Last week, I had a spirited debate with Anaheim’s Dr. Jose F. Moreno on social media. I respect and admire Dr. Moreno for a number of reasons because while we agree on many things – the most important things I hope – there are things we are not going to agree on. The debate prompted some research and I felt it best to share here.
The debate centers on the recent deal with the City of Anaheim and Disney. Dr. Moreno spoke passionately about the issue at the city council meeting and he’s made a number of comments on Facebook that warrant a response.
On July 16, he wrote:
“Ugghhh…that sick feeling when Democrats endorse democrats that brag about giving corporate giveaways and subsidies including giving a multi-billion dollar company 100% local tax exemptions for 45 years. All in a city of over 330,000 people with one… yes one public swimming pool and child poverty rates increasing. Que pasa???”
We’ll note Dr. Moreno, as a city council candidate last year, endorsed the Republican candidate for mayor over the Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate, so I’ll add my own commentary “when Democrats endorse Republicans who block union contracts and any economic development at the expense of business clients in nearby Garden Grove.
Let’s do the easy one’s first. There is no gate tax or entertainment tax proposal before voters so to call the deal with Disney a corporate giveaway is inaccurate. The deal that was struck is a continuation of a deal already in place that has transformed Anaheim’s resort district from cheap motels and terrible family restaurants with significantly nicer and stronger tax-generating businesses that rely on Disney theme parks for business.
Second, Anaheim has one public swimming pool. This is true – and it’s also true for most cities in Orange County – one public pool. Some cities don’t have one period. Irvine has one and limited use of one high school pool.
Lastly, Child poverty rates are high in Orange County, period. Los Angeles County has the highest rate and Latino and African American kids are more directly affected than Asians or Caucasians. Child poverty rates are decreasing slightly, but still way too high. In Anaheim, child poverty rates are around 27.8%, more than 4 percent above the state average.
Moreno wrote: “Dan…when people have jobs and they are still in poverty…that is called “working poverty”… and since Disney tax-exemption cheerleaders bragged of all the jobs Disney brings…and child poverty rates have gone up …what does that mean Dan? Disney jobs and the ‘multiplier’ effect of more jobs in the area related to Disney tourism contributes to increased poverty rates…simple basic economics Dan.”
Then Anaheim School Board member Al Jabbar chimed in:
“Dan point is why give away the barn when you know that they (Disney) need to make that kind of investment (1.5 billion in their parks) any way to compete with their competitors in so cal. I love the fact that they would create that many jobs( quality vs quantity of course should be considered) but why give away the option to protect Anaheim tax payers 10 -20 years down the line – In case we need it. As I mentioned at the council least we can ask is for these corporations to come invest in our schools and Anaheim city to create a line item on their budget to invest in schools.”
Moreno came back with:
“Over 5 year period 2007-2012 Anaheim Public schools had to cut over $90 million collectively forcing deep cuts in staffing including classified personnel — majority of whom live(d) in Anaheim….class sizes were increased; services-programs reduced; summer school completely cut; and arts/music programs slashed…During this same period the Resort was booming with Disney raising prices to its park from $63 to $95 with record revenues/profits; compensation for executives…oh yes…and working class to working poor parents of our schools saw their wages largely stagnant in comparison to profits being made including hotel workers having to march the streets as Disney was trying to impose an unfair and undignified contract in a 4 year labor struggle. And after all those cuts and financial destruction due to corporate greed…Disney made no overtures nor accepted any on how they might help in mitigating the financial devastation in our schools/communities. Anaheim schools instead were raided by benevolent privatizing interests convincing parents that their schools are failing due to public nature of schools. A sinister and cynical strategy described beautifully in broader global contexts by Naomi Klein in her seminal book ” The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”
(editor’s note: I bolded this statement for emphasis because based on my research, this isn’t true.)
