Murray’s Bad Leadership Leads Anaheim Hills Into Conflict with City’s Non-Profits Over Fireworks Money

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Murray sees a win coming either way. But it won’t happen if Anaheim Hills understands what she has tried to do here.

Something absolutely amazing has been happening at the Anaheim City Council, last meeting and tonight: Anaheim Hills has been poor-mouthing the rest of the City — including its large non-profit sector — about its potentially losing access to money (directed through the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce) to fund its annual 4th of July fireworks event.

This event — including a parade, a 5K run, a pancake breakfast, a dog show, and more — has been going on for quite a long time.  Then, the fireworks industry sponsored, and citizens passed, a measure to allow fireworks in the city (except for Anaheim Hills) to allow funding for non-profits.  (Many of us raised in Orange County recall this sort of project from our youth when we would clear a vacant lot of its weeds and our parents would erect and run a booth from which fireworks were sold, after which we’d clean up.)

Part of the pitch to the voters on this measure was to give Anaheim’s non-profits a new way to raise money.  But when the City put the Measure into practice, the Honda Center — technically “Anaheim Arena Management,” but essentially the owners of the Honda Center — was given the role of hosting the sole outlet to sell those fireworks and the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce was given the role of managing it.  That management included setting up a complicated system wherein non-profits could receive up to 30% of the gross profits of sales if their supporters remembered to bring the proper form to that non-profit and to present it at the time of their sale; there was no list of non-profits to which people could designate 30% of their money and most people (whom I interviewed at the time) departing from that stand didn’t even know that such a designation had been possible.

That “long-standing” tradition of the City steering money to the Chamber of Commerce so that part of it would eventually help to fund the parade has been taking place for … only two years!  And yet, alternative proposals — Moreno’s now-abandoned pitch from last week to allow the Anaheim Union High School District Foundation take over management and work directly with other non-profits, or just letting non-profits work directly with the city — are being attacked on the basis that they would take money away from the Anaheim Hills Fourth of July parade.  (Kring’s still-active counter-proposal, to let the Anaheim Community Foundation — which BigBox in comments below calls a “slush fund” — manage it, wouldn’t pose a problem, because that’s what slush funds are for!)

IT IS VERY IMPORTANT, in the eyes of those from Anaheim Hills, that the City continue to cut the Honda Center and the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce in on the money — because it’s too late to raise money for the event at this point (because who among the 7,000 attendees would consider forking over some money to become the savior of this event popular with a largely wealthy client base?)  Thus, Anaheim Hills Councilwoman Kris Murray, who will be running for a state or county legislative seat representing Anaheim Hills but not the rest of Anaheim, has ginned up a campaign howling that the City is trying to destroy the Anaheim 4th of July parade!

This must seem like a political win-win to Murray.  If the Council goes along with her plan to keep control in the hands of her big and supportive contributors such as the ACOC and the Honda Center’s owners, then she saved the parade!  And if they don’t go along with her, then she has a bloody shirt to wave to rally her people behind her!

The truth does not work quite as well for her, though.  As I write, during public comments at the meeting where the fireworks plans is to be considered, the dishonesty and lack of transparency of this attempt to portray the Anaheim City Council as retaliating against the Anaheim Hills parade, rather than that they want to be more fair to all non-profits in the city is itself the major threat to the parade.

The campaign to arm-twist the Council to use public money — by channeling an opportunity for gain through the Chamber of Commerce that has been allied with Murray — is GOOD FOR MURRAY but BAD FOR ANAHEIM HILLS.  It’s picking a fight that the residents of the Hills don’t need!

There is a kernel of truth in the complaints of Anaheim Hills residents tonight.  Four months before the 4th of July event IS starting to cut it close — although I still expect that this would be a great sponsorship opportunity from some large local businesses.  And so there’s a straightforward solution to the problem: the City should just vote to guarantee them the money that they need this year from the General Fund, if they cannot find private sponsorship for the parade.  (If this can’t be done at this meeting, then call a special meeting!)  Next year, they can go back to fundraising for the parade — as they’ve done for every year of its history but two — without a demand that the city not change from an unfair system.  Everyone’s satisfied — the parade continues, and the system that is unfair to the non-profits on the flatlands gets fixed.

You can tell that Kris Murray is involved in this fake fight — if it’s not obvious — because her fingerprints are all over it.  The head of the Anaheim Hills Neighborhood Association, who made a good case for the importance of the parade to the Hills (and thus to the city of which they are a part), made a point of saying that no public funds would be expended on the parade.  Well, using public power to steer profits towards one or another entity IS A DE FACTO USE OF PUBLIC MONEY!  That’s the sort of misleading argument that Murray tends to make.

