A Reader Deconstructs VOC’s “Blame Disney” Article on ARC

Last month, the Voice of OC ran an article on the Anaheim Rapid Connection project that basically made the argument that the whole reason for building ARC is to help Disney but Disney isn’t being asked to pay for it. I thought it was a silly argument, which strikes me as akin to condemning economic activity and the automobile companies for necessitating freeways.

A reader sent me an e-mail that made excellent points that regarding the VOC article, and I’d like to share it to further inform the discussion:

Adam’s argument makes no sense at all. The reasons he gives for the higher cost per mile of Anaheim’s proposed system over other recently proposed systems in other cities are:

1) Higher labor costs in California generally and Orange County specifically, which isn’t Disney’s fault.

2) Higher costs related to environmental regulations, which aren’t Disney’s fault.

3) More vehicles per mile, due to greater demand, which arguably is Disney’s fault but only because they’re a successful business and tourist attraction, which in turn serves the public interest by bringing people here to stay in our hotels and buy goods in our stores and restaurants.

4) Undergrounding of power to the streetcars, which again is arguably Disney’s fault, but it also serves the public interest in keeping the Resort Area one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

5) Purchase of right-of-way within the Resort Area to build it, which isn’t Disney’s fault.

Of the five reasons Adam gives for the higher cost of Anaheim’s proposed system, only two of them can be attributed in any way back to Disney. The two that can be attributed to Disney really boil down to the fact that Disney drives a lot of traffic to the area, and therefore there is a substantial need for more transit capacity.

I truly don’t understand this attack on the streetcars from the Left. It is the Left that should be championing more mass transit throughout Anaheim and the county as a whole. The options in the Resort aren’t really to build the streetcar system or nothing, it’s to build the streetcar system or to build more roads. We’d be better off giving people more choices on how to get around Anaheim, whether that be in cars, on mass transit, by bike or by foot.

Finally, it is fair for Disney to say that they won’t build a third gate unless the traffic in the Resort Area is alleviated  Right now, if they added a third gate and increased the number of people coming into the Resort by a few tens of thousands a day, the roads would be at a standstill and people would have a very poor experience at Disneyland and in Anaheim more generally. Anaheim’s economy, just like Disneyland’s profits, is based on the quality of services we can provide to the tourists that visit Anaheim. At worst the city’s general fund breaks even, but more likely the Resort brings in more money than it takes to provide those quality services to the tourists, including transit services, and that extra money can go into our residential neighborhoods and communities.

What Adam and the like-minded are missing is that the better off the Resort does, the more resources there will be for the services they’re demanding. Everyone in the city, from east to west, is better off when Disney and the Resort prosper. Few in the city pay enough in taxes, either through property taxes or sales taxes, to cover the cost of services we receive. Our services are subsidized by the tourists, not the other way around.

I would add complementary point regarding undergrounding the wires: a great deal of money was spent beautifying the Resort District in the 1990s. It makes perfect sense to avoid undoing that work by undergrounding the wires powering the streetcars.

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  1. Friend of Anaheim

    There is another cost driver that is not really discussed and that is that the rails for the Anaheim streetcar will be in concrete, not asphalt or gravel.

    This is necessary becasuse Katella and Harbor, where the streetcar is currently proposed to run, are presently concrete, due to the level of traffic on them. If you put asphalt around the tracks, it would break down quickly do to the street traffic volume.

    Compare that to the cost of Santa Ana’s system. That system will be built on much less travelled streets (asphalt should suffice) and on the Pacific Electric Right of Way, where gravel could be used.

    The cost for mile of track in Anaheim therefore, will be much much higher than for the SA system.

    • Colony Rabblerouser

      Please don’t confuse me with additional facts. I prefer to grandstand about giveaways to Disney without distractions like facts.

  2. And that would be a lovely argument, if you agreed that it is the responsibility of taxpayers to mitigate the traffic impacts of one highly profitable corporate entity so that they may create an even more profitable expansion. If I opened a BBQ place downtown, it would fall to me to put filters on my air fans and make sure that BBQ smoke didn’t bother the neighbors. Yes? Noise impacts from businesses are buffered by sound walls, at the cost of the business. Every business entity deals with mitigation of their impacts. But when Disney creates traffic jams of people flocking to their parks it somehow falls to us to put up a mega-project to transport their paying customers and subsidized employees to their front door. Huh? The company just put in $1.4 billion to beef up Cars Land, and they did not do it as an altruistic gesture to benefit the economic development of Anaheim, they did it to disperse the crowds packing into Disneyland because they were turning guests away. Now that Cars Land has pulled guests over to pack Cal Adventure, they have raised prices as a deterrent to attend, because they cannot accommodate all the public that wants to come see them. They need the third gate more than Anaheim does. So if they want to expand their already highly profitable, dividend paying entertainment venues, then they can bloody well put in to transport their own guests!

    I’ll tell you what. In recognition of the economic benefit they do generate, how about we find some areas of back road that few use, like Manchester….or Alro…nobody seems to be using Alro. And we go ahead and create a blacktop-covered private road for them to use their own tram system, like the one they use to run from the parking garages, operated by their own employees, to bring folks from the remote parking lot at ARTIC, which is all that boondoggle ever was to begin with. I would guess those trams run faster and at higher passenger count than the streetcars they want us to foot the bill for in the first place. The trams require no overhead catenaries, or undergrounding, there would be minimal property takes, and if Disney wants to spiff up the roadway with landscaping and make-it-disappear-green fencing, they are welcome to do so. Problem solved.

    In times past I think Disney would have dealt fairly with Anaheim in bringing a project like this in with a mutual benefit. We closed Cerritos for Walt, we did a lot for Walt to help make his dream a reality, and Anaheim has been made better for it in most part. Once upon a time we worked well together, but that was back when Disney had the manners to ask nicely how we could partner, instead of playing the bully, pulling strings behind the scenes using Curt, and undermining the directly elected Mayor who represents residents. I detest the heavy handed behavior of Disney of late, and much of it can be traced to the Government Relations office and some individuals who think they get to run the City of Anaheim by remote control. The power has gone to their heads, and their behavior presents them as such bad corporate neighbors that I refuse to spend another nickel with Disney until Burbank cleans up that mess, and reigns in the monster they created. We did not elect Carrie Nocella or Todd Ament or any of the others who think they get to call the shots. And the term limits we chose booted Curt Pringle, although somehow he forgot to get the memo that he is not in charge anymore.

    When Disney and the Chamber and the rest of the bullies recognize there is more to this City than their own selfish agenda, perhaps the people of Anaheim will be more willing to come to the table and negotiate about what needs to happen for that 3rd gate. Anaheim will survive without it, but Disney is going to pop like an over ripe teenager’s zit without relieving the pressure of human mass flooding into their gates. It is Disney that is in need, and they better learn to say PLEASE and THANK YOU when asking the public to clean up the mess made by cars driven by their spending guests! This one is not going to fly in Anaheim, no matter how hard Curt lobbies, no matter who gets threatened with election opposition, folks do NOT like what is happening, and piggy backing this thing on top of the Gardenwalk is the kiss of death for those leaders stupid enough to do the bidding of the Mouse here. That is the only good thing about this mess, it is so big and expensive and ugly that it gets the attention of voters who might not have noticed the bad behavior of leaders up until now. It will haunt them all the way to the ballot box, and we can be done with this. So go right on ahead and continue to tell people who are out of work and dealing with blighted neighborhoods that we are supposed to foot the bill for Disney to have the most expensive streetcar in the nation so they can expand and make more money, while simultaneously refusing to even discuss a gate tax to give back to the community they are drawing from. Go ahead…keep making that argument.

    • Matthew Cunningham

      Boy, Cynthia – you always sink to the ad hominem attacks, don’t you? It’s a trait that makes your crocodile tears about incivility so laughable. i read your comments — when I can carve out the time to wade through them — and I am consistently struck by how super-saturated they are with conspiracy theories, personal obsession, leaps of logic and the grandiose conviction that you are the Voice of the People.

  3. This sounds like Cynthia Ward’s version of Barack Obama’s “you didn’t build that!” riff.

  4. reasonableguy2

    That was the stupidest diatribe you have yet to post Cynthia. What next, you go to work at City Hall for Tom Tait?

    Mr. Pringle was the best leader Anaheim has had in many years. Under his leadership Anaheim continued to grow jobs, while at the same time protecting taxpayers. That is what Republicans do. You should become one.

    His mistake was endorsing Tom Tait for Mayor. We have all seen how that has turned out. Thankfully for the residents of Anaheim, the City is run by our four council members and not the Mayor.

  5. I didn’t think it was possible for Cynthia Ward to sound less sane than Jason Young. Thank you Cynthia – that was actually entertaining!

  6. Anaheim Avenger

    Wow – someone has a bee in their bonnet.

    What Miss Ward fails to realize is that the resort IS PAYING for their fair share of Resort Area Improvements, renovations and in general supporting themselves and the citizens of Anaheim.

    Through the TOT and TID taxes they provide to the City, they in turn subsidize our city services AND pay for the up keep of the Resort District, not to mention the charitable contributions they continually make to our youth and neighborhood organizations. The sales tax revenue alone is enough to keep our city budget in the black this year and all boats will rise because of it.