So my takeaway here is that Moreno believes Disney’s tourism business and the resort district creates working poverty and that Disney is somehow responsible for the economic downturn from 2008-2012 and didn’t do anything to help schools. Mr. Jabbar believes corporations need to invest in schools and that Anaheim ought to create a budget item to help fund Anaheim schools, perhaps following the Model in Irvine where the city council matches contributions dollar for dollar up to help fund education and administrative expenses so more money can be used in the classroom (something I agree with BTW, but Dr, Moreno seems to think that Measure BB raised taxes to do this and it did not; Measure BB allocated resources from the city’s budget surplus to schools). For Mr. Jabbar, I suggest Anaheim adopt Irvine’s school fundraising model for the Irvine Public School’s Foundation and lobby the City to match corporate giving — like it’s done in Irvine.
But let’s get back to the subject at hand: Disney and Anaheim.
For fiscal year 2014-2015, the Disneyland Resort has contributed more than $17 million to charities throughout the communities the resorts are based. Disney employees, cast members who participate in VoluntEARS gave nearly $1.5 million. Additional cash donations from Disney to area non-profits went towards KaBOOM park builds. The Walt Disney Company provided more than a quarter million in contributions. The total contributions to Anaheim in 2014 was a shade over $3 million.
$3 million? Not enough for a multi-billion dollar corporation you say? That’s on top of the sales taxes generated at Disneyland Resorts, the jobs at the Park and construction at the park, the R&D behind new attractions, and marketing spends all of which benefit Anaheim’s and the Orange County economy in a very significant way. If you don’t want Disney’s $3 million, tell them and see if you can make up the difference from other businesses in Anaheim (Tait & Associates for example).
Mr. Jabbar might like to know that Disney’s made contributions of cash and volunteers towards outdoor education, outdoor science scholarships and teacher training for sixth grade classrooms. Disney helped build a garden at Walt Disney Elementary and provided a three year sustainability plan and curriculum for teachers.
Additionally, there are CREATE grants (Creative Resources Enabling Arts Through Education) that benefits OC schools which provided more than $33,000 in funding to Anaheim kids in Anaheim City, Anaheim Union, Centralia and Magnolia School Districts serving nearly 8,000 students. The program began 21 years ago and Disney has contributed nearly $2 million to these schools since its inception.
Other contributions from Disney to Anaheim kids include:
Class Act – Educational outreach efforts from the Orange County Pacific Symphony with a goal of bringing the Class Act music education program to more thna 3,000 Anaheim students annually.
Band Concerts – The Disneyland Resort partners with the Orange County Philharmonic Society to offer a concert program that allowed more than 1.5 million second graders throughout Orange County to participate in this music education program since its inception; this includes tens of thousands of Anaheim school children (maybe Gwen Stefani was one of them).
MIND Research Institute Math Fair – Disneyland supports the MIND Research Institute by heling to fund both transportation and breakfast for underserved Anaheim students and families to attend the first ever MIND’s Math Fair at UC Irvine.
P-21- Disneyland Resort professionals participated in the first ever P-21 mentoring program in partnership with the City and Anaheim Union High School District. This program matched students with 10 mentoring professionals from the resort.
Big Brothers Big Sisters – The Disneyland Resort provided a grant to a number of Anaheim youth through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County.
Children’s Drinking Water Festival – Disneyland Resort is a major sponsor of this annual 2 day event. The festival reached a thousand Anaheim 3rd – 5th graders, and 4,000 other kids from around OC.
Disney directly supports a number of Anaheim-specific initiatives, including:
- Oak Canyon Nature Center – EcoFun Faire.
- Gift of History- Disneyland was the major sponsor for the Annual Gift of History event held at Anaheim Stadium attended by more than 15,000 third graders across the county with over 1,000 coming from local Anaheim schools teaches students about the history of Orange County.
- Million Acts of Kindness- Disneyland gave a $5,000 donation for Anaheim City School District for Anaheim students completing a million acts of kindness.
