Discuss: A World Turned Upside-down – What’s really going on with Disney, and Brandman?




“Can a leopard change its spots?” they say to each other with a knowing, world-weary nod, intending it as a rhetorical question; and later when they tire of that cliché, they mumble, “Fool me once, shame on…” before trailing off in delectable ennui.

But serio, what’s going on this week?  It’s all too discombobulating for this one poor blogger, so think of this as a discussion thread – both council candidate Jordan Brandman and multinational corporation Disney want us to think they have been suddenly remade and can be trusted.  What are they both – either – up to?

Brandman and Anaheim’s District 2

Monday night the Democratic Party of Orange County (DPOC) made its endorsements.  Two of the Anaheim endorsements were no-brainers:  Ashleigh Aitken for Mayor over the slippery Galloway, and Dr. José Moreno in district 3 over trickle-down SOAR warhorse Mitch Caldwell.  (And the unproven but unopposed Grant Henninger in the Hills.)

But the district 2 endorsement, on the other hand, was very much a brainer:  Jordan Brandman, although the only Democrat in the race, and beloved by many several in the Party, has a record that gives many Democrats and human beings pause (as has been documented on this blog for years.)  In fact many of us fear the possibility of his re-election this year as an unmitigated disaster for Anaheim.  However, since his DPOC endorsement was probably a foregone conclusion, a couple of progressives did manage to wring a few concessions or pledges from him.

First, on the DPOC floor, our Greg Diamond demanded what could be considered the VERY MINIMUM – NOT to endorse or support his friend klepto-repuglican Kris Murray for Todd Spitzer’s Supervisor seat – a pledge which Jordan managed to soften to “IF there is a Democrat running against her.”

North OC Vice Chair and progressive firebrand Jeff LeTourneau, on the other hand, somehow really REALLY wants to believe in Jordan, and tells me, with shocking faith, “I believed he has radically changed. He moved out of District 3, and has severed, or has been severed from his Disney, SOAR, and many of his other harmful backers.” And this shiny new JORDAN MACH 2 went on to make these promises to Jeff:

  • To support the living wage ordinance (which he spoke out against a few months ago, and which is up to voters anyhow)
  • To back the city’s position that the new building location for the Disney hotel was a new project and any subsidies have to be re-voted (by a council including himself, Kring, Faessel, and maybe Caldwell and Trevor O’Neill?  Gee, wonder how that would go)
  • NO MORE SUBSIDIES… unless they include a Community Benefits Agreement (a la LA) acceptable to the DPOC and Labor (hmm… sounds like taxpayer-subsidized good jobs to me but I digress), AND
  • To support a community policing board with subpoena powers.

Several thoughts now:  

1.  It feels wrong and weird to make a guy agree to a laundry list of positions like this, rather than knowing that he has the basic values that would lead him logically to these positions, and similar positions on other future unknowable issues. It brings back two unpleasant memories of 2012:

2. Of exactly six years ago when Loretta Sanchez escorted Jordan to the scary lion’s den of Los Amigos, and pretty much made him promise to back district elections and a living wage.

3.  And also, same year, even worse memory, of Lucille Kring assuring me, Tom Tait, Jason Young, David Zenger, and Cynthia Ward, that she was against subsidies, and for district elections and police reforms, positions which she quickly reversed herself on, later justifying herself to the OC GOP, “At least it wasn’t in my campaign literature.”

4.  Can we deduce from Jordan’s recent behavior that he’s changed at all?  He DID help me, Cynthia and Steve White defeat the Lincoln Widening earlier this year, that was good and unexpected, but not really klepto-relevant.  He has shown up to the last few City Councils, made sure everybody saw his tall gawky frame… and then not spoken a word on any burning local issue, sort of in the manner of the value-less Lorri Galloway.

I’m glad they at least wrung these pledges out of him – if he does end up winning we’ll have to hold him to them.  But I know I can trust Duane Roberts (who as a progressive I’m supporting) OR James Vanderbilt (whom conservatives should vote for.)  And let’s keep an eye on who donates to Jordan, if it’s really any different from the past. 

