It’s no secret I have a contrarian point of view on the what should happen between the city of Anaheim and the Angels as both sides begin the process for negotiation on the Angels lease. And I have very strong opinions on the redistricting of Anaheim city council districts and a proposed light rail system to the Anaheim resort that sure looks like the Walt Disney Company wants taxpayers to pick up the tab for a system that stands to benefit Disneyland.
The Angels are a significant economic engine to Anaheim and Orange County. The city hasn’t done much to develop the area near the stadium in nearly 50 years of its existence. In my opinion, Angels Stadium should be replaced with something new, in Anaheim, near the current ballpark. My biggest critics are people who haven’t attended an Angels game in years or ever. I say let Arte Moreno have a shot at developing it. You have to spend money to make money sometimes.
Because of these positions, I’ve been accused by other bloggers and friends in Democratic circles of being on Curt Pringle’s payroll, of being on “the side of the bad guys in Anaheim,” that “Matt Cunningham is feeding me talking points,” and that my political positions on the Angels must mean I’m being paid, my business is gaining new clients, or otherwise benefitting from my “pro-business” standpoint.
None of this is true.
I’m not for sale and not for rent, and unlike others in the blogsphere, I don’t use blogging as a business development tool for new legal clients, paid blogging/website projects, or piano playing gigs. I also hold no elected or appointed office with my city, the county, or the Democratic Party. So any suggestion that this hobby of mine generates any financial benefit to me or my business is not accurate (and frankly demonstrates a weakness in debate).
Surrogates arranged for me to speak with Anaheim council member Kris Murray about a week and a half ago. We had a long discussion — at least 90 minutes — off the record. And then she agreed to an on the record interview which you’ll find posted below.
From a policy standpoint, we agreed to disagree on matters pertaining to the Light Rail project near Disneyland and on council redistricting. I found her to be smart, pleasant, and knowledgeable on the issues we discussed. I didn’t find her to be evil incarnate, “Maleficent” the evil Disney queen, or a litany of other phrases used to describe her that you wouldn’t want your wife, daughter or mother to ever be called. I’ll go out on a limb and say now she’ll likely never get the support from this blog for any elected office moving forward but there’s no reason not to engage her in a detailed discussion on policy. And publishing her answers doesn’t mean we agree with her on policy issues. Dialogue is important.
Now that Ms. Murray is putting these statements on the record, readers are free to address them specifically.
Q. Before we get started, would you like to make any statements or address any specific misperceptions?
KM: I ran for City Council to accomplish positive things for the city. On a personal note, I’m a wife and mother – and a working professional, in addition to serving as a member of the City Council. My husband and I are active as volunteers in our community, very involved at our son’s school and a number of activities including sports and Cub Scouts.
My fellow council members and I are all people with families, loved ones, and history in this City. Our backgrounds, affiliations and perspectives are unique and, sometimes lead us to differing conclusions to the same problem. But I believe strongly each and every member of the Anaheim City Council cares deeply about our city.
I am proud of my record over the past three years to serve Anaheim residents, support policies to grow jobs and economic development and improve the quality of Anaheim neighborhoods.
Q, There’s been criticism from a number of fronts that attempts to blame Mayor Tait for allowing Mr. Fitzgerald time to state anti-Semitic and homophobic comments was “wrong” and even “gutter politics.” You’d stated that Fitzgerald was “an ally of the Mayor” even though he (the Mayor) denies it. Can you clarify your understanding of the relationship between Tait and Fitzgerald?
KM: Do I think that Mr. Fitzgerald is an “ally of the Mayor”? No, nor did I ever characterize him as such. But rather said that many of the most venomous attacks toward the Council are coming from “supporters of the Mayor” (that is a direct quote from my interview). Over the past year, the use of offensive language, personal attacks and outright hate speech has escalated in Council Chambers and in Anaheim generally. It has caused many in our community to think twice about attending a council meeting – or to stop attending council meetings altogether.
While Mr. Fitzgerald is no stranger to Council Chambers or shock inducing comments, his last rant went beyond the pale by any standard. However, that outburst did not seem to give any of the speakers present that day much more than a moment’s pause. As the meeting wore on and Councilmembers had the opportunity to speak we had to shout down members of the audience to be heard. All of this is clearly seen in the video archive of the meeting and is truly disconcerting.
As Mayor, there are certain powers enumerated by the charter and there is responsibility, first among them to preside over city council meetings. As presiding officer, it is the Mayor’s responsibility to maintain order and civility – when hate speech is used, it should be strongly denounced – when council members are being shouted at – the gavel is there to maintain order – even when as Mayor and presiding officer, you are opposed to the action being considered.
All that being said, I think the outcomes of this painful incident were positive ones as it forced each of us to take a step back and assess. The Mayor extended an invitation to Councilman Brandman to work on an education initiative with him and I supported the Mayor’s call for a Council resolution denouncing hate speech. And I think we all came to a realization that we agree on much more than we disagree on and when we have disagreements that we can respectfully disagree.
(Ed’s Note: If you watch the video, Murray says there are allies of the Mayor in the audience and that hate speech was uttered. Both facts are true. But she didn’t identify Mr. Fitzgerald as an ally of the Mayor. That was something Tait interpreted. I watched the replay a couple of times. In my opinion, it was a deflection of the question Rick Reiff asked, but it wasn’t what Murray critics/Tait fans said it was either).
Q. Can you please recount your attempts to get the Mayor’s attention to react to Fitzgerald’s hate speech and other such instances that have occurred from the dais? Why didn’t anyone on the council use their public comment time/opportunity to address what Mr. Fitzgerald said?
KM: For months, I have consistently spoken against this growing problem, and I will continue to be a voice for those who want to engage in a reasonable debate on issues, without resorting to hate speech or character attacks. We have to find better ways to handle our disagreements otherwise all sides stop listening and that benefits no one. Again, I think our last Council meeting was a big step forward and I am grateful to the Mayor for seeking clarification from our City attorney and honored to support his resolution.
Q. Are you confident the Mayor and the city attorney will address any future attempts at hate speech more quickly?
KM: The entire Anaheim City Council, including Mayor Tait, spoke in unison at our last meeting that we will work together to denounce hate speech and ensure civility in council chambers.
I firmly believe Mayor Tait wants what is best for our city, and we will work together to ensure the chambers are a place where all residents are welcome, can be heard and feel safe.
Q. Critics contend that services to Anaheim’s poorest residents have suffered under the watch of this council majority. Can you clarify this perception?
KM: With united leadership and professional experts at the helm, while many California cities are seeking bankruptcy protection, Anaheim is enhancing quality-of-life services – particularly in our lowest income areas.
The past three city budgets have been adopted unanimously by the Mayor and City Council. We have worked together over the past three years to improve services– and ensure they are allocated equally across all neighborhoods. In fact, we have invested significantly more over the past several years in the central and western areas of the city where the needs have been greatest.
The city recently completed an exhaustive study that clearly outlines the allocation of services by the four neighborhood district areas. The City’s finance director Debbie Moreno went to great lengths, working with all city departments, to break down general fund expenditures by census tract. What the report proved is the allocation of core services is even across the city and that the City has invested significantly in capital programs over the past several years in the Central and Western areas of the city where the needs have been greatest, compared to the eastern (hills) areas of the city as has been alleged by some political organizations. (note: the finance director only studied general fund expenditures – so she did not assign the expenditures for the major transportation projects and resort area that are paid with direct assessments or state/federal revenue sources to the south neighborhood area so as not to distort the per capita expenditures in this area.)
Like all cities, we’ve been affected by the economic downturn. But because of the diversity of Anaheim’s economy, the strength our resort area and private investments across our city – our general fund is growing. For the past two years, we passed a balanced budget which restored the city’s cash reserves and provided millions in funding for police, fire, parks, libraries and other core city services.
Q. You’ve been described as the single greatest champion against council districting efforts; Anaheim in the largest city in the state without this sort of election process. It’s clear that changes in how council members are elected have to be made. If you’re against the redistricting plan, what plan would you favor and why?
KM: There are a number of reasons I believe that at-large voting systems are better for all residents over district-based systems. First and foremost, that at-large voting maintains the largest number of representatives for each resident. Today every resident has five members of the city council sworn to serve the city but under single member districts, residents would only have one council member and the office of Mayor to respond to their interests or concerns.
