The Myth of the Anti-Disney, Anti-Resort Backlash

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Media narratives can be powerful things, which is why politicians and interests seeking to influence public debate try to craft clever narratives.  It’s why the winners of elections always try to claim a “mandate,” whether they won by a landslide or squeaked out an electoral college win while losing the popular vote by millions.

In Anaheim, it’s why the progressives who fought for the Tait-Moreno Council majority like to spin the narrative of “The People’s Council” – the contention that the results of the 2016 elections revealed a voter revolt against Disney and the Resort and claimed mandate to advance the interests of the residents over tourist-serving businesses. It’s a claim that’s been advanced repeatedly for months in news articles by members of the current council majority.

It captures the imagination of progressive activists and their media sympathizers, but did it actually happen? A sober examination of the facts shows no evidence of such a mandate; if anything, the Tait-Moreno majority was a narrow fluke on the scale of Trump’s electoral college win.

For starters, the narrowness by which the “People’s Council” – i.e. the Tait-Moreno council majority – came into being argues against the idea of Anaheim voters turning against the Resort area. Denise Barnes won District 1 with a 291-vote margin, while Jose F, Moreno squeaked out a win in District 3 by 72 votes. In other words, the Tait-Moreno majority materialized on the basis of 363 votes – 0.68% of the total votes cast citywide.

It’s absurd to divine any kind of mandate out of a rounding error.

The narrative further collapses upon examination of the results on a district-by-district basis.

In District 1, Barnes finished first with 27.3% of the vote – carrying barely more than a quarter of District 1 voters. Three of her opponents who were explicitly supportive of the Resort – Steve Chavez Lodge, Leonard Lahtinen and Orlando Perez – garnered 52.6% of the vote.  Furthermore, Tait ally Howard Ahmanson spent thousands of dollars attacking Lodge for his support for pro-Resort policies such at the Hotel Incentive Policy (which Lahtinen also supported) and also tried to paint Barnes as the only pro-neighborhood candidate with Lodge and Lahtinen as anti-neighborhood, pro-Resort toadies.

So, a majority of District 1 voters supported pro-Resort candidates. How is that a rejection of Disney and the Resort District? Barnes’ election and performance since election show she’s truly the “accidental Council Member.”

Let’s look at District 3. Moreno took 36% to incumbent Jordan Brandman’s 35.4%. The district was literally hadn-drawn to elect Jose Moreno to the Anaheim City Council, the end result of the two-year push for single-member districts and then the push for District 3 to be on the ballot in 2016.

A 72-vote win, nearly 3 weeks after Election Day was Moreno’s mandate. Moreno ran hard on an anti-Disney platform charging that Anaheim neighborhoods were being short-changed in favor of the Anaheim Resort. Brandman was pummeled for supporting “taxpayer giveaways” for “corporate special interests.”

If the “Anaheimers-turn-against-Disney” narrative were valid, Moreno should have won a convincing victory rather than lucking out with a 0.6% margin. Moreno drafted off the massive statewide coordinated Democratic campaign – which locally was focused on central OC in order to elect Josh Newman in SD29 and Sharon Quirk-Silva in AD65. The Democrats ran up huge registration gains in large part thanks to $150,000 from billionaire Tom Steyer, and a very sophisticated turnout operation. This effort amplified the effect of Trump-driven Latino voter turnout to the benefit of Moreno.

If the November election indeed represented a backlash against Disney and the Resort, it stands to reason the manifestation would have been strongest in District 4, which contains the Resort District.  However, Councilwoman Lucille Kring was elected with 42.3% compared to 29.7% for the Team Tait candidate, Arturo Ferreras.  Kring was lacerated repeatedly over the course of her first term for supporting TOT tax rebates incentives to attract luxury hotels to the Resort. She never muted her suport for these deals. Ferreras campaign heavily against “giveaways” and in favor of banning STRs – another political hobby horse of Team Tait coalition member UNITE-HERE, the militant hotel workers union.

Yet, Kring won re-election running away. Where was the backlash?

And the same dynamic played out in District 5, where Steve Faessel faced off against Team Tait candidate Mark Lopez. Faessel supported the GardenWalk deal and the Hotel Incentive Policy. Lopez, a Latino running in a Latino-plurality district, ran on the Team Tait platform blasting those policies. Independent expenditures funded by Tait donor Howard Ahmanson slammed Faessel as a supporter of “taxpayer giveaways” to Disney and Resort businesses. Faessel won District 5 handily, garnering 42.7% of the vote compared to just 34.9%. Faessel received more votes than any other candidate for City Council running on a pro-“Anaheim” agenda. Again, where was the anti-Disney backlash?

