For the past year-and-a-half, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait has positioned himself as a maverick voice of reason for an otherwise developer subsidy-loving city council. The distinction came publicly when he voted against the notorious $158 million GardenWalk hotel giveaway back on January 24, 2012. Since that time, the Mayor has been mired in a protracted proxy war with sycophants of former Anaheim Mayor/Dark Lord Curt Pringle on other key issues, including supporting single-member districts.
Tait's opponents from the right have taken jabs assailing him as a hypocrite, pointing to his private financial profiteering off the subsidy-loving Garden Grove city council that is aggressively redeveloping its Harbor Boulevard corridor area. Over the past decade, the city has built hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues, hoping to lure tourists and other revelers with its close proximity to the Disneyland Resort and going so far as to recently rechristen the area as the “Grove District – Anaheim Resort.” LAME…
The latest remarks comes by way of Facebook where Todd Priest, Vice President of Curt Pringle N Associates, made comments critical of Tait in a discussion thread on the page of former Assemblyman Jose Solorio that involved chatter about the two cities.
This past Labor Day weekend, Priest chimed, “Kudos to the Garden Grove and Anaheim City Councils. But I wish the Republican Mayor of Anaheim would stop focusing solely on his personal business investments in Garden Grove. I don't begrudge him from making a ton of money in Garden Grove, but he is doing it to the detriment to jobs in Anaheim. Seems very unethical.” Later, he added “nobody loves Garden Grove right now more that Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait. He is making a fortune.”
This is just the latest salvo in a dirty war on OC's blogosphere, where other Pringle lackeys leave cryptic remarks on stories involving Anacrime. But is there any weight to such allegations?
Financial documents obtained by the Weekly from the city of Garden Grove long before Priest's blabbering spell out the true level of involvement. For instance, on June 14, 2011, the Anaheim mayor's firm, Tait N Associates, was awarded a $100,000 contract by a unanimous vote of the Garden Grove city council to provide civil engineering services for Harbor between Palm Street and Lampson Avenue.
An inter-department memorandum from Public Works Director/City Engineer William Murray to City Manager Matthew J. Fertal back then noted that this work was connected to properties in need of construction for the “future development of a water park hotel project.” The reference is to the Great Wolfe Lodge, a $300 million, 600-room indoor-outdoor water park hotel that will receive $42 million in expedited bonds before it even opens.
The developer, McWhinney Enterprises, is no stranger to public subsidies nor to Tait. Back in 2000, as documents show, Tait N Associates received engineering contracts for “Site B” on Harbor Blvd. and Chapman Ave. to the total tune of $39,500. That intersection became part of a six-hotel development that McWhinney was involved in partnership with Stonebridge Companies in retaining the services of Tait's firm. It also came to house the Crowne Plaza Hotel that was the site of protests by union organizers against anti-union owner Timothy R. Busch.
Beyond the pillaging of Garden Grove, Busch and McWhinney remain active political supporters of Tait. The most recent 460 forms show a representative of McWhinney donating $250 to 'Tom Tait for Mayor 2014' in March of this year. Busch was more generous giving $1,000 that same month.
Both the Great Wolf Lodge that's slated to open in the future and the Harbor/Chapman redevelopment effectively translated into displacement of mobile-homes, apartments and small business owners. Litigation is still in the courts, Public Counsel informs the Weekly, for the residents of a low-income RV park suing the city for the manner in which they were pushed out to make way for the water park resort. In Anaheim, it's 'Hi Neighbor.' In Garden Grove, it's 'Bye Neighbor!'
Of course, Priest and the rest of the Pringle camp don't give a damn about that! Musings about unethical dealings from such ilk is laughable. The issue at hand for them isn't the plunder of Garden Grove and the resulting displacement of residents. In fact, that's readily applauded! Their mantra of “jobs” is merely a canard for well-connected developers getting what they want at the public's expense.
Tait's involvement in Garden Grove is hardly the fortune-making enterprise it's made out to be by Priest. All contracts in possession of the Weekly tally shy of a quarter-million dollars total, chump change for a filthy rich firm. Nonetheless, as our records show, Tait N Associates was collecting invoice payments from the city of Garden Grove for the water resort park-related civil engineering contract all throughout the Anaheim GardenWalk Hotel project vote in 2012, and the one that followed earlier this year after the original agreement was voided due to a Brown Act violation.
The pots are calling the kettles black while resort economies in both Anaheim and Garden Grove engage in a race to the bottom.
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz