Unchastened: Disney Buys Anaheim Elections AGAIN.

[The two Natalies, at left – Mickey LOVES them!
At right, Norma Kurtz is waiting in the wings,
and Gloria is currently upside-down.]

At the last Council meeting, I congratulated Trevor O’Neil and Gloria Ma’ae for making it possible this year for Disney – ONCE AGAIN – to buy Anaheim’s Council Elections – which Trevor and Gloria accomplished by defeating Dr. Jose Moreno’s Campaign Finance Reform ordinance on July 12. (And once again, I must thank Councilmen Steve Faessel and Avelino Valencia for supporting that ordinance, hall passes or not. It seemed like they both believed in it.)

So, as I also mentioned at Council, it’s ironic that those two, Trevor and Gloria, were the only cabal candidates to be defeated by the voters this month. I can’t presume their defeats had anything to do with their no votes on reform, although maybe they did – in any case what they DID have hanging around their necks that the two Natalies don’t have is a RECORD on Council. So it’s close enough to true!

[From July 12, 2022; updated with x’s.]

So you could say that Trevor and Gloria were collateral damage, or “took one for the team” – the important thing is that, with its brace of Natalies, Disney now has a 4-2 majority. It actually is a little bit sad that what brought Trevor down, what made Pringle throw him under the bus and urge him on to an unwinnable Mayor race, was a couple of rare GOOD votes Trevor made – against a housing project in the place of a popular Serrano St. shopping center, and most importantly against a Holden Senior Living facility Pringle wanted to put in place of a Mormon meeting house.

Like I said, with its new Brace of Natalies Disney has a 4-2 majority, which’ll become 5-2 when they anoint Norma Kurtz to fill the vacancy of upwardly-mobile Avelino! Who is Norma Kurtz? Like Avelino, she is on the staff of outgoing Assemblyman Tom Daly, and I see that Avelino put her on the Public Utilities Commission. Right now she is Daly’s District Director, doing Avelino’s old job. [Update – Duane says I got it backwards, that Norma was District Director BEFORE Avelino.] Yes, when searching for his perfect Council replacement, Avelino simply glanced down the hallway! And after all the work Avelino did helping Natalie Rubalcava beat Al Jabbar, he’d certainly earned the right to dictate his own replacement!

I also see that Norma ran for Anaheim Elementary School Board four years ago, against Moreno ally Mark Lopez, who beat her 62% to 38%. Ah! More Moreno-Valencia proxy battles! This is what the coming decade will look like in the Anaheim flatlands – a perpetual low-intensity war between two types of Democrats – the Moreno-allied populist Democrats vs. the Avelino-allied corporatist Democrats. This is our new world, folks.

But the important thing is that Norma is a Tom Daly person – Tom Daly, the guy who as Mayor in the 1990’s agreed to spend hundreds of millions of OUR money to build Disney a mammoth “Mickey & Friends” parking structure, to rent it out to Disney for a dollar a year, let them keep ALL the profits, and then sign the garage over to Disney when we’re all done paying off that construction bond. Dr. Moreno, as his last act on Council, asked the city attorney for his opinion on whether THAT was a “gift of public funds,” but of course Rob Fabela, knowing what side his bread is buttered on, opined that it was NOT, because some “public benefits” were served in the overall deal. More on that below…

*****

The Public’s Great Disney Disconnect.

Some of us were thinking or hoping that maybe it wouldn’t turn out like this, this time, after all the scandals of May and June. Did the voting public not remember, or care, about the FBI indictments, the forced resignation of Mayor Sidhu, the scuttled Stadium deal, the prison-bound Chamber head? Actually I think they did remember and care about all that – see the defeats of Trevor and Gloria, and the use of those scandals in the Mayor-race propaganda. (The clueless and valueless Lincoln Club even tried to tie Ashleigh in to Sidhu and the scandal!)

I think the public just didn’t associate the scandal with Disney and SOAR, as it was mainly the Stadium swindle that was emphasized in the press. But (how to explain this to voters) what is Anaheim’s problem if not an obedient council on sale to the highest bidder? And that highest bidder is ALWAYS Disney, even if you can’t point at something every single year that they are demanding.

When the FBI reports documented a self-styled “CABAL” running Anaheim, it was not just the disgraced Ament and Flint but also Disney government-relations flack Carrie Nocella who were dictating Council policy and writing Sidhu’s speeches (which he “read so badly.”) It was Disney/SOAR money that BROUGHT you your crooked Mayor Sidhu, as well as ALL the Councilmembers – O’Neil, Faessel, Brandman, Kring – who voted in lockstep to approve the Stadium Swindle. And Disney is the largest member of our discredited cesspool of a Chamber of Commerce.

Every election, I tell voters, “LOOK FOR THE SOAR ON THE BOTTOM” – a foolproof way to tell you that Disney spent big bucks to send you this mailer or show you this TV commercial – more money than any other candidate could possibly put together. It’s just that Anaheim voters haven’t come to think of that being a bad thing yet. When will Anaheim voters be able to choose THEIR OWN representatives? And what more does Disney want from us that they don’t already have?

One clue to that last question may be found in the words, “Disneyland Forward!” – a plan that was vaguely described in the press last year: “Disney officials said it is too early in the process to disclose construction costs but vowed to bring detailed development plans for approval to the Anaheim City Council by 2023.” Well, they are nothing if not insatiable, and as always they’ve got themselves a council that won’t say no to anything!

*****

DI$NEY’$ Fa$cinating Money Experiment!

Well, that’s kind of what it looks like – Disney and SOAR were so comfortable with their keeping council forever, that they decided to conduct a little experiment, or game even, to see exactly how investing varying larger or smaller sums into their candidates would translate into votes. And the answer was surprisingly direct – the more they spent, the more votes they got, and vice-versa! (Is that how simple the people of Anaheim are?)

The person Disney (and Curt Pringle) MOST wanted on the new Council was the blindly obedient Natalie Meeks. So, of the $1.3 MILLION Disney invested in this year’s election, they gave Natalie M the most – a whopping $547K! (And nearly another 100k came from other Disney-allied interests.) And, would you look at that – this translated into Natalie M getting by far the biggest victory in town, beating our friend Hari Lal by 71% to 29%! That money got her over 14,000 votes – at $45.50 a vote! Hope she proves worth it! (Not.)

Disney’s SECOND favorite was the OC Business Council’s Natalie Rubalcava, and they spent the second most helping her beat the honest reformist Al Jabbar – nearly 400K Disney spent on Natalie R, with again allied interests chipping in another 100K for a smooth half million. And that worked too, albeit not as dramatically as with the other Natalie – THIS Natalie whooped her opponent 58% to 42%, still pretty handily!

Then, continuing their little experiment, Disney spent a little less on the uninspiring, appointed Gloria Ma’ae. Possibly also less afraid of Carlos Leon than they were of Al Jabbar, they only chipped in 300K in this race, with allied interests bringing it a bit over 400K. This, for the habitual big spenders, was a sort of brinksmanship, like tipping your chair back a little, and a little more, and then maybe finally falling on the back of your head. With late votes coming in, Carlos has grown his lead over Gloria by… well, still under 100 votes but it ain’t receding. Oh well, no big deal, they still control Council. Sorry Gloria!

Then with poor Trevor they didn’t even try. Doesn’t seem they’re afraid of a Mayor Ashleigh, reformist as she may be. Ditched by Disney and most other special interests (except for the clueless and valueless Lincoln Club), Trevor went down as planned. So let’s recap:

  • Natalie M – $547K from Disney, $636K total – got 14,000 votes, won by 71%!
  • Natalie R – $380K from Disney, $497 total – got 5400 votes, won by 58%!
  • Gloria – $302K from Disney, $416K total – got 4900 votes, losing at 49.63%!
  • Trevor – nothing from Disney, $30K total – got 34.4% to Ashleigh’s 43%.
  • LESSON LEARNED?

*****

Fred Sigala Jr. is a Deep Thinker.

At the last Council meeting, as I intimated, the City Attorney opined that our giveaway of the Mickey & Friends garage is NOT a “gift of public funds” because of some loosy-goosy definition of what constitutes “public benefits.” Later in the meeting the firefighters’ union, another generous campaign contributor, got THEMSELVES a real sweetheart deal. Friend of the blog and Anaheim Democrats Club VP Fred Sigala (who is also a psychiatric nurse) wrote his thoughts about these developments on Facebook, and the rest of this story is his:

Anaheim’s Beloved relationships are Abusive.

Beloved Disney projects are paid for by the city of Anaheim under the guise of “Economic Development.” Development for our city? No, Disney owns the land on which we paid to build the Mickey and Friends parking structure, has kept all the profits, uses tax revenues meant for us to instead pay the bond, then stands to gain ownership of said structure once the bond is paid off as well. Abuse.

Maybe we should demand Disney stops its abuse by letting us keep our structure and agreeing to lease us their land for $1 a year, same as we’ve done for them and the Angels for decades in order to finally start getting some revenue. Sounds fair to me seeing as we are 2.8 Billion in debt. The legal definition of “economic development” should also be expanded as these Abusers admitted last night they’ve been exploiting loopholes in the language.

A little later our Beloved Firefighters got a record raise, congratulations! But then they also demanded, sorry, “negotiated,” a bonus they’re only supposed get if we can’t give them a standard raise? And we can’t say No because we love them so much and don’t want to be accused of not standing with public safety do we? Did you know victims of abuse are told they shouldn’t allow their partner to treat them poorly just because they love them?

More of the world is learning Anaheim is a victim of Abuse every day. From the story linked below:

“It’s a bit naive to call out a multibillion dollar corporation for seeming greedy. But the extent to which they are so nakedly greedy—so bold and open about it—is unnerving.”

As Profits Grow, the Disneyland Magic is Dying.

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.