Anaheim City Council Considers $15 Million Recovery Package, Much of it Aimed at Boosting Resort Industry

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Mayor Sidhu speaks at the Anaheim City Council meeting on Oct. 29, 2019 2019.

Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu, tonight, will propose a $15 million economic recovery package, including $6.5 million to help advertise for the Disneyland-area resort industry, coming from the city’s reserve funds. 

The only document publicly available on the plan is a three-page staff report as of Thursday morning. 

The item is expected to be controversial. 

Councilman Jose Moreno is already critical of the move as a bid by the resort interests to use tax dollars to help their recovery, instead of their own reserves. 

“This is a straight up looting of our general fund reserves. It’s dipping into our reserves. It’s shameful that an industry that has cash reserves would do this. We’re still obligated to pay $80 million a year in bond payments on infrastructure for them to be successful,” Moreno said in a Thursday interview. 

“We need to ask that corporate sector to use their cash reserves, that they built up … that we helped build for you — to use it in their time of emergency,” Moreno said. 

If Councilmembers adopt the plan, $6.5 million will go to Visit Anaheim to promote tourism and hotel stays in the city. 

“I think it’s ill-timed and I think it reflects a lack of preparation and vision of our mayor,” Moreno said.   

At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Sidhu said he met with Councilmen Steve Faessel and Trevor O’Neil to begin crafting a plan, along with other unnamed “stakeholders.” 

He met with “major partners at Visit Anaheim, Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, manufacturers, restaurant owners, retailers and our other economic stakeholders in the city to start to plan for getting our economy going again as soon as the shut down orders are lifted we are open for business again.”

In Thursday’s interview, Moreno questioned who Sidhu met with and criticized him for “having secret meetings.” 

Sidhu did not return calls for comment. 

Anaheim spokesman Mike Lyster said Visit Anaheim is currently funded by the hotels and a performance review will be developed to assess the city’s $6.5 million in spending. 

Lyster also provided a list of businesses Sidhu met with, including Disneyland, the Anaheim Ducks, Angels Baseball, the Hotel and Lodging Association, and various developer and commercial industry representatives. 

Sidhu also met with Anaheim First, a group first conceived by the Chamber of Commerce

Large swaths of Anaheim’s economy have been shut down following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay home order, which closed “non-essential” businesses like theme parks, movie theaters, dine-in restaurants, gyms, sports venues and a host of other resort industry businesses that Anaheim heavily relies on. 

“We also know that economic harm that comes from minimizing the public health risk is a real blow to Anaheim. Our biggest economic engines are completely shut down,” Sidhu said at the end of Tuesday’s Council meeting. 

Moreno told Sidhu on Tuesday that he’s been trying to work with the mayor on efforts to address the fall out from business closures and sweeping layoffs. 

“I sent you various communications by email, I received no replies — disheartening, I’m trying to figure out how to work with you,” Moreno told him. “I would just appreciate replies, an acknowledgement to ideas that I’m forwarding to you so I know you’re reading my communications.” 

Sidhu said he read Moreno’s emails. 

Moreno told Sidhu that residents will be most affected by the shutdowns. 

“So when we look at economic recovery, let’s not forget about those on whose back the recovery will be — and that’s going to be the workers and the residents,” Moreno The $6.5 million Visit Anaheim spending is expected to be disbursed through three payments over the course of April, May and June, according to the staff report. 

Sidhu’s proposal also provides a $2 million grant to the Anaheim Community Foundation to provide direct assistance to residents and community nonprofits but doesn’t contain any specifics. 

And up to $6 million will be directed to homeless services and housing assistance, overseen by City Manager Chris Zapata. 

Newsom’s stay home order in efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus put many people out of work, with unemployment claims hitting record highs in the state. 

The City Council unanimously voted to ban evictions until May 31 at its Tuesday meeting and Sidhu called for tonight’s special meeting to introduce his economic plan.  

The stay home order has taken a heavy toll on small businesses, like restaurants. 

“My plan will provide support to small businesses with aggressive buying and shop/dine local programs, along with hiring locals and use local supply programs. Our focus will be on helping as many of our businesses as possible, keep people employed so they are primed and ready for recovery,” Sidhu said Tuesday. 

The proposal calls for $500,000 for a shop and hire locally program, overseen by Zapata. 

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at scustodio@voiceofoc.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio