Follow the Dark Money, Part 2: Disney’s Return on Campaign Investment is Arte Letting Mickey Park in His Front Yard




This is part two of a series. Our discussion began with Part One.

The big money that the special interests recently spent in Anaheim campaigns was a drop in the bucket in comparison to what they can gain from laundering funds of Curt Pringle’s various political and quasi-business groups.  At the head of that list, of course, is Disney, who blew through roughly $700k,  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.

We’re back. Let’s look at the OTHER end of the streetcar, or ARC fixed guideway, also known as Disney’s Return on (campaign) Investment.

Disney spent roughly $700k on the latest campaign (that we can openly trace) to maintain one Council seat. In the meantime they alienated the very, very popular Mayor, and burned through the good will of their carefully guarded corporate identity with local residents, when media exposed their spending on hit pieces against a Mayor so popular he easily whooped all of his opponents combined.

The Government Affairs team at Disney considered largely responsible for the animosity between the Mayor’s office and The House ‘o Mouse is still gainfully employed, therefore Disney considered the loss of goodwill and nearly a million dollars in campaign funds a viable investment. That is a huge price to swallow, and Disney is clearly scoring something BIG to make that work without any heads rolling, post-election.

To see what the anticipated return is on Disney’s investment, we need look no further than a 3-mile long stretch of real estate along Katella Avenue in southern Anaheim. This strip of prime real estate is home to not only the Anaheim Resort (Disney’s two parks and related properties) but also the largest Convention Center on the west coast. To the eastern end of the Katella corridor are Angels Stadium, Honda Center, the newly rezoned higher-density Platinum Triangle, and the ARTIC transit station. Oh yes, and rarely mentioned is a project that must be factored in, the Gene Autry overpass worth many more tens of millions in public funding.

All of these projects have a few things in common;

  • Their public funding from taxpayers on one level or another.
  • Some benefit to the clients of Curt Pringle in his post-Mayoral years, with Disney at the head of the line for public handouts.
  • All of these projects dovetail into the Incompatible Offices Curt Pringle was found guilty of by the Attorney General’s office in 2010.

In the period we are discussing, late 2008 through the end of 2010, the mastermind central to the plans that tied together all these moving parts was none other than Anaheim’s own Curt Pringle.

  • As Anaheim’s Mayor from 2002 to 2010, Curt Pringle was central to the General Plan update that envisioned the Platinum Triangle, approved May 25, 2004
  • The higher density of Platinum Triangle’s specific plan offered increased ridership numbers (at least on paper) thus justifying the need for a “public transportation system” to accommodate the “transit oriented development” of the PT. Pringle’s master planning also dumped the responsibility for infrastructure funding onto the backs of developers (some more than others!) through a bond scheme called the Community Facilities District or “CFD.” This will become more important than it sounds….
  • January 2005: Curt Pringle joined the OCTA Board after Shirley McCracken left office, vacating that seat.
  • Pringle’s OCTA Board service permitted him to steer funding to the Gene Autry Way overpass and the Katella Avenue Smart Street projects.
  • As Chair of the OCTA Transportation 2020 Committee, Pringle pushed the campaign to renew Measure M funding, a pot of money Pringle was then able to return to as Mayor and later as a lobbyist.  November 7, 2006,
  • As a member of the OCTA Board, Pringle was also able to lead the charge in approving the relocation of ARTIC to the OCTA lot across Douglass instead of expanding the existing Metrolink/Amtrak station in the Stadium parking lot where it has served riders for years. Indeed it was this relocation, rather than expansion of existing facilities, that led County Supervisor Shawn Nelson and others to shout in protest against a claimed misuse of Measure M funds. (The Oversight Committee later signed off on it.)
  • Curt Pringle was appointed to California’s High Speed Rail Authority Board on February 14, 2007
  • One week later, on February 23, 2007, AB 1228 was introduced, changing the terminus of the proposed high-speed rail system from Los Angeles to Anaheim. The bill was co-sponsored by the City of Anaheim and OCTA, with an incremental cost of $1.2 billion.
  • On May 23, 2007  the CHSRA, led by Pringle on a 5-2 vote, approved a phasing plan that would exclude San Diego and Sacramento from Phase 1, but include Anaheim.

