Community Editorial: Sad But Not Surprised by Anaheim Revelations

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I was saddened to read about another conflict-of-interest story among high-ranking officials in the city of Anaheim — this time with Councilwoman Kris Murray.

Saddened but not surprised.

Anaheim has been the closest thing we have to a corporate city for a long time. In Anaheim, Disney received almost a $90-million tax credit for a five-star hotel, which may never be built, while the city employees who maintain the parks outside Disney’s gates got pink slips earlier this year.

It’s a place where the politicians rake in more than 70 percent of their corporate and political contributions from interests outside the city but where the concerns of residents who live near the multimillion-dollar developments those same politicians approve never get considered.

When the city developed Platinum Triangle, for example, the community had to file a lawsuit before the city would consider how the development could clog their streets and threaten the safety of their parks and schools, the city still figured out a way to rubber stamp the deal with minimal community input.

Anaheim is a place where the majority of the City Council (four out of five) lives in the sprawling neighborhoods of Anaheim Hills, but they make decisions every day that affect the lives and livelihoods of residents who live in a much different world in neighborhoods with different needs.

Instead of engaging those residents and helping them to address issues that affect their lives, they give tax breaks to behemoths like Disney, where hotel workers are fighting just to keep their health care, and the Pond, which has the lowest-paid employees of any arena in the country.

It’s the happiest place on earth — if you’re a lobbyist or a corporate vice president, like Councilwoman Murray. In their fantasyland, a $15,000-contract really might be no big deal.

But for the rest of the working families who call Anaheim home — all the people fighting to keep their jobs and their health care, everyone who is struggling to pay their bills and maybe have a little left over to send their kids to college — for all of them $15,000 is a lot.

There is absolutely no question when Councilwoman Murray voted on a report produced by her employer — the people who sign her paychecks — that there is a huge conflict of interest.

With this rampant corruption at Anaheim City Hall, it’s no wonder that the City Council majority has repeatedly refused to listen to the community and adopt their proposal for lobbying and transparency reforms.

At this point, that’s the very least this City Council should do.

Tefere Gebre is a member of the Voice of OC Editorial Board and the executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation.

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