On Tuesday, the Anaheim City Council split 3-3 on a proposal by District 3 Councilman Jose F. Moreno that threatens to pull the plug on the annual Fourth of July celebration and fireworks show in Anaheim Hills. Mayor Tom Tait was absent from the vote. This Tuesday, March 7, the city council will again vote on Moreno’s proposal; Mayor Tait’s vote will decide whether the annual Fourth of July parade, festivities and community fireworks show continues or closes.
Councilman Moreno wants to take operation of the city-wide fireworks sales away from the Honda Center and give it to the Anaheim Union High School District Foundation. Under Moreno’s proposal, the AUHSD Foundation would oversee selection of which non-profits (including the potentially the AUHSD Foundation itself), and that “profits that come from [sales] – once you distribute to the non-profits – would go directly to the foundation.”
Dozens of non-profits have participated in the existing model over the last two years, receiving tens of thousands of dollars. Their ability to raise funds was directly tied to how much effort they put into the program. All of these non-profits should be very concerned about this new model, as their participation would be controlled by the AUHSD Foundation. And what incentive for the AUHSD Foundation have to bring in more non-profits that are not AUHSD based, as it only takes funds out of their own pocket.
Even schools not part of the AUHSD, which includes all elementary and middle schools in the City and all schools in Anaheim Hills, could be cut out of the program.
The annual Fourth of July festivities and fireworks show in Peralta Park depends on the $40,000 it receives from city-wide fireworks sales. Anaheim Hills is the only part of the city where residents are prohibited from using safe-and-sane fireworks, so the community fireworks show is the only opportunity for Anaheim Hills families to enjoy this traditional Independence Day celebration.
When asked by council colleagues if his proposal would preserve funding for the Anaheim Hills Fourth of July celebration, Moreno sidestepped the question, remarking there are “lots of parades” in the city.
Councilmembers Kris Murray (at-large), Lucille Kring (District 4) and Steve Faessel (District 5) voted against Moreno’s proposal. Councilmembers Moreno (District 3), Denise Barnes (District 1) and James Vanderbilt (at-large) voted in favor.
Mayor Tom Tait will cast the deciding vote on Tuesday, March 7.
Why the AUHSD Foundation? Councilman Moreno’s stated reason is the foundation needs funding for a summer jobs program it operates. However, there are many Anaheim-based non-profits that can present lists of equally compelling funding needs. As it happens, the Anaheim Union High School District Foundation is the non-profit arm of the Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD), which is governed by Moreno’s close political allies such as Superintendent Mike Matsuda; AUHSD Board of Education President Al Jabbar (who was Moreno’s campaign manager). The AnaheimBROS political clubs at AUHSD schools served as foot soldiers in Moreno’s two council campaigns; the AUHSD even used district school buses to transport these student activists to a candidate forum last year to cheer for Moreno (the buses were paid for by a large teacher’s union grant to the AnaheimBROS).
Opponents of Moreno’s proposal point out that Anaheim is only one of five cities within the Anaheim Union High School District, and that Anaheim Hills – where the annual Fourth of July parade and fireworks show takes place – is in the Orange Unified School District.
Councilwoman Lucille Kring pointed out the fireworks show – which is really a day-long July 4 celebration including a parade, a 5K run and community celebration — has been a city tradition for decades. She also noted that Anaheim Hills is the only part of the city where residents are prohibited from lighting legal fireworks in their yards and neighborhoods; the fireworks show is unlikely to continue absent funding from the fireworks sales program.
Anaheim Hills residents have every reason to be concerned that Moreno’s plan would result in ending funding for the annual Fourth of July celebration – which would likely lead to its cancellation. With the council split 50-50 over Moreno’s plan, the outcome – and the continued existence of the Fourth of July parade and community fireworks show – entirely depends on Mayor Tait’s vote.