Will Paul Emery evolve into a fair City Manager?

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Emery at meeting

The appointment of Paul Emery as Anaheim’s official City Manager — confirmed in closed session at 4:00 on July 7 but not publicly announced until nine hours later, on July 8, at the end of the contentious council meeting on the Disney’s vote, added another troubling note to the city politics.

Emery’s role during the Angel’s stadium negotiations had left a lasting impression on me. When I attended that Council meeting, I had been convinced that he was a representative of Art Moreno when this conversation took place between Emery and Mayor Tait:

“We’ve had 50 acres for 17 years that’s been undeveloped. Are we going to have another 150 acres for 20 years that’s undeveloped?” Emery asked, referring to the undeveloped Stadium District land. “We have an economic engine, sir. With all due respect, we have an economic engine.”

He was sitting next to Charles Black, who I also thought was another Angels representative, in the area where guests or expert speakers sit. When I later realized that he was a member of the city staff, I got convinced that our city politics were indeed quite intoxicated. His opinion above was clearly not an unbiased, objective, professional opinion.

We have elected council members to discuss and make policy decisions on our behalf, not city bureaucrats. The quoted statement by Emery is a dark reminder of the power of politicians pursuing a questionable agenda, one that does not benefit the city as a whole but powerful interests disguised under the misleading term of “economic engines”.

At that time, Emery was probably under the pressure of council members Murray and Brandman to carry on their agenda. He may have been under the same type of pressure when again another far-reaching item, the Disney Protection Act, was put in the city council agenda at the last minute notice after a major holiday, like the Angel’s negotiation proposals.

The motivations of the council members promoting the negotiation, Arte-Moreno-Pleasantly-Puzzledoffering exceedingly favorable terms to Art Moreno, were exposed when it was discovered that the negotiations had overlooked relevant information and utilized inappropriate reports. One of them was replicating analysis of sport economies that did not match the characteristics of our local market. The negotiations’ debate proved the importance of questioning policies that have far-reaching and relevant consequences.

His confirmation as a permanent City Manager is perceived as a reward, not because he has shown that he has had the city’s interests in his decisions, but for his performance supporting the mentioned council members’ agenda. No selection process was conducted to fill the City Manager position as other cities had recently done in Orange County. Garden Grove and Santa Ana conducted a national open search, even with community input in their selection of the City Manager. Anaheim did not.

I’ve developed a greeting ritual with Mr Emery, I salute him each time I speak at the council meetings. I give him the benefits of the doubt due to the pressures of his job. Likewise I hope that he has developed a better understanding of the residents’ reasons questioning the economic engines’ fallacy. I hope that we will not have to wait until the next election cycle to have a fair City Manager. One that respects the will of the residents expressed in the composition of the council members but also on the authority vested on the Mayor. One that facilitates an informed discussion on the decisive aspects of our city.

About Ricardo Toro

Anaheim resident for several decades. In addition to political blogging, another area of interest is providing habitats for the Monarch butterfly. http://www.orangejuiceblog.com/2013/12/caterpillars-crossing-in-a-city-at-a-crossroads/