Introducing the Anaheim ‘Taxpayer Protection’ Act Series: Part 1, Transcript of Public Comments

Anaheim Taxpayers Protectors

Protecting Anaheim Taxpayers from Their Own Opinions (“PATTOO”). Top left, Lacy Kelly, CEO of dissident splinter organization Association of California Cities – Orange County (“ACCOC”) receiving something from State Senator Bob Huff; Right, Gloria Ma’ae of Save/Support/Serve/Stimulate/Succor Our Anaheim Resort (“SOAR”) Advisory Board and ex of Citizen’s Advisory Commission, with Rev. Cecil; Lower left; Patrick Pepper of SOAR Executive Advisory Committee and former Chair of Anaheim Budget Commission.  They’re Protecting Your Right to Not Vote!

[Editor’s Note: We’re kicking off a series today that begins where the Voice of OC’s article on Tuesday night’s Anaheim Council meeting left off and then does what our friends at VOC can’t do as well as we can: take it to unreasonably deep, analytical, contentious, and even sometimes painful extremes.  (It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it, and we think it’s fun.)  Today we’ll present transcripts from the Council meeting, while our fiery expert analysis gets into gear tomorrow.

First up: five of the six Public Comments on Kris Murray’s “Item Eleven”: the “Anaheim Taxpayers Protection Act,” which we’re kicking around other names for, such as the “Protecting Anaheim Taxpayers from Their Own Opinions (“PATTOO”) Act.  We’re not including Denis Fitzgerald’s rant because we just don’t want to watch it, although if he submits it to us in writing we’ll edit out the parts that he should’ve and insert it below (as, absent that editing, he also should’ve.)  We’re removing the pleasantries from the beginning and end of each speech.]


LACY KELLY (CEO of Association of California Cities (“ACCOC”), Orange County): I’m here to speak to you about Agenda Item 11.  The ACCOC represents the 34 cities of Orange County and supports good public policy.  We’ve long supported the spirit and letter of Prop 13 and other taxpayer measures that have high voter thresholds.  Our board has formalized this support via resolution as well as advocacy and support for other cities of Orange County that have put together measures to meet the law’s intent, and dozens of cities in Orange County have adopted similar resolutions and similar policies.  Councilmember Murray’s Taxpayer Protection Act embodies ACC’s commitment to the principles of Prop 13 and we’re fully supportive of the measure.  And the ACC [unintelligible] for good public policy encourages the Anaheim City Council to support this taxpayer protection measure.  Thanks for allowing me to speak.

TOM TAIT: For clarification, did you say that other cities have adopted this policy?

KELLY: Similar policies that require higher voter thresholds for tax measures.

TAIT: I see.

KELLY: As well as resolutions for Prop 13.

TAIT: But this one doesn’t involve Prop 13 or anything about –

KELLY: High voter thresholds, so 2/3 voting for tax meaures.

TAIT: OK, but this one doesn’t involve Prop 13 itself.

KELLY: I’m just talking about the policy philosophy that the Board has adopted.

PATRICK PEPPER:  I’m a member of the SOAR Executive Advisory Committee and former Chair of the Budget, Investment, and Technology Commission.  As Anaheim’s mid-year budget review showed, the general fund is protected [unintelligible] revenues of over $265 million, about 1½ million more than budget.  Debbie Moreno and her Finance Department, along with the Budget Commission, do a great job in making sure the revenue projections are realistic and achievable to allow for expenditures on city services to keep us safe and enhance our neighborhoods.

Almost $116 million, or 44% of the General Fund revenue is projected to be generated by the city’s Temporary Occupancy Tax, which I find somewhat amazing, considering that when I was first appointed to the Budget Commission in 2004, the TOT accounted for 30% of the General Fund revenue.  With the addition of new hotels I expect that it will account for 50-60% in the coming years.  Furthermore, a lot of the sales and use tax projected at $71½ million comes from retail and food sales in the Resort area.  This also means that a little over $35 million – almost $36 million, actually – tax revenue goes to Measure M2 to improve transportation throughout Orange County.

