Disney Gate Tax Dialogues, Part 3: The Last Time Anaheim Considered a Gate Tax

Bambi's Mom and Brave

[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.]

[In Part 1 of our story, taking place in in the secret Orange Juice Blog Headquarters overlooking the GardenWalk complex, Cynthia Ward explains to Vern Nelson and Greg Diamond how Disney was originally not bent on sucking as much money as possible out of taxpayers. In Part 2, she explains how and when (and why) Disney started to get nasty.]

VERN NELSON: So has Anaheim ever considered passing a “gate tax” on Disneyland admissions before now?

CYNTHIA WARD: I’m glad you asked. (She takes an absolutely huge book out of her purse. Vern looks at Greg. Greg looks over at Vern.)

GREG DIAMOND (whispering): I’M not going to say anything about her purse this time!

CW: Here’s my copy of Sam Gennaway’s The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney’ Dream.  Vern, why don’t you read the underlined parts of pages 6204 and 6265?

VN: Ah, sure. Of course.  Page 6204:

Chapter: 9 The Resort Onward and Upward: “The initial euphoria about Disney’s expansion plans was starting to wear off for some Anaheim leaders by 1992.”

And on page 6265:

“Just about the same time, (1990’s) the suggestion of an admission tax was floated before the City Council once again. The City was looking for ways to fund the $500 million in infrastructure improvements expected of them, including the two giant parking garages. Disney reminded the City that it “has historically been opposed to any admissions tax” and suggested that such a tax could derail the expansion.”

And it ends:

“In spite of a city deficit of $20 million and the possibility of layoffs for city employees as well as severe budget cuts, the City Council backed down again.”

I think that I may stop asking you questions.

CW: That’s fine – but first read this:

VN: Okaaaay. Matt Lait “Anaheim Mayor Backs Admissions Tax at Disneyland” Los Angeles Times 17 October 1992.

Anaheim Mayor Backs Admissions Tax at Disneyland : Revenue: Fred Hunter makes an about-face on surcharge plan, which company says would threaten $3-billion park expansion. Under the proposal, other entertainment venues would also be affected.

CW: Next piece.

VN: Cynthia, I’m sorta tired of –


VN: Terry Spencer, ANAHEIM : Police Union to Urge Tax on Ticket Sales. October 14, 1993.

The Anaheim police union says it will take on Disneyland and the city’s sports teams and push for the adoption of an admission tax, which would be used to pay for police raises and to hire more officers.

Bruce Bottolfson, president of the Anaheim Police Assn., said Wednesday that if the City Council refuses to impose a tax on entertainment tickets over $10 or put the proposal on the 1994 city ballot, the union will launch a petition drive to put it to a vote.

“The people who attend Disneyland or an Angel, Ram or Mighty Duck game use city services, but we’re not getting any money from them,” Bottolfson said, citing police and fire protection as two examples. “They should have to pay for that.”

Bottolfson is proposing that a $1 levy be imposed on tickets costing $20 or more and a 50-cent levy be imposed on tickets costing between $10 and $20. Cheaper tickets would be exempt. Although it is impossible to say how much revenue the tax would produce because Disneyland does not disclose attendance figures, Bottolfson estimates it would raise more than $12 million annually.

To get on the ballot, the tax measure would require either a majority vote of the council or a petition drive that would have to net 12,000 signatures of city voters. Once on the ballot, two-thirds of the electorate would have to approve it to make it law, the city clerk’s office said.

OK, this next part is in bold. Do you want me to shout?


VN (shouting):

A 1992 Times Orange County poll showed that 54% of Anaheim residents favored imposing an admission tax, while 42% were opposed!

Disney, which successfully fought attempts to impose an admission tax in 1966 and 1975, said it continues to oppose admission taxes!

Park officials say Disneyland is the city’s largest generator of taxes, paying property taxes on its lot and bringing in thousands of visitors daily who pay sales and hotel taxes!

CW: Can I interrupt for a moment?

VN: Please do.

CW: I think that it’s important to note that today in Anaheim none of those taxes above what Disney was paying when the statement was made in the 1990s. No adjustment for real inflation. Our revenues to the General Fund were frozen in 1995 dollars, plus a CPI adjustment of about 2% per year. Please continue.


CW: Good.

VN: Ready.

CW: Go.


Disneyland President Jack Lindquist and other top executives were unavailable for comment Wednesday. But last week, as rumors swirled that the police association would make this proposal, Lindquist said: “We have always been opposed to admission taxes, and we still are. Our position has never changed.”

Councilman Irv Pickler said [Vern shouts this next part] he would prefer raising the hotel tax or reimposing the recently expired utility tax.

Councilman Fred Hunter supports the admission tax. Frank Feldhaus said he would support putting the police association’s proposal on the ballot.

GD: Can I ask a question?

VN: I’m going to go have a smoke. I may be gone a while.

GD: Let we see if I have this right. In the early 1990s, Anaheim faced a deficit in the tens of millions. It was about to lay off Public Safety staff, which means that it was cutting pretty much down to the bone. But rather than Disney stepping up and collecting a tax from their own patrons to help the city with which they were in an “unprecedented partnership,” Disney let cash-strapped Anaheim residents tax their own utilities (not exactly a “luxury tax”) rather than share the pain with their fellow citizens? Do I have that right?

CW: Sounds about right?

GD: So … how was this a “partnership”?

CW: I’m not sure I’d call it a partnership with the City, but Disney certainly had a great partnership going with the Council Majority and maybe the City Staff. Somehow a deal was made. Disney was let off the hook yet again, and the APA was prevented from even offering citizens the choice of a gate tax. Disney likes to ensure that voters cannot even think about the option, as polling has consistently shown that voters FAVOR letting Disney tax the same patrons at their gates that they are so enthusiastic about taxing at their hotels.

GD: And how was it “mutually beneficial”?

CW: The Council members that favored this deal with Disney got re-elected. Pretty similar to how it works today.

GD: I guess that they’re lucky that they didn’t specify “mutually beneficial with the city.”

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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.