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Anaheim Passes A Minimum Wage Measure Targeting Disneyland

Crowds gather at Disneyland in Anaheim, California on July 24, 2017. (Daryl Barker/KPCC)
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For voters in Anaheim, this election wasn't just about Orange County's tight, closely watched Congressional races. It was also about Disney, the city's largest employer.

Voters may have picked a Disney-friendly mayor and two Disney-backed city council members. But they also passed Measure L, an initiative designed to raise pay for workers in and around Disneyland.

John Lewis, an Orange County political consultant who has worked with outgoing mayor and Disney critic Tom Tait, said the results are "a bit of a mixed message."

The No on Measure L campaign conceded on Monday.

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"This is a tragic outcome for Anaheim," said Anaheim Chamber of Commerce president Todd Ament in a written statement.

"We will do our best to ease the economic brunt that will now be imposed on our city by this special interest agenda and continue to fight for more sensible economic development policies," he said.

Measure L sets a $15 per hour minimum wage starting next year, rising to $18 by 2022, for certain employers in Anaheim. However, there's disagreement about whether Disneyland workers will see raises from its passage.

That's because Measure L only applies to employers receiving tax rebates from the city -- and it's not clear that Disneyland does.

Disney canceled two tax deals with Anaheim in the run-up to the election. The city attorney has said the measure does apply to four luxury hotel projects in Anaheim, but not to Disney. The initiative's backers argue Disney is covered, because of other arrangements with the city.

The union behind Measure L has said the issue will likely end up in court.

Unite Here Local 11 co-president Ada Briceño said, "The minute we see that those workers are not compensated fairly, we're ready to go with plaintiffs and we're ready to go with attorneys," she said.

The outcomes of other races in Anaheim were more favorable to Disney. Harry Sidhu, a former councilman, is on his way to becoming the city's next mayor. Two Disney-funded candidates for city council are also winning by wide margins.

Jordan Brandman is beating incumbent James Vanderbilt, one of the council's Disney critics, by close to 10 percentage points. And Disney-backed candidate Trevor O'Neil is ahead by about 11 points in his race. Councilman Jose Moreno fended off a Disney-backed challenger in his race.

There are still ballots left to be counted. But if these results hold, politicians seen as Disney-friendly will outnumber those questioning the company's dealings with the city by five to two.

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Disney gave more than $1.2 million to a PAC supporting a slate of candidates. John Lewis, the political consultant, said that money translated into a flood of mailers that confused voters about where various candidates stood on Disney.

"I just think that Measure L was an easier concept for voters to get their arms around," Lewis said. "It was pretty straightforward."

USC associate professor of public policy Michael Thom noted voters also passed two initiatives, Measures J and K, approving subsidies for luxury hotel projects near Disneyland.

"If Anaheim voters don't like their city's corporate entanglements, they forgot to convey that message," Thom said.

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