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Anaheim found not in violation of Brown Act in stadium negotiations, court rules

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The plea agreement signed by former Anaheim mayor Harry Sidhu was damning: At a time the city of Anaheim was negotiating a stadium deal with the Angels, Sidhu slipped relevant and confidential information to the team, in the hope the team would thank him with a million-dollar campaign contribution. When the FBI asked him about it, he lied and denied.

The deal ultimately collapsed, but the question lingered: Was the corruption within City Hall limited to the mayor, or did the city itself break the rules?

On Wednesday, for the second time in three years, a court cleared the city of allegations it violated the state’s open government laws in negotiating the Angel Stadium deal.

A three-judge panel of the state appellate court largely upheld an Orange County Superior Court decision that the city had complied with the Brown Act in negotiating the proposed $150-million sale of Angel Stadium and the surrounding property to an entity controlled by Angels owner Arte Moreno.

Under the deal, Moreno’s company would have renovated or replaced the 58-year-old stadium and built a village — homes, shops, restaurants, hotels and offices — upon more than 100 acres of parking lots.

For the second time in a decade, Moreno thought he had reached a deal with Anaheim, only to see the city back out. The Angels’ lease extends through 2029, with team options through 2038.

Moreno, 77, told the Orange County Register last month that he had no plans for a third round of negotiations.

“Right now I’d say no,” Moreno said. “I don’t like the word never. Right now I don’t believe [Anaheim officials] have an appetite for it.”

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In response, Anaheim mayor Ashleigh Aitken issued a statement in which she said the city would be willing to talk.

“We welcome a fair proposal,” she said. “As a city, we’re committed to building on decades of baseball in Anaheim for generations to come.”

In Wednesday’s ruling, the appellate court panel rejected four of five arguments made by the People’s Homeless Task Force, confirming the Superior Court finding that the city did not improperly negotiate the stadium deal behind closed doors.

The appellate court validated one argument, ruling that the city should have allowed public comment by telephone and not just email during the pandemic, so that citizens could “directly address the City Council.”

“As most everyone has experienced at this point,” Wednesday’s opinion read, “email is easily and often ignored.”

In 2022, the Orange County grand jury blasted not just Sidhu but the council majority that backed him.

“The City Council majority’s inappropriate handling of the stadium property transactions betrayed its constituents,” the grand jury report read.

The grand jury, which said it started its probe before it became aware of the FBI investigation, said the city had demonstrated “persistent lack of transparency and rushed decision-making in its handling of the stadium property transactions, exacerbating distrust by the public, state and local government officials, and even some members of its own City Council.”

The FBI agent who investigated Sidhu said the former mayor’s actions “may have violated the Brown Act.” Kelly Aviles, the attorney for the People’s Homeless Task Force, said the agent’s report was disclosed after the Superior Court ruling and would not have been considered by an appellate court charged with reviewing whether the Superior Court acted properly with the information it had.

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Aviles said she disagreed with Wednesday’s ruling but anticipated her clients would consider the case closed and would not ask the state supreme court to consider taking up the matter.

Mike Lyster, the spokesman for the city of Anaheim, said the city “welcomed” Wednesday’s decision.

“For a second time now, a court has determined that Anaheim followed the Brown Act,” he said. “For whatever other issues may have come to light with the stadium proposal, we stand by the city’s open, public process.”

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Immigration in Maine Addressing Labor Shortage Could Set Trend for U.S.

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A significant labor gap in Maine’s lobster industry is being filled by immigrants, shedding light on the critical role that foreign-born workers are likely to play in the U.S. economy as the native-born population ages. Maine, known for its abundant lobster population, is grappling with an aging workforce that is increasingly unable to sustain the demands of the thriving lobster industry, valued at $1 billion.

Ben Conniff, a founder of Luke’s Lobster, underscores the importance of immigrants in sustaining the natural resources economy of the state, as many native-born workers are not inclined towards manufacturing work in food processing. Since its establishment in 2013, Luke’s Lobster has heavily relied on immigrants to staff its lobster processing plant, highlighting the vital role played by foreign-born workers in filling labor gaps.

With Maine boasting the oldest population in the U.S., with a median age of 45.1, the state offers a glimpse into the economic future of America, where immigrants are poised to be a crucial source of new workers and economic vitality in the coming years.

As immigration continues to be a hotly debated topic in the country, the influx of immigrants has been instrumental in boosting the American economy’s potential. The Congressional Budget Office has revised upwards its population and economic growth projections for the next decade, attributing the growth to the wave of newcomers entering the workforce.

Maine’s initiatives to attract and integrate immigrants into the workforce, such as the creation of an Office of New Americans, reflect the state’s proactive approach towards addressing labor shortages. Private companies like Luke’s Lobster have also taken steps to diversify and supplement the aging lobster fishing industry by training immigrants and minorities in lobster fishing and licensing processes.

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Chadai Gatembo, an 18-year-old immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo, exemplifies the success story of immigrants finding opportunities in Maine. Despite facing challenges on his journey to the U.S., Gatembo is now on the path to becoming a full-fledged lobsterman, showcasing the potential for immigrants to thrive in new industries.

The influx of immigrants is not without its challenges, with issues of work authorization and economic stability confronting many newcomers. Adriana Hernandez, a mother of four from Venezuela, highlights the economic hardship faced by immigrants awaiting work permits, underscoring the barriers faced by unauthorized workers in integrating into the labor market.

Despite these challenges, the overall impact of immigration on the U.S. economy is significant. Immigrants have helped to bolster job growth, insulate the economy against downturns, and contribute to a more diverse and innovative workforce. Economists predict that immigration will play a crucial role in addressing labor shortages and demographic shifts as the native-born population ages.

The entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants like Chenda Chamreoun, who has risen from lobster cleaning to a quality assurance supervisor and now aims to start her own catering business, showcases the economic potential of foreign-born workers. Immigrants tend to be more entrepreneurial, adding to the innovation and productivity of the American economy.

J. Edward Moreno contributed reporting from New York, and Zolan Kanno-Youngs from Washington.

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