John Leos’ Ticket Tax Is Harmful Policy

At the Anna Drive candidate forum last week, most of the candidates in attendance endorsed the idea of imposing a tax of $1 a ticket on the Disneyland Resort, Anaheim Stadium and the Honda Center in order to fund “youth programs and neighborhood development.”

Those pro-tax candidates include government union activist John Leos, Green Party activist Duane Roberts and Brian Chuchua (who, amazingly enough, is endorsed by the OC Republican Party).

Leaving aside the fact this ticket tax is bad public and economic policy, as a practical matter it is unworkable. It doesn’t appear to have occurred to Leos, Roberts or Chuchua that the city cannot single out those venues for a ticket tax, while exempting other venues in the city. The tax would have to e applied across the board, or not at all. So if John Leos wants a new admission tax (because that is what it is) to provide dedicated revenue to fund social programs, he’ll have to slap it on movie theaters, on the Grove of Anaheim, or any other venue where people are charged for admission.

Anaheim is a major city, the 10th largest in the state of California, and being a councilmember requires significantly more than this kind of seat-of-the-pants policy improvisation, or glibly endorsing a half-baked admission tax idea tossed out at a street-side candidate forum.


  1. Interesting how Cynthia Ward is totally silent on this issue – even as she applauds her hero Shawn Nelson for endorsing this candidate who serves the largest county employee union as a board member and PAC member – and champions broad tax increases in Anaheim.

  2. the city cannot single out those venues for a ticket tax, while exempting other venues in the city

    Why not? (Honest question. Is there a law?)

  3. Anaheim First, Cynthia Ward went silent because it was made pretty clear that nobody here wanted to hear anything I had to say. I troll over now and then to read, but why post if my views are not debated, merely attacked? But if you are asking for my viewpoint on this…I will share, with a little history for the out-of-towners who lack background on the formation of the Resort.

    I do not know how this got to be John Leos’ ticket tax…the gate tax is nothing new, it was part of the original plan when the Resort was formed and gate tax went hand in hand with newly imposed TOT to pay for the improvements to the area. It made sense, as the single greatest beneficiary of the improvements appeared to be Disney-it actually seems to me less of a tax and more of a users fee tied to the entity that drives the need.
    But the fees were renegotiated (exempt for 15 years) in exchange for bond guarantee. I will simplify very long and involved negotiations into as quick a comment as I can (not that I am known for brevity) and I am still digging through documents, I have been looking into this since I heard it was coming up, so forgive the lack of detail, but here is the quick hit as I understand it;

    When the Resort was formed in the 1990s, and the bonds to fund improvements and cleanup for the VERY blighted area were discussed, the City of Anaheim was originally on the hook if TOT did not generate enough revenue for bond payment. At the time, that old stick-in-the-mud Tom Tait (then a very quiet and not terribly vocal or involved Councilman) risked the accusations of being “anti-business, anti-growth, anti-progress” but despite the push back Tait refused to vote to approve creation of the District if the City’s General Fund was at risk for those dollars when TOT fell short. (Thank God, as it turns out TOT does fall short and Disney pays into that fund, which would have decimated the General Fund.)

    So instead of Anaheim funding the bonds, Disney issued the bonds in their name, using their credit rating, (which was better than Anaheim’s at the time and got a better price) and they put up the guarantee to cover shortfall of TOT so General Fund was not responsible, which secured Tait’s agreement. But in exchange they got the City to waive gate tax for 15 years. That was….what…13 years ago? 14 years ago? Disney knows their deferral is up for negotiation now that their waiver period is coming up again, this is nothing new. Anyone wonder why they are fighting for their lives in this election?

    So sorry, but Leos can neither be blamed for “creating” a new tax, nor can he take credit if it succeeds and funds improvements later. It was on the table a long, long time ago, and it is merely time to renegotiate the deal again. Funny how the same guy who was there the first time is back again. I am oddly comforted to know that there is someone with the institutional memory of those early discussions to renegotiate now. And it is not John Leos. Sorry.

    • Matthew Cunningham

      Cynthia: it’s very simple.

      This is isn’t a fee. It is a tax. A candidate is either for it, or against it. John Leos is either for it, or against it. At the Anna Drive forum, he came out in favor of this tax, apparently without any hesitation.

      This proposed tax has nothing to do with Resort District financing. It is purely to fund social programs.

      Supporting this ticket tax is old-fashioned vote-buying: taxing these people in order to provide this other group with “free” goodies.

      Now that I have shorn off the overgrowth of your verbosity, you can tell us whether you agree with Leos’ support for this ticket tax, or oppose it.

  4. The point is not whether he invented “a gate tax” but that he is a strong advocate for a gate tax for social welfare programs. And not just at Disneyland but the city’s major venues. Why do we get a thesis instead of a straightforward answer. The truth is you would stand nowhere near Leos if Tait hadn’t endorsed him. He represents the largest public employee union in Orange County, advocates for new city taxes, and is a tireless advocate for districting which until you joined Tait’s camp was something you loudly detested and protested. Your situational loyalty and ethics sways with the wind and each election cycle.

