Dear Mayor Tait and Councilmembers,
As an Anaheim resident and taxpayer I urge you to vote NO on the Disney Entertainment Tax agreement (tax-exemption agreement) put forth by City Staff. I am especially concerned that voting for this binding deal after a holiday weekend with only 10 days notice goes counter to our values of transparency and public deliberation. If Disney truly valued our partnership as a community they should not press for such a rushed generational decision. While Disney's lobbyists and executives have had ample time to discuss and lobby you for this agreement, is not only fair we afford the same consideration to the actual stakeholders of Anaheim--residents and taxpayers?
In addition, due to the rushed nature of this deal the media and bloggers have made many in the public believe this deal is about a "gate tax" when in fact the definition of "entertainment tax", as stated in the agreement on page 11, encompasses ANY tax levied in the City that impacts Disney properties. So this is much bigger and expansive then simply protecting a singular corporation from a "gate -tax" which no one has formally proposed, but rather in effect giving Disney a local tax-exempt status similar to a non-profit organization such as the YMCA or local places of worship such as a church, synagogue, or mosque. To this end, I've submitted a letter to the OC Register, that if you do decide to sign on to the agreement you would at the least amend the deal to include language wherein Disney would agree to not participate in local City elections via campaign finances or endorsements. If we the taxpayers are going to agree to protect their record profits then we should all be assured they invest profits in their business expansions as promised and NOT in influencing local elections. This would only seem fair and a clear protection for our elections system in Anaheim.
We should fully comprehend the implications of Disney expansion on our City's infrastructure. Will the 3,000 jobs created be living-wage jobs? If not what will be the implications on our already strained social institutions in Anaheim e.g. schools; community centers; housing etc.
Councilwoman Murray, while we fully disagreed on the Angel's framework deal from two years ago, you stated on the campaign trail that your only regret and do-over on that particular vote was that it was agendized and voted on after a holiday weekend. I do hope you do not repeat that very regret tonite.
On our School Board in Anaheim City we changed our practice of voting for an item on the same evening as a public hearing. Our idea was that it did not seem appropriate as an elected representative body to have public hearings that seek public input and perspectives to then turn around and vote right after that hearing. Our goal was to send a clear message that a public hearing was an opportunity for the governing body to hear "the people", to process their input, and then agendize the item for action in the following meeting. Indeed, the OC Register story citing three of you (Brandman, Murray and Kring) as supportive of this agreement with one (Tait) opposing this deal hurts the public confidence that their voice will matter. Many residents and community members i've spoken with have already pointed to this reporting that "hey the deal's done they have the three votes". That said, I appreciate Mayor Tait's recent op-ed that at the very least lays out his rationale for opposing and inviting the public to Council Chambers to share their perspectives. Therefore, if you are to change the practice of voting on items the same evening as a first public hearing--a practice that would be wonderful to initiate tonite-the public will be assured that their input was welcomed, duly considered and reflected upon by the governing body. Perhaps you can do that tonite? Listen to the people; Listen to the diversity of opinions; Listen to the neighborhoods...then discuss as a governing body in public, ask questions of staff with no high-stakes vote hanging over their heads, pursue clarifications and then agendize for a vote in a future meeting.
Tonite is an opportunity to bring our City together, with decorum, by modeling an authentic and deliberate approach to listening, discussing, reflecting and coming back for an action. While we may disagree on policies and politics, I do hope we can all agree that our Anaheim residents and taxpayers deserve a fighting chance to influence what is tantamount to a 50 year billion dollar giveaway to a multi-national corporation.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you'd like to discuss further my opposition to the deal as proposed.
Jose F. Moreno
Jose Moreno is an Anaheim-based activist and former City Council candidate who serves as president of Los Amigos of Orange County.