Chamber No Longer in Charge of Anaheim’s State of the City Address

Tom Tait
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In what Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait describes as an important symbolic departure, his 2015 state of the city address will not be organized and hosted by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce as it has been for years.

Instead, the city will partner with the nonprofit Orange County Community Foundation to produce the event. Proceeds will go to the Accelerate Change Together for Anaheim (ACT Anaheim) fund, which is making targeted grants to other nonprofits that cater to the city’s older at-risk children.

“The chamber has ample ways to raise money through other means by, my gosh it’s the business community — these kids in Anaheim are the people that need help,” Tait said at the Dec. 23 City Council meeting when the change was approved. “The state of the city belongs to the people, and not the Chamber of Commerce.”

However, the reasons for the change run deeper than a simple desire on Tait’s part to redirect taxpayer funds to a worthier cause. It is also an act of retribution against the Chamber and its political arm for, in Tait’s words, “divisive” tactics during last year’s election season.

Specifically, Tait is referring to a Chamber-financed TV attack ad that featured District Attorney Tony Rackaucaks accusing the mayor of pushing to spend taxpayer money on a gang memorial, and ads published in the Anaheim Bulletin that indicated Tait wanted to demolish Angel Stadium.

Yet the mayor insisted it’s not purely about political payback, but a wish to show that the event is about “more than just the business interests.”

Chamber President Todd Ament did not return a call seeking comment.

Tait did get some pushback from certain members of the council majority, who are backed heavily by the Chamber.

Councilwoman Lucille Kring, Tait’s opponent in the mayoral race, questioned whether the Orange County Community Foundation had the wherewithal to produce the event and said ACT Anaheim funneled money to a group that engaged in politicking during the election. She encouraged Tait to be “magnanimous” and have the chamber manage the event.

The Chamber “can make a phone call tomorrow and have all the pieces in place to make [the event] happen,” Kring said.

Tait said the Community Foundation is contracting with an outside firm that has experience managing other state of the city events. Also, the city will maintain a contractual relationship with the Chamber, according to Deputy City Manager Kristine Ridge.

It has in the past promoted other major city events, like the Taste of Anaheim, an OC jobs fair and a business luncheon, and marketed city programs directed at the business community. Ridge said the previous contract with the Chamber has expired, but that staff would bring forward a new services contract for City Council approval at the end of this month.

“We historically have always partnered with the Chamber, and for the past eight years we have had a professional services agreement for the purposes of promoting businesses and the local economy,” Ridge said.

Tait said the state of the city is also a call on the business community to shoulder some responsibility for children in the city’s underserved communities. The money from the state of the city sponsorships will augment a $3 million commitment to ACT Anaheim over three years from Disneyland, the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The businesses donated the money after a 2012 report by the Olin Group found that the city’s youth, particularly teenagers, have limited access to services. The study was commissioned on the heels of a downtown riot of mostly Latino youth sparked by a string of fatal police shootings.

The funding disbursements are partitioned over three years, or “acts,” and the group is now in its second year. Under the first year, ACT Anaheim was able to raise an additional $500,000 – bringing the total for the year to $1.5 million, according to Shelly Hoss, president of the Community Foundation, which administers ACT Anaheim funds.

Those funds were then donated to 10 nonprofits for services that range from mentoring programs to after school leadership development, employment training and more. GOALS Anaheim, Girls Incorporated of Orange County, and the Anaheim Gang Reduction Intervention Program were among the nonprofits and programs funded.

Hoss said she was “thrilled” about the opportunity to fundraise through the state of the city address. She also said it was “exemplary” for three of the city’s largest businesses to set aside their individual brands and come together for the “greater good.”

This year, Hoss said the group’s goal is to reach between $1.5 million and $2 million. And Anaheim needs it, Hoss said, because it doesn’t get the “philanthropic attention they deserve from throughout Orange County.”

The state of the city address is scheduled for Feb. 3 at the City National Grove of Anaheim.

