Anaheim Insider here.
Disney is proposes to invest a billion dollars into expanding and improving Disneyland Resort and the surrounding Resort Area. This will include a 5,000 space parking garage, built on Disney’s dime. This is in contrast to the huge Mickey and Friends parking structure, which was publicly financed as part of the 1996 agreement, for which Mayor Tom Tait voted as a member of the City Council.
That agreement also included a 20-year moratorium on the city imposing a gate tax. All Disney asks is 30 more years. It entails no loss of revenue for the City. Disney’s investment is contingent on this point, and in return for forswearing a tax it has never had, the City benefits from a $1 billion private investment in Anaheim’s economic engine, benefits that includes higher tax revenue from increased economic activity in the Resort Area.
With tragicomic predictability, the Mayor has already announced his opposition, saying he doesn’t want to give up the option of imposing a gate tax if the city needs more revenue in the future. The usual critics such as the CATER people are also crying foul, railing against taking a gate tax off the table. They also claim no one is talking about imposing a gate tax and would never enacted. Their claims are contradictory and untrue.
At a mayoral and council candidates forum last year, all candidates were asked if they would support a gate tax. All candidates expressed their opposition with the exception of Moreno, who said he was “open to the idea” while smiling like the Cheshire Cat.
CATER President Cynthia Ward is decrying that question as a “set-up” because, she claims, no one had been talking a gate tax. That isn’t true, but Ms. Ward believes what she chooses to believe.
In fact, Brian Chuchua, CATER’s other known member, has expressed his support of a gate tax a number of times, including during his 2012 council campaign. Leftist professor Jose F. Moreno, who ran for City Council in 2014 and will surely run again, is itching to impose a gate tax; this supporter of socialist Bernie Sanders wants to re-distribute wealth from the “corporate interests,” forgetting a gate tax taxes Disney guests, not Disney.
At an outdoor council candidate forum in 2012, the candidates were asked about it:
“A resident asked whether the candidates would support a $1 gate fee on Angels games and Disneyland tickets that would go toward youth programs and neighborhood development. Only Kring and Brandman said they would not, with Kring offering instead to take 1 percent of hotel room tax revenue and dedicate it to neighborhood improvements.”
That means John Leos (another potential future council candidate), Brian Chuchua, perennial candidate Rudy Gaona and Duane Roberts supported taxing Disney guests for the privilege of entering the park.
So, contrary to critics’ claims, a Disney gate tax is an policy idea that people are talking about, and that is supported by past and probably future council candidates.
Future City Councils More Tax-Friendly Than Freedom-Friendly
Furthermore, the City Council is expanding to six members who will be elected in by-district elections. The consensus opinion is this is the City Council will shift politically to the Left, i.e. be much more inclined to new and higher taxes than the current, overwhelmingly Republican council.
Disneyland prudently seeks a hedge against this eventuality by obtaining a continuation of the gate tax moratorium while there is still an anti-tax majority on the City Council. It’s puzzling this should provoke such opposition from those holding themselves out as voices of conservative principles.
For example, Mayor Tait told the “OC Register”:
“I don’t know of any other company that would get something like this, yet the residents don’t have any protections from being taxed,” Tait said. “If we are faced with a financial crisis in the next 30 to 45 years, then the money will come from our residents and not the tourists.”
Anaheim gives utility breaks to businesses that re-locate or start-up in Anaheim; it provides special incentives to craft beer brewery that aren’t available businesses, so the horse is long gone from the barn when it comes to special incentives for business expansion.
Also, Anaheim residents do have protections from being taxed, as Mayor Tait pointed out while voting to oppose Councilmember Kris Murray’s proposal to enhance those protections by requiring a council super-majority to put a new or increased tax on the ballot. It’s hard to take his concern for Anaheim taxpayers seriously not only because he declined to raise the bar to higher taxes, but because his default for dealing with a financial crisis appears to be raising taxes.
Critics are trying to confuse a very simply policy decision: continue an existing ban on a tax the city has never levied, in order to gain the economic rocket boost of a $1 billion investment by Disneyland.