Dozens of Anaheim residents gathered outside city hall Tuesday afternoon before the City Council meeting to protest the recent giveaway of $158 million in future Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) revenues to the developers of two Anaheim Garden Walk hotels.
The demonstration was led by Anaheim residents, including Dr. Jose Moreno, President of Los Amigos of Orange County and Member of the Board of Education for the Anaheim City School District; Arturo Ferreras, Chair, Anaheim South District Neighborhood Council; and Larry Larsen, Anaheim homeowner/businessman.
The residents are demanding that the Council place on the agenda a public vote on the giveaway, saying that the people decided to raise the TOT rate several years ago by a public vote, they should be able to vote on whether or not those revenues are given away to campaign contributors to council members.
Save Our Anaheim Resort (SOAR) Executive Director Jill Kanzler, an organization sponsored primarily by hotel developers and owners, told the council that the organization “believes in this new hotel development—This is an investment in Anaheim—This is not a giveaway.”
“This deal is done;” Kanzler said. “It’s moving forward—This is a good thing—This is a good project—This creates millions in TOT.”
To Kanzler’s point about millions in TOT, those millions are being given away to the hotel developers.
Dr. Jose Moreno, member of the Board of Education for the Anaheim City School District, reminded the council of what we teach 3rd Graders. “I’m just at a loss how to explain to my kids how the council decided to give a holiday to one developer as we cut services” to the residents of the city.
Resident and council candidate John Leos called upon the Council to let the people vote on the issue. “Let democracy take over and if it’s the will of the people, then let the hotels be built.”
Leos added that he found it “suspicious “ the the city manager’s contract had come up for review after just two months on the job, and withing a month of his speaking out against the giveaway. “I hope this isn’t politicization of his position because he stood up for what was right;” Leos said. “when you upset the establishment, the establishment will come after you. I hope this isn’t it.”
William Grisolia had probably the best line of the night. He spoke in opposition to the giveaway saying that while the vote to amend the existing contract did not require public comment because it was only an amendment. “The point is the size of the amendment,” Grisolia said, “and size does matter—leading to one of the largest TOT giveaways in perhaps the history of the United States—That size, because it was so great, it did indeed matter and was something that should have been submitted for public comment.”