Follow the Dark Money, Part 1: A Streetcar Named ‘Desire to Use Eminent Domain to Swipe Someone Else’s Property’


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Nov. 3

When Done

[Part Two of this Series is Here]

This is part one of a series. The big money being spent in Anaheim campaigns right now is a drop in the bucket in comparison to what can be gained from the special interests laundering funds through a variety of Curt Pringle’s groups. At the head of the list, of course, is Disney. But along the way we pick up the interests of Kris Murray’s career trajectory, Curt Pringle’s ability to fund that retirement island, Angels baseball’s man-in-the-middle position as a very expensive pass-through for the world’s most important parking garage, and in the end a very likely tale of honest services fraud…at the very least. All of it cleverly disguised as an innocent looking streetcar and a sports team negotiation, and most of it having nothing to do with either. If you lack the stomach or stamina to read through, scroll to the bottom for the summary. If you want the long version that includes WHY I believe what I believe, you will have to read through. I hope you find it enlightening, if not entertaining. After all, it is your money they are spending. Enjoy.

Dark Money Part One:  Follow the Money

Sunday’s OC Register reports on the dark money campaigns of Curt Pringle and Larry Agran.

Voice of OC reports on Disney spending $671K (to date) on the Anaheim election of 2014.

Especially well done is a graphic by Nick Gerda showing where the money goes.

Mail pieces on both sides of the Mayor’s race fling accusations of bad negotiations on the Angels baseball lease and the related $1/year land deal that accompanies the massive gift of public funds.

And at least one “hit piece” mailing against the re-election campaign of Council member Kris Murray connects her to a $318MM streetcar project to benefit Disney, although the mailer connects her via her employer, WillDan.

Sadly, none of these sources connect these issues, and trust me, they are all interconnected as surely as the shin bone is connected to the ankle bone.

Curt Pringle:

Nearly all of the uglier mail pieces clogging Anaheim mailboxes are being facilitated by former-Mayor-turned-lobbyist Curt Pringle, either through his PAC or through other agencies he controls or influences, including the OCTax PAC where he serves as President of their Board and his buddy Carolyn Cavecche is the Executive Director, or the OCBC BizPAC where Curt’s pal Lucy Dunn is the boss and Pringle’s buddies run the board.

Why? Certainly, Curt’s ego is raw.  When Tom Tait took office from one of his best friends in 2010 Curt expected that first State of the City address in January 2011 to be yet another roast to the “great man” who previously held office in Anaheim. Instead Curt sat at his specially reserved table, front and center, to hear his (quickly to become former) friend Mayor Tait announce that the City’s budget he inherited was a mess, Anaheim was spending $50,000 a day more than we took in, and we had been depleting reserves at such an alarming rate we were nearly broke.

To someone with the fragile sense of self and need for external validation that Pringle clearly struggles with, Tait’s statement may have been factual, but it was painful. Pringle never forgave him. Tait then looked around his office and began realizing the previous occupant had left a few doors unlocked, some windows unlatched and propped open…and not a few passkeys stashed for the use of special insiders. Tom Tait went through that office and the previous tenant’s policies and began locking those financial doors, one by one.

Jordan Brandman had personally told me to my face, (paraphrased) ‘you will see Tom Tait’s lips move, but it will be Curt’s words you hear coming out and if you look very closely you will see Kris Murray’s hand up the back of Tom’s shirt operating the levers.’

For folks who thought they had put a puppet into place,  they were shocked to discover the only person in Anaheim who didn’t think Tait was supposed to be Curt Pringle’s puppet … was Tom Tait himself.

And so Pringle declared war, his best lieutenants doing all in their power to make life Hell for Tait while in office, and now they are all working together to get him OUT of office, having failed in June to limit his terms in office.

Nowhere does that conflict come together as clearly as along the Katella Corridor, where the Convention Center and Disneyland Resort mix with sports teams, brought together with transportation projects, all to benefit the clients of one former-Mayor-turned-lobbyist.

Kris Murray:

A hit piece on Kris Murray ties her to the $318 MM streetcar thanks to her employer, WillDan. Certainly there appears to be conflict there.  While her apologists claim that WillDan Group, where Murray works, has no connection to the infrastructure division doing transportation and/or the High Speed Rail project that WillDan is contracted for, the City’s Conflict of Interest prohibitions and Campaign Reform policies treat one large company as ONE large company, or “person.”

.020 Two or more entities shall be treated as one person when any of the following circumstances apply:

.0201 The entities share the majority of members of their boards of directors;

.0202 The entities are owned or controlled by the same majority shareholder or shareholders;

.0203 The entities are in a parent-subsidiary relationship.

WillDan does not seem to separate their divisions, at least not on their website, where they are simply given link buttons.

