Anaheim City Council members are at odds over key issues like the currently secret Angel Stadium appraisal, the sale of city-owned lands, and whether or not the city’s laws actually empower Mayor Harry Sidhu to informally limit his colleagues’ speaking time.
Sidhu at the beginning of Tuesday’s City Council meeting threatened to formalize his currently informal but contested speaking rules if council members can’t be “fair” and “courteous” during debate.
His rule caps council members’ time to talk about each issue on the city’s agenda to two rounds of five minutes, with additional time if Sidhu allows it.
“If we can conduct ourselves appropriately, and respect the need to balance robust debate to do so in a timely and efficient manner, we do not need to adopt this rule,” Sidhu said in his remarks. “If we cannot, then I will have to bring this back for the adoption in a formal policy.”
As the mayor, Sidhu is allowed a certain control over the procedure of Council meetings that City Attorney Robert Fabela called “inherent powers,” which he said enable Sidhu to control the length of Council discussion on city issues.
But Councilman Jose Moreno challenged Fabela’s explanation of Sidhu’s power, citing a section of the Council’s rules for meetings that require a motion and five-vote Council approval to set time limits on discussions about individual issues.
“The way I read this, it means by default there are no limits of debate on this council unless someone moves to limit debate,” Moreno said.
Later in the meeting, Moreno requested the adoption of a policy that would have given council members more time during closing remarks to request issues for future Council discussion.
The proposed policy would have created a new slot on the agenda for council members to report news from the regional boards they serve on, which would be separate from the portion of time allotted for closing comments.
That way, Moreno said, council members don’t have to “compromise” their 10 minutes that they could also be using to introduce new policies for future debate.
The Council struck that request down 6-1, with only Moreno voting in support.
“I’m going to dissent on this, the same way I have dissented on the other changes, with regard to the structure of our agenda,” Councilman Jordan Brandman said before the vote. “I do not like the direction this has been going in.”
He added: “I don’t feel the need to have (this) placed on the agenda, I don’t feel the need for time limits, I don’t feel we need to even have” another council member’s support “to agendize something.”
Angel Stadium’s Secret Appraisal
City Manager Chris Zapata’s announcement Tuesday that the city received a “draft” appraisal on Angel Stadium, and that the Council will see it behind closed doors at their Aug. 13 meeting, prompted a debate over public involvement in the city’s negotiations with the Angels baseball team.
The arguing began when Moreno during closing remarks requested making the appraisal public after the Council reviews it at the next meeting. His request lacked enough support from the Council to place it on the next meeting’s agenda.
“Proper protocol is that it’s always heard in closed session before it’s heard in public session, so may I just suggest we do that first and we take it from there?” Brandman said after maintaining he had “no problem” making the appraisal public at some point.
“And I’m just simply saying, two or three hours later, sunshine it to the rest of the public,” Moreno replied.
Fabela said that while the appraisal isn’t subject to public disclosure under the California Public Records Act “until a transaction has been completed,” that doesn’t mean council members can’t disclose it beforehand.
“To make an appraisal public prematurely or have it become politicized, could undermine our effort to reach an agreement in the best interest of our Anaheim residents,” said City spokesman Mike Lyster over the phone.
Zapata said there’s “no question” the public needs to see the appraisal, but that “the same day” the Council sees “a 277-page document is not the day.”
“Absolutely,” replied Sidhu, who is on the city’s lease negotiating team.
Moreno maintained the Council is “playing” with the public by not being “willing to publicize it at the same time or evening that the rest of us get it.”
The appraisal will be an important, “but not the biggest,” piece of the city’s negotiations with the Angels, according to Lyster.
Its assessment of the 150-acre stadium property’s value and potential development opportunities around it could guide the terms of a future lease agreement.
Sports stadium experts have previously told Voice of OC that Anaheim should be looking to get solid shares of the stadium’s revenue streams instead of focusing on the development around the stadium.
And there’s public concern over the negotiations after the City Council, in March, removed the monthly negotiations update at its meetings.
Lyster said the lead lease negotiating team doesn’t have a scheduled start date for talks.
“Best we can say now is we are looking for progress by year-end.”
Sale of City-Owned Land
The city’s sale of two properties it owns to the Anaheim Transportation Network (ATN) have garnered scrutiny over how the city helps out projects backed by the resort industry.
Anaheim created ATN as a quasi-governmental nonprofit in 2002 to operate shuttles bringing people to the resort area and reduce street traffic by visitors and tourists flowing into the city.
ATN says it can’t currently pull together the financing to purchase the lands, so it requested a loan from the city and will pay the full $9.67 million cost in 10 years. ATN will also pay interest, which would be an additional $1.3 million by that time.
The Council voted 5-2, with Moreno and Councilwoman Denise Barnes abstaining, to approve the purchase and loan agreement for both sites — one located at South Claudina Street and the other at the southeast corner of Lincoln Ave and Manchester Ave.
ATN says it needs the sites to build maintenance facilities for its fleet of new, electric buses bringing people to the Anaheim Resort District area, which surrounds the Disneyland Resort, the Anaheim GardenWalk mall, and a number of hotels.
Barnes before the vote asked whether some aspects of the deal were “within the realm” of City Development Director John Woodhead’s authority.
Moreno expressed skepticism over the city loaning money to a project backed by the resort district and argued any resident trying to buy land from the city wouldn’t have received that type of financial assistance.
Woodhead, responding to both concerns, maintained he didn’t make the recommendations “unilaterally” and said all of the loaned money would be paid back to the city by the end of the 10-year period, so there technically isn’t a use or subsidy of public dollars.
ATN’s Executive Director Diana Kotler said the transit body has a “symbiotic relationship with the city,” and that “ATN was created by the City of Anaheim,” not by the resort community.
“At the request of who?” Moreno asked her.
“At the need of the specific plan that was adopted for the growth and development to occur within the Anaheim Resort and Platinum Triangle (around Angel Stadium) areas,” Kotler replied.
Moreno repeated his question. Kotler repeated her answer.
Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC intern. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @photherecord.