A Preliminary Fisking of the Lib OC – Kris Murray tongue bath. Part one: the Disney Streetcar.

From Dan Chmielewski’s highly respectful and uncritical (to put it kindly) interview with Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray, in the Liberal OC last week:

KM:  “Anaheim Rapid Connection (ARC) – ARC is an essential part of the city’s planned transportation program, designed to reduce congestion on local streets and roads and facilitate the expansion of the Convention Center and resort area that receives more than 20 million annual visitors today and thousands of employees daily.”

Well, THIS quote is taken directly from the Alternatives Analysis of the ARC streetcar,

“As indicated in Tables 3.7 and 3.11, there would be several study intersections and roadway segments that would operate with unacceptable conditions (LOS E or F for intersections, LOS D, E or F for roadway segments) under the No Build scenario. These conditions would somewhat worsen with the Enhanced Bus Alternative and Streetcar Alternative, as they would result in reductions in roadway capacity which would lead to increased V/C ratios. Furthermore, both the Enhanced Bus Alternative and Streetcar Alternative would also result in additional intersections worsening to unacceptable conditions (two locations and one location, respectively)”

This is not a recent revelation. The experts have known the streetcar will be a nightmare in mixed traffic for years. In the November 12, 2009 Scoping Meeting, City staff went over the various options that had already been studied and either discarded as not suitable, or considered suitable and were being further investigated. At that meeting, the story boards offered to the public clearly showed that Traditional Buses, Streetcars, Light Rail Transit, Diesel Commuter Rail, and Personal Rapid Transit had all been reviewed and found unwanted. View the documents yourself here: http://www.anaheim.net/images/articles/4454/November12_Background_Boards.pdf

  • TRADITIONAL BUS   Not suitable due to operation in mixed traffic.
  • STREETCAR   Not suitable due to operation in mixed traffic.
  • LIGHT RAIL TRANSIT   Not suitable due to operation in mixed traffic.
  • DIESEL MULTIPLE UNIT COMMUTER RAIL   Not suitable for urban center.
  • PERSONAL RAPID TRANSIT   Proprietary, limited application, capacity constraints, lack of certified U.S.   and CPUC standards

So if the streetcar makes traffic worse, and is not suitable in mixed traffic, WHY did it suddenly end up back on the list at all, much less as the “preferred” alternative?

Mayor Tait was TRYING to get that question answered during the October 23, 2012 Council meeting where this boondoggle was, forgive the pun, railroaded into approval on a 3 to 2 vote.  Murray jumped in, excused Public Works Director Natalie Meeks from answering the Mayor’s very valid questions, and then ensured that she and her colleagues shoved this mess through like meat in a sausage grinder.

Meeting Minutes and Agendas (PRA request) of monthly updates for the Mayor and OCTA rep regarding transportation and public works projects show an alarming record of Public Works Director Meeks routinely failing to update the Mayor regarding key information on the streetcar project. A September 2012 meeting with the public went entirely without mention in the Mayor’s office, nor did she offer the Mayor a review of the information boards or other materials presented to the public. The records fail to even mention the public meeting at all, in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to keep the Mayor in the dark.

Again, when Tait attempted to hold staff accountable for the oversight during the City Council meeting, Murray ran interference for staff. If there is misinformation, it is the fault of the council majority, not the Mayor, and not the public trying to call our leaders on the carpet for their lack of truthful communication.

The LibOC interview with misguided Murray continues:

“The Anaheim resort area generates approximately 50 percent of the city’s general fund revenue and that funding is growing because of investments in the resort area and recent improvements to the Disneyland Parks.  The city needs to manage that growth effectively and limit impacts on local neighborhoods. ARC and ARTIC are essential to local and regional commuter transit services.”

There is no question that Disney is an economic powerhouse of immense proportions. Since Anaheim and Disney are intertwined so completely, it stands to reason that as Disney prospers so does Anaheim. Yes?

That’s a trick question, of course. It goes hand in hand with the other question often asked by locals, “If Disney generates so much of our ‘economic engine’ why doesn’t Anaheim look much nicer than the surrounding communities who lack the benefit of all that increased tax revenue?”  Indeed there are areas of Anaheim that look like a third world nation, which leads us to wonder whether tourism brings buckets o’ cash to Anaheim and it is simply misspent by leaders without a clue? Or perhaps…well, perhaps tourism doesn’t generate as much money as we have been led to believe.

The City of Anaheim’s FY 2013/14 adopted budget shows that local taxes (which include sales and use taxes, property taxes, and TOT) are expected to generate $241,569,289.00. That is a LOT of money, and it is revenue that other nearby communities are jealous of. (Yes we’re talking about you, Garden Grove!) We are often told that the Resort generates half of our General Fund money. Indeed the phrase burned forever into our brains is “5% of the City generates 50% of revenues.”

Now we all know that number is gross, not net, and the percentage is lower once we deduct a number of costs from the equation. We have bond repayments, etc. to factor into that number. But it’s still a significant chunk of change, and I think that before we continue weighing the constant demands of the Resort industry for more, more, more, we must understand precisely how much money we are talking about.

So now for a little quiz:

How much revenue does the DISNEY property generate for Anaheim’s General Fund?

Take away surrounding hotels, restaurants, etc. (yes I know they all feed off the Disney octopus, but I want to narrow this down.) Add up what you believe to be sales tax, property tax, TOT, for Disney properties, which include Disneyland, California Adventure, the hotels and the Grand Californian Vacation Club condos, calculate everything you think Le Mouse puts directly into Anaheim’s General Fund that we ultimately can use for parks, roads, libraries, etc. Then deduct what you think the bond repayment might be, and other costs that we know come along with the golden goose…and post in the comments section.

How much of the $241,569,289.00 is the direct result of Disney properties pumping our coffers full? How much do you think Disney directly benefits the City of Anaheim’s General Fund?

We will take your best guesses here in the comments section through Thursday, October 31. On Friday, November 1 you may pull up your sack of Halloween candy and check this space for the answer. The Comment that comes closest to the number, based upon the Anaheim City budget documents currently in my possession, will win some Disney collectors pins, still on their original cards. In honor of Halloween, they are Haunted Mansion-themed. 

I’ll even get you started with a hint – (This comes from a letter to Disney stockholders written by Bob Iger.)

“Fiscal 2012 was an exciting year of record performance, as well as innovation and creativity, at The Walt Disney Company. For the second year in a row Disney achieved record net income, revenue, and earnings per share. In fiscal 2012, net income for our shareholders was a record $5.7 billion, an increase of 18% over last year, and revenue was a record $42.3 billion, up 3% from last year. Diluted earnings per share increased 24% to a record $3.13.”

Specifically, Iger says of Parks and Resorts;

Parks and Resorts revenues increased 10%, or $1.1 billion, to $12.9 billion due to an increase of $1.0 billion at our domestic operations and an increase of $86 million at our international operations.

Revenue growth of 11% at our domestic operations reflected a 5% increase from higher average guest spending and a 5% increase from volume. Increased guest spending was primarily due to higher average ticket prices, food and beverage spending, and daily hotel room rates. The volume increase was driven by higher passenger cruise days from the Disney Fantasy and the Disney Dream, which launched in March 2012 and January 2011, respectively, increased attendance at our domestic parks reflecting strong growth at Disneyland Resort which benefited from the opening of Cars Land at Disney California Adventure and higher hotel occupancy from Aulani, our new hotel and vacation club resort in Hawaii, which opened in August 2011.”

That’s likely the closest you will get to a verified number for revenues, as Disney stopped splitting out their parks numbers by location several years ago. The rest of the report is online, as the Fiscal Year 2012 Annual Financial Report and Shareholder Letter. Go look it up. Hey there are collector’s pins in this for you, work for it.

Clearly I want our readers to think hard about what Disney brings to the dance, because once we have those numbers we will be discussing whether they truly deserve the enormous influence they hold at City Hall.

So what do you think? How much does the Mouse That Roared put into the General Fund, after expenses? We’ll check in on Friday.

Good luck.

About Cynthia Ward

I am a truth-teller. It gets me in trouble. But if you ask me if a dress makes you look fat, I will tell you so, and help select another, before you go on television and realize it for yourself. My real friends are expected to be truthful with me as well. A secret shared will be taken to my grave, but lie to me, and it will end up here…on these pages… especially if you are tasked with the stewardship of public resources. I am a registered Republican who disdains the local GOP power structure, a born-again Christian who supports everyone’s right to spend their lives with the partner of their choosing. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister. I am a loyal friend to those who merit that friendship and when crossed I am a bitch with a capital C. I do not fit into a box, nor do I see others through the stereotypes that politics and public affairs so often tries to shoehorn us into. I think for myself, and so do you. Welcome to our shared space in this world.