  5. So, Matt Cunningham reports, “At the Anna Drive candidate forum last week, most of the candidates in attendance endorsed the idea of imposing a tax of $1 a ticket on the Disneyland Resort, Anaheim Stadium and the Honda Center in order to fund “youth programs and neighborhood development.”…so I wonder how “most of the candidates in attendance” became John Leos as target du jour? How did something in place a decade and a half ago become the purview of John Leos? Oh yeah, the other candidates in favor of the gate tax are not polling well enough to threaten Jordan, therefore Matt is not being paid to hit the others, only Leos. Sorry, I get it now.

    I am not defending John in the slightest, and you are partially correct, I have opposed Leos in the past, while backing Brandman with my time, energy, and money. Sadly, I have come to the conclusion that there are scarier things than the OCEA to worry about-like the crony capitalism that also has the OC Register and Shawn Nelson backing “the union guy” to balance the giveaway triplets. I figure we only have to watch the unions once a year at contract time, but the lobbyists have to watched at EVERY freaking Council meeting, it is exhausting. Given a Council majority I think they will stick Tom Tait in a corner and tell him to sit there and be a good boy, while THEY run the city without him, and by that I mean give away deals until the Council agendas look more like an OCBC membership roster. I think that team of Pringle-ites will cost us far more in special interest deals than the OCEA/AMEA ever could.

    My loyalty to Jordan did not change, Jordan’s sense of balance did. Once upon a time I thought Jordan could handle the conflict of idolizing Curt Pringle and still be his own man, just as Jordan believes he does. When he believes the BS that I somehow betrayed him and does not even grant me a phone call, then yes, I think he has tipped too far to one side. Jordan threw me to the wolves based on gossip, no I do not think he is able to balance his influence anymore. Richard and I have withdrawn our support of his candidacy because we see the very close and frankly frightening connections between Jordan and his mentor, and we have concerns about him as a leader who is able to say no when needed. But that does not mean we hate Jordan the man, despite his apparent feelings for us. What more can I do?

    I expect leaders to work for the sign they put in my yard, they earn it from election to election, and if I think someone’s position or allegiance has shifted than I am not obligated to continue backing them. Unless you share my last name or my DNA you are not assured my unconditional support no matter what the circumstances. I would offer Jordan a kidney, bail money, or a daughter’s hand in marriage (if I had unmarried daughters left) but I cannot offer him my vote this year.

    And if you think The Mouse is bugged that MANY candidates, not just Leos, would like to see the (15 year old, not brand new) gate tax at least discussed when the grace period is over in the next year or two, how do you think they are going to handle Jordan when they see that Los Amigos videotape where Jordan agrees to support “living wage” for hotel workers? Since you just said that we cannot apply a gate tax to Disney without imposing it across the board to all entertainment venues, one assumes we also cannot impose a living wage policy on only new hotels without including it across the board.

    • Cynthia Ward will defend anything that comes out of John Leos’ mouth. She has no principles.

    • Why is Cynthia spilling her guts about her changing view of Jordan Brandman? Did anyone ask? Does anyone care? Her comment reads like a guilty conscience leaking out.

  6. Matthew Cunningham

    Good grief, for a self-described “truth teller” (a truly laughable appellation) you sure do dance around the topic.

    And since you may not have seen my earlier warning, Cynthia, I will repeat it: if you cannot control yourself and be civil, then you will not be allowed to comment here.

  7. Matthew Cunningham

    One more thing: I would refer you to Tom Tait’s first State of the City. Go to the part about unfounded pension liabilities. Then come back and tell me how little damage OCEA/AMEA can do to the city’s fisc. It is becoming clear your antipathy toward and obsession with Curt Pringle has unhinged your views of city politics and governance. I criticize John Leos for supporting a new tax and you come unglued. I’m hard pressed to see what conservative agenda is advanced by Leos’ election.

  8. Matt: Wait a minute, when was i not civil?

    Mamma Mia: AnaheimFirst accused me of “situational ethics”, which led me to explain my shift is position this year. I am spilling my guts because I do feel awful at being on a different side, this has been heartbreaking for me, but given what i feel is a compromised set of values I cannot continue to support him as a candidate, while I continue to love him as a friend, knowing he will never again accept that friendship. I really would be the bitch I am accused of being if I did not feel some guilt at that.

    Zebediah: You clearly do not know me.

    And…once again I got sucked in to an empty argument. AnaheimFirst taunted me for not commenting, but when I do the sock puppets come out and refuse to debate the topics and merely waste my time with attack. When y’all are ready to discuss the issues and not my personality I may be back. Doubtful.

    The topic for discussion is not Cynthia Ward, it is an empty argument that one candidate (John Leos) is leading a position that even Matt Cunningham’s original post admits that most of the other candidates support, Leos is not leading the charge, and the idea of the gate tax is not only at least 15 years old, it was valid enough that Disney did not argue that it was unlawful or punitive, they simply swapped it out for the public benefit of guaranteeing the original bonds. If anyone wants to discuss the topic let me know.

  9. Cynthia Ward has pulled all support of Jordan Brandman because he didn’t return a phone call? She needs to medicate – talk about wild paranoia. And the proof of her betrayal isn’t random gossip – it’s all over her blogs and posts elsewhere in the media. Brandman doesn’t have to guess about her behind the scenes machinations – they are on display everywhere.

  10. Also, notice how Cynthia Ward continues to dodge the question of whether she supports a gate tax at city venues! It is reminiscent of how she continues to dodge the question on who paid for every red cent of the legal tab to sue Lodge over his legal name. I’m certain there is a FPPC investigation in her future!

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