I get exhausted just thinking about having that many irons in the fire, much less keeping track of which ones may or may not be spoken of in public, what with conflicts and all…and yet, Curt does his best work when concocting these long cons in which he sees himself as smarter than everyone else around him, the master chess player always four moves ahead of his opponent.

The thing about Honest Services Fraud is nobody has to be AHEAD of the con … one only needs to follow behind and document the deals.

In order to pull the whole interconnected project together, Pringle had to leverage all of those public offices to do the impossible, the improbable, and the unreasonable.

A series of behind-the-scenes decisions resulted in moving traditionally immovable objects, freeing up the space in the Stadium parking lot north of the Stadium, where the existing Metrolink Station sits…for now. By building an “iconic” new rail station, ARTIC acts as the assistant in the sequin dress, distracting the crowd while the magician palms the coin and shoves the rabbit back into the lining of the hat, or the otherwise immovable train station off the lot slated for more profitable use.

ARTIC’s construction defies all the laws of common sense. It is on the wrong side of the freeway, the wrong side of the tracks, it shifts the cost of operating a Metrolink station onto the backs of Anaheim’s taxpayers for millions of dollars per year, for something operated by Metrolink today. No matter how much Anaheim might have spent to expand, improve, and just plain sexy-up the existing 80’s era Metrolink station to accommodate bus and taxi service, it could not come close to what we will spend on ARTIC in its lifetime, and it is STILL less convenient to use.

County leaders demanded the station in the Stadium parking lot. County Supervisor Shawn Nelson fought tooth and nail against using the OCTA property on the other side of the 57 freeway for the boondoggle of a train station. Agendas and Minutes of a Transportation Liaison meeting dated January 6, 2011 show County Supervisor Shawn Nelson (serving on the OCTA Board) wanted to put ARTIC on the stadium property rather than the OCTA land. Natalie Meeks’ report back to City officials merely states, “there are several factors that would prohibit this change.”

The State of CA and Federal transportation officials preferred the station on the Stadium lot. A January 2010 email exchange between Curt Pringle and Mehdi Morshed was shared with us by Voice of OC and LA Times when discovered in December 2010.

Full text of emails shown here;

Problems With ARTIC

In his first email, Pringle wrote that plans by rail engineers to move the ARTIC station from the south side of the 57 to the north side were a “stupid idea” that, “if presented, will cause a whirlwind of anger from the Angels toward the city!”

And, he warned, “my entire city council will come unglued and will oppose high speed rail if this is forced on us — but in fact your engineers don’t live in the real world. The land that they have designs on is not available. They have been told that. And yet they make a proposal — out of thin air — that is impossible, inconceivable and unable to be accomplished.”

Pringle was told that CalTrans offered HSR the wrong plans for the freeway and the bullet train route into Anaheim had been designed based on faulty info. When they got the real plans they were forced to run HSR somewhere other than into a connection at ARTIC, where Anaheim was already prepared, but had not completed, the transaction to buy the land from OCTA. HSR wanted to put the ARTIC station in the parking lot of Angel Stadium, a solution also backed by Federal authorities in the documents obtained through Public Records Requests. It makes sense. Is that not where the station has been serving riders for years?

Yet Curt Pringle answered HSR Chief Mehdi Morshed with such passionate objection to putting a new HSR station at the site where the existing rail station already sits, that Morshed admitted he had trouble discerning whether he was speaking with the Mayor of Anaheim or his boss at the HSR Authority!


In reading your email I had difficulty separating the message from the Mayor with that of the Chairman of the Authority. I will try to address your statements briefly here as that of the Chairman and suggest that it be fully discussed at the board meeting in Feb.”

On its face, Pringle’s reaction to the loss of a parking lot to build a train station where a train station is already located makes little sense, and the conniption fit from the Mayor/HSR Chair was out of context for the loss of a parking lot controlled by a business entity Pringle claimed to detest at the time. What was so important about that parking lot?