While wearing her “WillDan hat,” Murray serves as Chair of OCBC’s “OC Moves” Steering Committee, something unlikely to continue if, while wearing her City of Anaheim hat, she voted against the streetcar, as those connected to this committee and the business network it creates tend to be the same contractors and consultants working on those transportation projects.

OCMoves Steering Committee is composed of business leaders, public agencies and elected officials dedicated to improving regional transportation infrastructure in Orange County. Steering Committee members meet quarterly and host private receptions with key transportation leaders and engage in the latest transportation projects and initiatives.

OCMoves was established in 2007 by a public-private partnership of elected officials and business leaders who came together in 2005 to successfully campaign for and pass the successor to Measure M – Orange County’s half-cent sales tax dedicated to transportation. Renewed Measure M passed with 70 percent of the vote as a result of this unique collaboration of leaders that framed the public debate on the economic benefits and the need to sustain Orange County’s quality of life. Renewed Measure M will provide $12 billion dollars to improve Orange County’s roads, highways, and commuter rail infrastructure over 30 years. The focus of OCMoves will be to continue that collaboration of Measure M public and private stakeholders to advocate Orange County’s transportation priorities at regional, state and federal levels, as well as to provide oversight on behalf of the business community for renewed Measure M implementation.

It is clearly part of Murray’s JOB with WillDan to serve on the OCBC committee that is directly tasked with moving forward those transportation projects tied to Measure M renewal, making the Disney streetcar the poster child for Conflict of Interest for Murray.

On October 23, 2012, Murray not only voted for the Streetcar as LPA, but she made the motion after over-riding the Mayor’s objections, specifically citing her professional experience as a transportation professional!

She then went on to vote for an MOU between Anaheim and the California High Speed Rail Authority, in which Anaheim pledged to offer ongoing support for the project and the City was given access to $70MM in funding for grade separations linked to the HSR project. Again, Murray’s employer, WillDan, is under contract with the High Speed Rail Authority.

On November 13, 2012 Murray also approved granting a contract worth just over $9MM to her buddies at Hill International, to draft the next set of environmental documents for Phase 2 of the Streetcar studies. Murray also directly lobbied the OCTA Board on behalf of the project as they determined whether or not to approve Anaheim’s Locally Approved Alternative, stating clearly that the only way for Disney to open that third gate was to get the cars off the street.

Looking beyond WillDan, there is an extensive support network that Murray enjoys from those similarly involved in the process. There are many forms of conflict, and not all are monetary.  In ethics training for public officials, we are taught even a friend, neighbor, or family relationship should be disclosed and if we feel it affects our ability to make governmental decisions with “disinterested zeal” then we should abstain from voting. We have never seen Murray do this.

The friendship between Murray and BFF Disney’s Carrie Nocella is legendary, and Nocella’s passion is to promote Disney’s interests at all costs. What happens to that friendship should Murray determine the streetcar is not in the best interest of the constituents she was elected to represent? Now mix in the connections between Murray, Nocella, and Curt Pringle. Welcome to the rat’s nest.


Disney is first and foremost a business, and the corporate giant does nothing without the expectation of Return on Investment. They are very good at predicting the next big thing, and making massive profits doing this. Frankly I cheer them on for that profitability: when one invests private dollars and hard work in a great idea one SHOULD profit, with the caveat that we are not to exploit our fellow mankind in the pursuit of that profit.

Voice of OC has done a great job of tracking Disney’s “investment” in local government, and Nick Gerda drafted an AMAZING graphic showing where the money went!


Always a big player in Anaheim elections, Disney is outdoing itself this year — pouring at least $671,000 into political action committees financing city council campaigns and tens of thousands more into an initiative aimed at changing the city’s electoral system, according to a Voice of OC analysis of campaign finance data.

How can one NOT ask what the connection is?  Disney. Pringle. Murray.


If ever there was a nexus between Pringle, Murray, and Disney, it is found in the Streetcar, or ARC Fixed Guideway.

This was Curt Pringle’s baby as Mayor, and when he left office it became the money-maker for Curt Pringle and Associates lobbying firm. The project tied Curt’s role as Mayor of Anaheim into his service at OCTA Board, where he became the Chair of the Measure M renewal committee to get OC drivers to continue taxing ourselves at the pump to build a money pot Pringle could later reach into on behalf of clients. Murray now aids Pringle in spending that measure M money with her service on Anaheim City Council and with her OCBC “OCMoves” service with WillDan. Together they spend Measure M money to benefit the Disney-serving Fixed-Guideway. What’s not to love?

The Fixed Guideway project then roped in Pringle’s High Speed Rail Authority Chairmanship…by claiming the bullet train’s ridership as justification for the Purpose and Need of the project, all in one neat and profitable package. Of course that package had the Attorney General declare Pringle in violation of “incompatible offices” before he left the Mayor’s seat in disgrace at the end of 2010, but the project does tie it all together.

