The Next Anaheim City Council Meeting Will Be a Doozy

Next Tuesday, when Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait gavels the City Council meeting to order, he’ll have something that he’s had precious little of in his six-year tenure – company.

Joining Tait and Councilman James Vanderbilt to form a new majority will be Councilman Jose Moreno and Councilwoman Denise Barnes, who were sworn in Tuesday during a ceremony at the River Arena next door to City Hall.

After the swearing-in, Tait made it clear that he won’t waste time making use of his new friends on the dais. The agenda for the final council meeting of the year is chock full issues that the previous council majority pushed through over his objections. And now Tait is pushing back.

So far, he has proposed actions to cancel the city’s contract with the Anaheim Chamber of Commercefire recently appointed interim City Attorney Arturo Fierro; and appoint Assistant City Attorney Kristen Pelletier to the position.

Tait also plans to cancel the hotel incentive policy that enabled more than $500 million in city tax breaks for three luxury hotel projects and restore the mayor’s ability to place items on the council agenda.

Barnes, who will represent District 1, also requested actions to “kill” the Anaheim Streetcar project and increase the budget of the Mayor’s office to allow for a full-time policy aide, a reference to previous council actions to cut the maximum compensation of Tait’s aide Mishal Montgomery and reduce the position to part-time.

“Tonight is an opportunity for the new city council to come together to put the good of Anaheim first ahead of special interests and political agendas,” Barnes said.

Moreno, who will represent District 3 for a two-year term, called for the creation of a youth commission, asked staff to research a potential “sunshine” ordinance aimed at increasing transparency and requested an ordinance for the city to join a nationwide “Welcoming America” initiative aimed at being inclusive of immigrant communities, including unauthorized immigrants.

He also called for a discussion at the Dec. 20 meeting of the city’s pilot Public Safety Board, which is tasked with overseeing police and fire operations, policy and procedures and incidents like police-involved shootings.

In his swearing-in speech, Moreno thanked his supporters, both the citizens who were able to vote, and those who were ineligible but walked and campaigned for him nevertheless.

He promised a “push away from a transactional politics that serves to pay those who fund us” toward “transformational governance.”

Councilman James Vanderbilt, who has stood with Tait over the last two years, also asked for an action to lower the city manager’s contract signing authority from $100,000 to $50,000, which would place more spending decisions before the City Council for approval.

Tait’s request to end the hotel incentive policy echoed an action requested earlier in the evening by District 4 Councilwoman Lucille Kring, although for different reasons.

“We no longer need it and it has done its job,” Kring said.

Kring also gave a full-throated, unapologetic defense of Disney, the Anaheim Resort and the pro-business philosophy that guided the actions of the previous council majority that the new majority has threatened to undo.

“Any tinkering with not supporting the [Anaheim] Resort would increase the possibility of less amenities in the neighborhoods and increase the possibility of having to raise taxes on you, as some of our neighboring cities have done,” Kring said to the crowd.

District 5 Councilman Stephen Faessel, who was supported by resort businesses on a slate of candidates that included Kring, struck a more conciliatory tone, promising to work “cooperatively” with the city’s business interests, residents and city officials.

Faessel requested, although not for action during the Dec. 20 meeting, consideration of a community services strategic plan. He also announced a new commitment by resort businesses to form a nonprofit organization aimed at privately funding “substantial, tangible annual projects that the community would expect and deserve.”

And his last words served as a somber reminder for the whole council.

“My office looks over the Hilgenfeld Mortuary,” Faessel said, with somewhat of a joking tone. “That view reminds me that fame is fleeting, and history will recall us for what we do, not what we say we will do.”

Contact Thy Vo at or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

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  • Paul Lucas

    I would add taking Brandman off ocwd before he can help

  • Darkbeer

    Who lost the draw and got the two year term and has to face election earlier than the other three who got voted in this November?

    • Cynthia Ward

      City Clerk Linda Andal drew chips from a bag with numbers to represent each of the Districts in play. And in front of hundreds of folks carefully watching her, while holding breath…she drew “3.” Dr. Jose Moreno will be running again in 2018.
      “Another Time, Anaheim.”

  • David Zenger

    “We no longer need it and it has done its job,” Kring said.

    The funniest things tumble out of their mouths when they aren’t reading somebody else’s talking points.

    This is a complete admission that the hotel kickback plan was only there for the benefit of the Kleptocracy’s favored few. Now that they got their gravy King doesn’t care anymore.

    • RyanCantor

      Right, because a four star hotel ALWAYS generates more revenue than a three star. . . err diamond . . . err . . . um . . . unless it at some point it doesn’t. Wait, what? Who’s on first?

      That woman is simply unbelievable.

    • Cynthia Ward

      Wait. There IS a reason for this. The hospitality industry is one of the most well researched businesses on earth. They all know what the others in their market are doing, they adjust room rates as a block based on demand, etc. and they absolutely know how many hotel rooms for each type of price level and amenity offering can be sustained in any given market. A study showed that Anaheim can sustain XX number of 4 star rooms, and that is where the Specific Plan for the Resort set the limit on capacity. So essentially the ONLY 4-star rooms ALLOWED, based on the number of 4 star rooms that are expected to be supported by the market, have now been allocated to subsidized developers. There is no reason to have the policy because it DID already do its job, Anaheim has now maxed out (on paper) the 4 star hotels sustainable in our market, and with no more rooms to approve there is no more reason to offer the subsidy. Of course nobody wants to discuss the fact that MOST (not all) of the rooms being subsidized were ALREADY OBLIGATED TO BE BUILT TO THAT STANDARD, based on the SAME Specific Plans for the Resort Disney insists are still in force 25 years later, in order to rely on them for their own development of the parking structure and pedestrian bridge they claim is already entitled… so we “incentivized” NOTHING!

