Burbank city officials said Friday they are puzzled about a series of flyers from a group called "Friends of Burbank" that attacks a proposed multimillion-dollar development by the Walt Disney Co.
Although the flyers were commissioned by a Los Angeles political consulting firm, at least one city official said mailing of the flyers to registered voters in Burbank during the past week is probably part of an effort by Disney's entertainment rival, MCA, to block the proposed project.
"Somebody, and I assume it's MCA, is spending a lot of money to get their point across," said Councilwoman Mary Lou Howard.
MCA earlier this year filed two lawsuits to overturn a tentative agreement between Burbank and Disney to develop a 40-acre site in downtown Burbank. MCA also wants to develop the property.
Representatives from "Friends of Burbank" and MCA did not return phone calls Friday.
The slick, professional flyers--which contain pictures and illustrations--claim that the city is giving more than $100 million in tax money to Disney to subsidize construction of the "The Disney-MGM Studio Backlot," an elaborate entertainment and retail complex planned for a site bounded by Burbank and Magnolia boulevards, Third Street and the Golden State Freeway.
"The proposed Disney project will change Burbank forever," read one of the flyers. "It will turn virtually all of downtown Burbank into a massive tourist complex and require a tax subsidy of over one hundred million dollars.
"But our City Council decided to sign an agreement with Disney after less than 30 minutes of council discussion. No advance notice. No public hearings. No competitive bidding."
The flyers urged readers to contact Mayor Michael R. Hastings and other members of the City Council to protest the agreement.
Another brochure showed a picture of Disneyland on the front with the caption, "It's a nice place to visit." Inside, another picture showed a jumble of hotels, liquor stores and souvenir shops with the caption, "But you wouldn't want to live there."
The three types of flyers sent to about 43,000 Burbank voters are not signed. The return address on the brochures is "Friends of Burbank, 150 S. Glenoaks Blvd, Suite 9216" in Burbank. The address is a private mail drop in a one-room building.
The box is registered to Barbara Grover, a partner in Skelton, Grover & Associates, a campaign-consulting firm in Los Angeles.
Parke Skelton has been a crusader for tenants' rights in campaigns in Southern California.
A Burbank-based political mailing vendor, Political Data Inc., produced the labels with voters' addresses and allowed the flyers to be sent using its bulk-rate permit number.
James Hayes, president of the company, said he is not affiliated with "Friends of Burbank." "We just generated the labels," he said.
"I think we have an advantage because no one is coming clean on these things and admitting they're doing it," Hastings said. "Our more-educated residents will see through this."
The council is to discuss preliminary details of the Disney proposal at Tuesday's meeting at City Hall.