Mayor Sidhu: State Auditor Is Wrong – Anaheim Is Strong

Anaheim is doing just fine, thank you.

Our city has emerged from the challenge of our time with economic recovery underway and a bright future ahead.

You wouldn’t know it from a recent report on California cities that ranked Anaheim alongside El Cerrito and Calexico.

The report, by the California State Auditor’s Office, generated headlines as intended. But it got it wrong.

No one takes fiscal health more seriously than I do. I welcome discussion of Anaheim’s budget, pensions and debt.

But I take issue with the report’s methodology and characterization of our city.

Full-service city, enviable economy
Anaheim is a full-service city with police and fire departments, water and power service and the largest convention center on the West Coast.

At its broadest measure, our yearly budget is $2 billion with our debts and obligations spread across what is California’s 10th largest city.

In a typical year, Anaheim sees more than 25 million visitors to our theme parks, convention center and sports and entertainment venues. Our economy is the envy of the cities called out by the auditor.

Like nearly all cities, we have pensions and debt. That should not surprise anyone. As a fiscally conservative city, we take on obligations knowing we can meet them.

Reducing pensions, debt
After 2012 reforms, about 70 percent of our pension obligations are now funded. We are on track to fully fund pensions as earlier plans phase out and give way to new, more cost effective plans.

A large part of Anaheim’s debt stems from $510 million borrowed for the 1990s Anaheim Resort expansion.

There is good and bad debt. Our resort debt is clearly good. The return on investment has been a near quadrupling of city hotel revenue from $46 million in 1999 to $163 million in 2019.

Part of the Anaheim Resort debt was retired in 2019 with the potential to pay off the balance by the end of this decade, years ahead of schedule.

That stands to free up some $100 million annually for our general fund.

Epic pandemic challenge met
The report’s silence on Anaheim’s handling of the pandemic crisis is telling. Few cities could have withstood what Anaheim did and come out standing.

After years of growth and balanced budgets, we faced a $100 million general fund deficit. The pandemic hit Anaheim about as hard as any city. That is not mismanagement, just bad luck.

Still, we came through it intact with a balanced budget and ongoing investment in parks, libraries, roads and utilities.

Anaheim passed this epic stress test by continuing to meet our obligations and with no “crowding out” of services to our community.

Yes, federal assistance helped backfill lost revenue. And, yes, we borrowed $139 million to fill remaining gaps in our yearly budgets.

But we faced an impossible choice ― borrow or cut to the bone. The alternative? Delayed public safety response times, closed libraries and decimated services for the neediest in our community, including those living in homelessness.

Investor confidence
Our ability to raise money in a time of need speaks to our fiscal strength. Our investment grade credit ratings on Wall Street allowed us to issue bonds at a favorable rate and made borrowing not only fiscally responsible but also smart.

Our bond offering was well received and stands in stark contrast to the sensational picture painted by the state auditor.

We took on this new obligation knowing what the state auditor does not ― Anaheim is attracting billions in investment that will create new revenue for our city for years to come.

Reports will come and go. But Anaheim’s track record and outlook speak for themselves.

Sidhu is mayor of Anaheim.

9 comments

  1. There’s literally nothing here, math for example, that refutes the state auditor’s findings.

    What is here is a bunch of piss poor writing from a consultant.

    What an absolute joke.

  2. I’ve known Sidhu to be a complete moron for some time now, but this takes the cake.

    ” investment grade credit ratings on Wall Street allowed us to issue bonds at a favorable rate and made borrowing not only fiscally responsible but also smart.”

    Really? Because Moody’s and Fitch both DOWNGRADED Anaheim’s rating just this February, which seems pretty freaking consistent with the state auditor.

    Way to shoot yourself in the foot, genius.

  3. Matthew Cunningham

    You’re really going to plant your flag on a flawed report that wrongly asserts Anaheim’s tax revenues are declining, ignores the impending payoff of the Resort bonds, and ignores the massive revenue-generating development that is coming to Anaheim in the near future?

    It seems like you just hate Harry Sidhu.

    • Given that’s exactly what Moody’s and Fitch said, both internationally recognized authorities in determining credit risk, yes.

      Maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t pop off on the internet with childish retorts like “seems like you just hate Sidhu.”

      So here we are, a small army of CPAs working at the state auditor’s office along with literally the most qualified credit assessors on Wall Street versus Harry Sidhu and Matthew Cunningham. Gee, I wonder who has credibility and who is talking out their butt?

      Sounds like you’ll say anything you’re paid to say, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

      • Matthew Cunningham

        Except that it is factually UNTRUE that Anaheim’s tax revenues are declining – no matter what Moody’s and Fitch say. But you stick with being a anonymous hater troll.

        • Yeah, hater! Anaheim is doing just fine, thank you.

        • Matthew Cunningham:

          Anaheim Transit Occupancy Tax did not decline in 2020 or 2021.

          9/2/2021

          You sir, are full of bologna, no matter how many names you call me.

          It is FACTUALLY CORRECT that Anaheim’s tax revenue has declined. Anyone stating otherwise is being paid to lie.

  4. Aren’t these ghostwritten “Sidhu” pieces usually published first by the Register?

    I guess they took a pass on this one. Don’t blame ’em.

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