At large systems also require the legislative body to govern in the best interest of the entire city rather than carving the city into wards where representatives are no longer responsible for the overall fiscal health of the city or the delivery of services citywide. Most by-district cities in California today are facing severe budget shortfalls resulting in significant reductions in city services. I do not want to see this happen in Anaheim.
The Anaheim City Council voted to place two city charter amendments on the next ballot to create residency-based council districts, ensuring broad neighborhood representation on every council, and increase the city council from four to six members.
This districting system now in place by ordinance, and with ratification by Anaheim voters, brings our city in line with other Orange County cities and agencies such as Santa Ana, Newport Beach and the Orange Unified School District (OUSD), representing many of Anaheim’s public schools.
Q. There are frequent charges that this council majority is corrupt and engages only in multi-million dollar giveaways of public funds and/or assets while letting streets go unpaved, sidewalks broken and police patrols inadequate for taxpayers of Anaheim. How do you respond to these charges? (and I’d like to specifically address the $158 million Hotel subsidy, the improvements to a proposed light rail to the Resort area/Disney theme parks, and the Angels stadium negotiations).
KM: During President Obama’s address following the agreement to end the government shutdown, he stated that “We will not agree on everything … but if we disagree, let’s focus on the areas where we can agree and move forward to get stuff done.” He then said we can’t let disagreement mean dysfunction – we can’t let disagreement degenerate into hatred.
I agree with him – it is vital that at all levels of government, we find a way to respectfully disagree when we cannot reach mutual accord and then move to where we can find common ground to govern on behalf of our communities. The character attacks are baseless and counterproductive to governing effectively in Anaheim.
The Council’s efforts to expand economic activity in our city have very real and positive benefits for our city residents. To address the programs you reference:
Hotel Economic Incentive Program– Two independent economic studies – both available on the city’s website –show the overwhelming financial benefits to the city of the hotel incentive program for GardenWalk. Prior to my tenure, similar programs were voted on and have been in place in Anaheim for some time – including with the previous support of the Mayor when he last served on the city council. The program Council most recently approved increased the incentive to develop two four star hotels at the Anaheim GardenWalk from a 50 percent share of Transit Occupancy Tax (TOT) to 70 percent for 20 years. These hotels will still pay 100 percent of sales tax and 100 percent of property tax. The economic analysis clearly shows that these hotels and this incentive program will provide millions in new revenue once they are built and operating for general fund programs. Under no circumstances does this program reduce funding for city programs or negatively impact the city’s general fund –the debate is over the amount of new revenue the city will receive during the life of the agreement, once and if they are built and operating.
Anaheim Rapid Connection (ARC) –ARC is an essential part of the city’s planned transportation program, designed to reduce congestion on local streets and roads and facilitate the expansion of the Convention Center and resort area that receives more than 20 million annual visitors today and thousands of employees daily.
The Anaheim resort area generates approximately 50 percent of the city’s general fund revenue and that funding is growing because of investments in the resort area and recent improvements to the Disneyland Parks. The city needs to manage that growth effectively and limit impacts on local neighborhoods. ARC and ARTIC are essential to local and regional commuter transit services.
ARTIC is the center of the LOSSAN (Los Angeles – Orange – San Diego) Corridor – the second busiest commuter rail corridor in the nation today. As the population of Southern California grows, transit plays an important role to the greater regional transportation network. ARTIC and ARC are valuable components of that network and will be paid with local, state and federal transportation funds – funds that could not be used to support other city programs. The City Council has committed unanimously that there will be no impact on the city’s general fund to construct or operate.
Q. Back to the Angels, what’s the biggest misconception out there about the MOU?
KM: Our MOUs are non-binding and simply established a list of terms identified by the city and the Angels to produce a starting point for negotiations. Nothing has been ruled out and everything is on the table. The Mayor has brought up some salient points that will now be added to the discussion items and thoughtfully considered. In that respect, the MOUs are doing exactly what they were intended. There is simply no truth to the idea that this is a done deal. We have a long way to go and I’ve asked the City Manager to bring back a plan for Council consideration to conduct a robust community outreach program to be conducted throughout the negotiations process.