This evening at 6:00 p.m., the Voice of OC is holding a live online discussion of the Angels agreement, featuring a panel of a dozen “professionals.”

Who are these professionals?

There’s Jeannine Robbins, a council gadfly and Anaheim City Council candidate who has filed a lawsuit (using her paper People’s Homeless Task Force as a cut-out) alleging the December 2019 approval of the sale violated the Brown Act.

Kelly Aviles, who represents the Voice of OC in its public record lawsuits and is Robbins’ attorney in her lawsuit against Anaheim.

Anaheim Councilmembers Denise Barnes and Jose F. Moreno are on the panel.  Apparently all members of the Anaheim City Council were invited. They were also advised by the City Attorney not to participate – for the obvious reason that the other panelists include the plaintiff and her attorney who are suing the city they govern.

Another panelist is former Mayor Tom Tait – whose gratuitous public flogging of team owner Arte Moreno resulted in zero progress on negotiations with the team for the last six years of Tait’s tenure.

Also participating are State Senator Tom Umberg and Assemblyman Tom Daly – who have opposed the agreement.

Another panelist is Ada Briceno, chair of the OC Democratic Party and co-president of UNITE-HERE Local 11, which represents hotel workers. Last year, Briceno organized a misinformation-filled “community forum” where she announced her intention to use any Angels agreement as a campaign issue to elect a council majority – a majority that would carry out her goal of mandatory unionization as a condition of approval for the two hotels planned the for stadium site re-development.  Fortunately for Briceno, that falls outside the Voice of OC‘s “special interests” narrative.

There’s Neil deMause, whose runs the Field of Schemes website, which is dedicated to criticizing agreements between cities and sports franchise. deMause brings expertise to the table, but his media quotemeister status rests on his reputation as a severe critic of stadium deals.

LA Times sports reporter Bill Shaiken and OC Register reporter Alicia Robinson bring bona fides, but the panel to heavily stacked with outspoken critics of the Angels agreement.

Plus it is being moderated by the Voice of OC – whose articles on the topic are so biased it blurs the lines between reporting and editorializing.  All in all, the anti-agreement bias of this panel is really baked in.

Fuzzy Math and Fake News

We can expect both Moreno and Robbins to repeat their claim the stadium site is worth “at least” $650 million.  Will the Voice of OC press them – I mean, really press them – on backing up this claim? Or just let it stand, unchallenged?

According to the official stadium site appraisal -which Councilman Moreno voted to commission and whose release he spent much of this year demanding – pegs the fair market value of the stadium site with a stadium and 12,500 parking spaces at between $300 to $320 million.

Without a stadium – i.e. the Angels leave Anaheim – the fair market value of the site at between $375 and $475 million.

So, from where did Moreno and Robbins did conjure their $650 million figure?  They extrapolate the $4.3 million per-acre price paid a number of years ago by developers of adjacent The George luxury apartment building. That is not an apples to apples comparison. That’s like pricing your house based on how much a comparable house sold for years earlier at the top of the market.

But don’t expect skeptical questioning of Moreno or Robbins. Or that the Voice of OC will press Moreno on his absurd claim least year that the stadium site is worth $1.2 billion.  That’s unfortunate, because it might lay bare that Moreno doesn’t care if either number is right – he’s just pulling up rail spikes trying to derail the agreement. This is about November council election politics for Moreno.

If Moreno were honest, he would tell voters he wants to the Angels to leave – because that is the only way the stadium site will fetch a higher price. Instead, he tries to have it both ways – saying he wants the Angels to stay while simultaneously claiming the city can get the no-Angels price.  Not that he’ll get called him on this double-talk.

Perhaps Councilwoman Denise Barnes will be asked why she is disregarding City Attorney Roger Fabela’s strong advice not to participate in on online video forum on the Angels agreement with plaintiff who is suing the city over the agreement (and the plaintiffs attorney). Barnes and Moreno are putting their personal political agenda ahead of their fiduciary duty as councilmembers. Fabela’s advice is sound and totally obvious because Barnes’ and Moreno’s participation could jeopardize the city’s legal defense and the agreement with the Angels. Perhaps that’s their intent.

The Voice of OC itself has engaged in Humpty-Dumpty journalism in its coverage of the issue. The agreement calls for selling the stadium site – including the stadium, as is – to team owner Arte Moreno’s SRB Management. At that point, whether SRB builds a new stadium or keeps the existing one, it is on SRB’s dime. There’s no taxpayer responsibility or subsidy.

That threw the usual critics like the Voice of OC for a loop. They expected a subsidy. Their standard narrative depends on it. Confronted with the lack of a subsidy, the Voice of OC invents one by changing the meaning of the word.

SRB Management agreed to pay $320 for the site. The city wants SRB to provide community benefits – a 7-acre signature park above-and-beyond what development rules require, and 770 units of affordable housing. Those negatively impact the value of the land. The park acreage cannot be developed, and SRB must pay to design, build and maintain it. Affordable housing units sell or rent for less than they cost to build. Imposing that requirement reduces the value of the land. Under the agreement are charged off the purchase price.

The Voice of OC calls that a “taxpayer subsidy” or a “land subsidy.” It’s nothing of the kind. It bears no resemblance to the definition of a subsidy. But the Voice of OC’s Anaheim reporting narrative demands a subsidy, and so one is conjured. As Humpty Dumpty told a confused Alice, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” replied Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

Good question. Don’t expect it to be asked at this online panel of Angels agreement critics.