UPDATED: OCCORD’s Angel Stadium “Forum” Tainted By Politics, Deceptive Rhetoric

UPDATED with response from the AUHSD.

The May 15 “educational event” organized by OCCORD, UNITE-HERE Local 11 and SEIU at Katella High School was hyper-political, one-sided and deceptive – punctuated by episodes of surreality.

Political Campaign Rally, Not A Residents Forum
It was readily apparent audience members were not ordinary, unaffiliated residents there under the assumption they were attending an educational forum.

The vast majority of attendees had been turned out by the event organizers to populate it for the benefit of the media. One Anaheim council gadfly told a fellow gadfly upon entering the auditorium: “Looks like all the usual suspects are here.”

Two union activists, a man and a woman, chatted in the rear of the auditorium about work and mutual friends. When the woman asked about the event’s purpose, the man said it was about the Angels wanting to keep the stadium for a dollar a year, not pay rent, and build non-union hotels in the parking lot. He added he’d heard Arte Moreno was married to one of Walt Disney’s daughters.

They waved to Ada Tamayo, an organizer for UNITE-HERE Local 11 organizer Ada Tamayo, who came over. The man repeated the Moreno-married-a-Disney-daughter rumor.

Tamayo shook her head: “These billionaires are just trying to squeeze us.”

This was not a community forum or an educational event. It was a campaign event with a clearly political purpose and explicitly pegged at the 2020 city council elections. The closing speaker was Democratic Party of Orange County Chair Ada Briceno, who asked the audience to join her in taking control of the Anaheim City Council next year.

“We can start preparing – it’s gonna take us changing and moving this city council, making sure that we grab the next seats available in 2020!” shouted Briceno. “Are you ready to win in 2020 and take back the council? Are you ready to take back the council?”

This blog e-mailed the AUHSD a week ago asking if using district facilities for an explicitly political campaign event is consistent with AUHSD policy, and also requested a statement or comment from Superintendent Mike Matsuda regarding the propriety of political advocacy groups using district property to organize for candidate campaigns.

UPDATE: The day after this article was published, we received an e-mail from AUHSD Public Information Officer Patricia Karlak, to which was attached a copy of OCCORD’s facilities use permit and the district’s policy governing community use of its facilities.

In its application, OCCORD said it wanted to use the Katella High School auditorium for an “Anaheim Community Forum.” Clearly, it was a political campaign meeting – which OCCORD knew. The AUHSD’s policy governing community use of is drawn from the state Education Code and does not explicitly prohibit meetings that are political in nature – although it would be interesting to see if the notoriously anti-charter AUSHD would give permission for a community forum that was supportive of charter schools.

Superintendent Mike Matsuda declined our request for comment.

As of yet, we have received no reply of any kind. Transparency isn’t a hallmark of AUHSD. In the past, this blog has had the threaten legal action to coax the district into complying with simple California Public Records Act requests. We’re not holding our breath for a timely response.

What Do You Mean “We,” Kemosabe?
OCCORD Director of Organizing Andrew Hausermann played fast, loose and manipulative with the facts during his misleading PowerPoint presentation on Angel Stadium.

He also repeatedly represented himself as being a resident and taxpayer of Anaheim:

“In 1988, we built an exhibition hall…and we took out a loan for millions of dollars that we’re still paying back. We won’t finish paying that loan until May of 2022…”

“And, in 1999, we paid $30 million of our general fund money…thirty million of our money in 1999.”

“The reality is we, the taxpayers of Anaheim have spent more on the stadium than the Angels themselves.”

We’ve spent six-point-something million more than the Angels…”

“We, the taxpayers of Anaheim”? Hausermann isn’t an Anaheim taxpayer. He lives in Long Beach. He pays taxes in Long Beach. He votes in Long Beach.

What is the point of this petty dishonesty?

Hausermann does have a connection to Anaheim taxpayers: it cost them $30,000 when he, Council Jose F. Moreno, DPOC Chair Ada Briceno and 18 other progressive activists were arrested for shutting down the Harbor/Katella intersection on opening day of the Anaheim Convention Center’s biggest trade show. Their publicity stunt required a massive deployment of Anaheim police officers, courtesy of Anaheim taxpayers – a burden now shifted to Orange County taxpayers due to prosecution by the OC District Attorney:

Linking The Unlinkable: Stadium Negotiations and Rent Control
What do Angel Stadium, the Rancho La Paz mobile home park and the Casa Grande apartments have in common?

