[Reprinted from Facebook, on the event of the publication of the LA Times story “Angels to stay in Anaheim through at least 2029“.]
In the late afternoon and evening of August 30, 2013, a loose confederation of people who had been talking about starting a civic watchdog organization in Anaheim were galvanized by an agenda item announcing that, as part of renewing the Los Angeles* Angels lease at what had been Anaheim Stadium, the City proposed granting a brand new corporation wholly owned by Angels owner Arte Moreno the right to lease and develop about 150 acres around the Stadium — and to keep the proceeds. That it was to be a lease rather than a sale meant that they would not even pay property taxes on this extremely valuable parcel.
August 30 was the Friday before Labor Day. The Council meeting was set for Tuesday September 3. Many people who cared about these issues were out of town for the last big holiday weekend of the summer. Three who weren’t were Anaheim residents Brian Neil Chuchua, Cynthia Ward, and me. (I live about ten miles north of Anaheim, but had been asked early the previous year — before I knew either Brian or Cynthia — to use my legal and persuasive skills to speak on behalf of Anaheim residents who needed people — including those from out of town who would not be readily subject to retaliation by the city — to speak on their behalf.)
Brian was already well aware of the Angels Lease negotiations and had asked me to speak to the Council about them some months before, which I did. I had met Cynthia in early March 2013. We were united in the belief that massive giveaways — tax abatements, tax rebates, subsidies, and one-sided leases, almost entirely within the Resort District — were going to destroy the ability of future City Councils to raise money in future years when Anaheim would likely be poorer and would need it most. And we shared admiration for Anaheim’s Mayor, Republican Tom Tait, who — first with Democrat Lorri Galloway and later by himself — was the only Council member to oppose them.
So when the proposed deal for the Angels Stadium Grounds came about, we did our best to organize opposition to it that would begin at (and ideally run out the clock at) the upcoming meeting. Some of that opposition involved the already assembled nucleus (Cynthia, Brian, and me) of the nonprofit group that a week later would become the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility (or “CATER”); some involved people involved within Vern Nelson’s political “Orange Juice Blog,” which I helped manage and where Cynthia sometimes wrote. (Cynthia and I were, of course, involved in both.)
September 2013 was chaotic, as the Council rammed through approval of the leases on September 3, reiterated that approval on September 24, and retaliated grievously against Mayor Tait on the 30th. CATER was formed, actively working on preparing litigation, and became more or less the sole institution fighting alongside the Mayor over this issue. One theme we kept pressing was that there was NO NEED to make a deal with the Angels in haste, without adequate study (no one knew how much the parcel was worth and its advocates on the Council wanted to prevent us from finding out) and public debate, because the Angels already had an exceptionally sweet deal from the City and there was no significant likelihood of their breaking the leads no matter WHAT Anaheim did, even if they didn’t get this 150 acres (eventually valued at a bit over $200 million, if memory serves.)
While some people have kept insisting that we were were wrong in our desire to save the $200 million or more in the City of Anaheim’s largest solely owned property holding — we were confident that we were right. Our efforts to get to the bottom of the facts in this case have led to over three years of litigation against the city, the last portions of which are ONLY NOW on the verge of being settled. And, today, the Angels in effect agreed with us. They weren’t going to leave the area, and no one was going to give them anywhere near as sweet a deal as Anaheim already had.
Primary credit for preventing the Stadium Lot Giveaway belongs to Mayor Tait — who squandered most of his two terms fighting with the former Council majority before winning the Council majority last December — and his aide Mishal Montgomery. But the Mayor has said repeatedly that he could not have won that victory without the pressure put on by Brian and Cynthia, and by me and Vern, along with others who I won’t mention here for fear of causing them grief. And we’ve had several moral victories — and, in conjunction with others, several substantive ones — since then. And I’m happy not only to feel that I put my brain and my muscles to good use, and not only to now being vindicated, but also to have been led on the path to making so many good friends in the effort to fix Anaheim.