Rendering of GardenWalk hotels.

Rendering of GardenWalk hotels.

I read a little editorial on the GardenWalk hotel project in this morning, which was interesting in several ways.

The paper re-stated its opposition to the subsidy agreement, which the paper says local developer Bill O’Connell would like to have on the January 29 council agenda. The editorial even urges pushing back the hearing date to give opponents more time to organize!

In case any Register editorial writers read this blog, I’d like to remind them of their own criteria from their their December 16 editorial:

  • Business incentives are permissible if the economic return exceeds the cost to taxpayers
  • The public is fully informed of these incentives and has ample opportunity express their opinions on them.

I re-phrased these criteria somewhat, but they are practically word-for-word from the editorial. They are the OC Register’s criteria, not mine.

I have supported this agreement from the beginning as something that will generate job, economic growth and increased city revenues in the long-run. Even those who oppose subsidies or “picking winners and losers”  on principle can admit that the economic return of the GardenWalk agreement exceeds the cost to taxpayers. I’d go further and argue there is no cost to taxpayers because if this agreement isn’t approved, the GardenWalk project dies and there won’t be any TOT revenue to share. If it is approved, the GardenWalk TOT being shared is revenue that hadn’t been going into city coffers and so nothing is being “taken.” Furthermore, a permanent, long-term stream of additional TOT revenue will be established.

So, the GardenWalk agreement satisfies the OC Register’s first criterion. As for the second, so serious person can say the public hasn’t been fully informed about the agreement. It has been heavily covered in the media for a year. The county employee union funded an anti-GardenWalk referendum led by Councilmember Lorri Galloway and Mayor Tom Tait, and it was one of the leading issues in the city council election. Any Anaheim resident who hasn’t paid attention to GardenWalk issue yet, never will.

The OC Register laid down clear criteria for what makes for permissible city business incentives. Objectively speaking, the Garden Walk agreement meets those criteria. It remains to be seen whether the OC Register editorial board will adhere to its own criteria.

Another part of the editorial caught my eye:

Mr. O’Connell would like the matter considered again at the Council’s Jan. 29 meeting, Mayor Tom Tait told us.

It’s disappointing that the Mayor is leaking to media about an applicant before his project is even agendized and the public notified about it. Mayor Tait has been a strong opponent of the project, but what kind of message does this send to anyone seeking city approval of a project? If the mayor or a councilmember don’t like you project, he or she will leak it to the media in order to poison the well and kill your project before you’ve had the opportunity for a fair public hearing? I’m sure that wasn’t Mayor Tait’s intent, but intended or not, that is the effect.

Intelligent people can and should be able to disagree on this issue in a spirit of good will, and if the City Council does approve the GardenWalk agreement (again), I hope opponents will allow the city to move and not continue dividing us.