Anaheim is about the enter a new era as Mayor Tait will be replaced and other city council seats are up for election. The OC Register asked each candidate the following question: “How can the relationship between Anaheim and its largest employer, Disney, be improved, and should any kind of tax incentives to encourage development be an option?” We are sharing their responses as well as our analysis on how Disney may view the races. For the candidate’s positions on other important issues, see the OC Register’s full questionnaire. 

Mayor

  • Ashleigh Aitken: “I was encouraged that Disney and Mayor Tait hit the reset button on tax subsidies. If Disney continues engaging with our communities in a meaningful way, I’d look forward to partnering with them and championing their involvement in our city. Taxpayers should not be on the hook to fund development projects for extremely profitable corporations. As mayor, I’ll insist any future proposals be fair and equitable, with a strong community benefit and taxpayers in mind.”
  • Cynthia Ward: “In 1996, Anaheim taxpayers committed $1.5 billion in bond payments, underwriting Disney’s last expansion. I propose audits to ensure all parties honor obligations of that partnership through 2037. If Disney wants benefits beyond those agreements, they should negotiate in good faith, rather than funding divisive campaigns to elect officials who give them our dividends promised as return on taxpayers’ investments. Incentives should be used only when clearly defined public benefits cannot otherwise be credibly accomplished.”
  • Robert Williams: “Disney, the chamber of commerce, and the city of Anaheim all need to sit down together for a better Anaheim. Disney can have certain tax incentives but they need to make concessions to the city as well. Disney isn’t the enemy and the city of Anaheim needs to stop villainizing them.”
  • Tony D. Martin: “Because Disney is the largest employer and taxpayer in the city of Anaheim, it is important to have a positive working relationship with the company. Disneyland accounts for 19 percent of Anaheim jobs and paid more than $125 million in taxes, bonds, levies, fees and contracts, directly benefiting Anaheim, its residents and local schools. I want Disneyland to pay for and build affordable housing developments in Anaheim, possibly employing veterans to build.”
  • H. Fuji Shioura: “I am a supporter of tax incentives to encourage entrepreneurs to invest their money, time and projects in Anaheim that will, in turn, drive job creation, grow tax revenue for our city, and build up our infrastructure to further encourage future investment and prosperity from additional entrepreneurs. Therefore, I will foster a friendly, successful, and mutually beneficial business environment for Disney and other businesses to continue to invest, prosper and hire more people in Anaheim.”
  • Harry Sidhu: “I applaud the recent “reset” decision reached by both Disney and Anaheim. Disney and the city both agreed to end the tax incentive program for Disney’s proposed hotel. Ending this program has removed one of the major sources, if not the biggest source, of contention between the city and Disney. We need to be able to work together as partners in order to provide the benefits that all Anaheim neighborhoods and families deserve.”
  • Lorri Galloway: “There should always be open dialogue between Anaheim and Disney, which is its largest employer and revenue stream. I would be open to tax incentives to encourage development only if there are clear and tangible Anaheim community benefits, local hire requirements, and fair negotiations that benefit developers as well as its workforce. Businesses are created to make money. It is government’s job to make sure every deal the city enters into benefits Anaheim’s people.”

Laughing Place Analysis: 

  • One would imagine Disneyland is excited to work with a new mayor after a couple of difficult years working with Mayor Tait.
  • While Disney may never again enjoy the type of partnership they enjoyed under Mayor Pringle, most candidates seem to be willing to have conversations with Disney regarding the future.
  • The one notable exception is probably Cynthia Ward who has long been very critical of Disney’s influence in the city.
  • According to the OC Register, the leading candidates are Ashleigh Aitken, Lorri Galloway and Harry Sidhu.
  • All three seems to be middle-of-the-road when dealing with Disney, which could pave the way for major future development.

District 2

  • Jordan Brandman: “It’s been disheartening to witness the downward spiral of the city’s relationship with the Disneyland Resort over the past 18 months. District 2 residents deserve a council member who will work with Disney to ensure their private investment is providing the greatest possible community benefit – as well as hold them accountable so the city’s largest employer is doing right by all residents. You can count on me to be the neighborhood’s champion.”
  • Donald Bruhns: “Disney and Anaheim have been partners for more than 63 years and I think this partnership can continue for another 63 years and more. But, we need to make sure the relationship is equitable for both parties. While there should be incentives for business development. I also feel that Disney, being the largest employer, needs to give back to the city and its residents in tangible means.”
  • Duane Roberts: “Disney isn’t yet ready to improve its relationship with us. Their decision to terminate agreements with the city of Anaheim that would give them a $267 million transient occupancy tax subsidy to build a luxury hotel and a rebate for any future admissions taxes was a shrewd legal maneuver done with the underlying intent to avoid paying a living wage to its 30,000 workers should Measure L pass. This was a kick in the teeth to residents.”
  • Robert Trimble: “Disney is arguably the most important Anaheim partner and neighbor. We should always negotiate in good faith and provide fair terms for both the company and the citizens of Anaheim. Incentives do not encourage growth, growth encourages growth – more park visitors will generate more revenue for Disney and the city in the form of bed tax and sales tax, everybody wins. No hand-outs!”
  • James Vanderbilt (Incumbent): “Disney is the most important job creator in Anaheim, and I’ve worked closely with them to support their expansion plans. However, Disney is also a very profitable multi-billion dollar company that now agrees it doesn’t want hotel subsidies. I believe Disney’s recent decision to withdraw their proposal is good news for taxpayers. As a councilman, I want to assure Disneyland officials that I would not support a “gate tax” during my term in office.”

Laughing Place Analysis: 

  • Disney obviously would not want you to vote for Duane Roberts.
  • While James Vanderbilt has not always voted Disney’s way, he has been a key swing vote and always has reasoned analysis while seeking compromise.
  • Disney could do a lot worse than having Councilmember Vanderbilt be re-elected

District 3

  • Mitch Caldwell: “Anaheim and Disney share a mutually beneficial relationship. In November our neighbors in Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Seal Beach and Laguna Beach will be voting to increase sales taxes in their cities just to meet operating budgets and maintain current service levels. Not in Anaheim. Why? Because of the investments Anaheim residents made over the years to ensure an increasing revenue stream from the Anaheim Resort. Any options to encourage development must benefit Anaheim residents.”
  • Jose F. Moreno (Incumbent): “We all want a prosperous Disney. Anaheim has invested over $1 billion in the development of the resort district. It’s time to invest in our own children. As one of the most profitable corporations in the world, Disney does not need precious local tax dollars that we need to fund fire, police and parks. To improve the relationship with Anaheim, Disney should avoid massive funding of campaigns to influence local elections in its favor.”
  • Robert R. Nelson: “I believe I’m the candidate who falls in the middle when it comes to the resort. I’m not the Disney-supported candidate or the one who believes we need to demonize them. I understand that the resort is our largest revenue source and we need to protect it. Let’s move forward in a collaborative effort that both respects the needs of our neighborhoods and supports our resort businesses.”

Laughing Place Analysis:

  • Councilmember Moreno has been a thorn in Disney’s side ever since he was elected two years ago.
  • Through votes and political posturing, he has had the most antagonistic view of Disney on the council.
  • Mitch Caldwell appears to be more willing to work with Disney while Robert Nelson describes himself as “in the middle.”
  • This election is perhaps the clearest with three people on three different points of the spectrum.

District 6

  • Patty Gaby: “The Disney Corporation does not need our tax dollars for their projects. As an Anaheim city commissioner, I have always believed that our general fund money should be spent on vital city services and not on luxury hotels. Recently, Disney has taken a large step toward improving its relationship with Anaheim. Disneyland is great for the city and the city is great for Disneyland.”
  • Grant Heninger: “For many decades, Anaheim and its large employers were able to work cooperatively to build a more prosperous community for everyone. Over the past decade, businesses have been asking for more, and the residents willing to give less. We need leaders in City Hall who are able to talk with both sides, tone down the rhetoric, and work collaboratively to find deals that benefit everyone involved.”
  • Trevor O’Neil: “For decades, Disney has been a valued partner to the city of Anaheim. A significant percentage of Anaheim’s revenue is derived from our robust tourism economy, of which Disney is the primary driver. I will work to improve relations between Disney and Anaheim through policies that encourage investment and streamline development. Tax incentives should only be used if they are open to all comers and bring new incremental revenue to Anaheim above the incentive cost.”

Laughing Place Analysis: 

  • This councilmember will essentially replace Disney’s biggest ally on the council, Kris Murray, who faced term limits.
  • She, along with other Disney allies Lucille Kring and former Mayor Curt Pringle, have endorsed Trevor O’Neil.
  • He also happened to be endorsed by the OC Register.
 
 

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