A Taxpayer’s Guide to the Angels Baseball Negotiations, As Seen from the Cheap Seats.

Between sitting through the City of Anaheim’s presentations by staff at WAND (West Anaheim Neighborhood Development ) and the Convention Center “workshop” last week, and the song-and-dance show put on by Council members Kring and Murray at the GOP Central Committee meeting Monday, I feel as though I need hip boots for material being shoveled in our direction, material distinctly brown and unpleasant.

What I discovered when breaking down those many, many slides, and graphs and tables, is that all of their arguments or why this is the best deal ever for Anaheim taxpayers appear to come down to a handful of assumptions. If one buys the assumptions, the deal makes sense. Challenge the assumptions and you will tear your hair out with frustration over what a genuinely awful deal this is for taxpayers. And if you challenge those assumptions while you serve as Mayor, be prepared to wear a Kevlar vest to the office to block the knifing to the back that your reputation is going to take.

In the interest of time, rather than go over the slides one by one, I will simply address the assumptions, which you may then use as a Viewers Guide to any of the presentations you might find yourself forced to endure in the interest of “participation.” Thus, I give you,

A Taxpayer’s Guide to the Angels Baseball Negotiations,
As Seen from the Cheap Seats.

The City’s 1996 lease with Angels Baseball / Disney forfeited nearly all revenues from the Stadium to the Angels, in exchange for naming rights. In this lease, assumed by Arte Moreno with his team purchase in 2003, the team shouldered responsibility for costs of the Stadium, including future maintenance, repairs, and improvements. Anaheim continued to pay $600k into a capital fund, and $400k in debt payments for convention and exhibit space. Anaheim also guarantees 12,500 parking spaces to the Angels, and revenues for tickets and parking below benchmark totals. And naming rights are on the chopping block.

ASSUMPTION: Revenues and benefits lost to the 1996 agreement are not worth renegotiating, even though the Angels have reopened negotiations now. REALITY: While the City of Anaheim changes their Angels presentation each time they show it, one thing remains the same. The City of Anaheim seems so committed to placating one team owner, and/or whoever else is lurking behind a deal too audacious for even Moreno to demand, that they will blindly disregard the fact that “benefits” attributed to Anaheim as deal points result in either material loss of revenues taxpayers already possess, or shift from a net positive to a “revenue neutral” position. 

There are no gains for Anaheim in this deal, when you add up the giveaways NOT shown in the City’s presentations.  The actual MOUs can be found at Anaheim.net by clicking on the link for Angels negotiations. While dry and legalistic, the Resolutions are a must-read for anyone who wants to follow what is really happening. The dog-and-pony show of City “presentations” does not follow the actual deal points in the signed MOUs, and as Anaheim learned in court already, what the City of Anaheim THINKS the Angels lease means, and what is legally enforceable based on the documents signed, are not the same thing.

ASSUMPTION:  Angels Baseball benefits Anaheim more than Anaheim benefits Angels baseball, thus Anaheim should concede value to keep Angels in Anaheim.This assumption is based upon a $30,000 study by Convention, Sports & Leisure International (CSL). The report was referenced 10 times during the September 3 meeting as justification for Council’s 4-to-1 approval of the one-sided MOUs. (Mayor Tait was the lone dissenting vote.)

CSL’s Proposal for the study offered actual research, gathering of data from Angels, a review of the unique structure of the current lease and Anaheim itself.

REALITY: The Study’s 30-45 day delivery suddenly produced a study with a 24-hour turn-around, appearing the DAY AFTER the contract with CSL was signed by City Staff. The finished product spans only 14 pages, including a full-color cover page, and 4 pages of photos depicting Angels’ charitable deeds in the community. In contrast, the CSL Proposal spanned 42 pages! Entire pages of the “Final Report” appear copied, right down to the graphics, from the Proposal submitted to staff. Despite receiving the “study” as Council headed into Labor Day weekend, expecting to vote upon their Tuesday return, only Mayor Tom Tait questioned the timing, or even the study itself.

When confronted by Mayor Tait on September 24, a CSL principal admitted that they conducted no firsthand study of Anaheim fan spending, nor examined the impacts of Angels’ lease deal points on Anaheim’s economy specifically. Their study was based on “industry standards” nationwide by comparing to other teams whose data they did have on hand.

ASSUMPTION: City Council has repeatedly claimed that “all of this is on the City’s website and available for review.” REALITY: The public had been denied access to the CSL report before the September 3 Council meeting, despite a direct request for the public record on August 30th, when the Staff Report/meeting Agenda referenced the Study in Staff Recommendation to approve the MOUs. The document which was finally released a week after public requests (and long after the MOUs were approved) had been edited and polished, with a significant error in how values were calculated removed. Yet the altered Study was misrepresented as the original document, right down to the official City stamp on the altered document, claiming it was Distributed to the Council Majority prior to the Sep 3 meeting. How credible do YOU find this report, or Council’s reliance on it, as a base for spending public funds?
ASSUMPTION:  According to Anaheim City Staff, the Stadium and its surrounding land carry little to no value without the Angels, and the Stadium would be shuttered for loss of the MLB team, with no other viable use apparent.

From the September 3, 2013 staff report; “Should Angels Baseball no longer be played at the Stadium due to the team exercising the 2016 Termination Right, it is likely the City asset would need to be shuttered, as costs to maintain it would outpace revenues from non-baseball activities.”

REALITY:  Yes, they actually said that, ON THE RECORD.

