Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait's annual State of the City luncheons have always been served with a side of drama. Things were no different yesterday as corporate stuffed shirts made their way into the City National Grove.
The event is presented by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. But as a rift between them and the Mayor has intensified over years, the luncheon has become an awkward affair. That played out this time around with Chamber Chair Jeff Farano's intro contrasting with key points of the Mayor's address that followed.
For Farano, who's outgoing and made his last onstage appearance, he praised the now-defunct Anaheim Enterprise Zone as "successful" with a straight face! The notion is downright laughable, as the Weekly reported that it only created 180 new jobs in its first year with Disney and Wal-Mart claiming the lion's share of the program's tax credits. Mayor Tait cast a vote for the Enterprise Zone's creation two years ago but became a critic as it crashed and burned.
(Maybe our reporting was why this writer was assigned a seat in a lonely row of chairs away from the tiered tables at the Grove where food was served. I sneaked away for a 99 cent Carl's Jr. Spicy Chicken Sandwich on account of the Chamber's bourgie chicken plate grub snub!)
Farano, former general counsel for the Mayor's civil engineering Tait & Associates firm, continued on, affirming the city's bed tax policy as one that will attract "high-end hotels"–a dig at Tait's dissenting votes against the massive subsidy given to the controversial GardenWalk project last year and in 2012. No intro would be complete either without the Chamber's AstroTurf rallying to "Keep the Angels" while lining owner Arte Moreno's pockets.
When Mayor Tom Tait arrived to the podium, he spoke on policies throughout his forty-minute address that put him at the opposing end of the hosting Chamber. In an election year, the Mayor didn't shy away from addressing the Angels. "The residents of Anaheim own this land," he said of the 155 acres of the Stadium District that initial negotiations would like to gift to Moreno for a dollar-a-year rent over 66 years.
"I've been vocal about my concerns about the framework of the new lease. Nonetheless, I hope that we can go back to the drawing board and work out an agreement that gives a financial return on the land that the residents deserve."
Later on, after taking public employee pensions to task yet again, Tait expressed caution over expanding the Anaheim Convention Center. "There's some critical questions that we have to ask," he said. "Are we at risk of taking on debt that will jeopardize our ability to provide basic public services in the future?"
The other major issue tackled by Tait was the upcoming vote on district elections this November. The Chamber's political sycophants dragged their feet all the way until this month's settlement. The mayor reiterated his support saying, "Having a city council made up of people who represent different parts of our city will be a positive change for Anaheim."
The overall feel of the address shifted away from the 'Tale of Two Cities' frame from a year ago. It's an election year and the only police issue to surface was a brief mention of something forthcoming called a "citizens public safety board." Fading are the days when tensions between police and working-class Latino communities shook the political establishment, though the cauldron still boils beneath the surface.
Anaheim is back to business as usual with a tale a two feuding factions.
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz