Disneyland began celebrating its 60th birthday in late May, and the Anaheim city council lined up the House of the Mouse with a generous gift. The theme park is planning a future billion-dollar investment for resort area expansions but wanted a lil' something in return. At the end of the marathon meeting that began yesterday afternoon and wrapped up this morning at 1:04 a.m., the council majority gave it to them: a ban on any future gate tax on admissions on Disney for at least 30 years!
The resort cabal, usually glaring at their tablets in the back rows of council chambers during other meetings, came out full force to barely contain their glee at fleecing Anaheim residents for decades to come, while said residents were mostly relegated to a spillover room, as young people protested outside.
"Think about these beautiful kids," said Anna Drive resident Yesenia Rojas during initial public comments. "Invest the money in these kids." Jose F. Moreno (former council candidate, president of Los Amigos, and, of course,2012 Scariest People inductee) had become identified with the gate tax since saying in a candidate forum last year that he'd be "open to the idea." In what could have been a politically defining moment, he instead fumbled a clunky comment about making a Disney movie called It's Time Anaheim where people stand up to an unnamed but implied mega-corporation. God, can someone call Nativo Lopez to give Jose some tips on rallying the masses?
The ruling elite took it from there. The city clerk alerted council members that 72 5-minute speaker cards had been filled out for the public hearing. It was going to be a long night, one belonging mostly to the resort cabal.
Disneyland Resort President Michael Colglazier spoke first in support of the tax ban. "Together, we can look forward to our next great chapter," he said, as the council chambers thundered with applause. "In this agreement, Disney is taking all of the risk," added Angels Baseball Chairman Dennis Kuhl. "It sounds kind of familiar to me." The jab, directed at Mayor Tom Tait who opposed an earlier framework for a stadium lease deal where Angel owner Arte Moreno would've gotten 155-acres of land around the Big A for a dollar annually in exchange for renovations, drew laughter from the stuffed shirts.
Speakers from Resort Area interests dominated for hours in a well-organized display. "Only the tax-loving socialists would want this tax," chimed one man. Chuckles echoed in the room. All that was missing from the three-piece suit crew were top hats, monocles, celebratory cigars, and Oysters Rockefeller.
No gate tax on Disney and other big entertainment venues was being proposed last night. A previous resort renovation bond passed in 1996 banned any levy on admissions and is set to expire next year. Before that, Republican mayor Fred Hunter championed a gate tax in 1994. So deteriorated are Anaheim politics that nowadays the resort elite make even the idea of a gate tax seem like something inspired by Das Kapital!
With the old agreement phasing out, Disney wanted immunity from any future gate tax until 2046, tacking 15 years on if it invests half-a-billion more. No one from the dais spoke in favor of an admissions levy after public hearing ended at 11:00 p.m. "I don't support a tax for Disney," Tait said. But neither did he think it fair to tie the hands of future voters who may want one. Under the agreement, any future revenue from a gate tax would be reimbursed to Disney 100 percent, making it impotent.
In vain, Tait tried to postpone the vote in favor of more discussion, but the council majority rebuffed him. The debate continued well past midnight and chambers stayed filled with more than 100 people.
Councilwoman Lucille Kring began by quoting Walt Disney saying "Disneyland is never finished." Jordan Brandman bored the crowd about La Palma Park expansion before echoing support on the gate tax ban. Kris Murray framed her stance as a populist one, saying admission levies "disproportionately affect the working-poor," and that "the way to end childhood poverty is through employment." Now that's when the resort cabal should've belted a hearty laugh!
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The three cast their decisive vote soon after sealing Anaheim's fate for browner generations to come. Applause erupted but not before the mayor gave his message.
"There are things more important than money and we all know it," Tait said. "Down the road people will rue this day."
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2