Now that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is officially open at Disneyland, navigating the Anaheim Resort area may be tougher than sifting through a meteor storm. One fleet at the service of tourists and locals alike comes in the form of decorative Anaheim Resort Transportation (ART) buses. With timing being so pivotal, the Anaheim Transportation Network (ATN), a quasi-governmental nonprofit that oversees the shuttles, solicited proposals in April for a government relations and legislative advocacy contract that became a bidding war of great political intrigue.
The final round of interviews this month pitted Curt Pringle & Associates, the lobbying firm named for the former Anaheim mayor (and eternal Dark Lord), against Todd Priest & Associates. Priest served as a vice president of Pringle & Associates for a decade before departing in Dec. 2017 amid a telling exodus of employees , including Melinda Andrade who left and later joined Priest’s new firm in 2018 . With ATN’s board of directors being chock-full of hotel, sports team and tourism reps , the contract couldn’t help but serve as a referendum on Pringle’s diminishing power and influence.
On May 22, the Dark Lord placed third out of three, scoring eight points behind Todd Priest & Associates, to whom the ATN’s executive committee awarded the one-year, $120,000 contract.
The following day, Priest’s lobbying firm announced the news on social media. “We are excited to share that Todd Priest & Associates has been selected to provide Government and Public Affairs services to the Anaheim Transportation Network (ATN),” the Facebook statement reads. “As a transit provider, ATN serves millions of visitors, employees and residents each year, helping to reduce congestion in the region.”
Starting on July 1, Priest and crew will get to work on setting up meetings with elected officials, maintaining positive relationships with the Disneyland Resort and finding funds to advance ATN’s interests.
But the satisfaction that surely comes with netting a victory over Pringle doesn’t belong to Priest alone. As outlined in his proposal, Priest is teaming up with KLM Strategies, a new consulting firm started by former Anaheim city councilwoman Kris Murray. Despite doing the bidding of the Dark Lord over the course of two consecutive terms on council, sources tell the Weekly that the relationship between Murray and Pringle soured toward the end, especially with his support of Irvine mayor Don Wagner during a special election in March for an Orange County Board of Supervisors seat. Wagner bested former congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and Murray to win .
In this contest, teaming with Murray may have put Priest over the top. His firm’s proposal touted her experience as a former Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) executive director of government relations. “At OCTA, Ms. Murray conducted comprehensive local, state and federal legislative affairs in addition to leading the agency’s state and federal grant programs,” it reads. “During her tenure at OCTA, she secured more than $100 million in transportation funding for Orange County as part of a surface transportation reauthorization bill.”
With the bidding war behind it, a top priority for Priest & Associates comes in securing a permanent hub for ATN’s operations, including maintenance and storage.
Formed as a nonprofit in 1995, the ATN now has 81 buses along 23 routes that give rides to 9.5 million passengers annually. With the coming addition of 40 electric buses, 57 percent of ATN’s fleet is expected to be zero emission by next year.
On May 14, the Anaheim City Council unanimously voted to extend a non-exclusive franchise with ATN to provide shuttle services in the resort-area and elsewhere in the city through 2026.