Anaheim Insider here. It’s been a while.
Christmas is coming early for Mishal Montgomery, Mayor Tom Tait’s policy aide and consigliere, in the form of a 56% pay increase.
Last week, in her second official act as the District 1 councilmember, Denise Barnes read from a prepared statement directing city staff to place this huge pay hike on the December 20 agenda. Her first official act was agendizing a vote to kill the streetcar project, saying her constituents don’t want it. But do District 1 voters want to boost the pay of mayor’s on-staff hatchetperson by $40,000? From $71,453 to $111,453? Is giving a six-figure salary to someone who works for one city official – the Mayor – something District 1 voters asked for or that Barnes campaigned for? No, it’s not.
The Barnes-Tait-Montgomery rationale is that Anaheim has “an at-large mayor and six council districts.” Anaheim has had an at-large mayor since 1992. The change to district elections is irrelevant to the mayor’s duties, which haven’t changed. The job is no bigger now than it was when Tait took office. It’s arguably been diminished. Barnes’ justification is just spin. If Tait’s council aide deserves to be paid $111,453 a year because he was elected city-wide, then so do the council aides of Councilmembers Kris Murray and James Vanderbilt.
Barnes’ request made plain she is Tait’s sock-puppet, an extension of his political will. It speaks volumes that her request for staff to look into more programming for District 1 parks had to wait until after she attended to Tait’s political priorities. Tait and Montgomery recruited Barnes. Montgomery actively lobbied West Anaheim activists to get on board with her campaign. ,She managed Barnes then, and manages her now.
The Mayor should have agendized this request himself; instead, he and his council aide used Barnes to do it, leaving their recruit to take any political blowback for a spending request that does nothing for District 1 residents.
Montgomery stage-managed the Tait-Barnes-Vanderbilt-Moreno agenda-packing show last Tuesday. Barnes’ request to boost Montgomery into the six-figure compensation range was part of careful pre-council meeting coordination among Team Tait. This was most laughably obvious in the case of Councilman Vanderbilt’s request to set the council-approval threshold for spending items at “$500,000.” Vanderbilt was clear as a bell. There was no mistaking he said “five hundred thousand dollars.” But since Mayor knew that Vanderbilt was supposed to say $50,000, he pretended not to hear what everyone else did in order to prompt his council ally to say the correct amount.
What makes the difference is how badly this whole show reeks of hypocrisy. How many times have all of us heard Mayor Tait complain about major items being placed on the council agenda without (in his opinion) giving residents enough time to review? On the GardenWalk deal, on the Angels negotiation framework, on the TOT tax rebate deals with Disney and the Wincome Group. “What’s the rush?” Tait asked when the latter deals were on the agenda and he wanted the vote continued until he’d returned from a meaningless photo op at the White House.
This Tuesday, maybe Mayor Tait can explain what the rush is now? The council meets on January 10 and 24. Why can’t he wait until the holidays are over and Anaheim residents have an opportunity to focus and review his team’s over-stuffed agenda?
Those rules only apply to Tait’s opponents and policies he opposes. Heaven forbid he should follow those standards himself! So, with only a few days notice, he and his council aide schedule a bunch of major votes for the council to take up on on December 20, when Anaheimers are shopping, traveling, wrapping presents and generally having their time taken up balancing work, family and preparing for the biggest holiday of the year. Team Tait deliberately packs the council agenda with their political agenda when they know Anaheim residents aren’t paying attention. These are the same people who drone endlessly about transparency and bringing City Hall “closer to the people,” but they decide to make big changes at City Hall when the people are totally distracted by the Christmas holiday.
If there is a place above and beyond hypocrisy, that’s where Team Tait is living.
To the victor go the spoils. But after six years of insufferable moral posturing and self-righteous lecturing, the least Mayor Tait and his allies could do is apply to themselves the same standards they apply to others. Shameless.