Where Team Tait Says “Let’s Face the Voters,” Team Pringle Schemes to Evade Public Accountability Forever

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Anaheim Mayoral & Council Candidates

Lucille Kring (left) and Tom Tait (right) are the leading candidates for Mayor. Among leading Council Candidates: top row: Gail Eastman and James Vanderbilt; bottom row, Kris Murray and Dr. Jose F. Moreno.

(1) The Philosophy of the City Council Majority

The organization for which I am General Counsel, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility (better known as CATER), has suit the City of Anaheim three times over the past year.  I doubt that many people understand how modest are demands are.  That they have been rejected tells you a great deal about the mentality of the current City Council majority.  With the exception of their leader Kris Murray, who is in close contact with their patron, Former Mayor Curt Pringle, they have little idea what is going on, yet they ask almost no questions — simply parroting, in their comments, the assurances given them by the City Staff that they have installed to suit Pringle.

When they forgot to let the public see the report on which they claimed to have based their financial analysis of the Angels in negotiating the baseball stadium — a report later shown to be stunningly invalid to the point of fraudulence — we sued to have then undo those votes, release the report properly, and do it over again.  That’s what the law requires.  That’s all that the law requires — and it’s simple.  They just don’t want to do it.  They’re spending over $100,000 in attorney fees — by now perhaps well over that — because they just … do not … want to do it right.  It’s madness.  What they want is not to be challenged by watchdog groups like CATER — ever.

We’ve also filed two law suits over the Convention Center Expansion — and that has much more to tell the public about the Council majority.

The Convention Center expansion, once one includes financing and some other goodies, will obligate the public to repay about $500 million in bonds from the City’s General Fund.  We didn’t file the lawsuits because we expose the expansion — although the more we look at the amount of money being paid for the merely possibility of retaining the two largest conventions, which might not even leave without the changes, the more the deal looks like a lose for taxpayers.  Instead, we believed (and continue to believe) that the law requires them to put this sort of huge bond indenture to a vote of the public.  Do that, and the important facts will be more likely to come out.

They will not put it to a vote.  They could have put it to a vote in June; having deliberately missed that deadline, they could have put it up for a vote in today’s election.  They absolutely refused to do it.  To the Council Majority — or rather, to the people pulling their strings, with whom they uncritically agree — the principle that “the public doesn’t get to vote on these things” is paramount.  It’s more important than expanding the Convention Center itself, which could be BEING APPROVED TODAY if they just had put it to a vote.

In order to allow them to avoid a vote, the City created a special separate agency — a “Joint Powers Authority” or “JPA”— to finance the project.  Such an authority can be set up with another city, with a school board  or other public agency, or even, they argue, with another city agency that has the exact same people making the decisions as the City Council itself.  What they argue is that this separate agency — which takes the money for the bond payments from the City and then passes them onto the banks — is not subject to the same laws that the City would face if it handed money to the banks directly.  The upshot is that a bare three-person Council majority can approve a major project — half a billion dollars in this case — and never have the decision come up for public scrutiny.  The only power that the public has, they argue, is to elect or reject candidates when they vote for City Council.  Once they are elected, they are beyond the control of the City Charter, so long as they work through a JPA.

By the way, one entity — say, the City of Bell — could open up an unlimited number of JPAs with other cities, never incurring any risk itself, but simple serving as “the key in the ignition” for vehicles by which other cities could evade the responsibilities imposed by state law and their own charters.  We at CATER consider this sort of a broad hint that Anaheim is wrong about how they interpret this law — because eliminating all laws restraining City Council spending so long as they follow a procedure that keeps their own board fully in charge is not likely what the legislature has had in mind

But don’t worry right now about whether they’re right about it being legal.  CATER is fighting that battle for you — the battle for your right to vote on the major future financial obligations of the City, rather than having those decisions dictated by Curt Pringle, AN INTERESTED PARTY, and three or four politicians he controls — though if you’d like to contribute to our effort we would certainly appreciate it.  The question you have to ask yourself as you vote in this election is:

What sort of people even WANT that sort of dictatorial power?  Why do three people want to be able to put the City on the hook for close to a billion dollars, which the City Charter forbids, without it going to a vote of the people?

I’m now taking off my CATER General Council hat and putting on my “citizen journalist” hat, so that I can start naming names.

(2) The Philosophy of the Mayor and His Allies

We get hung up sometime on the content of the issues separating “Team Tait” from “Team Pringle” — spending on GardenWalk, the Streetcar, the Stadium and Grounds, Convention Center Expansion, high Public Safety pensions, and making such spending a little harder by electing people by districts (Prop L)– when the more basic difference between them is one of form: does Anaheim want projects approved through backroom dealings, or after really serious public discussion in which the facts have to be laid bare?

Team Pringle — Lucille Kring, Gail Eastman, and Kris Murray — want secrecy rather than transparency, and want deals to be worked out between the City Council, City Staff, and interest groups.  One man — Curt Pringle — who controls the Council Majority can literally get the Council to agree to any project funding he wants, funding that he profits from, and no one, not one voter, can stop it.

Team Tait — Mayor Tom Tait, James Vanderbilt, and (in effect) Dr. Jose F. Moreno — not only generally oppose giveaways to major donors and special interests, but they want the public to be able to weigh in with their concerns.  Where there are dangers of corruption, as is often the case where we’re talking about amounts of money over $100 million, Team Tait wants the public to be able to vote on the City’s investment — choices that may determine whether Anaheim’s General Fund even survives to provide services to future generations.  If the public gets to vote, the idea goes, less corruption will even be attempted, because of the likelihood that it will be discovered and punished.

That’s the fundamental difference between the sides.  Kring, Eastman, and Murray want you to elect them today — and then just sit back for four years and trust them, despite that two of them barely ask any questions publicly about what they’re approving, while the three of them do whatever they want with Anaheim’s budget.

Tait, Vanderbilt, and Dr. Moreno don’t ask you to vote today and then go off and suck your thumb.  They want the public to be monitoring them, to understand and object as they see fit to the Council’s decisions, and even to be able to reverse some of these huge decisions through a popular vote if that seems appropriate.

If any of the three members of Team Pringle are elected today, they will retain the majority, along with Jordan Brandman, Pringle’s protege who rejected his own party’s nominee to support Murray and Eastman.  If you don’t trust the Pringle politicians with the future of your city, with no other control over whatever they might do through a JPA for the next two to four years, then you need to support the entire Tait Slate.  (That includes its unofficial member Jose F. Moreno (1) –as opposed to “Jose Moreno (2),” who got on the ballot hoping to confuse voters into voting for him rather than the real deal.)

What’s at stake is whether you and your fellow citizens will continue to have a role in deciding the City’s future — or whether you’re just going to trust people with vested interests in certain project to make those decisions for you.

Kring, Murray, and Eastman have shown that they are not worthy of your trust.  Now, will you come out and stop them, by voting for Tait, Vanderbilt, and Jose F. Moreno?

Addenda:

(1) If you don’t want to vote for either Vanderbilt or Moreno for City Council, then you can certainly vote for Donna Acevedo, but she doesn’t seem as likely to win — and only a clean sweep here would protect the City.

(2) I haven’t mentioned Lorri Galloway in this piece because (1) I can’t figure out her current positions on these issues based on her writings or public statements and (2) she doesn’t seem to have been campaigning very actively, although her supporters say that she has been knocking on doors.  As of Oct. 18, she had taken in about $75,000, with $42,000 of that being loans to herself, and does not seem to have any aid from Independent Expenditures.  Kring, by contrast, had raised about $110,000, with only $15,000 being loans from her family trust.  Tait had raised about $136,000 with no debt.  Galloway’s chance — and strategy — seems to have depended on her staying out of the crossfire while Tait and Kring and their partisans destroyed each other.  It’s not out of the question that it could work, but few seem to think that it’s likely. )


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)