[Editor’s note: originally published in the OC Register on January 8, 2020.]
Anaheim and all of Orange County can be proud of the proposal for baseball in our city.
It would keep the Angels here for decades, sell the stadium site at market value, relieve taxpayers of costs and bring money and community benefits for Anaheim neighborhoods.
The years of uncertainty and fighting over Angel Stadium of Anaheim would be put to rest.
Yet, for some, that fight is too hard to let go of. This newspaper’s Jan. 2 editorial (“Angels deal leaves too many questions”) keeps alive old conflicts for those who still see narrow gain in opposing any baseball agreement.
As mayor, I welcome all voices. But we need some clarity.
The majority of those who spoke before our council on Dec. 20 supported the agreement. So did the majority who emailed the city. And so do the vast majority I’ve heard from in the community.
To suggest our decision was “unnecessarily rushed” is misinformed and misleading.
It capped a year of talking about baseball. Starting in January 2019, my City Council colleagues and I heard from the public, received staff updates, discussed agenda items or were briefed in closed session more than 20 times.
There wasn’t a single month last year that the council did not hear about baseball. No other topic came close last year.
When the council first touched on the issue in January 2019, my pledge as mayor was to see a new agreement or progress toward one by year’s end.
That’s a promise I kept on Dec. 20.
But we are far from done. Last month’s vote was just the first part of a three-step process, with public consideration of a development agreement and community benefits still to come.
All three steps need to come together before the stadium site sale can be completed, somewhere around 2023 to 2025, with plenty of time for questions and public input.
That’s hardly a rush.
Then there’s the team name.
As mayor, I always want to see the Anaheim name as prominent as possible. But in the 2000s, Anaheim unsuccessfully spent $7 million and three years in court over the name change.
The name issue was brought up again in negotiations, and it was clear it wasn’t up for discussion.
Pushing for Anaheim in the team name likely would have meant major concessions by the city, in effect subsidizing the team’s name with public money, land or both.
A public subsidy is not in the best interest of Anaheim taxpayers. Those talking about the name conveniently ignore this.
This agreement is about getting Anaheim out of the baseball business, not subsidizing it. The $325 million sales price is at market value for a stadium, 12,500 parking spots and potential development.
In fact, the price exceeds by $5 million the range for that scenario in the city’s independent appraisal.
As for changes in value before a sale closes, both sides assume risks. The land could also decrease in value if we see a recession.
Few would support the city refunding money in that case.
In what the editorial calls a “loophole,” we see the prospect for life-changing affordable housing, needed park space and construction jobs for Anaheim residents.
Those are things I believe are worth looking at.
True, we don’t know the value of that yet. That’s next in the process.
As mayor, I am looking for significant proceeds from a sale and major community benefits.
Any adjustment to a final cash payment must reflect the market value of the benefits we gain.
The Orange County Taxpayers Association calls this agreement a win for taxpayers, and it is. There are no subsidies and no city stadium funding.
It’s time to put the baseball fights of the past behind us and embrace a proposal and process that is good for Anaheim and all of Orange County.
Harry Sidhu is mayor of Anaheim.