Disney Gate Tax Dialogues, Part 1: When the Good Mouse Got to Getting Greedy

From the inevitable Disney version of Game of Thrones.

From the inevitable Disney version of Game of Thrones.

[Editor’s note: There’s a lot for us to cover here before the Anaheim City Council votes next Tuesday on Disney’s “Gate Tax” proposal — so to make it go down more smoothly we’re presenting it as a play involving Orange Juice characters.  Substantive dialogue from Cynthia Ward.]

It’s a warm late afternoon in late June. Vern Nelson and Greg Diamond are playing darts in the secret Orange Juice Blog Headquarters overlooking the GardenWalk complex.

VN: Nice throw! So, you got two Rackauckases and a Kris Murray. I’ve got a Jim Fisler and a Cathy Green, and I’m going for a Craig Hunter to tie.

GD: Actually, the Fisler only counts as a –

Cynthia Ward rushes in, out of breath, ruining what would surely have been a witty comment.

CW: Guys! Guys! Huge news! Disney! Terrible!

VN: Measles?

GD: Hostages?

CW: No … Gate Tax!

GD: (Pauses) I thought we wanted a gate tax?

CW: No, you’re the only one who has actually called for one.

GD: Oh. … Sorry, my bad. Luckily, they don’t really listen to me. (Sips on his mint julep.)

VN: Wait – didn’t Dr. Moreno want a gate tax?

CW: No, they just set him up to agree on video that, in a financial emergency, he wouldn’t rule one out.

GD: So what do they want now? (Takes another sip.)

CW: They want the city to agree that if a gate tax is imposed at any time over the next 30 years – maybe 45 – the city will have to reimburse any money collected to Disney.

GD: (Sputtering, spits his drink across the room): PSHSHSHWFFTHTHBFQ!

VN: (Sorrowfully.) That is a waste of a good mint julep.

GD: (To Cynthia, who had pulled a neatly folded hand towel out of her purse.)  I’ll take that, thanks. And what does Anaheim get in exchange for 30 years of “no sales tax on Disney admissions”?

CW: They’ll spend $1 billion on improvements to their property and its surroundings –

VN: Well, that is a pretty big pile of cash!

CW: – over 30 years. And another half billion for the next 15 years, at their option.

GD: That’s $33-1/3 million per year – spent to improve their own profitability.

VN: (Looks at Greg oddly.) Thank you, Mr. Spock.

CW: It’s not really all that much annually. Especially since they’d already spend this money anyway.

GD: Oh, well in that case … wait, what?

VN: Boy, those Disney people sure are greedheads. Always have been.

CW: Actually, they haven’t been.  Walt Disney never asked for a publicly funded subsidy.  He wouldn’t even have accepted an offer of one.

GD: You’re joking, right?

CW: No. Walt believed in his dream and he mortgaged and sold everything he owned to follow it. He put everything on the line. If Disneyland hadn’t become successful, the Disney family would have been destroyed. He and his wife Lily might well have ended up living in that apartment above the Disneyland Fire Station instead of just staying there occasionally overnight.

VN: Disney executives still risk homelessness if they fail. I read that online.

GD: Stop. Cynth, didn’t the City do anything to help him out? You’re shaking my faith in Orange County politics.

CW: Yes – Walt asked Anaheim to close Cerritos Avenue from Walnut to Harbor and to annex the farms in the unincorporated areas to the city’s south so that Walt could work with the City Council rather than County officials.

VN: Avoiding the Supervisors? I guess he really was a genius!

CW: Well, it was a fair request — and that was about it. When it was obvious that Disney needed a hotel for its overnight guests, Walt didn’t ask for government funding. Walt’s friend, the oil wildcatter Jack Wrather, started with 84 rooms to support his friend’s dream. The Disneyland Hotel did not expect a 70% kickback on bed taxes to make that pencil out.

VN: City Staff insults the memory of these great visionaries who used their own money to pursue their own dreams, and consequently enjoyed their own profits as a result.

(Cynthia and Greg look at Vern.)

CW (whispering): Vern, be more careful. That was my line.

VN: Yeah – I thought it sounded more like you.

CW: By 1988, Disney – now meaning the corporation, not Walt — had become a corporate giant that wrested control of the Disneyland Hotel (and the legal right to control the name on the west coast) away from the Wrather family. They bought out their partners, Industrial Equity, and strong armed the heirs of the loyal partner that helped Walt Disney complete his dream.

GD: Outrageous! Rapacious capitalists!

CW: Here, Greg! Read this underlined paragraph from Donald W. Ballard’s DISNEYLAND HOTEL: The Early Years!

GD: I’d be glad to!

To prevent Wrather from selling to someone else, Disney reminded the company that the monorail’s leasing contract was soon due for renegotiation. The unstated threat was that Disney could make the hotel less desirable to a potential buyer by increasing the leasing cost of the monorail to an exorbitant amount, making it unlikely that anyone else would desire to purchase it.”

You’re welcome! (Waits expectantly.) Seriously, no applause?

CW: Years after strong-arming their longtime partner, Disney would get the City to engage in a nasty takeover of the strawberry field that might become its third gate, leading to the suicide of its owner. Recently, Disney ordered the City to take over the Park Vue Inn, run by a single family for generations, so that it could shift their transportation plaza onto that private property.

VN: The Mouse takes off its four-fingered white gloves to fight!

CW: Right! So why shouldn’t taxpayers respond with at the same determination to look out for OUR best interests?


CW: No, not necessarily. Just not preventing some future City Council or ballot initiative from doing so if and when it becomes necessary.

VN: That seems … modest.

GD: Modest is good.

(Cynthia and Vern look at each other and start laughing.)

GD: What? What’d I say?


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Identity suspected but unsure, Anaheim Insider is SOME slavish devotee of Curt Pringle and the Disney/Chamber kleptocracy in the OC's biggest city, and can always be counted on to spout their official line. [OK, he's a satirical character based on the anonymous "Anaheim Insider" who posts on Matt Cunningham's "AnaheimBlog.net", and is known for his tagline "Anaheim Insider here" and referring to Mr. Pringle as "The Great Man."] Oh, and of late, the editors have been using "Anaheim Insider" for non-satirical Anaheim-related pieces which are either collaborative or simple announcements.