Anaheim’s City Council is not interested in publicizing the value of their public stadium and also doesn’t want the public to have much time to look over potential stadium deals before they are approved.
On Tuesday night, the Anaheim City Council voted against releasing the Angel Stadium appraisal, despite repeated calls by the public and some Councilmembers to release it.
A council majority also voted against a potential 30-day review of a final lease proposal.
Mayor Harry Sidhu called to table both of the Angels-related proposals, along with some potential rent control ordinances for mobile home seniors at the City Council’s Tuesday meeting.
“I therefore move to lay all four agenda items on the table,” said Sidhu, after claiming the proposals have already been vetted by the Council before.
“I’ll second that,” Councilman Trevor O’Neil said.
Sidhu said, “This motion is not debatable now.”
But, Councilman Jose Moreno, who successfully scheduled all the items on the agenda, kept trying to overrule Sidhu’s motion by calling for points of order.
“What the Mayor is doing is he is saying he does not want these issues discussed,” Moreno said.
“Your point of order is overruled,” Sidhu told Moreno. “As chair of the meeting, I can bring back the items as I see fit.”
After Moreno, Sidhu and O’Neil had back-and-forth questions with City Attorney Rob Fabela on what can be discussed, Fabela said Councilmembers are allowed to explain their votes before casting them.
Under Anaheim’s procedural rules, if a Councilmember moves to table an item indefinitely and is seconded, it prohibits all debate on the item — outside of Councilmembers explaining their votes.
Councilmembers Denise Barnes, Jordan Brandman and Moreno dissented on tabling the Angels proposals indefinitely.
“I believe that the Mayor chose not to speak with me, as the person who originated these items … he could’ve reached out to me as his preference to not want these items,” Moreno said.
He also said Sidhu is abusing his power in “authoritative and tyrannical way to not allow the public hearing on issues they know are impacting them right now.”
The City Council has never discussed publicly releasing the appraisal or discussed any possible public review period, despite what Sidhu said when he motioned to table all of the items. Moreno also reminded the Council the Angel Stadium items have never been discussed.
“I think it’s very telling and very concerning … I want to believe in kindness, I want to believe in compassion and I want to believe in community,” said Barnes at the end of the meeting, while tearing up.
O’Neil kept trying to call a point of order and clarify with Fabela if Moreno was allowed to keep voicing on how he was going to vote and why. Fabela ultimately left the decision to Sidhu, who allowed Moreno to keep speaking.
“You see, Mr. O’Neil, in a democracy, people like to know why you vote on how you vote,” Moreno said.
The previous Council, headed up by former Mayor Tom Tait, voted to conduct an appraisal valuing the land at both encumbered and unencumbered estimates and publicly release the final appraisal.
Fabela said, through questioning from Moreno, that there’s an open question of timing because the last Council didn’t specify when to release the appraisal.
Voice of OC open government expert Terry Francke previously said although it’s within state law to withhold the appraisal on public land, it does raise political questions.
“Well then I think the decision to withhold the appraisal, although it does rely on some legal authority, could be viewed as politically suspect. If the previous council had no problem with letting the public know what the appraisal was, then why does the successor council find that to be a problem? What’s changing their minds about it?” Francke said.
“I think the result is that it leaves some reasonable skepticism, if not suspicion, of their current motivations,” Francke said.
Fabela, during Tuesday’s meeting, echoed what Francke said.
“There’s some questions whether or not what the past Council did is binding on the current Council,” Fabela said.
Moreno, who was able to schedule the appraisal vote after two previously failed attempts, said at the Oct. 22 meeting, there’s a difference of hundreds of millions of dollars between unencumbered land, which has no baseball lease with the Angels and encumbered land, meaning the The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are in a lease with the city and occupying the land.
The city still hasn’t received a lease proposal from the Angels, but Anaheim representatives have been talking to the Angels.
Meanwhile, the Angels are worth nearly $2 billion and make $101 million in gate receipts annually, according to Forbes estimates. The team’s net profit from the stadium — after factoring in player and employee salaries and operating expenses — is estimated at $19 million a year.
Under the current lease with the Angels, the team keeps all advertising revenue and the city won’t see any ticket revenue unless the team sells over 2.6 million tickets in a year. The city gets $2 a ticket after the 2.6 million ticket threshold is met. The city also gets 25 percent of revenue above $2 million generated by other events, like monster truck and motocross shows.
But Anaheim has to put money back into the stadium every year through a combination of maintenance obligations in the lease and for some bonds stemming from the 1980s for an unused convention hall, years before the current lease was signed. The city currently pays roughly $698,000 for stadium maintenance and the bonds are expected to be paid off in 2022. Bond payments fluctuate, according to data provided by city officials, but they went from roughly $740,000 in the fiscal year 2016-2017, down to nearly $24,000 for the last two fiscal years.
The team doesn’t pay rent because the $87 million it paid for stadium upgrades in the late 1990s is considered prepaid rent. The city also chipped in $30 million for upgrades.
Tuesday night’s fight apparently also has spurred O’Neil to seek permanent restrictions on dissenting council members.
O’Neil also was able to schedule an item to address issues that keep coming back to the Council.
He also scheduled at an item that would somehow review proposed agenda items.
“’I’d like to ask for an item to return at a future council meeting … with options on how we might create a system of public vetting of council driven items and allow council and city staff to prioritize what’s important.”