Former City Manager: Angels Need to Show Anaheim ‘Respect’

As Anaheim officials attempt to restart talks with the Angels baseball team over a new stadium lease, former City Manager James Ruth has offered up a bit of advice for team owner Arte Moreno.

Show the city a little respect.

In a Voice of OC interview last week, Ruth spoke at length about his experience in the 1990s brokering a stadium lease deal with The Walt Disney Company, which owned the team before Moreno, and the problems he sees with Moreno’s hardball negotiating style.

From Ruth’s point of view, Moreno has been disrespectful by threatening to move the team from Anaheim if he didn’t get everything he wanted. Talks were terminated last year amid public backlash over the terms of a deal framework that critics said was a massive giveaway of public land to the billionaire owner.

“Something that’s being lost in these negotiations is there’s no respect for the city,” said Ruth, who was city manager from 1990 to 2001. “Mr. Moreno is a very sound businessman in many regards, and that’s to be respected, but he has to respect the community… I don’t like to see these threats, well if we don’t get our way, we’re going to move.”

Ruth, who aspired to play baseball before entering public service, said Disney also wanted a clause in the lease that would allow the team to be moved after six years, but the company conceded that clause after he made it clear it was a deal-breaker. More importantly, he said, there was civility during those negotiations that doesn’t seem to exist this time.

Ruth agrees with critics of the deal, led by Mayor Tom Tait, on many points. Negotiations got off on the “wrong foot” because the initial deal outline was lopsided in favor of the Angels, with little to no city benefit, according to Ruth.

Also, city leaders agreed to extend the time the Angels can exit their current lease from 2016 to 2019, a move Ruth said handed negotiating leverage over to the Angels. The team would be locked into the current lease until 2029 if the out clause isn’t exercised.

“I looked at the initial proposal, and frankly, it was very offensive,” he said.

Under the now scuttled agreement, which defenders said was only a starting point, an investment firm belonging to Moreno would have leased over 150 acres around the stadium at $1 a year for 66 years. Moreno would also have been able to drop Anaheim from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim team name.

Supporters of that deal said it would have kept the Angels in Anaheim for decades, with no risk to the city’s general fund, which pays for core services like police and fire protection. Also, development of the land could provide Moreno a revenue source to finance up to $150 million in renovations to the aging stadium.

Ruth scoffs at the idea that the renovations would be a major benefit to the city. He said it was little more than a “nice gesture.” A fairer deal, which Tait has also proposed, would be to have the city and the Angels split revenue from the land development, he said.

“When you look over 20-30 years, for Christ’s sake, $150 million is not a lot of money,” Ruth said.

Meanwhile, Angels spokeswoman Marie Garvey took issue with Ruth’s characterization of the negotiations, calling it unfair and pointing out that the most controversial deal point, giving Moreno city land for a nominal amount, didn’t come from the Angels.

The land contribution proposal originated with city officials as a way to finance stadium renovations in lieu of cash, Garvey said in an email. She also suggested in her statements that frequent turnover of city managers – there have been several since negotiations began over three years ago – was partly to blame for the stalled talks.

“Unfortunately after several city management changes, it remain(sic) unclear if any agreement could be reached,” Garvey wrote. “Only then did we feel it was necessary to look for other options to ensure that our fans and the team had a home in the future.”

Who exactly came up with the land contribution has recently been a point of confusion. Councilwoman Lucille Kring said at last week’s council meeting that city officials were still trying to “ferret out” who first proposed the idea. One source said it was former City Manager Tom Wood, who was later ousted from City Hall and went to work for the Angels as a negotiations consultant.

Ruth said that when the initial deal framework was on the table, former City Manager Marcie Edwards and then Assistant City Manager Paul Emery met with him to go over the deal points.

Ruth didn’t leave that meeting with the impression that city officials came up with the proposal. “If the city offered that up, I’d be shocked,” he said.

Ruth said he told Edwards and Emery that the deal was terrible, but couldn’t tell whether Edwards and Emery felt the same way. Edwards wouldn’t give her opinion because she was working for the council, and she would do what “the council directed her to do,” Ruth said.

However, Edwards and Emery did leave the impression that they were under heavy political pressure to make the deal happen, Ruth said.

“My answer on that was always no deal is better than a bad deal,” he said.

Ruth expressed confidence that ultimately the Angels and Anaheim can work out a deal beneficial to both parties. He said the recent hiring of local trial attorney Wylie Aitken as a lead negotiator was a positive step.

“There has to be a deal there for everybody,” he said.

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

  • Tony Pepper

    Anaheim need not cave in to Arte’s Angels. Should he be unwilling to accept Anaheim’s offer certain that Disney or Cedar Point, owners of Knotts, would be willing to secure 160 acres with outstanding freeway access sitting next to a transportation center. Bye bye Angels.

  • David Zenger

    P.S. & FYI, Ms. Kring, a ferret is a close relative of the weasel. Good will hunting.

  • astar2b

    Well Anaheim, look at Irvine. That city managed to waste millions just putting a simple park in place without dealing with a baseball team owner. Good luck!

  • RyanCantor

    Wait wait wait, so Anaheim’s negotiation policy shouldn’t be: Thank you, sir, may I have another?!