While the City has worked hard lately to convince us Arte holds all the cards on Stadium parking encumbrances, the 1996 lease agreement actually provides Anaheim with development rights, as long as the City complies with the mixed-use “sportstown” development plan which evolved into the Platinum Triangle plan, and as long 12,500 parking spaces to which the team is entitled are replaced, space for space. The 1996 Lease says a parking garage CAN be used as long as the spaces for Angels Baseball are above ground, not subterranean.

“Anaheim will now have the rights to develop the stadium property. The tug of war over that property has now virtually been ended by the proposal. Anaheim will have clear rights to develop a major portion of the property at the earliest opportunity if the agreement is approved. The agreement is in the best tradition of the community.”

(former) Mayor Tom Daly

Anaheim City Council meeting minutes April 3, 1996

Taking of the property by eminent domain by another agency such as the High Speed Rail Authority was also addressed in the 1996 lease.

Pages 63-65 of the Lease, not the PDF, shows guidelines for takings, total takes, partial takes etc.

So that wasn’t the problem. And clearly Pringle was not against taking property for the use of a public transportation system, it was under his watch as Mayor that Disney was permitted to point at a spot on the map representing the Scalzo family’s Park Vue Inn on Harbor Blvd and tell engineers to eliminate it for Disney’s own more profitable use!

Rather than use the $32MM parcel from OCTA for ARTIC, a parking garage on that parcel could have generated revenue in partnership between Anaheim and OCTA, replacing the lost parking spaces to enable construction of ARTIC on the Stadium lot, as desired by County, State, and Federal authorities as well as just plain common sense, traveler convenience, and cost to the taxpayers. The premise at least deserved consideration. After all, is there anything there NOW that is irreplaceable?

Artic Commerce Center Brochure.indd

Looking at the ARTIC site (circled in red) from the east, right across from the perfect site for a huge new Disney Parking Lot in the north part of the Angels Stadium parking lot that the City considered leasing away to Arte Moreno for $1 per year.

With the exception of a train station, the only more immovable of immovable object in public infrastructure might be a water well. Yet the plan for the ARC fixed guideway takes one of those out too! The page of maps (the ones Natalie Meeks does NOT share with the public, but were obtained through Public Records Request) depicts the Stadium parking lot, just east of the State College and Katella intersection. The streetcar route avoids the open parking lot and avoids Katella at that point, instead running a collision course with City-owned property. Notations at the bottom of the map instruct; “Relocation of Water Well Number 45” and “Relocation of Grove Storage.” Engineers chose to eliminate a water well in drought starved southern California rather than move the Streetcar tracks in either direction. Coupled with the bizarre removal of the Train Station to the other side of the freeway and tracks, it is clear SOMETHING is going into the parking lot north of the Stadium, and that something is more important than a water well and train station, and too large to work around or be flexible about its location.


The NUMBER ONE obstacle to Disney’s third gate is not money, or even real estate–they have the Toy Story parking lot to work with. Notice the Fixed Guideway Maps and Public Works projects maps do not identify the former strawberry field as “Disney Parking,” but as “Disney Property.” Again and again. Disney does not appear to use that lot for long-term parking, but have not publicly identified a parcel of sufficient size to accommodate a parking structure the size of Mickey and Friends required for the growth of a 3rd gate.

The number one obstacle to Disney’s third gate is parking and tram service for their patrons. Given how built out the area is — look at that aerial photo! — there is one and only one piece of real estate along the Resort/Katella Corridor that offers a footprint of sufficient size to accommodate another huge parking structure, AND has easy access to a freeway off-ramp. In fact, after this Tuesday night’s Council meeting Anaheim is very likely to have provided the electronic signage directing vehicles off the 57 freeway for the “Marvel-Star Wars Parking Structure” at the Katella Offramp. Wait! (Then the City would have to offer up a no-bid or barely bid contract with a company sympathetic to, and friendly with, Disney. Oh..yeah…ClearChannel was one of two RFPs reported in a cutthroat competitive environment that SHOULD have produced a bidding war for one of the largest — and certainly one of the most obnoxious — electronic billboards in the State, on prime real estate feeding the Stadium, Honda Center, and ARTIC/Disney. Tell me I am wrong.) Now offer a scenario that makes more sense.


To pull together all these components of Pringle’s various personas and offices, Pringle was doing a tap dance with the Attorney General’s office from late 2008/early 2009 until he left office the end of 2010. Could he pull it off and get out of office before being nailed for Incompatible Offices? Only the score of a lifetime would make him even try it, at the end of his public career. Taxpayers had not yet discovered his stripping of the City Treasury, at a rate of $50,000 per day more than Anaheim was taking in or the decimation of the reserve funds to support that wild-eyed spending. So something drove Pringle to risk tanking the all-time high he was riding in his decades of “public service.”

The one Boogie Man even bigger than the AG’s office was the leaseholder for the ONE piece of property the combined projects  could not work without.

Angels Baseball, owned by the incredibly hated Mr. Los Angeles himself, Arte Moreno! To say that Curt Pringle detested Arte Moreno during the Los Angeles litigation years is the greatest understatement. Pringle stopped attending Angels games, even with access to the luxury box provided for the City’s use. Twice I mentioned the Angels in his presence, and twice he turned an odd shade of red and then purple that honestly alarmed me, and left me concerned for his health.

But there was one language that both Pringle and Moreno spoke fluently. The language of Mammon.

Worship of Mammon

We’ll explain what “Mammon” is in comments if need be

Fast forward to today. Anaheim has “offered” Angels owner Arte Moreno some of the most prime real estate in Orange County, at a proposed (and then, as embarrassment set in, de-proposed) price of $1 per year. Clearly Anaheim believes they are getting something out of it — and tax revenue ain’t it.

To facilitate the political expedience of “capitulating” to Arte’s demands (as opposed to leaders owning their culpability in the giveaway as willing participants) the Council majority then gave Moreno an additional 3 years to extend his opt-out, leaving the cage door open JUST long enough for the bird to fly away, or threaten to do so.

On October 23, 2012, Pringle’s puppet master Kris Murray announced the deep and abiding need to “begin negotiations” with Angels baseball. This is a bizarre request since:

  • Moreno and his Angels have made no public demand to negotiate via the press, nor did Moreno and his Angels demand to negotiate based on  Closed Session legal notices. Like so many other public policy decisions taking place without explanation, Murray simply intuitively KNEW in her heart of hearts that it had come time to make a deal.
  • Anaheim had no reason to proactively open negotiations with a team owner who appeared to have forgotten to negotiate, having left his opt out deadline so close to the edge it was unlikely if not impossible to move his team at that point, and Anaheim had only to lose ground by negotiating, as Moreno is not perceived as a guy who puts treasure back ON the table. The smartest thing for Anaheim to do at that point was double dog dare Moreno to pack up his team and scoot before 2016.

Two years later, we once again consider Murray’s demand to negotiate outside of public view, with the Ad Hoc Committee she wanted in October 2012 now back for discussion on the Agenda of November 25, 2014. Anaheim has consistently failed to negotiate with the best interests of the people of Anaheim in mind, and there is clearly a bigger reason.


The big risk in telling Moreno to pound sand on his demand for more taxpayer goodies while enjoying the leverage given him by misguided (at best) Council majority is not that Moreno would indeed pack up and leave. Even with the Sacramento deal showing us you CAN streamline CEQA, Moreno is too far out from identifying and funding a better deal than Anaheim’s stadium.

The big risk in telling Moreno to pound sand is the fear that Moreno uses his considerable access to the media to tell the public at large that he has been cutting a back room deal with “someone” from Anaheim all this time, and that he did not “miss” his opening to fly the coop or apply leverage in a threat to do so, but believed the deadline had been left open with a “we will take care of that” offer from the negotiator.

Arte Moreno told the LA Times he has been negotiating with Anaheim for “four and a half years.” His spokesperson Marie Garvey verified the time table when interviewed by Voice of OC, claiming the team has been dealing with Anaheim since Tom Wood was City Manager, and the talks continued through the subsequent FOUR City Managers until today.

Marie Garvey told Voice of OC:

“Garvey pointed out that the deal framework had been approved in September 2013 after three years of discussions with the city. The informal negotiations began when Thomas Wood – who has recently been consulting for the Angels – was city manager.

