Anaheim Insider here.
Another day, another breathless blog post from the Voice of OC attacking a member of the Anaheim City Council majority for a perceived “scandal.” The M.O. has become all too familiar – tenuous, almost acrobatic leaps in logic and innuendo to create impressions of impropriety and conflict. Selected quotes from experts decrying the “appearance of conflict” then applied to the situation at hand. The most recent hit piece targets Jordan Brandman. The latest by Adam Elmahrek follows his style by “suggesting”, “implying” and otherwise dancing around charges of impropriety and casting doubt on the subject’s professional integrity. Of course, when you sort through all the hushed implications and rhetorical questions, you will find no actual evidence of wrongdoing to back up his claims, but hey, the headlines read well.
Yet for this series of conflict stories with no real…conflict…you’d never know by reading the VOC that one member of the Anaheim City Council has real, actual conflicts, and lots of them. We’re talking of course about the VOC’s best source…err…friend… err…whatever…Mayor Tom Tait. If the VOC actually covered Tait’s series of political conflicts and improprieties, they wouldn’t need oblique quotes and veiled implications, they could just cover facts. But as an OCEA-funded political blog, this would not suit their founding purpose, so don’t hold your breath. Fortunately, your Insider is here to remind and report, in detail, the real conflicts that exist in Anaheim…all with Mayor Tait.
1.Conflicts involving the land he owns near Angels Stadium that he put in the name of his daughter only after he had crossed the line and engaged in negotiations prior to the end of California’s one-year restriction.
2.The deep conflict in the fact that Tait and Associates maintains contracts at OCTA, yet the Mayor kicked his colleague off the OCTA board so he could take the (effective) Anaheim seat on the Board while still holding those contracts.
3.Or the mammoth conflict – not to mention hypocrisy – involving Tait’s contracts with the City of Garden Grove and the developer behind the Great Wolf Lodge and Water Park that received free land and TOT rebates – essentially the same economic assistance Tait and VOC regularly make personal attacks against the Council majority for their support of the Garden Walk hotel agreements.
On that last point, the Orange County Register just reported (excluding Tait’s involvement) that one of the Garden Grove business owners effectively had his property taken out from under him to provide the free land to the Great Wolf developer. Tait and Associates, who has contracts with both the City of Garden Grove and the developer for this hotel project, is profiting off this deal. The free land provided by the city at the expense of another private business completely violates the spirit of the law as outlined by the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision (http://www.ocregister.com/articles/ice-674322-city-joe.html). The Great Wolf project has been wholly subsidized by Garden Grove at the expense of taxpayers, businesses and low income residents. Worse still, property owners were kicked off their land and then had to watch it be handed to Great Wolf…for free; furthermore, adding insult to injury, while the mayor is decrying Garden Walk, the Great Wolf project from which he is profiting will pull TOT, sales and property tax revenue from the City of Anaheim. This one issue alone is a financial and political conflict for Tom Tait worthy of a Summer Blockbuster in 3D.
If Murray, Brandman, Kring or former council member Eastman had done any of these things, they would be publicly drawn and quartered by Voice of OC. But somehow, because it’s Tom Tait, the silence is deafening.
At this week’s Council meeting, the City faces another contentious item. In this case, an important issue is being impacted by a close personal and professional relationship between a paid lobbyist and a member of the Council.
You see what I did there. You probably thought I was referring to some relationship between Curt Pringle and a member of the Council majority. But in fact, I’m referring to Mayor Tom Tait and his close friend, advisor, political consultant, and paid lobbyist, John Lewis.
The issue deals with fair housing services for Anaheim’s lowest income residents – after a months-long process the city’s staff report said the following: “The City, as a recipient of HUD funds, is obligated under various laws to affirmatively further efforts to combat discrimination in housing, directly or indirectly, on the basis of Race, Color, Religion, National origin, Age, Sex, Pregnancy, Citizenship, Familial status, Disability, Veteran status, or Genetic information…the recipients of these services are low and moderate income families who need guidance in understanding and/or resolving various housing issues including lease provisions, collection and return of a security deposit, eviction actions and/or housing discrimination.” These recipients are single mothers, immigrants, refugees, working poor who need assistance to access and maintain Section 8 housing.
City staff completed a seven-month procurement process with two applicants: the Fair Housing Council of Orange County and the Fair Housing Foundation, which in recent years has become the preferred provider for 10 cities in Orange County including Irvine and Huntington Beach. Staff sought approval to contract with the Fair Housing Foundation, given the significant level of improved services they are committed to providing Anaheim’s most vulnerable residents. The resident-led Community Development Advisory Committee (CDAC) – reviewed and approved staff’s recommendation to contract with the Fair Housing Foundation.
While Council is always expected to do their due diligence on every issue, these are the kinds of technical issues in which the staff recommendation carries great weight. There are few if no philosophical issues at stake…just staff and the city committee’s technical recommendation after months of research.
But the local Apartment Association of Orange County (which represents the smaller apartment owners in Anaheim, the one’s most likely to house Section 8 recipients) is fighting this recommendation because they like the Fair Housing Council more than the Fair Housing Foundation. Their members came out in force at the last council meeting complaining that the Fair Housing Foundation is more litigious and imploring the council members to override staff’s recommendation because they perceive one service provider to be “easier” than the other.
Here comes the glaring conflict that the Voice of OC refuses to report: Former State Senator, paid lobbyist, longtime Tait family friend and Tait’s paid political consultant, John Lewis, has been hired by the Apartment Association to lobby the mayor and members of the council to override the staff recommendation and in favor of the Fair Housing Council. Lewis attended the last council meeting when the item was first considered and clearly did his job well, at least as it stands with regard to prepping his reliable vote at the dais. When the item came up, Mayor Tait had Lewis’ talking points well-rehearsed. Tait argued with staff that the incumbent has done a fine job and if “it isn’t broke” why would the city make a change. Ignoring the potentially significant improvement of services for Anaheim residents who need Section 8 housing, Tait is clearly supporting the Apartment Association and his friend, John Lewis. Effectively, John Lewis is being paid to lobby his friend and client, Tom Tait, to overturn staff’s recommendation and leave residents with the status quo rather than work in their best interest to provide substantially better and new services that the Fair Housing Foundation could provide.
Is it fair to call out the Lewis-Tait friendship and professional relationship and how it manifests in one agenda item where Lewis is now lobbying Tait and the Council? Well, ask yourself this. If the situation instead were that Fair Housing Council and the Apartment Association had hired Curt Pringle & Associates to lobby Kring, Murray and Brandman, how would the VOC cover the story? You know the answer. The very idea would have them foaming at the mouth.
And yet once again, with a very real, very personal and very political conflict for Tom Tait, what do we hear from the Voice of OC?
Cue the crickets.