    But wait – there’s more. The beautification and expansion of the Convention Center helps bring in thousands of convention goers – have you been to NAMM or Wonder-Con shows? Huge crowds that flooded the streets that had nothing to do with Disney but directly benefited the city in sales tax revenue, hotel stays and more.

    She won’t be happy until they tear it all down. And what good will that do? No tourist, no subsidies for the under served neighborhoods that so desperately need extra services. Just once I’d like to hear a rational statement from Miss Ward that includes the following…how she intends to balance the budget or provide services without Disney, the Convention Center, hotels or public-private partnerships?

    Oh yeah, more taxes.
    Go ahead Miss Ward…keep making that argument.

  7. Oh I am well versed in the concept of the Resort paying for their improvements, I do not begrudge those one bit, You forget I not only used to drink the KoolAid I once mixed 5 gallon buckets of it to dole out the public, and what we said back then was true, the mouse provides benefits to the community. However, the streetcar is NOT covered by Disney-who is the primary beneficiary according to the City’s own documents. Instead ALL of the hotels get to pitch in to cover most, but not all, of the local funding, plus gas taxes that should have gone to other projects to benefit all of us and not just one part of the City.For the vast majority of the money Natalie Meeks and OCTA are looking to the Feds for funding. Why should taxpayers-especially federal taxpayers with not even a peripheral benefit, pay for the traffic mitigation of one private company? The argument that it is the left pushing back is bogus, OCTA directors like Jeff Lalloway and Todd Spitzer are far from left. It is the conservatives who don’t like the crony welfare being doled out to politically connected businesses who can well afford their own costs. Disney uses buses to bring their guests in at Florida, on their own dime. Why are taxpayers asked to cover it in Anaheim?

    I have never said I want it all torn down, you are being a bit dramatic. But I do want the truth told. Starting with the claim we all had drilled into us, that 5% of the city produces 50% of the revenues. The staff report for the Gardenwalk says it is more like 20%. Or are we only citing the parts of the Gardenwalk report that we like? That is still 20% more revenue than we would have without the Resort, but to date nobody has answered the critical question that so many of us are asking; If Anaheim is so lucky to have this gold mine coming in, why do our neighborhoods look as bad as they do? Either we are not collecting as much as is claimed, or it has been very badly mismanaged by our leaders in the past. Cities like Cypress have no Resort, nor any real commercial tax base, yet they are a beautiful town. Brea has no Disney, they are a place to be proud of. How do they do that and Anaheim still looks like such an armpit that we have to subsidize hoteliers to get them to build something on what should be the most valuable piece of real estate in the nation? Where does all that money go?

    …and by the way, the cost of the streetcar has little to do with concrete and more to do with land acquisition, and the need for a maintenance facility on the fixed streetcar line, that is unnecessary for a public bus system on a dedicated lane, or better yet letting Disney run their own tram system. Then there are the station stops conveniently located to maximize the “economic development” of those who own the properties adjacent to the line, and of course the bridge is not going to be cheap…but then i don’t know what I’m talking about, do I?

    • Ms. Ward – you are totally incorrect. The staff report on GardenWalk does not state that the resort district only provides 20 percent of city revenue. Are you just making this stuff up now? You’ve become nothing more than a rapid dog desperately looking for a bone.

    • Cynthia, do you agree with Donna Acevedo that there is an “epidemic of police violence” perpetrated by racist cops? Do you agree with her that the Anaheim police murdered her son? Do you agree with her that the DA should end the gang injunctions?

      Donna Acevedo believes all of that. And you have attached yourself to her. You stood side-by-side with her at her press conference, and participated in her press conference. So you owe an explanation as to whether or not you agree with her radical manifesto.

      Please don’t duck the issue any longer.

  8. Sick of Politics

    Comparing Anaheim to cities like Brea and Cypress is akin to comparing Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm. Cypress has roughly 48,000 residents and a median income of 80k. Also, Cypress DID recently have financial issues and closed several schools (or so I read). Brea has roughly 40,000 residents and a median income of 80k. They also contract out their police services which saves the city money. Brea also makes decent income from their mall and shopping centers. Anaheim is the 10th largest city in CA and THE largest in the county. The median income in Anaheim is roughly 55k, drastically lower than the ones noted above.

  9. Sick of Politics

    Although I do agree that we need to revitalize our blighted areas. What is your plan to fix those areas?

  10. Cities like Cypress and Brea would give their right arms for a revenue generator and charitable contributor like the resort area and Disneyland. Cynthia Ward represents no one on this issue – if she represents Mayor Tait that Disneyland is bad for Anaheim, let’s hear him say it publicly. Most general fund city services are paid for by the funding from the resort area. Any contradiction of that should be followed by fact not hyperbole.

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