One mantra of opponents of the GardenWalk agreement is that there was no way they could have known the Anaheim City Council might actually vote on the agreement back at its January 24, 2012 meeting, and that’s why none of them showed up to speak. I’ll present the language of that agenda item and the reader can decide for his or herself whether that is true:
“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).”
Granted, opponents won a ruling that the language of the agenda item wasn’t quite in compliance with the Brown Act (although I believe a different judge could have made a different decision).
Be that as it may — back to the “we couldn’t have known” lament. An OC Register editorial this Sunday echoed that complaint and the new mythology surrounding it that the manner in which GardenWalk was agendized was a sort of parliamentary procedural Pearl Harbor:
“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.”
Interestingly, it was clear to the OC Register reporter who wrote this January 24 story about the then-upcoming council meeting that a vote could take place:
The City Council is set Tuesday night (tonight) to consider the request from hotel developers at the Anaheim GardenWalk mall, where 866 four-star rooms would be constructed across the street from Disney property.
If the council approves the proposal, hotels would break ground by May 2013 and rooms would open at the end of 2015.
“Council is set tonight to consider the request…”; “If the council approves the proposal…” This isn’t a project proponent, but a neutral observer reporter, and she didn’t have any trouble understanding a vote could take place. It looks like the only ones asleep at the switch were opponents.
The December 16 OC Register editorial also opined:
“Now we have no problem with business “incentives” – including tax breaks – provided that the economic return exceeds the cost to taxpayers and, equally important, that the public is fully informed of the proposed incentives and has ample opportunity to make its feeling known for or against.”
It should be fairly manifest by now that the “sneak attack” narrative is a false one floated by flat-footed Garden Walk opponents. And the January 24 OC Register article reports this on the agreement:
The city would provide no money up front to the hotels, but it would give back hotel-bed taxes that would be collected after the rooms open. Hotels would receive 80 percent of the hotel bed taxes — a source that makes up the biggest chunk of the city’s budget.
“When guests pay their bills, they pay what is called an occupancy or bed tax. Such taxes are common in cities. In Anaheim, that tax is 15 percent of the room rate.
The city stands to make more money by providing the help. The project could generate $20 million annually in tax funds, according to the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce.”
That would seem to satisfy the condition laid down in the OC Register editorial.
Naturally, supporters, critics and other observers of the GardenWalk controversy will debate and disagree on these particulars. Even the OC Register is reporting against itself on this issue.