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

  • David Zenger

    Oh, and about that contract on tomorrow’s agenda: I doubt if any of the Council has read the contract or care anyhow, but here’s Article 4.2:

    Advance Deposit for Event Sponsorships. The
    City agrees to pay Chamber an advance payment no later than the last
    business day of February following the execution of this Agreement by
    the City. Such advance payment shall be equal to fifty percent (50%) of
    the total compensation for event sponsorships identified in Exhibit A.

    This means that the Chamber gets $85,000 cash, upfront for services NOT YET rendered.

    Only in Anaheim.

  • Cynthia Ward

    Anaheim Insider, every time your team does not get its own way you cry that Tait has dumped his platform of Kindness. I don’t know how you define it, but Kindness is not about being a doormat, and the kindest thing you do for a spoiled child throwing a temper tantrum it to make it clear that the behavior is unacceptable and will result in lost benefits.

    You want to complain about something being “sprung on” the public at the last minute? This from the same folks cheering for the Angels deals that offered ZERO pre-meeting public notice that the Stadium District would be included in the offer to Moreno, and then dumped the surprise deal on us during a schedule that assured few people expected the first post-holiday meeting in over a dozen years, and approving an INSANE set of deal points while withholding from the public the report offering the ONLY justification Council offered for those votes…you mean like THAT?
    Yeah, like Ryan said, cry me a river.

    The EZ was not a success for Anaheim, those docs show not one “new job” created, the tax credits were given to those sitting on the Chamber Board who had hiring and firing power over Ament and through Ament to his staff, the number one recipient (BY FAR) of those tax credits was Disney, again a Board member of the Chamber, and also Ament’s service as co-chair of SOAR should in theory offer him a VIP pass for Disney vastly exceeding the gift limitations imposed by the conflict of interest policy he agreed to abide by in the EZ contract. But since Ament failed to supply the city with the 700 form for gift reporting and the city wimped out on enforcing the filing, we will never know if he gave tax credits to the corporate entity offering him gifts in violation of the limits. No conflict there, no sir, you keep telling yourself that was a success of some kind.

    As far as Chambers being politically involved, they are 501c6 non-profits, permitted to engage in “advocacy” to the extent of supporting the best interest of their members, now you tell me how it benefits Anaheim’s business community or tourism to put out the messaging from the DA,
    the former Police Chief, and the current union leader, that the Mayor is
    promoting gang activity (without offering info to back that up, of course) seriously, if those commercials had an ounce of credibility and someone believes any of the horse manure being shoveled there, it could have done serious damage to the image of Anaheim as a destination. How does that tell businesses looking for their next location that Anaheim is ready for them? How does that tell visitors to come to Anaheim, it’s a great place for your family? That seems the opposite of advocacy for Anaheim’s business community!

    Oh…and the Chamber took in donations to the non-profit 501c6 arm,
    letting the donor hide their identity and THEN transferred the money to the PAC to be spent on political attack, which turns out to be legal (bizarre) but it
    does make that money taxable to the Chamber, and gee, did I not see something about them not needing additional complications with their taxes?

    Back to the subject of Adam’s article, how does anyone elevate the Chamber’s profitable exploitation of this event over the needs of underserved kids? The Chamber may have done the event but they would siphon every last nickel out of it they could and the kids would be left with little or nothing. State of the City has traditionally been the project of the Mayor, let him work with those he is comfortable with, he is not in any way obligated to work with the Chamber and allow his own time or public resources to be used for their own fundraising, which as far as I can see only harms Anaheim and causes even more division. Why the Chamber’s board permits Ament to remain gainfully employed when he is such a monumental failure, and a negative figurehead for their cause, is beyond my comprehension. They are private business and they may employ any President and any underhanded tactics, they choose but please don’t ask any of us to participate, not with our private dollars for tickets not with our tax
    dollars for their contract. Let their membership support Ament’s bar tab.