The resort area is not just the economic engine for Anaheim, but for Orange County and Southern California in general.  Like any engine it has to be fueled and maintained.  Actions taken by this Council have helped this.  Approving the expansion of the Convention Center was vital to the continued success of the Resort Area.  The addition of meeting rooms was very important.  Speaking from personal experience as a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and SAE International, both of which I’m involved in planning conferences for, we only look at locations that have 55+ meeting rooms to have a conference for three or four days.  That’s really key to selecting.  And by this expansion, Anaheim does that.

The further development of Anaheim ARC to transport people to the resort area is important.  When I attend a conference, I don’t like to rent a car.  I like cities where I can take alternate transportation, like Washington DC, Atlanta – even going down to San Diego I can take the train.  Also, it helps to keep congestion to a minimum in the Resort Area, which is important to its growth and continued success.  And we have a great partner in the Disneyland Resort, which keeps investing in changes to the park to keep visitors coming back and keep our hotel rooms full.  Simply keep the Anaheim Resort District prosperous and all of Anaheim will benefit.

Which leads me to my next related item before you tonight: support of the Anaheim Taxpayer Protection Act.  This Council needs to put before the voters the Charter Amendment, as proposed by Councilmember Murray, to require a 2/3 vote of the City Council to put any tax measure on the ballot.  In the past election, I heard candidates state they were open to new utility taxes, sales taxes, and gate tax that Council needs to protect and encourage economic growth, not to create the uncertainty of new taxes.

DENIS FITZGERALD: [Skipped.  See discussion in the introductory Editor’s Note.  May yet appear in edited form.]

CYNTHIA WARD:  On Item 11, I was wondering if the author of the Taxpayer Protection Act what exactly it is you are protecting us from.  The undue burden of voting?  This doesn’t set the bar higher for whether you can impose a tax on us, it’s whether or not we can even vote for it.  Every single time that this Administration has had the opportunity to let the public participate in voting, Kris Murray has led the way in stepping in and determining that “you know best.”  We don’t need to vote because you know best.  Whether it’s been district elections, or a $158 million tax subsidy to one hotelier (that 15,000 people signed to try to vote for), or whether or not you can actually spend bond money without our vote, you’ve decided for us.  And now you’re going to set the bar even higher.

So you can call it the Taxpayer Protection Act, but it’s the Taxpayer Disenfranchisement Act, and that’s how it would be presented to voters come election time.  I’ll guarantee it because I’ll lead the way for it.  So I would like to ask you to please pull that and rethink it, and maybe add the JPAs back in, because they’re the ones who are really doing damage to our General Fund.

Items 7, 8, and 9 is a simple rezoning, and I don’t have an opinion one way or the other, but I would like to point how hypocritical it is of us when the rezoning on that site, which is Trailers Unlimited – last I checked they were a complete taking for High Speed Rail’s right-of-way.  It’s been a while since I’ve looked.

But it’s funny that in the Resort Area we claim “High Speed Rail is coming and we have to plan for it.”  So we blow hundreds of millions of dollars on an empty train station, and a bogus streetcar to take people from the bullet train at the empty train station to the Resort and back, and $8 million of water well that shouldn’t have to be replaced except for the stupid streetcar, and tens of millions of dollars for overpasses and grade separations that we don’t need except for the High Speed Rail.  We say that “it’s coming, we have to plan” – but when it’s inconvenient to talk about, like a water well we shouldn’t have to get rid of, or some hotelier family’s future, or people that are going to be buying townhouses where Trailers Unlimited used to be, we don’t bother notifying them.  And it’s time for us to get it right – and either decide it’s coming and we’re planning for it or we’re ignoring it and being quiet.  But we can’t have it both ways, and we need to be more transparent.

