t the City Council get some sort of consultation about something like that before they would vote on it?

“The Mayor asked the Council to extent the vote for three weeks — and he was turned down because the consultants told them ‘no, we have to get the negotiations going.’  Obviously the negotiations have already started or where else did the MOU points come from?

“I saw the City Manager Marcie Edwards the next day at a luncheon.  I walked up to her and said ‘Why couldn’t they wait three weeks?  What do you think that the Angels would have done if we’d waited three more weeks?’  And her response was: ‘Probably nothing.’  So the question is, what’s the rush?”

“Why couldn’t the Mayor get a second even to discuss a three-week extension so that citizens could have time to look at this?  So that the City Council could have time to look at it?  So THEY could make the phone call to Major League Baseball, or talk to other owners, or find out what kind of financial deal does and doesn’t make sense?”

Courtney’s short speech shows how a serious person, who is serious about understanding an business decision, goes about assessing it.  It’s an example of someone doing what, in the business community is called “due diligence” — something very different from just listening to an adviser’s sales pitch.

The sad truth about the members of the Anaheim City Council majority is that they are not serious people — although they can do serious damage, some of which cannot easily be undone.

About Greg Diamond

Prolix worker's rights and government accountability attorney. 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. Runs for office sometimes, so far to offer a challenge to someone nasty who would otherwise have run unopposed. Someday he might pick a fight intending to win it rather than just to dent someone. You'll know it when you see it. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. A family member works part-time as a campaign treasurer. He doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he hated. He does advise some local campaigns informally and generally without compensation. If that changes, he will declare the interest. He also runs a less frequently published blog called "The Brean," for his chosen hometown, where he is now fighting with its wealthiest and most avaricious citizen-donors. This just seems to be his way.