Among the items on tonight’s Anaheim City Council aganda is a report from City Attorney Robert Fabela in which he states his opinion that Measure L – the so-called “Anaheim Living Wage Initiative” – does not apply to Disney.

One result of Disney terminating its tax rebate agreements with the city was it would no longer be subject to Measure L, which only applied to Resort hospitality businesses (and their affiliates, etc.) that had some kind of tax rebate or sharing agreement with Anaheim.

At that point, the union coalition sponsoring Measure L suddenly announced that when writing the initiative, it had in mind the 1996 agreement between the city and Disney that created the Resort District. Under that agreement, the city issues bonds (guaranteed by Disney) to fund the public improvements that resulted in the Resort District we know today, while Disney agreed to build California Adventure. Among the public improvements was the Mickey and Friends parking structure, which will transfer to Disney’s ownership when the bonds and interest are paid off.

The union’s attorney, Richard McCracken, claims that’s a subsidy and covered by the initiative. Call it what you want – it fall outside of what the initiative he wrote defines as a city subsidy.

Fabela threw called water on Measure L proponents’ claims:

“In summary, although there are many moving parts to the Bond Transaction, it does not appear to incorporate a direct City subsidy; that is, an agreement in which Disney is entitled to a “rebate of transient occupancy tax, sales tax, entertainment tax, property tax or other taxes, presently or in the future, matured or unmatured.” Therefore, it is the City Attorney’s opinion that Measure L would not apply to Disney by virtue of the Bond Transaction.”

Prior to Disney’s cancellation of the tax rebate agreements, the union coalition had kept this dubious claim to itself. UNITE-HERE and its allies have been talking about this initiative and the businesses to which it applies for literally months, and have never made this claim. Indeed, if they believed it, they would have written it into the initiative and weaved it into their talking points. Fabela’s opinion just throws into more stark relief the politically expedient nature of Measure L backers’ claims.

Anaheim Chamber of Commerce President Todd Ament praised the City Attorney’s opinion:

“With the Anaheim City Attorney clearly stating that Disney is exempt from Measure L, voters in Anaheim have a fresh opportunity to re-evaluate this proposal. It’s clear that Measure L will give very few Anaheim residents a raise. But that doesn’t mean its impact is small. Measure L still hurts Anaheim. By forcing the cancellation of at least two planned four-diamond hotels, Measure L will cost Anaheim over 3,000 jobs and hundreds of millions in future tax revenue. Measure L helps a few but hurts a lot.”

Fabela’s opinion will undercut the Yes on Measure L campaign to the extent voters are educated about it.  Despite the fact it doesn’t apply to Disney, it’s obvious from their campaign mailers that the unions are still trying to sell it to voters as if it does: