With Disney announcing it’s scrapping a planned luxury hotel over tax break disputes this week, opponents of Anaheim’s living wage measure readied to pounce. The resort elite and their hard hat quislings chose Maxwell Park of all places to host a press conference yesterday morning arguing that the ballot initiative will kill hotel development projects, drying up general fund revenues needed to address homelessness.
But things didn’t go exactly according to plan with homeless advocates and pro-living wage activists crashing the party!
The No on Measure L crew set up a podium by the park’s clubhouse near a baseball diamond so that media would have a backdrop of homeless tents in view. Jeanine Robbins, an activist who organized a homeless “sleep-out” protest outside Disneyland two summers ago, arrived first at the park before being joined by others. Heated arguments ensued. Activists crowded the podium with protest signs to block the tents from view. Ernesto Medrano, a representative of the LA/OC Building Trade Council, had a few hard hat union carpenters surround the podium.
“We are here today urging voters to vote no on Measure L,” said Todd Ament, president of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, to open the short-lived press conference. “We’re here today at Maxwell Park in Anaheim because we’re seeing homelessness rampantly growing throughout this community.”
After Ament’s introduction, the homeless pimping stunt only lasted for another three minutes. Medrano took his turn at the podium and warned that the living wage measure imperiled thousands of good-paying union construction jobs at subsidized hotels on the cusp of Disney’s announcement. Wes Jones, an Anaheim resident, lambasted the stump speech against Measure L when stepping in front of news cameras. “These are union traitors,” he said, in between speakers. “No, you’re a traitor!” another man countered.
Gloria Ma’ae, an Anaheim resident and board member of Support Our Anaheim Resort (SOAR), spoke last in arguing that the homeless stood to benefit from Measure L’s defeat. “How are we benefiting, we’re going hungry!” a homeless woman yelled from behind the podium. Ma’ae wrapped up her brief comments in bringing the press conference to an abrupt end. Medrano signaled his hard hats to leave. Other scheduled speakers, like Anaheim councilwoman Kris Murray and Visit Anaheim’s Jay Burress, never got on the microphone.
The arguments for and against the living wage continued in the aftermath. “Just like Disney said they’re not going to build the hotel, you sir, are a liar!” Jones told Ament. “They will build the hotel.” Ament begged to differ. “They’re not going to build,” he said, before a handler whisked him away.
Robbins and Unite Here Local 11 co-president Ada Briceño gave interviews to local TV news channel reporters, but no stories about the press conference chaos have surfaced. Following a contentious council meeting where Anaheim’s city attorney opined that Disney’s exempt from the living wage measure because of two cancelled tax rebate agreements, the Maxwell Park showdown proved to be the second related shit show in less than a week!
A year ago, the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions commissioned a survey of Disney workers and their living conditions ahead of the living wage campaign. Among its findings, the Occidental College and Economic Roundtable study showed that 11 percent of workers surveyed experienced homelessness in the past two years.
For her part, councilwoman Murray advocated for Operation Home S.A.F.E. and the clearing out of the Santa Ana riverbed homeless encampment. After the evictions, homeless folks predictably migrated back to Anaheim parks, like Maxwell and Twila Reid, in greater numbers.
Now, Murray is using those swelling encampments to argue against the living wage measure.
“Residents, businesses, and visitors to Anaheim are witnessing an escalating homelessness crisis dramatically affecting our neighborhoods and parks,” she stated in post-press conference comments. “If Measure L passes, that crisis will only get worse.”
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!