Of course the City of Anaheim has not put out an RFP to determine that nobody would make them a profitable offer on the Stadium, and apparently City staff lacks the creativity to imagine there might be a use for 150 acres with or without a Stadium on it, given its proximity to 3 freeways (business park for jobs paying above minimum wage? University campus?)

Indeed the loss of the Stadium night make the area even more valuable as fighting event traffic is surely as much a negative to potential residential buyers for those lofts, when numbers prove fans dying to live in walking distance aren’t lined up to buy in the half empty buildings.Gee, I wonder if the “little theme park down the road” could find a use for 150 acres of land? Yet staff comes up with….”shutter the stadium” and shudders at the devastating loss.

ASSUMPTION: By calling the MOUs a “beginning point,” or “framework for negotiation,” the City Council majority makes the assumption that Anaheim’s negotiation team will strike a better deal than is outlined in the MOUs.  REALITY: City Council appears to miss the reality that they have agreed, in writing, to take as little as $1 a year for 150 acres of prime real estate, fully entitled for mixed-use high-density development. They are banking on Arte Moreno to voluntarily offer a deal better than Anaheim has agreed, even tentatively, to accept.Arte Moreno is a businessman, so tough that he used a loophole in the 1996 lease to rename the team the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim,” and make the name legally stick in court. Yet the civic leaders before us bank on his voluntarily conceding benefits to us?

Since Anaheim’s negotiating team has already laid out our cards, indicating willingness to do anything to keep the team from decamping, what keeps Arte Moreno from foregoing the additional 3 years given him, and asking for the current MOUs to be drafted as Contracts, or he takes the team right now? Why wait until after a November election that could end with new leadership, when the leadership in place seems perfectly happy to give him the farm…and the tractor.

ASSUMPTION: It is necessary for Anaheim to concede these points, to keep Arte Moreno from taking the team elsewhere. City staff, the City Council majority, and even the attorney, Charles Black, hired to represent Anaheim in the negotiations, have all made very passionate arguments that Arte Moreno has threatened to relocate the team, and at least by inference that it is his demand for more concessions that are driving these demands.

Going even further than an assumption, the MOU for the Land Lease claims in writing that, “the Angels approached the City and requested the City consider negotiating new terms for the use and occupancy of the Baseball Stadium and the area generally defined as the Stadium Site (which area is generally consistent with the designation of the “Stadium District” in the Platinum Triangle Master land Use Plan dated December 18, 2012.”

We must also assume that another nearby community within the Angels MLB agreement would accept the Angels, AND that the negotiation, selection, design, entitlement, environmental review, funding, and construction of a new stadium could be completed before the extended opt-out date in 2019.City Council seems to find this scenario so highly probable that they refuse to even offer the negotiating team counter-demands for the negotiating process, choosing instead to let them bring back their best deal, based on the stellar negotiating skills already displayed so far.

REALITY: Angels Baseball has told reporters that they have not even discussed relocation with another city, and their only desire is to remain in Anaheim and work out a deal for Angels Stadium.

The wording of the actual Resolution allowing for Lease negotiations states, “the City proposed to the Angels that the Angels right to terminate the Existing Lease be modified as set forth herein.” Angels Baseball has told reporters that the $1 a year for 150 acres for 66 years lease was offered by staff, not demanded by the Angels.

When pressed to disclose who came up with the idea for the Land Lease, especially the Land Lease for $1, staff refuses to answer. They have hemmed and hawed and avoided eye contact both with the Mayor during Council meetings and with the public during community meetings. Does anyone out there believe for a second that if Arte Moreno made the demand staff would not throw his Arizona sun-baked carcass under the team bus? Prevarication is generally reserved for those covering their own butts or the hind-quarters of those they work for.Despite its use as an example, the only thing Atlanta and Anaheim have in common is the letter A. The move to Cobb County involved far more than the Stadium, there were concerns about public transportation, much more desperately needed than in Anaheim where we love our cars, and the highly urbanized area left no room for the growth that 150 acres allows for in Anaheim.

Anaheim City Council is not willing to call the bluff on Arte Moreno and challenge the assumption he won’t leave, while challenging the plaintiffs in an ACLU suit they were sure to lose in court. Their “moxie” appears to be tied to those they like working with, and/or outcomes they prefer.

ASSUMPTION: The City has to make these concessions to make sure there is funding to maintain and repair the Stadium, which is publicly owned. Therefore we must give a land lease deal to PCI so that the Angels can fix up our ancient, decrepit stadium, or we will get stuck doing it. REALITY: City Hall continues to verbally tie the land lease to the Stadium lease, despite their being two separate deals, with two separate entities, whose only connection is that both entities are owned by Arte Moreno. The lease of 150 acres of prime real estate to an entity called PCI, is separate from the Angels, and their lease of the Stadium. It is the Angels, not PCI, and not the public, who bear the legal obligation to pay for the maintenance of the Stadium at their own cost, an obligation they took on when Moreno bought the Angels. It was in the 1996 Lease Agreement, in which Anaheim traded PLENTY of “revenue opportunity” to the Angels in exchange for Angels taking that cost on. Moreno was sure to have read the Lease while picking it apart for loopholes to widen until he could drive a truck through them in renaming the team.Yet somehow our own staff and elected leaders (four of them) feel it is our duty as citizens to identify more of our money to help Arte pay for the lease he already stripped of its value?
ASSUMPTION: Anaheim’s negotiation team is working in the best interest of Anaheim’s taxpayers, who own the Stadium and surrounding 150 acres. REALITY: Don’t bet on it.

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.