      Which leaves this question: Do we have a case of professional negligence on the part of staff, who failed to even READ the documents they were working from? Or did staff/Council KNOW the details in the Specific Plans, and move forward anyway, which sure smells to me like fraud? And are contracts that were the result of fraud or professional negligence legally enforceable? In fact, if someone wanted to take action in any way related to that question, how comfortable are those Resort hoteliers and/or staff and/or Council about being asked what they knew and when they knew it? Just letting my imagination take a meander down imagination highway…nothing to see here, folks. it’s all perfectly OK.

  • RyanCantor

    Faessel requested, although not for action during the Dec. 20 meeting, consideration of a community services strategic plan. He also announced a new commitment by resort businesses to form a nonprofit organization aimed at privately funding “substantial, tangible annual projects that the community would expect and deserve.”

    Isn’t that the function of local government . . . specifically the entire purpose of taxation?

    Oh. Right. About that Disney . . .

    • David Zenger

      I’m a little curious about how Faessel came to be chosen as the spokesman for this enterprise. Wouldn’t that normally be the job of one of Disney’s employees?

      Why should the community “expect and deserve” anything from Disney, other than being a decent neighbor? For four years we’ve heard the same crowd in Anaheim bleating about all the good works billionaires do for us – stuff that may add up to maybe a million bucks, total. And at the same time they are shoveling cash into railroad cars out the backdoor of the city treasury.

    • Steve W.

      What’s wrong with Faessel’s idea? Do you believe community benefit projects should only be done by government? It’s my understanding Mayor Tait has a non-profit called ACT that he raises money for that performs a similar function. Is your objection to the person behind the idea?

      • RyanCantor

        What’s wrong is that Disney paraded out the Boys and Girls club the last time it asked for some corporate welfare from the city. They justified giving a few grand away as a fantastic excuse for why the city should hand over a billion dollars over 40 years.

        In short, I don’t believe for a second this is about community benefit projects. It’s about political capital.

        • Steve W.

          I just watched the video of Faessel. He didn’t say anything about Disney. He talked about “a commitment from the Anaheim Resort and Visit Anaheim” to a 501c3 being created. There was no link to any city action or policy. So I really don’t understand why you have an issue with starting a non-profit to help the local community.

          • RyanCantor

            Because I’m more jaded than you are. My opinion is straight up bias.

            The idea that Disney is not responsible for this development is . . . naive. But, we’ve established this is my bias talking. If the Resort has turned over a new leaf and decided to finally deliver on being a community of givers rather than takers of time, energy, and money– good for them.

            You’ll have to forgive (or ignore) my lack of faith.

          • Steve W.

            Thanks for your candor, but your criticism is still unconvincing.

      • Cynthia Ward

        If policies were being implemented as originally intended, with revenues being generated to the General Fund instead of back into the pockets of the special interests now offering back a fraction of the money in “charity,” we would not NEED the charity. FY 2016/17 contained NOT A DIME of General Fund for capital improvements. How could it, when the Council spends right up to the limit? The recent majority voting block did things like obligating us to the long term debt of expanding the Convention Center to benefit hoteliers, paying the bonds from the TOT promised to taxpayers as return on our investment in the Resort. Without enough funds of our own to pay for improvements or even basic maintenance, Anaheim is left groveling for grant money from outside sources, and those funds come with strings attached. Thus we get neighborhood projects designed to fit the grant requirements and not designed for the NEEDS of the actual neighborhoods the projects go into. (see turning Lincoln into a 6 lane roadway taking out an iconic business, in order to fix the sidewalks and drains and landscape that are needed, because the project has to fit OCTA’s demands and not those of the Colony the project is in.)

        Anaheim currently OVERPAYS the 1997 Disney bonds by $10MM a year, because the Finance Agreement linked to the gate Tax Exemption SHOULD have been renegotiated this year (as originally worded), and we could have reset the LPMR baseline to 2015 dollars from the 1995 baseline we have been working from. That would have released $10MM (and growing as Disney generates more revenue with Star Wars Land etc.) into the community, and WE could pay for neighborhood investments. Instead, the late great Council majority pushed ahead with the gate Tax Exemption, FAILING to negotiate a benefit to the community in consideration for the contract, frankly outright LYING about the “consideration” it was previously tied to (it wasn’t Disney’s investment in their own expansion and that was a crock to list that as a benefit to continue the policy) If we were in a better place financially, if things were fair and equitable and balanced between the 5% of the City in the Resort and the 95% of the city getting shafted for the 5%, then we would be grateful for charitable offerings. But tossing crumbs under the table for people left to starve by the overlords seated at the table lacks any semblance of fairness, and frankly lacks dignity.

        I recently sat through a big charity event where Disney execs were presented with a nice glass trophy in recognition of their donations to a food bank. But it is their own employees who are lined up for the food bank. If tourism recognized their staff as hospitality professionals in full time careers, and paid their staff based on what they KNOW is required to simply SURVIVE in Anaheim, there would be fewer people depending on charity for their groceries. But when people simply do the right thing because it is the right thing, they don’t get glass awards for their trophy case at corporate HQ. The big names don’t want us to look at what they SHOULD be generating for the General Fund, they want us to applaud them for their charity. Abusive mates still bring home flowers for Anniversaries. it doesn’t make them good spouses.