Last night, news watchers were treated to a chaotic public shouting match that seemed like it would never end — no, not that one. Across the country in Anaheim, the city council met for eight hours last night to debate the city’s plan to sell $500 million worth of land to Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno for $150 million plus promises of a new park and affordable housing; finally, after 1:30 am, the council voted to approve the deal by a 5-2 margin, with the same two no votes — councilmembers Jose Moreno and Denise Barnes — as when the preliminary deal was passed last December.
Bill Shaikin in the Los Angeles Times sums up the aftermath neatly in a pair of quotes:
“This is a spectacular day for Anaheim,” Councilman Stephen Faessel said.
“This was not a deal,” Barnes said. “It was a mess.”
Because the council now holds all its meetings via Zoom, public comments were required to be submitted by email, and more than 250 came in. As Shaikin reports, these “included dozens of submissions of the same form letter in support of the deal” after Moreno’s management company, SRB, sent out text-message alerts asking people to write the council in support of the deal.
For the best take on the Kafkaesque proceedings, go read Spencer Custodio’s report in the Voice of OC, which includes many wonderful passive-aggressive journalism takedowns, like this one after Moreno and Barnes tried to delay the vote until the council could hold an in-person meeting:
“We’re in the eleventh hour. We’ve been talking about this for a year and a half. And we’ve had over 30 meetings where this has been mentioned,” Councilman Trevor O’Neil said.
There were only two public meetings last year when the Council discussed specifics about the deal.
The council is required to repeat its vote next Tuesday to finalize the deal, but it’s clear that another week isn’t going to change anybody’s minds. Which means that the city of Anaheim has performed the astonishing feat of taking a position of strength — Moreno having terminated the team’s lease with nowhere else to play, gifting the city with the option of trying to impose whatever demands on him it wanted — and turning it into a deal that gives the Angels’ billionaire owner $350 million worth of free land, more than six years after then-mayor Tom Tait shot down a similar plan by pointing out that giving away land is the fiscal equivalent of giving away money. That’s seizing defeat from the jaws of victory in a way that even the Angels never managed.