Once out of office, Pringle became Disney’s “transportation consultant” and really put a bow on it.

If Disney breaks all previous campaign records and blows as much as $1MM on the current campaign, that is still a return on investment of 31,800%. I would take that quite quickly for my scrawny little IRA.

Now mix in Carrie Nocella’s work with Disney since spring 2007 (she started work the day Disney filed suit against Anaheim for the Suncal zoning fiasco) and now mix Kris Murray’s pre-WillDan career at OCTA….are we getting a clearer picture?

The premise for the Streetcar, which began as a monorail but became so expensive even Pringle didn’t have the nerve to ask for that kind of funding, was that all of these passengers would disembark from High Speed Rail at ARTIC station, and need a ride to Disneyland.

Even ARTIC was a Pringle boondoggle that began with the premise of private investors funding the station, in the belief that like a modern-day Grand Central Station people would go there just to BE there, to shop and have lunch and enjoy the ambience. When the private sector failed to step up, Pringle arranged for 100% public funding of his pet project.

From Pringle’s 2008 State of the City Address:

One of the strongest examples is the progress we’re making with ARTIC, the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center. A few months ago, the City and OCTA hosted over 200 potential partners to explore ways to creatively finance and construct this future transit hub. And later this year, we will select the private partners who will take the next step with the city and OCTA in the development of this facility. I am confident we are on the right path to make ARTIC, long a vision for Anaheim, into a reality.

That is why this year, I want to focus on the development of a transit system that provides this connection. And I want this new transit connection to be a product of public AND private investment.

Just last month, the Anaheim City Council voted to submit our proposal for an “elevated, fixed guideway transit system” to OCTA for consideration for local Measure M transit funds.

“Elevated, fixed guideway transit system” is a fancy name for what I hope will be a public monorail system, which would symbolically and technologically bring Walt Disney’s iconic vision of 50 years ago alive today and bring a physical connection to the various destinations in our city.

Pringle loves the Streetcar: Does Disney?

Disney has been quiet about the streetcar. Perhaps they understand how greedy it looks to demand the public going without parks and public safety staff should fund the de facto remote parking tram for a highly profitable private enterprise. Every now and then Disney is cognizant enough of their place in Anaheim society to understand how to throttle it back, at least visibly. That may be why their campaign funding is being run through the Pringle-controlled entities rather than SOAR.

Disney execs have told the Mayor and some neighborhood leaders that they are neutral on the streetcar, and the more I study the system the more I believe that that is technically true. Let me be clear: I believe Disney is neutral regarding the MODE OF TRANSPORT used to get their credit-card wielding guests from Point A to Point B.  It is the INFRASTRUCTURE connected to the Public Works project that Disney is most likely to have a stake in, and it is that battle that is being fought as our mailboxes clog with pieces that reuse the same cranky-pants picture of the Mayor, appearing as though he just sucked on a lemon.

Look at what comes with the streetcar, and see if you wouldn’t jump at the chance, same as Disney is doing.

Resort Station: Located across from Disney, on the east side of Harbor Blvd. so as not to disturb your profitable use of your real estate on the west side of Harbor Blvd. You and I know the property as the Park Vue Inn; it is also the site of the most successful IHOP in the nation and a Cold Stone Creamery. A Midwestern family named Scalzo knows the property only as their financial future, and the legacy left to them by the grandfather, Carmen Scalzo, who literally built the place with his bare hands as a contractor.

Carmen Scalzo

Carmen Scalzo built original hotel, then passed it on to daughters, and now his grandchildren run the business.

Carmen Scalzo’s grandsons, Patrick and Paul Durand.















Sentiment be damned, Disney determined that the Park Vue Inn would be used to accommodate the Resort Station.  But what if the Scalzo family objects?

There’s the key: the Scalzo family has little to no say in the matter, if it is labeled officially as a “public works project,” and not the Disney expansion project it really is.

From the end of 2012 when I first saw the renewed Locally Approved Alternative, through just a month ago, I have continued digging and asking and submitting Public Records Requests, with answers from the City in various levels of success, depending apparently on the mood of Natalie Meeks that day. The documents in my possession number in the thousands, they have easily exceeded $200-$300 in cost at 10 cents a page. When put together they tell a chilling tale of Public Works Director Natalie Meeks and then-Mayor Curt Pringle working with Disney to play “Sim City” with public dollars and private property, without bothering to notify any of the parties that the game was being played on our behalf.


park vue inn as resort station 600 px

What is now the Park Vue Inn property was chosen as the site for ARC’s “Resort Station.”

pedestrian bridge 600 px

Plans for the pedestrian bridge over Harbor Blvd. across from the Disney’s main gate.

