Anaheim Council to Strip Mayor of Agenda Power

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The Anaheim City Council majority is poised to strip Mayor Tom Tait of his power to unilaterally place items on council meeting agendas, a move that Tait said is retaliation for his efforts to inform the community about the pending Angel Stadium lease deal.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting, Councilman Jordan Brandman requested a special session to change a longstanding city policy that granted the mayor the agenda-setting power. Under Brandman’s proposal, any council member could place an item on an open meeting agenda as long as he or she had the concurrence of another council member.

The meeting begins Sept. 30 at 8 a.m.

At Tait’s request, the council agenda this week included a discussion of the Angel Stadium lease. Tait has repeatedly clashed with city staff and council members over the terms of the deal, which he has said amounts to a giveaway to Angels team owner Arte Moreno.

If Brandman’s proposal was to become policy, Tait would no longer be able to initiate such public discussions. The mayor was planning to schedule another public conversation on the stadium deal at the next council meeting.

Tait said the council majority is moving fast to keep discussion of the stadium lease deal behind closed doors.

“It’s a clever way to continue to keep the public in the dark,” Tait said. “And overall it’s a bullying tactic from the council majority against anyone who doesn’t want to be a cheerleader for their special-interest driven agenda. … This is intended to stifle debate on the stadium deal, to not allow me to put it on for public discussion.”

Tait also said that the timing of the meeting, early Monday morning, was intended to lock the public out of the debate.

“If the council majority wanted to schedule a public meeting that was difficult for the public to get to, that’s probably the time. Obviously they don’t want the public to watch what they do or give their input,” he said.

Brandman did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Tait has consistently pushed for a stadium lease agreement that, he said, would be a better deal for the taxpayers than what’s currently on the table.

As it stands now, the proposed lease framework grants Moreno 155 acres of land around the stadium for 66 years at $1 per year. More than 5,100 residential units, 3 million square of office space and 3 million square feet of commercial space could be built on the land. Moreno could also drop Anaheim from the team name.

The premise is that Moreno could use revenue from development of the property to finance up to $150 million in improvements to the stadium. However, Moreno is already obliged to make those improvements under the current lease.

Members of the council majority, Anaheim Chamber of Commerce President Todd Ament and a city consultant say that the framework is only the starting point of negotiations, not the foundation that the city must work toward in good faith, as Tait describes.

They have accused Tait of engaging in a misinformation campaign intended to subvert the deal by meeting with groups such as the Rotary Club and distributing a presentation with deal points that are inaccurate and misleading, primarily because they don’t include projected economic benefits of having the Angels.

Tait, meanwhile, said his goal is to get a fair deal for taxpayers. A fair deal, he said, would call for Moreno and the city to receive something close to equal shares in the property development revenues and for a team name that is mutually agreeable, like the California Angels.

Under the present framework, Moreno would keep all of the revenues and have sole discretion over the team name, which he could change to Los Angeles Angels, without the “of Anaheim” that is part of the name now.

This is just the council majority’s latest move to undercut the mayor.

In June, the former council majority — then consisting of Kris Murray, Gail Eastman and former Councilman Harry Sidhu — slashed the maximum allowable compensation for Tait’s aide from $100,000 to $60,000, allocating the revenue saved for weekly computer and job training class at the Ponderosa Elementary School library.

The compensation cut, which brought Tait’s aide budget to the same level as the other council members, was the only adjustment council members had made when approving the city’s nearly $1.2-billion budget.

The action was widely seen by City Hall watchers as political retaliation for Tait’s opposition to decisions the council majority had favored and the mayor’s numerous attempts to undo a controversial, $158-million tax subsidy for a hotel developer who helped finance council members’ election campaigns.

Murray also moved to strip the mayor of his agenda setting power last year but didn’t follow through.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adamelmahrek

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