Council Strips Mayor’s Special Power to Set Agenda Items

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Anaheim’s City Council majority on Monday morning stripped Mayor Tom Tait of his power to at any time place items on future council meeting agendas, limiting his ability to do so only during council meetings.

It’s the latest blow in a brewing battle between Tait and his council colleagues over the city’s stadium lease negotiations.

Councilman Jordan Brandman, who requested the special meeting last week, described the policy change as merely a technical cleanup to equalize the mayor’s powers with those of other council members.

Brandman and other members of the council majority said the change would increase transparency, because the mayor could no longer be able to place matters on the agenda between public meetings and out of public view.

“The worst you can say about this,” said Councilwoman Kris Murray, “is it improves transparency, because nothing can be put on the agenda outside of public light. It has to be put on from the dais.” She called the mayor’s agenda authority a “secret” power.

More than 20 residents who spoke at the meeting — all against the move — loudly scoffed at the council majority’s logic. Residents and Tait argued that on its face, barring the mayor from requesting public discussions amounts to less transparency on the public’s business.

“I do not understand at all why this is going on,” said resident Lonny Myers. “It makes no sense at all. It’s just shameful.”

During a back-and-forth argument between Murray and Tait, the mayor called it “truly Orwellian” to argue that preventing him from scheduling public discussions somehow creates more openness at City Hall.

“Sometimes the obvious is most difficult to argue, and I find myself in that spot,” Tait said.

Tait also said that the move would hamper city operations, because the mayor and and council could no longer place items on future council meeting agendas during the sometimes weeks-long gaps between meetings.

While the pressure from residents who attended the 8 a.m. meeting didn’t persuade the council majority to back away from the policy change altogether, the new rule doesn’t go as far as some were expecting.

The original change would have required any council member, including the mayor, to gain the assent of another council member before an item could be placed on the agenda.

That measure could have effectively blocked Tait, a one-man minority, from scheduling any discussions, except special council meetings, a power specifically given the mayor under the city charter. The adopted policy instead allows any council member during a council meeting to schedule a matter for discussion at a future council meeting.

Meanwhile, Councilwoman Lucille Kring confirmed that the issue of Tait’s agenda-setting power arose out of a controversy over the proposed Angel Stadium lease, saying that the mayor wanted to agendize the issue for every future council meeting and indicating that the council majority wanted to prevent that.

Before his power was stripped, Tait asked the city manager to place on every third future council meeting agenda a discussion about the Angel Stadium lease negotiations.

Tait has consistently pushed for a stadium lease agreement that, he said, would be a better deal for the taxpayers than what is 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 would also be allowed to drop “Anaheim” from the team’s 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 have said that the framework is only the starting point of negotiations, not the foundation that the city must work toward in good faith, as Tait asserts.

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, such as 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, which is part of the name now.

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

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