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Anaheim voters to decide whether to make it harder to raise taxes

Disneyland on Wednesday unveiled a new enhanced audio guide to help visually impaired visitors in the park.  The guide uses GPS to trigger descriptions of the park, including places like Main Street, pictured here.
Susan Valot/KPCC
Disneyland, Main Street.

Anaheim city officials voted to make it harder to raise taxes when its City Council voted 3-2 on Tuesday to ask voters whether a two-thirds vote, instead of a simple majority, should be required to place any new tax measure on the ballot for residents to decide.

Why they did this has a lot to do with how district-based elections are changing local politics. And how this plays out will likely affect Disney's Anaheim theme parks, a major industry in town.

For decades, Anaheim residents have debated whether to add a gate tax on admissions tickets to Disneyland and its other venues. Disney officials say they do pay taxes – property, sales, employment taxes.

But a gate tax could someday tax all entertainment attractions in Anaheim and also apply to Angeles Stadium, movie theaters and other venues.

"The idea that, while we are going to expand the council, that it is going to be more representative of Anaheim and so they might raise taxes, well, why would that be a bad thing?” said Anaheim resident Jose Moreno, who advocated for district-based elections. District-based elections require candidates to live in and be elected by the people who live in the neighborhood the candidate plans to represent.

Moreno said he found the timing of the ballot measure suspicious. He also ran for council last year but lost.

A campaign topic last year, during city elections, was whether to expand the council from five members to seven and to change to district-based elections.

Voters passed both those measures and they take effect November 2016.

District-based elections next year could bring a council more favorable to Moreno's point of view, which worries Council Member Lucille Kring.

"We have had people who ran for council last year who definitely said that they would support increasing taxes." 

The proposal city officials passed this week makes it harder to put any new taxes on the ballot for voters to decide.

The measure was introduced by Council Member Kris Murray who said her ballot measure had nothing to do with the fact that an agreement with Disneyland Resort expires in 2016, which prohibits the city from imposing a so-called gate tax on admissions tickets.

The final vote will be up to Anaheim voters, who in November 2016, must decide whether to make it harder to put new taxes on the ballot or not.

It's likely to be highly debated issue in the months running up to the city council election.