But look at me being so cynical and uncharitable – of course it’s possible that Jordan could change:

And then, within the same period of days, we hear that Disney – first provoked last week to temporarily stop construction of their subsidized 4-diamond hotel by OUR cool new City Attorney’s revocation of that subsidy because of their location change … now wants to rip up all previous agreements with Anaheim including the outrageous 45-year moratorium on gate taxes.

Huh?  Why would they do that?

Because they say these agreements are “divisive.”  Well, yeah.  But I mean… REALLY why??  What are they up to?  According to all accounts they are still planning to spend record amounts of money to get the council they want this year.

So – one observation.  Beginning with a sarcastic question – does this mean Disney is not going to build Star Wars Galaxy Edge?  Because we were told ad nauseam by the 2016 kleptos that they wouldn’t be able to afford it unless they were guaranteed decades with no gate tax.  And the answer of course is NO, of COURSE they’re still building it.  The Brandman/Murray/Kring arguments were lies that they now hope we forget, just like their shrill warnings a couple years earlier that Arte Moreno would take the Angels and leave Anaheim if we didn’t let him have the stadium parking lot for $1 a year to develop.  Remember that?  They hope we don’t.  

Another question everyone’s asking – is this Disney’s way of getting out of having to pay a Living Wage after that measure passes in November, and will it work?  And is it really that expensive for them to pay their workers decently, that they would gratuitously give up all these giveaways?

And can we now (if we elect another honest council this November) enact a gate tax just to pay Anaheim taxpayers back for that $50 million parking garage we-all built for them a couple decades ago?

Mayor Tait, who’s been fighting this corporate welfare for many years, is of course not so cynical in public at least:

“Yesterday I met with the President of the Disneyland Resort, Josh D’Amaro. He told me that Disney is formally cancelling the $267 million hotel subsidy and the 30/45 year tax exemption with the City of Anaheim.

“I applaud the Disney leadership for such a wise, bold, and … kind action. I deeply appreciate their recognition that these agreements are toxic to the relationship between Disney and our city. These agreements would have put a substantial strain on Anaheim’s long-term financial health.

“As we all hit the reset button, I look forward to everyone working together for the continued success of Disneyland and for the well-being and prosperity of the people of Anaheim.”

Other observers not required to participate are less Panglossian, like attorney Mohamed Aly:

“Stop celebrating.

“If I were Disney’s counsel, I would do exactly as they’ve done and signaled will follow: First, end the subsidies to avoid paying higher wages. Second, flip one seat on the council. Third, get a tax credit or bond issuance, instead of a “tax rebate,” that will fully supplant the subsidies that they willingly gave up, but won’t subject them to the living wage ordinance.

“The Voice of OC explains:

“‘It’s possible that rescinding the two subsidy deals would mean the minimum wage initiative, if passed by voters, would not apply to Disneyland, said city spokesman Mike Lyster…

“‘The first deal, passed in July 2015, would create a 45-year exemption on taxing admission tickets and parking at Disneyland, known as a gate tax, in exchange for investing an additional $1 billion in the resort…

“‘The second deal, passed in July 2016, would give back 70 percent of hotel bed taxes to Disney for a period of 20 years, worth $267 million in tax revenue…

“‘Disneyland does receive a third public subsidy, which unlike the other two, is not a tax rebate. As part of a 1996 partnership agreement related to the expansion of the park to create California Adventure, Disney agreed to invest $1.95 billion in the expansion and other improvements to the resort. The city in turn issued $510 million in bonds to finance an expansion of the Anaheim Convention Center and the construction of a $108.2 million parking structure for California Adventure…

“‘The wage initiative defines a tax subsidy as a rebate, meaning it only applies to deals where the city returns tax revenue to businesses.’

“If I were Mayor Tait, I would see through Disney’s maneuvering and not accept Disney’s withdrawal of the subsidy agreements to the detriment of Anaheim residents.”

So… what do OJ readers think?


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.