Anaheim Council Strips Mayor of Agenda Power
Anaheim's city council majority on Monday morning stripped Mayor Tom Tait of his power to at any time place items on future council meeting agendas, limiting his ability to do so only during council meetings.
It's the latest blow in a brewing battle between Tait and his council colleagues over the city's ongoing stadium negotiations.
Councilman Jordan Brandman, who requested the special meeting last week, described the policy change as mere technical cleanup to equalize the mayor's powers with those of other council members. He and other members of the council majority said it would increase transparency because the mayor could no longer be able to agendize matters between public meetings and out of public view.
“The worst you can say about this, is it improves transparency because nothing can be put on the agenda outside of public light, it has to be put on from the dais,” said Councilwoman Kris Murray, calling the mayor's ability a “secret” power.
More than 20 residents who spoke at the meeting – all against the move – loudly scoffed at the council majority's logic. Residents and Tait argued that, on its face, barring the mayor from requesting public discussions amounts to less transparency on the public's business.
“I do not understand at all why this is going on, it makes no sense at all,” said resident Lonny Myers. “It's just shameful.”
During a back-and-forth argument between Murray and Tait over whether the move increases or decreases transparency at City Hall, Tait called it “truly Orwellian” to argue that limiting the mayor from agendizing public discussions somehow does the former.
“Sometimes the obvious is most difficult to argue, and I find myself in that spot,” Tait said.
Tait also said that the move would hamper city operations because the mayor and and council could no longer place items on future council meeting agendas during the sometimes weeks long gaps between meetings.
While the pressure from residents who attended the 8 a.m. meeting didn't sway the council majority from backing off the policy change altogether, the new rule didn't go as far as some were expecting.
The original change would have limited any council member – including the mayor – to, during an ongoing meeting, agendize an item for future council meetings only with the assent of another council member.
That measure could have effectively blocked Tait from agendizing any discussions – with the exception of special council meetings, a power specifically designated to the mayor under the city charter – because of the 4-1 majority on council. The policy change instead allows any council member to, during an ongoing council meeting, agendize a matter for discussion at a future council meeting.
Meanwhile, Councilwoman Lucille Kring confirmed that the issue of Tait's agenda setting power arose out of a controversy over a proposed Angel Stadium lease, saying that the mayor wanted to agendize the issue for every future council meeting and indicating that the council majority wanted to stop that from happening.
Before his power was stripped, Tait asked the city manager to place on every third council meeting agenda in the future a discussion about the Angel Stadium lease negotiations.
Tait has consistently pushed for a stadium lease agreement that, he said, would be a better deal for the taxpayers than what's currently on the table.
As it stands now, the proposed lease framework grants Moreno 155 acres of land around the stadium for 66 years at $1 per year. More than 5,100 residential units, 3 million square of office space and 3 million square feet of commercial space could be built on the land. Moreno could also drop Anaheim from the team name.
The premise is that Moreno could use revenue from development of the property to finance up to $150 million in improvements to the stadium. However, Moreno is already obliged to make those improvements under the current lease.
Members of the council majority, Anaheim Chamber of Commerce President Todd Ament and a city consultant have said that the framework is only the starting point of negotiations, not the foundation that the city must work toward in good faith, as Tait describes.
They have accused Tait of engaging in a misinformation campaign intended to subvert the deal by meeting with groups such as the Rotary Club and distributing a presentation with deal points that are inaccurate and misleading, primarily because they don't include projected economic benefits of having the Angels.
Tait, meanwhile, said his goal is to get a fair deal for taxpayers. A fair deal, he said, would call for Moreno and the city to receive something close to equal shares in the property development revenues and for a team name that is mutually agreeable, like the California Angels.
Under the present framework, Moreno would keep all of the revenues and have sole discretion over the team name, which he could change to Los Angeles Angels, without the "of Anaheim" that is part of the name now.
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