On the Anaheim City Council agenda last night was the referendum petition on the development agreements for the two 4-Diamond hotels planned by the Wincome Group. The referendum was organized and paid for by the militant hotel workers union UNITE-HERE Local 11. The council’s options were to rescind the development agreements or place the referendum on the ballot.
The council voted 5-0 to schedule a referendum for the November 2018 general election, but not before a vivid display of Mayor Tom Tait’s transformation into a post-conservative.
Tait introduced the referendum issue this way:
“There were a group of folks that got together, and were bothered by that, they circulated petitions, they got over 18,000 signatures, saying to repeal, asking to repeal or set a special election [regarding] the development agreement. That’s what’s before us today.”
What a breathtakingly misleading statement. Mayor Tait talks as if a group of residents got cheesed off at the two Wincome Group agreements and decided to put it on the ballot, grass-roots style. Tait’s whitewash is an untruth.
Contrary to Mayor Tait’s euphemizing, the referendum was not the work of a “group of folks.” As noted, it was paid for by UNITE-HERE. Their goal was to force Wincome Group into signing a collective bargaining agreement rather than risk losing a referendum. The blackmail attempt failed, and as UNITE-HERE Local 11 leader Ada Briceno admits, their scorched earth goal is now to “halt Wincome’s projects.”
“I’ve never actually had a chance to vote on this. So I appreciate the folks who circulated the petition asking for that we finally put this on the ballot or repeal it.”
Rather than condemn UNITE-HERE’s abuse of the referendum process, Mayor Tait expresses gratitude for its attempt to force a private enterprise into unionizing against its will – a blackmail attempt paid for Anaheim taxpayers. Apparently, not all taxpayer subsidies are bad.
UNITE-HERE has admitted it is trying to kill these two hotels – not the TOT agreements, but the hotel projects themselves – because the developer wouldn’t play ball. And Tait is thankful to them.
The meeting segued into the same endless anti-Hotel Incentive Policy peroration by Mayor Tait that everyone has heard a thousand times. When Councilwoman Kris Murray tried to point out that the TOT tax rebate agreements weren’t on the agenda, the mayor angrily gaveled her down, saying “You know what? I’m explaining what we’re voting on.”
Except, that wasn’t not true.
What he was doing was lecturing, for the umpteenth time, about his opposition to the Hotel Incentive Policy. But what was on the council agenda were referenda on two hotel development agreements, not the TOT tax rebate. The mayor was just spinning to re-frame the vote into his chosen political context.
The acting City Attorney, Kristin Pelletier, finally interjected to express her concerns about the Mayor’s commentary, pointing out that “the economic assistance agreements are stand alone agreements. They are not referendized and they are not agendized.”
Tait engaged Pelletier in a back-and-forth to divine if there was some way he could continue arguing against the non-agendized TOT tax rebate agreements without violating the Brown Act. Pellietier sketched a very tenuous path he might tread, but basically, in so many words, told him “no.”
At that point, Tait disregarded the acting city attorney’s advice and continued attacking the TOT tax rebate under the guise of talking about what he was told he shouldn’t talk about under the Brown Act.
Later, when Mayor Pro Tem Lucille Kring began explaining how these particular agreements and the policy in general are beneficial to the city, Mayor Tait tried to gavel her down and was asking the City Attorney to opine before thinking better of it.
Mayor Tait’s motions to repeal the developments agreements both failed on 3-2 votes. The votes to place the referendums on the November 2018 ballot passed 5-0.