Anaheim council accedes to Disney’s request, nixes tax breaks
Incentive deals that would have given Disney $267 million in hotel room taxes and prevented the city from adding a gate tax to Disneyland Resort park tickets for decades are officially dead.
A week after Disney officials asked them to, Anaheim City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday, Aug. 28, to kill the agreements that Disneyland Resort President Josh D’Amaro has called divisive.
Some officials hope the move signals a new era of goodwill and trust between Orange County’s largest city and its largest employer.
Eliminating the deals could exempt Disney from the provisions of a November ballot measure that, if approved by city voters, would raise wages to $18 an hour by 2022 for workers at hotels and entertainment businesses that have received tax incentives from the city.
Last month, unions representing about 8,600 Disney workers agreed to a new contract that will get them to $15 an hour in January; other unions are still negotiating, including the union representing hotel workers.
Rancor over whether Disney pays a living wage and contributes its fair share to the community has increased in recent months between the company and unions that represent workers, and council members have taken sides.
Even as council members called for a fresh start on Tuesday, they couldn’t seem to stop fighting.
Councilman Jose Moreno, who has opposed tax subsidies for corporations, said he was troubled that two council colleagues “choose to attack an initiative that 21,000 people signed,” referring to the wage measure that would have applied to Disney’s hotels – including a planned luxury property the company has recently put on hold.
Councilwoman Lucille Kring, who lamented the jobs that won’t materialize if the fourth Disneyland Resort hotel isn’t built, told Moreno: “You can’t keep bashing the Mouse!”
The ballot measure would still apply to two hotels planned by the Wincome Group, though that company’s officials said in May they may look outside Anaheim to build one that’s not yet under construction if voters approve the measure.
Meanwhile, as of June 30, Disney had contributed more than $300,000 to efforts to defeat the initiative, known as Measure L, and has given to some candidates in fall council races.
Moreno said Disney could show its willingness to repair the relationship with Anaheim by staying out of city politics, prompting Councilwoman Kris Murray to fire back, “If we’re asking people not to participate in elections, it should be across the board and not the finger pointed at one organization.”