Also, another speaker from Anaheim Hills, Trevor O’Neil, reported the candidate being groomed to run for District 6 next year) quoted a study in opposition of the “many small stands” idea saying that a city can only sustain one fireworks stand for ever 10,000 residents.  A fake-sounding study that no one gets to see — another Murray specialty!  (This is an argument that she used to push for the need to spend oodles on keeping the Angels, estimating ancillary profits to the city based on a study done of Houston where the stadium is something like ten miles away from the next closest city!)  Look, Anaheim is not an island — people in adjoining cities are RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET and also come into Anaheim to buy fireworks — so they should get counted as potential customers too.  Was the study based on similarly situated cities?  O’Neil does have the grace to note that only HALF of the amount that had been targeted to go to the City’s non-profits actually GOT to them.

(Let’s see that study!)

I’m told by Brian Chuchua that in the past non-profits have made $30,000-$90,000 on their fireworks stands.  (Probably that’s in today’s dollars; if not, it’s all the more impressive.)  Non-profits at public comments today talked about getting $250 to $600 from the largesse of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce’s monies.  That’s not fair, however Councilwoman Murray wants to spin it for her private political advantage.

UPDATE 3/8, 3:30 p.m.

Murray replies — deceptively!

Your Voices Were Heard

Dear Friends,
I want to personally thank all of the residents, groups and families who contacted City Hall in recent days to share your support for Anaheim’s Annual July 4th Celebration – and most especially for maintaining the city’s current guaranteed funding stream for this wonderful community program. Unfortunately, we were not successful in our efforts, but your voices were heard.
Due to the outpouring of messages, I am confident we will be able to come together and find alternative funding options. I am committed to this action and have already begun preliminary talks with the Anaheim Hills Community Council, who have already started a GO FUND ME campaign online, as well as Anaheim businesses and several other organizations willing to assist. I look forward to a successful outcome and encourage you to contact me with ideas and thoughts on the matter.
While I am confident that we will come together as a community to protect our patriotic fireworks program and festivities on July 4th, I am deeply disappointed that the final decision last night has consequences for many of our student groups, non-profit organizations, charities and churches across our city. Sadly, the new system will disenfranchise nearly 100 such groups from enjoying this unique fundraising opportunity.

The previous system allowed every non-profit in the City an opportunity to participate at no cost. The new system will be limited to 16 total groups and half of those will be determined by a lottery. All of the groups selected will be responsible for the costs and liability of operating a fireworks stand so many will be limited simply by not having those resources. Full inclusion and equity is something we should always strive for in programs sponsored by the City. I am a strong believer that we should not pit organizations against each other or exclude groups because they are smaller or less established. With that in mind, I would like to remind residents that my office has consistently given sports and events tickets to Anaheim groups who request them. I will continue to do so and ask that you remind groups you may be affiliated with to send requests throughout the year so that we may support groups throughout Anaheim in a fair and equitable manner. 

Although I am the resident council member in District 6, I am committed to working on behalf of all of Anaheim to ensure equity and fairness.

I’ll have an analysis of this deceptive response up later tonight.  Lies will be highlighted in hot pink and numbered.  Have at it before then, if you’d like!

Update, 3/10, noon

I’m a day late on this — I don’t follow Tom Tait’s Facebook page, but a friend alerted me to it — but Tait has a statement that might be considered in part a response to Murray’s above.  Here it is:

I am pleased to announce that on Tuesday the Anaheim City Council passed a new plan that will fairly and equitably disburse proceeds from firework sales throughout our city. This plan will dramatically increase the amount of money that will go directly to all eight Anaheim public high schools and eight non profits, the latter be chosen by a lottery. This plan closely models what nine other Orange County cities use.

The previous plan, a pilot program (that the OC Register concluded as a failure) was implemented in 2015, giving the lion’s share of all proceeds from firework sales to support the festivities that were run by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, leaving a minimal amount to schools and nonprofits. 

There has been much politically motivated misinformation about me somehow wanting to cancel the Anaheim Hills 4th of July celebration. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I have supported it both personally and as an elected official for many years, including hosting a fundraiser at our home. 

I have asked the leadership of the Anaheim Hills Community Council to meet with me and bring their financial statements, and if there is a shortfall, rest assured, I will do everything to ensure that the 4th of July celebration, a 30 year tradition, will continue to serve the community through business, volunteer and city support. If you have any questions, please call me at (714)765-5247 or email me at ttait@anaheim.net.

Please see the city’s official press release.

I’ll add just one thought to that:

Nothing necessarily prevents groups of non-profits from joining together in the lottery system to submit joint bids, or from contracting to after bids are awarded.  In fact, if I were with an eligible Anaheim non-profit, that’s exactly what I’d do: get together with other non-profits and submit multiple bids with the agreement that if any one of them is selected, all of the groups will cooperate in running it and will share in the profits.  In fact, the city should consider offering 8 “slates” for smaller groups to join, which would give the major non-profits a better chance to win a spot.  (The City should ensure, though, that if a member of one “slate” in the lottery, the slate only gets that ONE spot.)  Conceivably, the placement of ALL interested non-profits onto slates could even be negotiated to the point where it is no longer even necessary to HOLD a lottery at all — and everyone wins!

OJB may just try to broker such deals itself, if the City won’t do it!


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.)