    Parish the thought.

  • Cynthia Ward

    “Something that’s being lost in these negotiations is there’s no respect for the city,” said Ruth, who was city manager from 1990 to 2001. “Mr. Moreno is a very sound businessman in many regards, and that’s to be respected, but he has to respect the community… I don’t like to see these threats, well if we don’t get our way, we’re going to move.”

    With all due respect to Mr. Ruth, (and I mean that a great deal) consider the history of Arte Moreno. He made his fortune in billboards, an industry known for forcing onto local residents the blight they THOUGHT they had outlawed until a smarter-than-the-City-Attorney lawyer finds loopholes in their municipal code that lets the company build something residents specifically said they don’t want. While this certainly offers him the smartest-guy-in-the-room award, it does not nominate him for Neighbor of the Year. His business model is the very definition of disrespecting those who live in the communities he extracts that fortune from.

    Moreno put the SAME find-the-loophole lawyers onto the 1996 Lease agreement, resulting in the most insulting team name in the history of the sport, dismissing the name WE FORFEITED the return on our taxpayer
    investment to gain in 1996, in the hope of bringing more tourism to ANAHEIM. Instead our decades long investment advertises for another nearby city, one that just grabbed WonderCon from Anaheim-for what one hopes is merely a short stay because Anaheim could not accommodate the date change the company asked for. (By the way, did Convention Center staff OFFER to pitch ginormous festival tents at the Stadium to offer WonderCon an alternative, as the 1996 Lease provides for TEN TIMES PER YEAR, but it does not appear we have taken advantage of? Just wondering…)

    I don’t expect Moreno to respect us, because it is inconsistent with who he has been from the early years of his career in a cut-throat industry. I DO expect my elected leaders to understand who it is they are dealing with, and go into the negotiations with eyes WIDE OPEN, understanding that the guy who loop-holed us out of Anaheim Angels cares only about what is enforceable in a court of law based on a written document signed by both parties, and unspoken intent not memorialized in the document is not enforceable, despite Lucille Kring’s plaintive wails of “everyone knows it meant this other thing that was not written anywhere.” In fact, CATER now knows (hard lesson)
    that the City of Anaheim is not bound to honor the claims their own staff makes during public hearings, where they sure appear to be testifying as experts in the field knowing the legislative body is relying upon that expert opinion and recommendation. Nope, they get to court and basically exclaim, “You mean you thought we MEANT that? How naïve can you be?”

    So when City staff CLAIMS in a public meeting that the profits from PCI’s development of the land will be used to pay the already obligated responsibility of Angels Baseball to repair and maintain the Stadium (absent permits and receipts to indicate any such action has been taken up to this point in good faith) BUT THE TWO AGREEMENTS ARE NOT LEGALLY CONNECTED, nor do they reflect even a single reference that there is intent to connect them in the future, my palm hits my forehead pretty quickly. Then the City went on to hire a lawyer who argues Moreno’s side of the deal so passionately that Black was mistaken as the team’s attorney, while browbeating his client on television (and it was FAR WORSE during the Voice of OC round table discussion) and staff refuses to let the Mayor conduct ANY due diligence…while the City Attorney sits there and lets it happen…Why would Moreno show an ounce of respect for Anaheim’s taxpayers when 3 of our five elected leaders and nearly none of our Department Heads and executive staff show ANY respect for us to begin with?

    • Cynthia Ward

      Nor should we blame Moreno for accepting what was offered to him!

      Voice of OC; The land contribution proposal originated with city officials as a way to finance stadium renovations in lieu of cash, Garvey said in an email. She also suggested in her statements that frequent turnover of city managers – there have been several since negotiations began over three years ago – was partly to blame for the stalled talks.

      “Unfortunately after several city management changes, it remain(sic) unclear if any agreement could be reached,” Garvey wrote. “Only then did we feel it was necessary to look for other options to ensure that our fans and the team had a home in the future.”

      Forgetting the inane claim that the team may NOT have had a
      home in the future if they did not get a revenue stream to carry the costs they agreed to when they bought the team…

      “….Who exactly came up with the land contribution has recently been a point of confusion. Councilwoman Lucille Kring said at last week’s council meeting that city officials were still trying to ‘ferret out’ who first proposed the idea. One source said it was former City Manager Tom Wood, who was later ousted from City Hall and went to work for the Angels as a negotiations consultant.”

      Did NONE of these well-paid professionals TAKE NOTES while discussing hundreds of millions in public real estate? Is there REALLY NO TERM SHEET that discloses which side proposed various deal points? Or was the City’s financial future “negotiated” like the boat one no longer uses and puts on Craig’s List?

