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 Commerce; fire 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.”
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