There have been several management changes since then, Garvey said, pointing out that negotiations occurred under four different city managers.”

Anaheim’s last four City Managers, counting backwards, would be;

Paul Emery (current, and interim)

Marcie Edwards

Bob Wingenroth

Tom Wood (began work under Mayor Curt Pringle)

Those statements put the beginning of negotiations into the Mayoral office of Curt Pringle, during the same period in Anaheim funded $150k worth of rose-scented olive branch with a 2010 New Year’s Rose Parade Float, advertising the All Star Game hosted in Anaheim that year. Remember, the entire city, and Curt Pringle in particular, was still smarting from the hammering of “Los Angeles” naming rights litigation that had ended less than a year earlier, with a January 2009 Council decision to not continue pursuing appeals in the matter, having already spent millions (money well spent at the time.)

Something prompted City Hall/Pringle (interchangable entities at that point) to make nice with Arte Moreno all of a sudden.

Someone has been reported negotiating with Moreno since the Pringle era, and while the subject has come up at Council meetings lately, NOBODY corrects the statements. The Council majority and their staff have bypassed the opportunity to correct those “politically motivated” rabble-rousers who are merely trying to “misinform” the public watching the meetings at home. Or do they not object because they know it to be true?

Something prompted the Council majority to work like fiends against the obvious best interests of Anaheim’s taxpayers to give Moreno an inexplicable 3 year extension on his opt-out period, vilifying the Mayor for not going along, and eventually retaliating and changing the Council Agendizing system to try shutting him up.

Someone cooked up the plan to develop the property around the Stadium, and brought the packaged plan to Moreno, reportedly on behalf of Anaheim.

The whole back room deal appears to be known to City officials and City staff, indeed Tait is being made the center of all that is evil for the claim that he WAS in on it and is now holding out for some imagined personal benefit.

Do you know who was NOT in on the back room deal? The taxpayers expected to foot the bill.

A review of meeting Agendas for the City Council in both open and closed session shows NO authorization from the majority of Anaheim’s elected governing body to negotiate with Arte Moreno, Angels baseball, or their representatives, for the Stadium or for the surrounding Stadium District, prior to the first mention of it by Kris Murray on October 23, 2012.

Nobody has the individual authority to begin those negotiations without a vote of the majority of the elected body-not even the Mayor-no, not even Mayor Curt Pringle. It is flat out illegal to begin real property negotiations either for the disposition of publicly owned land or the acquisition of private property for public use, without authorization by the majority of the elected body, and without disclosing to the public that the property is being discussed.

California’s Open Meetings laws are very specific about what can and cannot be discussed in Closed Session [PDF]. One may discuss behind closed doors the price and terms of payment, but the actual property in discussion must be identified specifically by address, legal description, or assessor’s parcel number, and parties to the negotiation must be disclosed. This was done until March 26, 2013

City Council Closed Session


(Subdivision 54956.8 of the Government Code)

Property: 2000 East Gene Autry Way, Anaheim, CA (Angels Stadium of Anaheim)

Agency Negotiator:  Tom Morton

Negotiating Parties:  Angels Baseball, LP, City of Anaheim

Under Negotiation:  Price and Terms of Lease

If Arte Moreno has been negotiating with someone claiming to represent the City of Anaheim, it has been outside of legal channels in every way.

If senior staff and City Council are aware of the illegal back room negotiations, they are party to illegal action.

The citizens of Anaheim have no reason to object to negotiations with the ball club owner for the use of the publicly owned stadium. There is no logical, visible reason to hide the negotiations from the public. Which leaves us wondering what is being negotiated that we are NOT supposed to know about…

Negotiations have been claimed by Moreno and his staff, claims that have not been disputed by City staff and Council members who have heard the claims, and those negotiations have not been publicly noticed as required by State Law.


The City of Anaheim and OCTA produced a mountain of paper related to the various projects, which I  (probably foolishly) requested over the last few years, spending hundreds of dollars at 10 cents a page. Those documents are currently filling what I laughingly call my office. Those mountains of paper reflect the work of professional transportation bean counters reviewing every conceivable route from ARTIC to the Resort and back, using every transportation modality one might imagine (other than Sky Buckets. Even I would approve a bond for Sky Buckets from ARTIC to the Resort/Convention Center. Hell, I could convince Randall O’Toole and Steven Greenhut to sign off on Sky Buckets. Sigh…)

Sky buckets

Photo credit to dave land web. (And: Yowza!)

Those mountains of paper show they presented plan after plan to a variety of “stakeholder groups,” which very often proved to be those who already think like the policy-wonks and are all too happy to sign off on whatever they want done. From Minute One the folks at Disney were included in these meetings, as they should be. Disney is notorious for keeping very carefully detailed notes on their guests documenting where they are coming from, how long they stay, how they get here…and they are equally as notorious for maintaining those numbers as proprietary. One MUST work with Disney to successfully transport their guests from point of entry to destination, but unless one is truly working WITH them in the political sense of the word, you are unlikely to get anywhere with their numbers. When designing a transportation project as a draw in and of itself, one would have to be a moron to NOT work with Disney, who employ the best of the best in terms of knowing how to move large numbers of bodies from Point A to Point B not only seamlessly, but entertaining them in the process. Plus, I think Disney holds a number of patents for those Sky Buckets. Just sayin’…

Contrary to what Matt “Bear-Burner” Cunningham wants to claim, I don’t think anyone is against the concept of Anaheim working with Disney and their brilliant Imagineers on the Resort transportation projects, although one would hope Imagineers would come up with something more imaginative than the lukewarm leftover of Portland’s ideas. The problem surfaces when it is clear that the only thing “public” about this public private partnership is the funding.

On paper we have all the elements of a grand, visionary legacy coming together. We have “purpose and need” claiming Disney’s clientele will ride Metrolink/Amtrak or High Speed Rail into ARTIC, and need a ride for the “last mile connection” into the Resort or the Convention Center. We have high density residential units where young, hip professionals will leave the sports car in their one and a third parking spaces assigned to their unit, and take the streetcar to the Metrolink because they ALL work right there on the train line, and then on their way home just like in Paris they will stop at some little quaint organic market to pick up tonight’s dinner of cheese, fruit, baguette, and some mercury-free fish, fresh caught to take back to the condo.

It SEEMS to make sense…and yet…something grabs you and tells you it is not quite right. On closer inspection one realizes either something is missing that should be there, or something is there that should not be.

Something is missing from the stacks of documents reflecting routes and modes of transport and meetings. Or, should I say, someONE is missing from those documents and their related meetings.

While the City of Anaheim has planned to move Water Well #45 and the storage facility for the Grove Theater, relocate the no-cost-to-Anaheim metrolink station to the other side of the freeway and train tracks at enormous expense, so they can put SOMETHING large, non-negotiable, and very, very, very important on the parking lot between Angel Stadium and Katella, the stakeholders NOT listed in ANY stakeholder engagement I can find … are the people with the ability to drop kick the entire plan if they object to the use of their legal rights to encumber the lot.

In other words: Where the Hell is Angels Baseball?

In all of the documents obtained by this rabble rousing blogger related to the fixed guideway and other projects, including agendas and minutes for the monthly Transportation Liasion and Public Works Committee meetings, there are NO publicly referenced meetings with Angels Baseball as one of the stakeholders the City was working with. Disney was almost constantly updated, Chamber of Commerce and other “working groups” were included…yet no mention of the one negotiating party affected by ALL of the projects in discussion and planning for that period.

There is one: Natalie Meeks reported that a letter of support for the Fixed Guideway project was expected from Angels. So someone kept them up to speed. Perhaps the “someone” not legally supposed to be negotiating?

In an email dated January 11, 2010, Anaheim’s Public Works Director Natalie Meeks discussed the following with OCTA’s Darrell Johnson, and Anaheim’s Jamie Lai and Linda Johnson.

“Darrell — Below is a note from my team’s status report. This issue with ridership has been discussed for several months but there doesn’t seem to be progress, and maybe it’s not possible. Our ridership numbers change dramatically if we consider build out of hsr. I think this will help us get funding even if its not from FTA New Starts. I would like to discuss what our options are and any ideas you have that would place our project in a good position for funding opportunities.

