In the News
How should Anaheim fund homeless programs?
ANAHEIM — As city officials consider how best to address homelessness in the city, they must first face the question of how to pay for any new housing, programs and services.
Councilman Jose Moreno is proposing at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Oct. 17, the city reopen discussions with tourism and hotel officials about funding the budget shortfall at the ARTIC transit station, which would free up city dollars for homeless programs.
As a longer-term strategy, Moreno also hopes to renegotiate agreements that divert hotel visitors tax dollars back to hotels in return for building properties that meet four-diamond standards..
But even if the council agrees to make the ask, it may be a hard sell to the businesses.
Earlier this year, the Anaheim Tourism Improvement District refused a request to cover a $2.5 million deficit in ARTIC’s operating budget, after helping fund the station during its first two years.
And although the City Council in late 2016 ended a policy of using future hotel room taxes to lure construction of new luxury hotels, that didn’t affect the hundreds of millions of dollars promised to Disney, Wincome Group and other developers when the policy was in place.
Moreno said he’s bringing the issue forward because last month the council declared a homeless state of emergency and agreed to a multi-pronged approach to address needs, but no details have been given on how to fund the effort.
“That was too vague for me,” he said.
Councilwoman Kris Murray, who proposed the approach called Operation Home Safe, said the city will explore county, state and federal funding, but added that it’s “counterproductive” to use public concern over the homeless issue to try to reopen discussion of how hotel taxes are used.
A third and likely less controversial funding proposal to be discussed Tuesday is to create a separate account within the Anaheim Community Foundation, where residents, businesses and nonprofit foundations could donate to homeless programs.
Who should pay?
When the ARTIC station, with its landmark illuminated arched dome, opened in 2014, the tourism district’s board agreed to help plug an unexpected deficit. The three-member board includes representatives of the city, Disney and hotels.
However, officials have said that aid was based on expectations of a planned streetcar and more ad space at the station that would promote the resort district, neither of which came to fruition. Hotels in the tourism district collect 2 percent of room rates to pay for needs in the district.
This year, the deficit continued and the city used general fund dollars to fill the gap.
Moreno said he wants to pursue all potential funding sources for homeless programs, and it’s not unreasonable to ask the tourism district to help pay for a transit center that was built in part to bring more visitors to the city.
Officials with the city’s visitor-serving businesses supported ARTIC, Moreno said, and they’ve also expressed concerns about how the homeless situation affects them. He’s also not aware of any city dollars that could be spared without cutting from other programs, he said.
“We’re in a state of emergency as it relates to homelessness,” Moreno said. “I would hope they would heed the call of an emergency by the City Council.”
Disney spokeswoman Lisa Haines said the company’s position hasn’t changed, and regardless, the money has since been budgeted for other uses.
Fred Brown of Desert Palm Hotels, the board’s hotel representative, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Murray noted that Moreno made the same proposals regarding ARTIC funding and hotel tax subsidies when she proposed Operation Home Safe and the council opted not to pursue them.
The station is a city asset and paying for its operations is not the tourism district’s responsibility, Murray said.
Moreno’s proposal is “politicizing a program that is at a crisis level and critically needed,” Murray said. “Let’s separate these issues.”
View Original Publication: Orange County Register