GREG DIAMOND:  I want to suggest a couple of amendments to Councilwoman Murray’s Item 11.  First of all, change the name.  I have a suggestion.  As it is, it’s just set up so that if anyone votes no on this, they can say they voted against Anaheim taxpayers.  And, as I hope that everyone will understand in the next 2½ minutes, that’s ridiculous.  As Cynthia just suggested, this is not a way to “protect taxpayers”; this is a way to keep taxpayers from voting.  And so I suggest an amendment where you will call it the “Anaheim Protecting Taxpayers from Themselves Act.”  If it fails 3-2 – as things tend to do here, my guess is – then at least you will have shown the basis for voting against it.

Now this proposal is really obscenely hypocritical given the position of Ms. Murray and the rest of the Council majority on the bonds and Joint Power Agreements, which say that the City can obligate the General Fund for as much money as they want to.  In the case of the Convention Center it was a half-billion dollars by the time everything was paid, and it was largely just done now so that we could avoid the balloon payments that were coming up, and there are balloon payments in the additional one as well.  So what it does is it essentially shifts the burden of taxation from this Council to future Councils when some of the people here have perhaps gotten away to other positions where they can’t be retaliated against for their vote.

What this is really about, I think, is a gate tax for Disney.  Disney just raised their prices to $99; City of Anaheim received NONE of that.  It’s come up since 1990 [SIC – 2000!] from $43.  Ms. Murray wants to make a gate tax impossible to pass.  Well, I don’t think that that’s a good enough reason to do it.

I would suggest also amending this to say that the Council members (and I don’t know that you can do this today, it may take some thinking) that the Council members should not vote for a bond in their capacity as a JPA – because it’s the same five people, later seven people, who are doing it – unless there are four votes for it.  That’s something that I think you can and should add to this proposal, because that WOULD actually protect taxpayers.  Finally, I know that Councilmembers Kring and Murray are surely going to support this proposal.  To the others other than Councilmember Brandman, I’m going to suggest that you don’t say that you’re going to vote Yes, and I’m going to suggest that you vote No – because as a Democrat I am fascinated in knowing what Jordan Brandman is going to do when he’s finally the deciding vote against Ms. Murray.

GLORIA MA’AE:  Anaheim residents and neighborhoods are the biggest beneficiary of tax revenue generated by the Resort District.  The tax on tourism is the single largest source of General Fund revenue for Anaheim and is approximately ten times greater than for any other city in Orange County.  This tax supports vital neighborhood programs and SOAR supports the Resort because we understand the value that it represents to ALL residents of Anaheim.  The revenue generated from the TOT supports our parks, our library, it supports our streetlights and streets, our fire companies, our police officers — and I repeat, the TOT is the single largest source of General Fund revenue for Anaheim and is ten times greater than any other city in Orange County.

None of this would be possible without Disneyland.  The majority of tourists are coming to visit Disneyland.  When they come, they stay in our hotels, which generate TOT.  Not to mention the sales tax that we benefit from when they [unintelligible] restaurants and stores and other businesses.  But that’s not all.  Disney has given generously to our community in Anaheim, and beyond Anaheim to other cities in the county.  They don’t boast about it; they will … they are very involved in many non-profits.  My next trip to this podium I’ll have more details on that.

But my purpose today, my main focus, is that I feel we are so fortunate to have a resource like the Resort.  I want to create an awareness of why SOAR has continually supported the Resort, and how through that support we’ve worked to improve the quality of life of all Anaheim residents.  I’m proud to say I’m a member of the SOAR Advisory Committee.  We’ll continue to work for the good of all.  Some would like to believe I am a, quote-unquote, “Disney Whore” as the small-minded man in the audience [referencing Denis Fitzgerald’s speech] puts it, a man who I have never had a conversation with and quite frankly don’t care to.  If you would like to know more about me and why I believe in SOAR, please approach me.  Let’s sit down, have a conversation, and an exchange of ideas.  Let’s dialogue.  But don’t make judgments.

[Next up — Council statements and discussion!]

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.)