Tragic Misreading Of Anaheim’s Financial Health

For all of Anaheim’s issues right now, financial health is not one of them.

Orange County’s largest city is in record recovery from the pandemic downturn. Visitors are back, revenue is exceeding pre-pandemic levels and our city’s economic outlook is bright.

Contrast that to the “The Tragic Kingdom of Anaheim” portrayed in John Moorlach’s June 5 opinion piece. With all due respect, the piece is misleading and wrong.

It fixates on Anaheim’s net position, or assets minus long-term liabilities. It’s a go-to for this type of narrative, and a tiresome one at that.

It’s a fact of modern economic life.

Few of us have the cash on hand to buy a $1 million house. Even with 20 percent down, you’re left with an $800,000 mortgage due over 15 or 30 years.

Mayor Pro Tem Trevor O’Neil

Lenders and credit rating agencies understand this. They look instead at your earning power and your ability to meet long-term obligations.

It’s no different for Anaheim.

The mere suggestion of bankruptcy in a piece about Anaheim is unwarranted.

Anaheim has debt and pensions. No one should be surprised by that. Those obligations are what you would expect for a $2 billion city government supported by an economy that sees more than 25 million visitors a year.

Part of our debt is from a late-1990s expansion of The Anaheim Resort. The return on investment has been a three-fold gain in visitor revenue since 2000.

That has allowed us to meet our obligations while generating more revenue for public safety and community services.

Better still, a 2019 refinancing and the strong visitor revenue we are seeing means we could see our resort debt retired early, potentially by the end of the decade. That will free up more than $75 million a year for our city.

As with large cities across California, Anaheim also has pensions. Nearly 70 percent, or $2 billion, are funded.

In years to come, we are set to see pensions fully funded as older plans give way to more cost effective plans resulting from pension reforms.

Given this, the suggestion of raising taxes is misguided. Anaheim has seen cities all around us increase regressive sales taxes, not to expand services but just to keep them the same.

That’s not the Anaheim way. For decades, we have turned to an expanding economy to fund city services. Regardless of what has recently come to light, this model has created one of California’s great success stories.

Anaheim stands alone in Orange County in providing residents, businesses and visitors with dedicated police and fire departments, reliable, cost-effective water and electricity, nearly 70 parks, 10 community centers, seven libraries and a range of neighborhood family services for some of the neediest in our city.

That hardly sounds like a city in financial distress.

We take issues of our budget, debt and obligations seriously. Anaheim carefully manages city finances for the benefit of those we serve.

While we love No Doubt, Anaheim is no “tragic kingdom.”

We are a financially sound city with a strong economy that will help us meet our obligations as we have for years and will do for years to come.

Trevor O’Neil is mayor pro tem of the city of Anaheim.

This article was originally published in the OC Register on June 13, 2022.

One comment

  1. Richard Aronson

    The new Sidhu.

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