The OC Register published an editorial on Sunday abut the court decision on the Garden Walk project, and impending city council re-vote on the agreement.
Like other recent OCR editorials about Anaheim, this is a puzzling one. It’s not surprising the libertarian OC Register is opposing the agreement, but there are some claims made that aren’t staked to reality – regardless of one’s position on the agreement.
Take, for example, the headline: “A Backroom, Sweetheart Deal.” Even on an opinion page, shouldn’t the editorial present some evidence– any evidence — to support the “backroom” claim?
There was nothing secretive about the agreement — which was actually amending an existing agreement. The original agreement was discussed and voted upon in public, where anyone who cared to could comment. Notwithstanding the inflammatory “backroom” claim — or even the court ruling – the latest iteration of the GardenWalk agreement was also publicly discussed and voted at a January 24, 2012 Anaheim City Council meeting.
So, again I would ask the OC Register – what “backroom”?
There was also this gem from the editorial:
“Indeed, there is little doubt that, had Anaheim residents been properly advised that the council planned to conclude its discussion of the contract with an actual up-or-down vote, the council meeting would have overflowed with opponents of the extremely generous tax break to Mr. O’Connell.”
First, it was no secret the GardenWalk agreement was on the agenda — specifically, Item 23:
“Discussion to consider an amendment to an existing economic assistance agreement and provide direction to staff to develop an agreement with the developer (GardenWalk Hotel Project).”
Note the presence of the verb “to consider” — which means “to think carefully about, especially in order to make a decision.” In other word, a vote was a very distinct possibility.
That the organized opponents of the agreement – predominantly various constituencies of the Left — were not at the council meeting was on them. It was no secret the agreement was making it’s way through the city; and if it is an egregious as opponents claims, shouldn’t they ave mobilized for the January 24 council meeting to make their voices heard? Even if it was not certain a vote would take place?
Much of politics is about showing up. GardenWalk proponents were organized and on the ball. Opponents were asleep as the switch. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.
Also, if there really was deep public opposition to the GardenWalk deal, why did the “Take Back Anaheim” initiative – which would mandate a city-wide vote on any agreement with a hotel developer involving a TOT revenue split — sputter and fail once the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA) stopped funding the signature-gathering? That’s a strong indication there was no grassroots support for the initiative.
The OC Register concludes the editorial thusly:
“Put the entire matter before Anaheim voters next summer and let them decide whether the city will get a fair return on the incentives it has proffered the hotel developer.”
When did the OC Register editorial board become a proponent of not only ballot-box budgeting, but embracing direct democracy, one of the great pillars of the Progressivism?
“Take Back Anaheim” is not a taxpayer-protection measure; it places no limitation on the Transient Occupancy Tax – it only carves out a voter-approval requirement for a very particular use of TOT revenue. If the city wanted to do a TOT-split with an ice-skating rink in the Resort Area – no voter approval. TOT-split with a hotelier – voter approval required.
In calling for putting the GardenWalk agreement on the ballot, the writer of the editorial appears to have forgotten that Anaheim voters just had the chance to sound off on it last month. It was called the city council election — and the Garden Walk agreement was a prominently discussed issue.
GardenWalk agreement supporter Jordan Brandman was hit hard on the issue with negative mailers from the OCEA, the Republican Party of Orange County and other quarters. He was the top vote getter.
John Leos — the OC Register’s endorsed candidate – ran as a very vocal opponent of the GardenWalk agreement. And despite $400,000 in government union spending and the endorsement of the OC Register, he finished a weak third.
In light of the above facts, perhaps the OC Register can explain why the Anaheim City Council should call a special election and palm its governing responsibilities off onto the voters who just elected a GardenWalk proponent and defeated a GardenWalk opponent?