Prior to the end of 2009, several routes were considered. The most obvious one is taking Gene Autry Way over the freeway and through Disney to Convention Way, which happens to precisely align with Gene Autry Way. That was dismissed pretty quickly — again, why would Disney want to use its own property when, with Anaheim’s help, it can take someone else’s?

Then the Disney Way behind Gardenwalk route looked promising, until a series of “Disney charrette” meetings relocated the route north by a block to Alro Way. Now you may ask yourself, “Where is Alro Way? I don’t recall any Alro Way intersecting with Harbor Blvd at Disneyland…” — and you would be correct. Alro Way runs behind the bank of hotels, motels, and restaurants facing into busy Harbor Blvd. To take Alro west from Clementine into Harbor Blvd, as described in City documents, one must go THROUGH private property.  And that is precisely what the project intends to do — at Disney’s orders.

One report tells us,

“it was noted that there are several technical disadvantages with the variations on Alro Way that were proposed by Disney, including raising the SCE power lines, significant land acquisition, and possible business relocations.”

“The DT revised the September 1, 2009 project definition based on the results of the Disney charrette on September 24, 2009.”

A progress report for the period ending October 31, 2009 said,

“As a result of the Disney charrette the project definition was changed to include three additional maintenance facilities, two new alignment variations, and four elevate pedestrian connectors.”

A progress report dated December 15, 2009 from consultants working on the streetcar reported;

“Following October 20, 2009 design charette with Disney, worked with City staff to provide guidance on proposed alignment and infrastructure issues near the proposed ARTIC West facility.”

Now Matt Cunningham will be over here at any moment to defend his buddies at House O’ Mouse and say it is perfectly reasonable for the major corporate entity to be involved in the planning. But there is “involved,” and then there is “ordering a hit.”

In this case a public works project was clearly being redesigned following Disney-hosted “design charrettes” on their property, and at the end of these events, the use of Disney property west of Harbor Blvd for the Transportation Plaza has been shifted to the private property of a Midwestern family, while Disney’s Pumbaa lot that documents had once planned to use for the Station is also spared, with documents later claiming Disney did not want to sacrifice the parking spaces.

Page 9 of the Initial Study released end of 2013 says the Resort Station “would incorporate many of the transit functions currently handled by the Disneyland Resort theme parks Transportation Center on the west side of Harbor Blvd.”

The documents point to a project being designed for the convenience and profitable use of Disney. The project itself is of no use to the public; the City’s own documents show the streetcar makes traffic on Katella WORSE, creating new impacts and deficiencies at Katella Avenue intersections.

By the beginning of 2010, the documents and public presentations all showed that a streetcar option was eliminated from consideration, for its failure in mixed traffic. Interestingly those documents, which had once been offered on the ARC website, are gone, and the only reports readily available online are the most recent, which show the benefits of the streetcar. Thankfully, I have hard copy files…  Ah, the process of California’s Public Records Act.  NOW perhaps folks understand why I will pay 10 cents a page to preserve documents.

streetcar not considered 600 px

The concept of a streetcar had already been rejected — when it was retrieved from the trash bin to justify the City’s using eminent domain.

tech prev considered 600 px

“Not suitable due to operation in mixed traffic” on top of “poor service quality” and “not consistent with project purpose.”

Yet just as Pringle was leaving the Mayor’s seat under the Attorney General’s cloud of “Incompatible Offices” someone made the choice to run back to the trash heap, grab the streetcar and dust it off, and throw it back onto the table as a viable candidate for consideration. It seemed that with a monorail proving too expensive, and bus systems being not quite permanent enough to be a public works project in need of stations that require eminent domain taking of the neighbor’s property, ANY fixed rail project would do.

The Streetcar Project was not designed to move PEOPLE, it was designed to move PROPERTY.

And with the selection of the streetcar as a viable option, the project went underground…so deep underground that a review of Transportation Liaison Committee reports to new Mayor Tom Tait and OCTA rep Lorri Galloway failed to even MENTION that Natalie Meeks and her department were studying this transportation project! The quietly moved forward based on their last set of orders given, by the PREVIOUS Mayor.

Fast forward to September and October 2012.

Meeting minutes and agendas show Mayor Tait was finally told the Public Works department is working on this fixed guideway, and it is about to present at a public workshop. The workshop was presented to Council, and the Council was expected to vote on the Locally Preferred Alternative, with no other prep! Claims by Meeks of public outreach were false — there was NO public presentation of the Alternatives Analysis, which has now taken 2 years and millions more in funding than promised in 2008.

On October 23, 2012, the City Council voted 3 to 2, Tait and Galloway dissenting, to move forward with the streetcar as the Locally Preferred Alternative. Later that same night, Council member Murray brought up the desire to create an “Ad Hoc Committee” consisting of herself and Gail Eastman, to assist the City Manager in negotiating a new lease with Angels baseball.  Is that a coincidence?


That…my friends…is for PART TWO.


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.