  • Anaheim Insider

    More “kindness in action”! In the past, Tait has voiced his indignation when he thinks city staff or his colleagues have agendized city actions without little or no public notice. By his own admission, Tait had already given this city event to a new vendor without consulting with or obtaining the approval of the council, and without any public discussion or input. Is governing in the shadows, out of the public’s sight, OK when Tom Tait does it?

    This is pure political payback, not about raising money for ACT Anaheim. Kris Murray made a motion for the Chamber to continue running the event, while still having the net proceeds go to ACT Anaheim, but Tait would have none of it. He’s using the power of his office to retaliate against an organization for having a different political views from his own.

    $100,000 of the money Tait has already raised for ACT Anaheim went to his political allies OCCCO and OCCORD to train high school students to be political foot soldiers for Measure L. Tait doesn’t mind mixing politics into a city contract as long as it is his politics.

    • David Zenger

      Given how badly the Chamber messed up the Enterprise Zone program I’m not sure why we Anaheim taxpayers should have much confidence in their organizational ability, anyhow.

      But can you address the issue of why the Chamber is engaging in politics anyway? In any case, elections have consequences for those who participate. There are winners and losers. Sounds like you resent Tait mostly for being a winner.

      • Anaheim Insider

        The Chamber did not “mess up” the Enterprise Zone, which was a success for Anaheim.

        Maybe you can address why Tait wants to use a city event to fundraise for his personal charity, which has funneled tens of thousands of dollars to left-wing political groups? Or you can address why it’s OK for Tait to arrange all of this and then spring it on his colleagues for a rubber stamp? Or why you support a politician using the power of his elected office to punish those who disagree with him? Do you think that is an appropriate use of the office?

        If you have a problem with business organizations being involved in politics, you should also direct some correspondence to the US Chamber of Commerce asking it to get its nose out of politics, too.

        • RyanCantor

          Bull. The Chamber’s actions are the main reason the EZ zone was eliminated by the state. They bid on a fixed price contract, completely mismanaged it, got the council to throw more money at them to help cover their loss, then had the balls to claim an audit that revealed inadequate time keeping and records management was inconsequential.

          • Anaheim Insider

            Bull, yourself. It wasn’t just Anaheim’s EZ that was eliminated, but every EZ in the state. It was a union-driven money grab by the state. Your mismanagement claims aren’t supported by the audit you cite.

          • RyanCantor

            . . . because of Anaheim. I think you fail to understand just how piss poor things were going. Way to go, genius.

            Cash those checks from the Chamber while you can, Insider.

          • Anaheim Insider

            Your comment doesn’t even make sense, but that’s not surprising. Also, I don’t cash any checks from the Chamber of Commerce. You need new insults.

          • RyanCantor

            You write them then? Look pal, you’re not fooling anyone with this fake ID of yours. You value your opinions? PUT YOUR NAME ON THEM.

            Freaking coward running your mouth . . .

        • David Zenger

          I have a problem with a Chamber that supports candidates who favor wanton distribution of municipal assets to favored clients of your boss.

          The Chamber did indeed mess up the EZ program; the beneficiaries were few but received huge tax breaks for low-paying jobs and/or jobs that were first eliminated and the recreated just for the tax break.

          And then everything was nicely covered up by the absolute failure to perform and release the contractually required audits.

      • Anaheim Insider

        “In any case, elections have consequences for those who participate. There are winners and losers.”

        You weren’t singing that tune when the consequences of elections put Tait at the losing end of a 4-1 council. Then it was the council majority being mean and cruel to the Mayor. You’re standards are very situational.

        • David Zenger

          The fact that elections (bought and paid for) created a 4-1 kleptocratic majority in Anaheim does not excuse the wanton distribution of municipal assets to favored clients of your boss.

    • RyanCantor

      Please. Cry me a freaking river.

  • RyanCantor

    Outstanding.

  • David Zenger

    The City should drop all contractual relationships with the Chamber until it quits its politicking and starts behaving like a non-profit that supports all business – large and small – and not just the handful for clients of a well-known lobbyist.