- Family Park events
- Anaheim Summer Concerts – Disneyland was a sponsor of both family friendly Anaheim summer concert programs; Summer Nights Under the Stars and the Anaheim Summer Concert series
And Disney is a major supporter of ACT Anaheim, the charity promoted by Tom Tait during this year’s state of the city address. Specifically, the Accelerate Change Together Anaheim (ACT Anaheim) grant initiative targets gaps in service for underserved Anaheim youth and is designed to augment the ability of the nonprofit sector to engage kids and parents in programs that strengthen neighborhoods, families and communities.
ACT Anaheim was launched last year by Angels Baseball, the Anaheim Ducks and Disneyland Resort, which together committed $3 million to benefit Anaheim youth over a three year period. As of last month, $2 million was raised with $1.8 million being donated to nonprofit organizations to continue this important work.
Simply put; The Walt Disney Company gives more money to Anaheim charities and Anaheim schools than any other corporate entity in Anaheim or Orange County. The second and third most generous companies are The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Anaheim Ducks. No one else comes close.
Disney has an economic impact on Southern California’s economy to the tune of $5.7 billion dollars. That’s up a cool $1 billion since 2009 and up from $3.6 billion in 2005 according to Disney-commissioned studies by independent firms. http://www.ocregister.com/articles/study-665882-resort-disneyland.html
From the Register story:
Over the past five years, the resort’s employment has grown at a 34 percent rate, faster than the 6.7 percent for the state of California, said Ford Scudder, chief operating officer at Arduin, Laffer & Moore Econometrics.
Disneyland Resort is the county’s top employer, employing more than 28,000 people. It also contributes indirectly to the creation of 25,000 other jobs in Southern California, Scudder said.
Disneyland visitors spend $1.4 billion annually in food, beverage, accommodations, retail and transportation at establishments outside of the resort, the report said.
The resort also accounts for nearly a third of Orange County’s $9.6 billion tourism market and generates $370 million in state and local tax revenues.
“It’s pretty clear that Disneyland is a popular family entertainment destination and is one of the top reasons why people choose to visit Southern California,” Scudder said.
Arduin, Laffer & Moore Econometrics pulled the data from confidential Disney financial records and public information from the city of Anaheim and some nearby counties. The consulting firm used the IMPLAN modeling system, based on the theory that when new money enters a community, much of it is re-spent in the local community.
Back to Moreno’s issues with the company.
Is Disney CEO Bob Iger overpaid at $46 million a year? Yes he is. But if you want to complain about it, become a shareholder in Disney and voice your concerns to the Board of Directors. Disney is not a democracy. Disney can choose where it wishes to expand and by how much. Their job is to answer to customers, investors and shareholders.
Is Disneyland too expensive? Yes it is for average families. But go there on any given day and the park is crowded with …. average families. If the price of the ticket gets too high, fewer will go. Buying Disney products or going to Disney parks is completely voluntary.
And like it or not, decisions by Mr. Iger as Disney CEO resulted in the acquisition of Marvel Comics and Studios, the Star Wars franchise, new parks in China, and new attractions in Florida and Anaheim – all of which make money for the investors who fund large projects, bad movies and great ones, and new park expansion. His decisions have paid off for the company and its shareholders and to the customer.
Should Disney pay a living wage to those employees at the lowest level of their payroll. I sure think so, but the best way to achieve this is via unions or leaving these low paying jobs unfilled until the company has to pay more for labor.
The best way to lift someone out of poverty, or working poverty, is a good job. Disney has job training programs designed to help people who are janitors, cashiers, or kitchen help in food services train for more skilled and better paying positions within the company. No one should want to be a janitor for 35 years, and for those who can take advantage of the program, Disney offers a way up.
Pixar chief John Lasseter once worked at Disneyland as a guide on the Jungle River Cruise making the same wages other cast members who worked that ride made. Now he’s responsible for Disney’s Animation unit and is well compensated for it. Not every Jungle River Cruise guide will climb that high, but there is a path for those who see it.
I continue to pose the question: without Disneyland and the Disneyland Resort, what is Anaheim’s economic engine? Where do the jobs come from.