The best explanation is the simplest and most obvious one: most voters don’t share the Tait-Moreno coalition’s antagonism toward Disney and the Resort and are far more concerned with issues that directly touch their lives like crime, homelessness, repairing roads and maintaining parks for the enjoyment of the public.

If there was deep resentment toward Disney and the Resort roiling among the Anaheim electorate, Moreno and Barnes would have won decisively rather than narrowly, while Kring and Faessel would have lost rather than winning overwhelmingly. The November elections were a very near-run thing: a shift of 36 votes in District 3 and the Anaheim City Council would still have a majority supportive of “Anaheim Way,” public-private partnership economic development projects.

Without a doubt, Team Tait succeeded in threading the needle and eking out a council majority. However, there were many factors at play, not least of which was the massive, integrated Democratic campaign effort in central Orange County. It’s doubtful Moreno could have upset Brandman absent those dynamics.

The final proof in the pudding? The complete lack of conviction with which Moreno has pursued his signature issues – making Anaheim a “sanctuary city” and his bold claim to want to end Anaheim’s anti-camping ordinance. A candidate riding a tidal wave of public opinion and mandate would pursue campaign rhetoric with direct and fearless action. Moreno instead is still “studying” both issues.

Add to that Moreno (and Tait) professing strongly not to be “Anti-Disney” nor “Anti-Resort” when that characterization is made, and you see the narrative of the “People” turning against the Resort is merely campaign fiction.


  1. Look all the words against Tait/Moreno. I have seen the list of wanna bees and never weres that are running for Mayor. Would rather have Tait back. Voting for the giveaway to the hotels was a joke. Let’s give dollars to the rich. At least the tourists are paying most of the TOT. I guess the big thing is… if no Disney, no convention center, no Ducks or Angels and maybe this is a good thing NO Artic. Disney seems to be demonized, as is the resort district. I, thank Walt everyday for choosing Anaheim. Our city council thinks that they are bigger than they are. However, we have big city issues, now if we could get big city results from our council members.

  2. Very nice analysis. Lets face it, Jordan was a weak candidate because he was a Democrat that voted with the right wing most of the time but. not really kinda sorta.

    Jose had everything in his court as you laid out and still barely squeaked by.

    Now the important thing is finding the right candidates to rid our city of Moreno and his coalition members in the school board races.

    Rueles , Jabber and Randle Trejo all squeaked by in large part due to the illeagal use of funds by co conspirator Mike matsuda via the bros club.

  3. I do not think it is anti-Disney to want the city to improve other city neighborhoods. Of course the resort area neighborhoods are happy because their neighborhoods are improved and kept clean. West Anaheim had been neglected for decades. All neighborhoods deserve attention. Corporate welfare is not fair to the citizens in your fine city.

  4. Sorry but: Katella and Euclid in Resort District- 10 homeless on the corners middle of the day and more if you went down Euclid. Sorry it is a commentary on where Anaheim is if what everyone calls the Resort looks the way it does. I am sick and tired of everyone thinking we are without the very same issues.

    • I have not lived in Anaheim for a long time but watched the area I grew up in (Orange and Magnolia) decline. My parents moved from our family home after 59 years last year. From what I have read and heard from my parents the area with the fancy bus stops and improved landscaping was benefiting from choices the city council was making on Disneyland’s behalf. I guess homelessness is a problem all over Orange County. Hopefully the city council will be more responsive to all Anaheim areas and not be as pressured by corporate welfare.

  5. THE ANAHEIM RESORT IS JUST AS BAD – We have homeless every where. You can not use the bus stop and must stand because they are sleeping on the benches. you feel unsafe shopping because they follow and harass you. Our neighborhoods have cars and campers being lived in, Our parks are filthy. Does that sound like resort living? No what Disney did is build a big wall on Walnut so the do not have to see us. Sick and tired to be painted as we are without problems we have plenty. Oh and lets talk about the housing, we have a lot of housing inside of the “resort” with plenty of crime. Sorry to pole holes in your argument but we are no different. It is a commentary as to the state of Anaheim and the lack of strong leadership we have here in Anaheim. NO MORE FREE PLAYDOH AND COLORING BOOKS. We need to enforce our laws all of them. The police, the code enforcement officers need to do their jobs and our council must let them.

    • STOP electing pro-sanctuary politicians if you don’t want homeless on the streets! They don’t take care of the issue, they just kick the can down the road because it provides them cover to increase taxes and negate ANY solutions proposed to solve the problem! They’re not held accountable for solving problems and they want to throw money at a problem that only gets worse when the money is not invested in solutions rather than short-sighted freebies!

      • JAMES: TOTALLY AGREE. As we can see the Sanctuary State “law” is going to hurt more than help. California is full of self serving politicians. In every upcoming election it is now or never time. Everyone must vote and vote with past performances in mind. We can start with jose moreno and his self serving crew being ousted. We need strong leadership in each of our cities. We need strong leadership in California period. We need to change direction fast. What has the mentality of thanking criminals for their service gotten us? It has gotten us more crime. We are being laughed at. What has being sold as the “City of Kindness” gotten us? More crime. We are being laughed at by criminals. We are not held up as a model for other states as brown and garcetti want us to believe. California who was once the place to live is now last in many areas. Worst in all 50 states to do business I believe.

        We need to change our leadership.

  6. Sp: plenty of errors in my previous post, just frustrated because South Anaheim called the Resort area has just as many problems as the rest of Anaheim. It is our weak leadership that allows all parts of Anaheim to continue suffering. If the city leaders can allow Katella and Euclid to look the way that it does then that should speak volumes for them. It stands as a reflection of how the rest of Anaheim looks as this is a shopping area visited by tourists looking for vacation supplies and snacks. The tourists are directed to this area as it is the nearest shopping area for what they need during their vacation/conference stays. As I said previously, yesterday on a Saturday afternoon, you had no less than 10 homeless loiterers laying about, blocking the bus bench, and sidewalks. In one entrance to CVS you were greeted by a homeless man gyrating suggestively at all cars and pedestrians passing by. Again this area is frequented by tourists/visitors staying in Anaheim Resort hotels. THIS IS WHAT THEY SEE. This is what the “Anaheim Resort” looks like all over. Do not for a minute think we are different than any other part of Anaheim, rather panhandlers descend on Anaheim and target the tourists.

    The only way to stop all of this madness is to NOT ALLOW IT. Enforce our laws. Give help to those that need it. If they don’t accept it lock them up. if they do it again, lock them up again. Enforce our city’s laws.

    WE ALL NEED TO REALLY BE AWARE WHEN WE VOTE. VOTE FOR THE PERSON WHO WILL ACT. BEING SOFT ON CRIME WILL NOT GIVE US A BETTER LIFE. We have seen where Gov. Brown’s system has taken us. Are we better off? Should we do what Mayor Garcetti suggests and offer the criminals a gift basket after serving their time and say thank you for your service? NO. We need to change direction and become a state of lawfulness where criminals know they will be taken for what their worth and punished. We need to do this in Anaheim. Our city looks trashy and I am very sorry to say that believe me. We have a great city and I would like it to look like the jewel that it is, not Anacrime as it is now known.

    • The problem with “locking them up” is that it costs money, taxpayer dollars. While incarcerated, they get shelter, food, medical, etc. What homeless person wouldn’t want that for nothing. That said, no one wants to pay for them so we are stuck with the current situation. Kicking them from city border to neighboring city border until that city gets annoyed enough to kick them across another city border. This has been the case with the homeless encampment along the riverbed for years now. Unfortunately, homeless ppl are now setting up tents and tarps up along vacant fields next to the train tracks now (SE side of Euclid and the 5). Additionally, along the tracks W of Disneyland as well. The problem is expanding.

  7. Abc def: My point was that “the Resort” has the same problems that the rest of Anaheim does. We don’t have it any better. That being said, if they think Anaheim’s Resort area is a jewel then why do they let the jewel have it this way. We have it no differently than the rest of Anaheim.

    Where I respectfully disagree is LOCK THEM UP. I WOULD RATHER PAY FOR THAT THAN HAVE THE STREETS UNSAFE. You will see if they are locked up or threatened with being locked up or taking help, most will move on. They do not want to be inside. The ones that want help give them all they need. The rest be told we will not tolerate any illegal activities here in Anaheim. If they are locked up at least they are getting clean and may have more of a chance of starting over.


  8. I do believe Katella and Euclid and the vacant lot near Target on Euclid and Lincoln are a disaster waiting to happen. I have called the city to clear those areas and received a nice phone call stating that in both cases there are different agencies that are responsible for caring for those locations. A nice way to pass the buck. Voting for a different candidate won’t really make any difference since most of them are recycled and repeating running for office. We need new candidates running and any of the folks running again, please take your name off of the ballot and let’s try new blood in office. This my neighborhood is worse than yours and we need more services is baloney. Take out a broom and clean up your neighborhood. It is not the cities responsibility to pick up the litter that you throw on the floor. It is not the cities responsibility to paint over the graffiti that your child painted. Show a little responsibility for you and your neighborhood’s actions. Take pride in your neighborhood and be a solution not a problem. All areas of every city have issues, minor, major but there are issues, it is the neighborhoods that step up that leaves the politicians to do what they do best???? and these are the neighborhoods that we want here in Anaheim.

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