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Anaheim wrongly doles out money

Over the past 15 years, Anaheim’s political winds have blown back and forth. This hasn’t been along typical Democratic v. Republican lines, but between those who believe local development decisions should be guided by the marketplace and those who want to “help” the market by lavishing public subsidies on hoteliers, sports teams and theme parks.

In the mid-2000s, Anaheim even made headlines for its “freedom friendly” governance approach. Officials then focused on reducing regulations rather than picking winners and losers. There’s no question which side the new council is on after a 5-1 vote this month to give a $425,000 no-bid, oneyear contract to the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce.

This revives a controversial budget item that the previous mayor had scuttled.

Forget about “freedom friendliness” — the new City Council is all about doling out cash to politically well-connected businesses. Did we mention the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce reportedly spent generously helping Harry Sidhu get elected mayor? This is a bad sign of things to come given ongoing city negotiations with the Angels.

One of the state’s top political- reform experts told the Voice of OC there’s nothing illegal about the contract, but that it’s a political question. Well, it’s a bad political decision and an unnecessary expenditure. The chamber has to sponsor a job fair, advertise the city in its magazine and include the city in the “president’s circle” at various events, among other promises. Oh, wow.

“The new proposed contract doesn’t separate costs for individual items and doesn’t require progress reports or other follow up,” according to the Orange County Register. No wonder contract backers spoke mainly in generalities.

“I understand, first-hand, the value that local chambers provide to the business community,” said Councilman Trevor O’Neil.

Indeed, chambers do a great job promoting the local business climate. But the kind of programs funded by this contract are programs that chambers typically provide as part of their mission. We’d like to remind the council that one of the best signs of a businessfriendly city is that its government doesn’t squander money on unnecessary things.

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