Can I contact your office and schedule a meeting? Who should I include?

Thanks, Natalie”

Below Natalie’s note to the OCTA Chief is indeed the ridership status report;

“City needs to get FTA support for its ridership forecasts. SCAG will support CHSR from LA Union Station to Anaheim, but City should get SCAG’s support to include the entire Phase I to Northern California in its Regional Transportation Plan. This would increase ridership from 3,000 to 27,000. OCTA also needs to begin process to get AFG project into SCAG’s funded Regional Transportation Plan in order to get federal funding.”


So what IS going onto that site north of the Stadium that is so sacrosanct that massive public funds paid to move the train station to the other side of the freeway where it makes no sense? What is so central to the remaining development that any perceived threat to a portion destroys the whole? What would Curt Pringle put his entire “legacy” into protecting?

Curt Pringle told us — we just weren’t listening. To be precise, he told Mehdi Morshed.

“On top of that our partners at the Honda Center will oppose this relocation and this could force the city to mitigate parking issues somewhere else.

This maneuver will insure our station will NOT be built on schedule….and it also will put in jeopardy our guide way project that connects to the resort.

We have been building a transportation plan for this city for over 15 years. We have put all of the pieces together at the ARTIC site.” 

The City’s documents show there are not enough riders getting off Metrolink to justify the system. Only by adding in the fictional riders of High Speed Rail system unlikely to reach Anaheim in time to beat teleportation technology does the thing make sense. Which means we have a project looking for a reason to justify its existence. Since the documents also tell us the streetcar itself fails to transport guests in effective fashion, and makes traffic on Katella WORSE, what I believe is that we have an infrastructure project claiming to be tied to a transportation project, looking for an excuse to justify its existence.

If guests don’t arrive on Metrolink, and HSR is not coming anytime soon, the logical answer to their arrival, and the answer for a need for an enormous swatch of high value real estate, is a parking garage alongside the 57 freeway, with a footprint of such size that it cannot be accommodated anywhere else but the enormous parking lot of Angel Stadium. Look at the map of projects for the Resort and the Platinum Triangle. The Mickey and Friends parking garage might just fit into the empty parking lot above the Stadium, and frankly it is the ONLY parcel large enough to manage anything of that size while leaving the “3rd gate” strawberry field property intact for Disney’s use.

In a nutshell, I have come to the conclusion that this extremely complicated, convoluted, and beyond illegal abuse of public resources to the benefit of essentially one private corporate entity comes down to a parking structure.

Disney cannot build the 3rd gate on the strawberry field Toy Story lot without parking. Surface parking is too resource intense a use for the prime real estate of the Resort. It must be a stacked structure like the Mickey and Friends garage, and there is only ONE location along the Resort corridor able to host that footprint.

Easily accessible from the 57 freeway, just as the Mickey and Friends structure serves the 5 freeway guests, a Disney parking garage north of the Stadium explains the need to move the immovable objects of the Metrolink station, a water well, and support facilities for the Grove.

A Disney parking structure would be enough Return on Investment to make the nearly million dollars and loss of corporate good will a marginal expense for The Mouse, and retention of the Council member most able to keep shoving the deal through the meat grinder of the City Hall sausage factory would be critical to Disney. Indeed the trade off would be pennies on the dollar, the return would be laughable.

One assumes the plan is to drop this “public works project” with strictly private corporate benefit onto the backs of taxpayers. Why else would four City Managers back to back keep quiet about a back room deal four and a half years in the making? The retention of Natalie Meeks and her really, really bad planning history fits that model, as do the reports from Fixed Guideway contractors about engineers on the project showing a budget “burn rate” that exceeded deliverable product. If one is hiding the design of a parking garage under the skirts it is going to leave a bulge somewhere.

And of course there is a history of taxpayers underwriting our famous corporate neighbor. We have reported in these pages that the Disney bonds of 1997 cost half a million dollars to release but will cost one and a half BILLION to taxpayers before they are fully paid, and the payments divert ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of ALL tax revenues from Disney properties from all post-1995 improvements.  Property tax from converting a parking lot into California Adventure Park, diverted, we see none of it. Sales tax from the stores and restaurants of Downtown Disney. Nada. Bed Tax from the Grand Californian Resort and Spa? Nope, that is gone too.

Until 2037, when the annual payments for the bond rise to three times the total TOT currently collected from all sources in today’s market, what Disney puts into the General Fund, which gives groups like SOAR bragging rights to promote the “economic engine” goes right back out again. The current Mickey and Friends parking garage was part of that bond issuance. Disney collects $17 per car, Anaheim collects…well we got Lucile Kring in trade.


Here’s the irony: the idea of building a huge parking structure that will benefit both Disney and the Angels is not a bad one.  They are two of our biggest POTENTIAL sources of revenue and it’s good for them to have the tools they need — including adequate parking and transit-to the extent it does not destroy the lives and livelihoods of others with eminent domain takings, or costs so egregious that our General Fund is in peril and impacts future service levels to residents.
I say that the Angels and Disney are POTENTIAL sources of future revenue because today we make very, very little on them in comparison to what other businesses in some other private sector might have generated dollar for dollar in tax revenues. Anaheim’s take on the Stadium is currently dependent upon Moreno putting butts in seats, as he derives his income from the TV franchise deal he set up while we get a piddly $2 per seat for tickets sold over a significant threshold. A standard commercial lease for any other industry would collect rent on a baseline, not dependent on what the tenant made, but dependent on the resource being rented by the tenant, and it falls on the tenant to then generate the revenue to cover the rent and profits. (those standard commercial leases also cover their own tenant improvements and maintenance and repairs!) While CS&L claims that buckets of money spill over from the stadium into the local restaurants, a simple drive around the Stadium tells you the majority of restaurants are in ORANGE, an example Lucille Kring herself used when citing the Tilted Kilt as the happy beneficiary of our public subsidy to a billionaire team owner.
So Anaheim already has a history of being on the giving end of both Angels and Disney, with precious little in return.
But beyond the significant history, what convinces me more than anything that Anaheim is about to get the shaft in these back-to-back deals is that they are taking place out of sight, in the shadows. If this was a good deal for taxpayers, we would not be wondering WHO Arte Moreno was negotiating with for the last four and a half years, nor would we be cobbling together the evidence our Public Works Director feels like releasing, in some cases after MONTHS of delays and burying public records to prevent scrutiny! It is that back room deal feeling to the whole thing that makes me wary of what is being planned for our checkbooks without our consent or knowledge. It is not a good feeling.
We have the chance to make a good deal out of this, but only if the powers that be stop lying to the public they are tasked with serving and start playing it straight with us.
Return on Investment should be based on percentage of investment (what a concept) and NOT based on investment in campaign contributions.
If Moreno and the Angels want to split the cost and revenues of the parking garage that enables both of them to pursue opportunities, they are welcome to it, and Anaheim can be the pass through agency able to release tax exempt bonds. But ONLY if they are indeed genuine REVENUE BONDS from a specific, segregated revenue source that does not touch the City’s General Fund in ANY WAY.
To the extent that the already highly profitable entities want taxpayers to pony up the infrastructure-and it sure looks like that is where they are headed given the ridiculous projects that have already come out of our pockets in preparing the area for the arrival of the 3rd gate, then they should content themselves with seeing taxpayers regain the benefits of our investment. That is how the system of free market is supposed to work. Welcome to the real world, the one the rest of us have to live in.
There’s a catch, but it’s not a horrible one: the Angels agree to stay in Anaheim until the construction bonds are paid off.  Maybe about 30-40 years.  We want them to put cars in stalls while they put fannies in seats.  And if the arrangement is profitable enough for the City, then and only then can we discuss whether Arte gets a break on what he’s supposed to pay for stadium repairs and renovations — for which, remember, we bargained away the name “Anaheim” preceding the word “Angels.”
Would the “Ad Hoc Committee” that Kris Murray wants to try voting for once again tonight-effectively denying the incoming City Council member any participation in that process which is arrogant with a Hey Nonny- consider an outcome that brings the whole ball of wax out into the open where taxpayers expected to pay for it can see it?  If not — why not?

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.