      Elected leaders and their enabling staff have an obligation to
      PUBLICLY DISCLOSE per California law when Real Property Negotiations involving taxpayer owned real estate have commenced, because while Moreno may be accustomed to making a deal over cocktails at his club, that is not how local agencies are supposed to operate. Can anyone tell me where the disclosure of initiation of Real Property negotiations (Stadium) exists prior to March 2013,
      at which point the team claims to have been making a deal for YEARS before letting the property owners in on it? Worse, the Stadium District was NEVER disclosed in Closed Session agendas before September 3, 2013, when its inclusion in the deal blindsided unsuspecting residents (and apparently one Mayor who had been shut out of the Closed Session meeting due to real estate ownership conflict until ONE meeting prior to the September 3 agreements went public. How hard would it be to not discuss key deal points in that one last meeting to leave the Mayor in the dark and jeep him from alerting those pesky do-gooders who might interfere?) That means Michael Houston hired Black in June 2013 with a contract stipulating negotiating for BOTH the Stadium and Stadium District, absent any (legally disclosed) Council authority to throw in the real estate too!

      Failure to turn over to CATER/Ward the records (now in
      litigation) that SHOULD HAVE BEEN generated to outline these negotiations increasingly indicates a back room deal only memorialized for the public when Moreno was no longer willing to keep quiet without something on paper to assure him the City was not stringing him along until his opt-put window closed. Would THIS not explain the utter DESPERATION of the Council majority to inexplicably extend the opt-out window?

      September 3, 2013 Marcie Edwards;
      “Now, you may ask, ‘So why are we bringing these items forward in a
      public session?’ It’s true that city staff could continue to negotiate without going public until we had a far more definitive agreement to present to you, however, we are taking this action tonight largely for two reasons. First, to spur forward movement of the negotiations; and second, to make clear that we are first and foremost a
      public agency and public input is critical to our process.

      So what do I mean by spur forward movement of the negotiations? In short, we believe we’ve reached a point where the
      Angels will not negotiate further with staff without at least some indication on the part of our decision makers, this city council, that you would consider a non-binding framework for the subsequent negotiations. “

      Anyone else hear Marcie Edwards telling us that someone cut
      a back room deal with Moreno, and Moreno is making sure this is a legit offer because it is so lopsided in his favor that he is waiting for Ashton Kutcher to jump out and tell him he is being punked?

      Back to Voice of OC;
      Meanwhile, Angels spokeswoman Marie Garvey took issue with Ruth’s characterization of the negotiations, calling it unfair and pointing out that the most controversial deal point, giving Moreno city land for a nominal amount, didn’t come from the Angels.

      Marcie Edwards September 3;
      “The other reason for making this a public discussion at this early
      point is that we expect to hear a wide variety of opinions from the policy body, from the fans, and from residents.”

      Translation; and we must determine just how ape-*&^% the residents
      are going to get when they figure this out, well in advance of an election that may affect my bosses.

      Later that night, Charles Black, Tom Morton, and Paul Emery
      rolled out that insane set of deal points and the people of Anaheim kept hoping to see Kutcher tell us WE were being punked!

      No, I do not blame Arte Moreno for accepting what was
      offered to him. Nor do I blame him for being mad now that those who appeared to offer it won’t stand by their offer, not even long enough to revote it and avoid litigation that could void the entire opt-out extension and leave Moreno high and dry with no time left on the clock to threaten to leave. Moreno cannot be in a happy place right now, relying on a Council lacking the backbone to revote the agreements under the glare of daylight and additional public scrutiny they managed to avoid by slipping this in on the one Tuesday nobody in Anaheim expected to even HAVE a Council meeting, much less one of such import. (Not letting the taxpayers see the CSL report or hear testimony from the CSL consultant in town on our dime doesn’t look good for them either.)

      What I would really appreciate is someone from the legal
      profession explaining when does sloppy, careless work or even permitting personal bias to color public service, cross the line into a coordinated attempt to defraud the public of the honest services we are due by staff and leaders and the true value of publicly held real property, by using the cover of a legitimate business entity whose interstate commerce requires the use of mail and wire to conduct business? No, I do not blame Moreno for not touching Anaheim with a ten foot pole, not when that line appears to be growing murkier
      with each passing day and each public statement from Anaheim that further exposes just how awful this deal really has been.

  • Greg Diamond

    Great article, Adam. For those of us in CATER — without whose political push-back, even prior to our litigation, the rotten first deal would likely have been completed in September 2013 — Mr. Ruth’s opinions provide some welcome vindication. I regret only that Ruth’s opinions weren’t made public before Wylie Aitkin replaced Charles Black, at which point speaking out became more “safe.”

    I’m still a bit mystified at why the City Council was even ostensibly trying to “provide Moreno a revenue source to finance up to $150 million in renovations to the aging stadium,” when Moreno was (1) already contractually obligated to engage in repairs under the 1996 lease, and (2) already had a “revenue source” that could fund additional renovations beyond that:ownership of the Angels and an existing contract already lopsided in his favor.

  • David Zenger

    Well, this pretty much supports just about everything some of have inferred all along. The stinker deal was cooked up by the Anaheim Taxpayer Last Crowd who then tried to jam it through their bought and paid for council majority.

    This statement is particularly offensive:

    “Supporters of that deal said it would have kept the Angels in Anaheim
    for decades, with no risk to the city’s general fund, which pays for
    core services like police and fire protection.”

    The MOU, if adopted, would have permitted the Angels to bail in 2036 – a mere 7 years after the current lease ends in 2029. Just one of many outright lies foisted on us by the Kleptocracy.