Aside from being located in Anaheim – nothing. But that didn’t stop participants in the OCCORD/UNITE-HERE-SEIU rally from trying to manufacture link between stadium negotiations with the Angels and recent major rent increases at Rancho La Paz and Casa Grande.

In case any attendees weren’t getting the message, event organizers created this slide to drive it home:

As if Arte Moreno is out to get Ms. Gomez and Ms. Ramirez evicted (plus a gratuitous repeat of the “Angels pay no rent” lie). Ms. Gomez herself was part of the event program – speaking about her anguish trying to figure out how to deal with a sizable and unexpected rent increase (the source of which does not fit the “greedy landlord” narrative and so it overlooked). It’s grotesque to watch OCCORD, UNITE-HERE and the rest exploiting her situation for political purposes.

This coalition’s message template during last year’s “living wage” push was “It’s terrible that Bob Iger makes so much money while Disney employees are hungry and homeless.”  Now, they’re swapping out Iger for Arte Moreno, and cast members like Glyndanna Shevlin and Artemis Bell for Lupe Ramirez of Rancho La Paz and Esther Gomez of Casa Grande – along with a healthy dose of class warfare.

Councilman Jose F. Moreno fed this illogic during his comments:

“These things are tied together. I appreciate that OCCORD has brought these two issues together, because they feed on each other.”

Huh? Actually, there is no connection between the two things – causal or otherwise. If there were no Angel Stadium and the Angels and Arte Moreno did not exist, the residents of Rancho La Paz and Casa Grande would still be facing steep rent hikes. It’s absolutely ridiculous for Moreno to claim the situation with the Angels and the rent hikes at Rancho La Paz and Casa Grande “feed on each other.”

The leadership of UNITE-HERE and OCCORD and their allies like Moreno know the Angels have no culpability in the plight of these residents – and that those rent hikes stem from factors totally unrelated to the stadium negotiations.  But their tools are inciting and manipulating anger, not using logic and facts.

GOPer Denise Barnes Throwing In With Progressive Democrat Coalition
The participation of District 1 Councilmember Denise Barnes – ostensibly a conservative Republican – in the OCCORD rally is the latest example of her deepening political alliance with the coalition of progressive and union interests who helped elect Jose F. Moreno to the council. After the rally, an attendee expressed surprise when informed Barnes was a Republican” “If you hadn’t told me that, based on her behavior I assumed she was a Democrat.”

Barnes was a featured speaker along with Councilman Moreno, and she took the opportunity to assure the assembled UNITE-HERE Local 11 and SEIU activists that she was on their side.

“I will use everything I have to make sure that you are protected, that you have a a very good, transparent voice, but that your mission is served,” Barnes told them. Considering their “mission” includes mandatory unionization and other “community benefit agreements,” low-income housing mandates, and rent control – that’s an interesting stance for a Republican elected official.

When OC Democratic Party Chair Ada Briceno vowed to lead a union-progressive take over of the city council next year, no one on the stage applauded longer than Barnes (sitting :

Fear of Anaheim First
Ever since Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu announced the Anaheim First community initiative, the organized political Left in Anaheim – led by Councilman Moreno – has been desperately trying to legitimize this grass-roots, non-partisan initiative. This effort reared its head during the Panel Q & A segment of the OCCORD event.

As various speakers droned on, OCCORD Deputy Director Flor Barajas Tena passed out and collected note cards on which audience members wrote questions for the panel portion of the event.

“A couple of things have emerged after reviewing the questions, and with your permission I have combined a couple of those themes,” said Tena. “I’m going to read the question, and combine a couple of them. So to the panel – what is Anaheim First? Why have Anaheim residents not been invited to be part of this group? And how is Anaheim First putting its residents first?”

So, at a rally to gin up the troops over the Angels negotiations, and stacked with activists from the rally organizers, somehow the first “question” is a reformulation of the same false attacks on Anaheim First members. That speaks volumes about the hostility and apprehension these professional community organizers feel at the prospect of competition from ordinary residents volunteering their time and energy to foster civic engagement in their neighborhoods.

UNITE-HERE Local 11 senior organizer Austin Lynch took the microphone and – without irony – falsely accused Anaheim First of being “a very political group that opposes living wages.” He falsely claimed Anaheim First was formed to oppose Measure L – the November 2018 initiative sponsored by Lynch’s employer to impose the highest-in-the-nation minimum wage on targeted Anaheim business – and that it was composed of “all the people who had run for city council and lost.”  In other words, he fed the audience lies and half-truths.

While that is par for the course for these guys, it also manifests how much they resent the emergence of authentic community voices they cannot control or script.  UNITE-HERE, OCCORD and their allies present themselves as speaking for “the community” – and are upset at the prospect of members of the community speaking for themselves.

Odd Voice of OC Participation In Political Rally
One of the stranger aspects of the rally was the participation of Voice of OC publisher Norberto Santana. 

Santana’s segment came immediately after Hausermann’s dishonest primer on the stadium lease and negotiations with the Angels. For the most part, the Voice of OC publisher’s remarks rehashed his recent opinion columns on the Brown Act and publicly-owned stadium negotiations.

At one point, talking about the 1996 agreement between the city and the Angels that required Anaheim to be in the team name, Santana stretched the truth.

“And almost minutes after that deal was done, the Angels said ‘Oh wait a minute – there’s a little bit of wiggle room here’,” and changed the team name to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The Angels were the Anaheim Angels from 1997 to 2005. Nine years isn’t exactly “minutes.”

He went on to talk about how negotiations to keep the Chargers football franchise in San Diego was conducted via a public task force to hash out all the issues – at the end of which the Chargers decided to leave the city they’d called home for 56 years and become the Los Angeles Chargers. Santana wound up his presentation by pitching the audience to donate to the Voice of OC, which is a non-profit organization.

The latter part of the event was comprised of a panel fielding written questions from the audience. Santana was on the panel, along with Councilmembers Jose F. Moreno and Denise Barnes; UNITE-HERE Local 11 senior organizer Austin Lynch; Luis Fuentes from SEIU; Elizabeth Gonzalez, an SEIU member and Disney cast member; and Juliana Bravo, a stadium employee and SEIU member. The Voice Of OC publisher seems uncomfortable as the other panelist called for political actions and outcomes in response to questions that were themselves commentaries disguised as queries.

Earlier in his presentation , Santana said “One thing we do as reporters is, we don’t necessarily get involved in outcomes, but we are always very concerned about the process.” And yet, the Voice of OC was a prominent participant in a political event that was far more about achieving outcomes — guaranteed unionization, rental assistance programs and city-wide rent control, “community benefit agreements,” etc. – than about the process. The event organizers only care about the process to the extent it enables them to achieve their desired outcomes.

Pot, Meet Kettle
Midway through the event, an OCCORD staffer told the audience that former Mayor Tom Tait “wanted to be here” but was unable to due to his travel schedule – so he recorded a video instead.

“I commend you all for being there tonight to talk about this largest real estate asset owned by the city,” the former mayor told the assemblage of progressive activists.

“So much of the city’s future depends on the decisions being made on the disposition of that asset,” Tait continued.

“Decisions are better when it’s an open and transparent process, and the more people involved, the more people talking to the council members, more people showing up to meetings, showing their concern, analyzing the deal, the better. Better decisions will happen with more people involved. You should be involved – the asset belongs to you as the people of Anaheim.”

Funny how the former mayor and his progressive allies ignored sentiment last year as he and city staff negotiated a deal to allow Anaheim Arena Management to buy 16 acres of city land surrounding the Honda Center and manage valuable city assets in order to develop them. The agreement was struck over the course of months – well out of the public eye. News of the deal didn’t emerge until the end of October 2018, and the public had barely 96 hours to examine the actual agreement – hundreds of pages covering various aspects of a complex transaction involving many millions of dollars and enormously valuable city property – before the City Council voted on it two days before Thanksgiving Day.

No open and transparent process. No getting “more people involved, more people talking to the council, more people showing up at meetings, showing their concern, analyzing the deal.” All those now calling for transparency and sunshine — OCCORD, UNITE-HERE. SEIU, Councilman Moreno, etc, – were silent as the Honda Center agreement was being negotiated behind closed doors by Mayor Tait. No posturing from the council dais, OCCORD allegations of secret deal-making or calls for monthly updates from the city manager. 

OCCORD: Closed door deals are OK when it involves your friends and allies.

One might think different the rally organizers and participants apply different standards depending on whether those crafting the agreement are aligned with their interests.

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