Mayor Seeks $250,000 for ‘Anaheim First’ to Assess Neighborhood Needs

Sidhu: cart first, horse later. Photo from Sidhu’s campaign website

Mayor Harry Sidhu’s pledge to Anaheim residents during a State of the City speech last month looked good in headlines. It boldly proposed $250 million in neighborhood investment over ten years with the help of a civically engaged but supposedly “nonpolitical” Anaheim First advisory committee. The mayor even bragged to the president of Trader Joe’s in a letter stating that council announced the Anaheim First initiative when it did no such thing in a failed attempt to woo the grocery chain to the west side.

Surprise, surprise: With just a little scrutiny, it all turned out to be puras papas. 

Sidhu is now trying to clean up his mess at council tomorrow night by way of a resolution in support of what’s being re-branded the “2030 Neighborhood Investment Program” in partnership with Anaheim First. Also on the agenda: a proposed $250,000 in funding for a forthcoming “Anaheim Community Assessment” to be carried out by the nonprofit group.

At the time of Sidhu’s big announcement, Anaheim First counted 30 inaugural members. A creature of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, Visit Anaheim and the Anaheim Community Foundation, it formed last year. Taking a closer look, the Weekly found that a majority of those seated had endorsed, contributed or worked for Disney-backed candidates, including Sidhu, going back to the 2016 city council election even as the city billed the advisory committee on its website as “nonpolitical.”

Duane Roberts, a former West Anaheim city council candidate, sent city manager Chris Zapata a letter dated Mar. 17 citing concerns about Anaheim First.

“It’s a group set up by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce and Visit Anaheim, two organizations whose Board of Directors and membership have spent tens of thousands of dollars to get Mr. Sidhu elected,” Roberts wrote. “A majority of the individuals who have been handpicked to serve on it are known backers of Mr. Sidhu, his close allies, or are persons linked to or affiliated with organizations that support his agenda.”

The watchdog also wondered why the city’s website promoted the group even though it’s not an official board or commission that came before council and why it seemed primed to enjoy a privileged role in shaping major budgetary issues. Roberts spoke at a council meeting afterward pledging to ask the Fair Political Practices Commission and the state Attorney General’s office to open an investigation if not given a response within 30 days.

Mike Lyster, city spokesman, responded earlier this month with a two-page letter. “Our work is not to promote ‘a private group’ but rather to share with residents what their mayor is outlining as a policy initiative,” he wrote. “To be clear, city spending on neighborhood improvements is always directed by professional city staff and approved by the city council as individual projects or as part of our annual budget.”

In seeking a resolution by council vote, the staff report on Sidhu’s major policy initiative calls it a “grass-roots, resident-driven” model (Ha! More like AstroTurf). Anaheim First also tweaked its advisory committee to be now named as a “Neighborhood Leadership Council” with 100 members, ten more than originally proposed. The add-ons will come courtesy of business, nonprofit and community representatives.

If given a nod by council tomorrow evening, the first real task for Anaheim First will come in the form of the community assessment that will look at the needs of neighborhoods where it concerns, among other things, parks, public safety and commercial vitality. The group’s website says outreach will include an array of organizations, including engaging the leadership of a few from the liberal plank of Anaheim politics like Los Amigos, a long-time Latino advocacy group, and Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD).

“We are always ready to work with the city so long as people are the priority,” says Shakeel Syed, OCCORD’s executive director. Although his group is listed, Syed notes that no conversations have taken place with Anaheim First.

Those talks may come if an assessment is approved with a strategic plan on programs and projects to follow before council. All Anaheim First needs to get going is a council vote approving $250,000 for the effort.

Updated with a statement from OCCORD’s executive director.

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!

9 Replies to “Mayor Seeks $250,000 for ‘Anaheim First’ to Assess Neighborhood Needs”

  1. Lol I wonder who’s whispering in Gabriel’s ear (the writer of this accusatory worthless story)

    You are all welcome to wait and see.

    1. Form 460’s whisper their sweet nothings to me…

      Don’t worry, I know you love District 1 so much that you decided to endorse someone in 2016 who rented an apartment just to run in it while dating a Real Housewife of OC! You know…the same guy a Republican judge scolded for telling “bald-face lies” during a police brutality civil case.

      Gracias for reading!

  2. Tonight the Anaheim City Council will vote on a resolution supporting Mayor Harry Sidhu’s $250 million 2030 Neighborhood Revitalization Program, and cement a partnership with community organization Anaheim First to implement the initiative.

    Sidhu proposed the ambitious neighborhood investment program during his inaugural State of the City speech in February – beginning with a $20 million investment in the 2019-2020 fiscal year that starts this July. Sidhu’s vision is to harness the robust tax revenues generated by economic development and tourism in Anaheim to resident-driven investment priorities. To that end, the mayor proposes partnering with Anaheim First, a resident and neighborhood based community organization.

    What Is Anaheim First?
    Anaheim First is a partnership among the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, Visit Anaheim and the Anaheim Community Foundation. It’s self-stated goal:

    This program is focused on resident-driven solutions that positively transform our neighborhoods — led by your neighbors in partnership with city officials, business, and community leaders. ANAHEI’M FIRST is the premier, game-changing initiative that will be implemented as part of the proposed 2030 Neighborhood Revitalization Program announced by Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu at his inaugural 2019 State of the City address. ANAHEI’M FIRST, in partnership with the City of Anaheim, is planning to conduct a comprehensive Anaheim Community Assessment to launch this program.

    Organizationally, Anaheim First is led by a Neighborhood Leadership Council comprised of 100 residents: 15 from each of the city’s six council districts who are representative of each district’s socioeconomic and cultural makeup – plus an additional 10 members drawn from Anaheim businesses, nonprofit organizations, and community representatives.  The intent is for the Leadership Council to serve as a bridge among neighborhoods, City officials, and community stakeholders, and connect residents with “all aspects of the [2030 Neighborhood Revitalization] program, including development of significant new infrastructure, expanded police and fire services, programs to maintain a strong local economy, and continuous reinvestment to build and maintain vibrant neighborhoods citywide.”

    Anaheim Community Assessment
    The first order of business in this partnership would be conducting an Anaheim Community Assessment, which the organization’s website describes as “a multidisciplinary review of the districts and neighborhoods in Anaheim, leading to a comprehensive community needs assessment and strategic plan of implementation to improve the vitality and livability of the entire Anaheim community”:

    The assessment will start by developing a foundation of service levels and what defines adequate service in all elements of Anaheim life. Topics will include: neighborhood livability, housing availability, public safety, assistance for those who are homeless, quality of streets and roads, parks, wildlands and open space, mobility and accessibility, commercial vitality and connectivity, recreation and leisure, programs to support local hiring and job training, and continuous investment and redevelopment to build and maintain vibrant neighborhoods citywide.

    The resolution before the city council calls on the city to provide $250,000 to supplement matching private sector funding to conduct the assessment.

    Anaheim’s economy generates hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue every year. This is a consequence of a robust local economy – and did not happen by accident. It’s the result of decades of constructive partnership between the private sector and civic leadership. One salient effect of this productive collaboration is Anaheim – unlike a growing number of its neighbors – doesn’t have to resort to tax increases to maintain public services. It has the wherewithal to embark on an ambitious program to invest a quarter of a billion dollars in its neighborhoods over the course of a decade.

    Mayor Sidhu’s proposal is innovative and bold, but not without precedence in Anaheim. In the late 1950s, city leaders convened a group of 100 residents to brainstorm ideas on how the city could provide the proper quality of life to residents at a time when the city – like the rest of Orange County – was experiencing tremendous growth.

    Anaheim First is a refreshing, grass-roots approach to giving citizens a more direct and impactful voice in prioritizing the city’s neighborhood investments. It isn’t political. There are no partisan or ideological litmus tests to becoming involved in Anaheim First. Improving neighborhoods, parks, libraries and services for youth, seniors and families isn’t partisan.

    Anaheim First isn’t about telling other people what to do, or using city government to impose a particular agenda. It’s about empowering Anaheim residents, giving them a say in how their city government allocates and invest the public’s money in the legitimate ends of local government: civic upkeep, infrastructure, community services, quality of life and neighborhood vitality. It’s driven by residents of all stripes and walks of life who care enough to step up and work to improve their neighborhoods and city. This is the kind of public-private partnership that has been a hallmark of Anaheim’s forward progress over the decades, and promises to be a productive collaboration that will yield positive results for the pe

    1. Nice copy and paste job from a blogger who outed Catholic sex abuse victims and made fun of police shooting deaths with a torn teddy bear and a Virgen de Guadalupe candle!

  3. Non profit means they don’t pay their fair share of taxes. Also can’t wait to see who does profit, not Anaheim resident’s that’s for sure. Just look at what Disney does for Anaheim ” not much. But the mayor is all for outside people coming to look at what they can do for Anaheim. City leader’s need a restructure. Fire all of them and let the community run Anaheim.

  4. Finally a leader who leads (and lives) in Anaheim. Sidhu is light years ahead of terrible Tait and band of loser followers.

      1. Mitch should not be representing anyone in district 3! His children do not even go to our schools. His daughter, in fact, went to Fairmont Private School. Not just that, but he also has a history, while on the Anaheim Planning Commission, of voting with Developers and against the Residents.. This is why we didn’t vote for him for councilman & why he shouldn’t be our representative in this sham…
        His verbiage on this post is also concerning!

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