This op-ed originally appeared in the OC Register on August 13, 2017:
Anaheim Is Focused On Taxpayers and Neighborhoods
by Kris Murray
Anaheim’s City Council has a shared focus to better the lives of its residents and quality of its neighborhoods. On this, there is no disagreement. Where reasonable people do disagree, however, is on how best to address the goals.
Since the Great Recession, Anaheim has not imposed any new taxes or fees on residents to maintain services. In fact, we’re expanding police services, parks and community centers, thanks in large part to revenue from the Anaheim Resort.
By contrast, cities across Orange County have increased local sales taxes, while others have implemented fees on utility, cable and trash bills — just to maintain existing city services.
Anaheim’s economic model has worked for decades. Sadly, recent discussion from the City Council dais presents a false narrative that Anaheim’s leaders must choose between investing in neighborhoods or the Anaheim Resort.
The fact remains that the two are inseparably and undeniably linked. The city can expand dedicated services to our neighborhoods because we have a thriving tourism industry. The added benefit is that Anaheim taxpayers pay less out of pocket for these vital services.
Whether an Anaheim resident ever visits Disneyland, they are touched by the role the resort district plays for our city.
Mayor Tom Tait understands this. As a councilman in 1996, he correctly voted to subsidize more than $500 million for the Anaheim Resort, which included a policy to prohibit a gate tax for 20 years, alongside more than $1 billion that was spent by Disneyland.
What was and remains the largest bond issuance in Anaheim’s history has paid our residents back with a 700 percent rate of return in funding for key services. Several of my colleagues and I voted in recent years to extend these economic policies because they have a track record of success.
For two decades now, Anaheim’s City Council has been investing those dividends in our neighborhoods in the form of new parks, libraries and public safety. Our newly adopted, $1.7 billion city budget continues to put residents and neighborhoods first by:
- Hiring 40 police officers in four years, a goal established in 2013 and set to be met this year with $2 million in spending to hire 10 remaining officers.
- Building Anaheim Fire & Rescue’s first new fire station in a decade approved to reduce response times for nearby residents.
- Spending more than $35 million on our libraries, parks and community services that touch the daily lives of residents.
- Spending $13 million to build new parks or expand existing ones.
- Spending $5 million annually in city programs for schools.
Meanwhile, Anaheim continues to do more than most cities in Orange County and regionally to address homelessness — an issue that deeply affects neighborhoods.
This year, the county’s first year-round homeless shelter opened in Anaheim. Each week, the city and nonprofit partner City Net conduct outreach to the homeless resulting in nearly 800 people being placed in safe, clean housing or reunited with family since 2014.
Where needed, the city also takes steps to address quality of life concerns with enforcement of anti-camping policies in neighborhoods, parks and public spaces. And more must be done to ensure the health and safety of all residents.
As an Anaheim City Council member since 2010, I’ve been proud to stand on the shoulders of those before me who led with vision and foresight.
A healthy city economy doesn’t happen by accident. It requires thoughtful planning and a collaborative approach between city leaders and the community.
Past city leaders created an economic model in which businesses — the Anaheim Resort, the convention center, Angel Stadium, Honda Center and now the emerging Platinum Triangle — serve our residents by providing funding for the services they expect and deserve without adding to the local expense of Anaheim taxpayers.
We can never lose focus of that.
Kris Murray is a member of Anaheim’s City Council.