A New Stance on Wrestling With the Angels: A Fair Deal Based on Mutual Respect

Well, it’s out.  The land surrounding Anaheim stadium is worth roughly $300,000,000.  Arte Moreno wants it for a dollar and there are some very powerful people working to make that happen.

Look, I get it.  I really do.  There are few things that are more American than making money and this is just another opportunity for a few folks to do just that.  There’s nothing wrong with it, I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to be successful, and sometimes feelings get hurt in business.  Some people win, some people lose, and that’s just how it is.

Here’s the problem: This isn’t just business.  The Angels and Anaheim Stadium are part of a public institution.  Given that it is an institution, the public is owed a certain measure of honesty and integrity when people attempt to extract a dollar from it.  We can’t kid ourselves and run around labeling as merely an “economic engine” — or even limit its value through an appraisal.  Of course the team and the stadium have value, but the irreverence being fed to the public and the total disregard to what it means to have pride in a hometown team is being abused by some individuals who really ought to know better.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of it.

Wrestling with Angel

If Anaheim’s taxpayers and the Angels all ultimately on the same side, can we set aside the fighting and play fair?

If you’re new to the issue, Arte Moreno and the Angels are renegotiating their lease for Anaheim stadium.  The current lease requires Moreno to keep the stadium in good order (and established a dedicated revenue stream to do just that, incidentally) and he thinks he’ll need at least $150,000,000 over the next two decades to do so.

Last September, the Anaheim City Council extended the end of Moreno’s renegotiation window (during which time he can terminate his lease early without consequences) from 2016 to 2019.  As part of the extension (or more properly in loose connection with the extension), the council agreed to negotiate in good faith on several issues.  Among them, one would allow Moreno to drop “Anaheim” from the team’s name; another would let him lease the surrounding 155 acres for $1 a year for 66 years.  The idea behind the lease is to use revenue captured from developing the parking lot to ease Moreno’s $150MM problem.

At the time of the vote, the public was told that if Anaheim didn’t agree to an additional three years to negotiate, Arte would pack up the team and move somewhere, anywhere, else.  Right, wrong, or indifferent, the MOU was signed and Arte got this three years.

Nine months ago, there wasn’t much in the way of information for the public to grasp onto to help understand what was happening with their team and their stadium.  Today, we finally have something real to work with.  Mr. Moreno wants access to $300,000,000 worth of public property.  In exchange, he’ll maintain a public institution in Anaheim.  That on its own is neither good nor bad, but now we understand the question and can work toward deciding what is fair.

How we get to “fair” is up for debate.  I’ve made my opinion on this topic fairly well known and regardless if you agree with me or not, it’s very hard not to conclude there’s a wide gap of trust between the public, Mr. Moreno, and the Anaheim city council.  That gap continues to widen each day, but it’s not unsalvageable.  The release of the city’s appraisal for the 155 acres in question is a good start.  Anaheim replacing its lead negotiator Charles Black, who was awful, is another.  Arte Moreno opposing the release of the appraisal and announcing he’s meeting with representatives in Tustin and Irvine regarding a new stadium site is not.  If we’re going to get to “fair”, we need to stop treating this like any other business deal and remember that a everyone benefits from a healthy public institution.

So, how do we get there?

1) Respect the Mayor . . . (and the council members.  Ick.)

Pic of the Mayor by Vern, who just happened to run into him the other day, wearing the cap of the team he supposedly wants to drive off ….. BS!

No one wants the Angels to leave Anaheim.  Well, not TOTALLY no one, but no one associated with the actual discussion including the mayor.  There are individuals in Anaheim who feel that it’s acceptable to use negotiations concerning a public institution as a crudely constructed blunt political weapon.  I’m looking at you Lucille Kring, Kris Murray, and Todd Ament.  Stop it.  You’re not helping.  Not only are you being willfully ignorant of history, you’re also blatantly lying about both the Mayor’s intentions and the impact to the taxpayer.

Your job is to get a good deal done with real public benefits, which clearly you haven’t done.  It’s not to score cheap political benefits.  When you stop complaining about Anaheim’s superhuman mayor who can blow up deals with one teeny tiny vote, maybe then you can actually have the time and energy to do the job that people in Anaheim expect you to do: Promote Anaheim.  I, and a lot of your critics, would find that type of work extremely difficult to criticize.

Which brings us to . . .

2) Respect the City.

Anaheim is the best place for the Angels to play.  Period.  I should have a list of reasons why that is.  Instead, I just get a bunch of bologna from the Chamber’s noise machine telling me how many great options Moreno has.  Why the Chamber allows this messaging to continue is self defeating.  YOU’RE THE ANAHEIM CHAMBER OF COMMERCE.  IT’S YOUR JOB TO TALK ABOUT HOW GREAT ANAHEIM IS FOR BUSINESS.  DO IT.  Show me the value the Angels get by staying.  Advocate damnit .  Give me a reason to believe, which brings us to . . .

3) Respect the Fans.

Fans want to be proud of their team.  Mr. Moreno has made being proud of a hometown team very difficult since he assumed the helm.  I don’t know who buys his season tickets, but I doubt many of them live in the 213 area code.  I sincerely doubt any of them like losing to the Rangers every year.  I know that none of them like losing to Oakland.  Yet, here we are, a team from Los Angeles who lose to the Rangers and finish third behind the Athletics.

If Mr. Moreno is dead set on removing Anaheim from the team name, he needs to give LOCAL fans something to be proud of.  He’s making a big mistake maintaining the LA name, but an even bigger one by completely disregarding the significant contribution that local fans have made to his institution for half a century.  While Arte may own the Angels, the fans built the team.  There’s way too much focus on his money and not nearly enough focus on our pride.  This needs to change quickly, but ultimately any final deal that’s reached ought to make it very clear that Arte Moreno is proud to represent Anaheim and the 3,000,000+ fans that come here each year to watch his team play.

4) Respect the Owner.

While I certainly haven’t helped in this area, it’s important. So, here it is.

Arte Moreno owns the team.  Arte Moreno can play baseball wherever he likes.  I hope he chooses to play in Anaheim and I hope he makes money there.  I want him to invest in top talent, to play to win, and to attract additional investment in Orange County.  I expect him to do his best to do so, and I hope the fans make it easier by showing up to games and spending as much money as they can afford to spend.

See, it’s that easy.  Personally, I think Moreno is a victim of some bad advice on how this was going to play out.  We’ll see.

And finally . . .

5) Respect the Taxpayer

So far, negotiations have hardly been the model example of transparency and good government.  Anaheim taxpayers are being told to fork over some seriously valuable property and they’re being told in a way that is well, legally questionable.

The taxpayers ought to be ASKED.  And they ought to be asked nicely and legally.

I’m not saying the deal has to be put to a city-wide vote or that negotiations should be done in an open session vs. a closed session, but something has got to change.  Either would certainly go a long way in solving the problem, but I concede there are significant negatives to either option.  To date, the Angels have opposed including a direct connection to the taxpayer . . . all the way through opposing the release of the appraisal.  What other information the public does have has either been leaked from the Angels or the city . . . or otherwise forcibly ripped from either.

Withholding information and running around leaking quibbles to the press about what other cities you’re talking to does nothing but disrespect the substantial investment Anaheim taxpayers have made in the team since the 1960’s.  If Arte owns the team that the fans built, then it’s Anaheim taxpayers that poured the foundation for the institution.  They made the initial capital investment.  Treat them like stockholders.  Don’t treat them like suckers.  Make no mistake, giving away $300,000,000 for $1 a year claiming that it’s “no cost to the taxpayer” is treating the taxpayer like a sucker.

Getting a fair deal isn’t complicated.  We need to stop leveraging fans in a fight between the owner and the taxpayer.  We’re all part of the same institution.  We all succeed equally as partners, like we all have since 1966.

We’ve done it before.  We can do it again.

#Anaheim is #HaloRed.  #Respect.

About Ryan Cantor

Our conservative columnist, raised in North Orange County, works as an auditor.