In another demonstration of their flair for distraction from their own mistakes, the Santa Ana City Council is again using the power to remove members of city commissions as a diversion. This time they needed a way to distract from their collective failure to stop Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez from violating the right of Albert Castillo to address his grievances to his elected officials. The action by Claudia Alvarez has drawn the attention of the Attorney Generalâ€™s office.
In a Facebook comment Mayoral candidate Al Amezcua stated regarding the incident:
â€œI am outraged by recent incidents in which our mayor has violated residents’ constitutional rights. Blocking public comment is an abuse of power. Elected officials must be beholden to allÂ voters. When I am Mayor, I will welcome all voices so together we can build a better Santa Ana.â€
In response to the publicity surrounding their clearly unlawful action the Council needed a way to distract attention away from their Brown Act violation to something else, anything that could be used to cause people to look at something else. They didnâ€™t have to look far, because the thugs over at Orange Juice Blog had been sensationalizing the resignation of a city student commissioner on the Parks and Recreation Commission as a result of alleged harassment by Commissioners Julie Stroud and Tish Leon.
The unfortunate reality here is that in this case a young man, who clearly had not matured enough to know when he was being played, got swept up in the heavy breathing claims made by Art Pedroza and Sean Mill by allegedly tellingÂ others in Santa Ana that former candidate for Mayor and City Council Thomas Gordon is a racist. Things went downhill from there and the student, being unable to cope with the embarrassment that resulted, resigned.
While it is reasonable for a teenager to feel intimidated when an adult challenges their actions or decisions; the act of giving friendly advice or healthy criticism, cannot and should not be characterized by responsible adults as bullying.Â Bullying would be better described as getting in the face of a political enemy and challenging them to a fistfight.Â Bullying would be sending text messages threatening to destroy some one’s life.Â Bullying would be making threats about sending known gang members to one’s residence.Â Can you guess who we’re talking about here?
At any rate, this situation provided the perfect opportunity for some members of the council to exact some political retribution and create a diversion at the same time. Although Ms. Leonâ€™s term is scheduled to expire at the end of this year, Councilwoman Martinez was more than happy to offer up Leon, who she had appointed to the Parks and Recreation Commission in 2007, as the sacrificial distraction. Without giving any reason for her action, Ms. Martinez asked the City Clerk to seek the resignation of Ms. Leon. Having received no communication from Martinez on the matter, Leon declined to resign without speaking to the Councilwoman first. At 4 pm on Friday August 13th the City Clerk informed Leon that Martinez had placed an action to remove her from her commission appointment on the August 16th council agenda.
In an interview with Dan Chmielewski immediately after the agenda was posted, Michelle Martinez claimed that her action had â€œnothing to do with the incident involving the student commissioner or influence from Art Pedroza or Sean H. Mill.â€ She claimed that she was pressured by her colleagues on the Council because of â€œthings Leon had done over the past couple years.â€ Martinez would not specify what those â€œthingsâ€were but stressed at the time that she had â€œno choiceâ€ but to remove Leon. She asked Dan if Leon had described their working relationship over the past two years indicating it was not positive, but Matinez would not be more forthcoming than that.Â A couple hours later, after Sean H. Mill posted his commentary over on the Orange Juice Blog stating the Leon was being removed by Martinez â€œbecause of the incident with the student commissioner,â€ Martinez stated in response to an email from me seeking clarification that:
â€œI put the item on the agenda. This was my decision. I was not pressured by anyone. I will have an explanation for my decision on Monday at the meeting. I did talk with Dan and explained that I was not pressured by those he told me (Pedroza or Mill). I want to be very clear I was not demanded by anyone. I have the discretion to replace any of my commissioners. It is up to my colleagues on Monday if they wish to support my decision.â€
Maybe itâ€™s just me but it almost seems that after reflecting on her initial answers to Dan, in relation to what Sean H. Mill had written, she decided to revise her remarks. This of course isnâ€™t the first time Martinez has acted to remove a commissioner for the purpose of creating a diversion, and it is also not the first time she has asked he colleagues to remove a commissioner without first speaking to her appointee. In January Martinez took the same course of action with Jeff Dickman, who was a commissioner on the Historic Resources Commission. Dickman was one of the plaintiffs who sought an injunction against the City to halt their plans to bulldoze homes in the Station District without appropriate review of all options. My colleague Claudio Gallegos wrote in January;
â€œI think this explains it all. The Santa Ana City Council hates nothing more than city residents standing in the way of â€œtheir visionâ€ for Santa Ana, which is pretty screwed up. Jeff is being punished for his disloyalty to the city and all commissioners who are not kissing Claudia Alvarez and Miguel Pulidoâ€™s rings are slowly being pushed out.â€
Doug Irving of the Orange County Register reported on April 20th thatÂ the city has settled the lawsuit and agreed to step back from its plans to demolish the houses until it better studies the alternatives. It has already tweaked its review of possible future development around downtown â€“ including the Station District â€“ to take the old houses into consideration. The City also agreed toÂ pay $19,000 in legal fees to the plaintiffs.
It has been suggested that the removal of Leon from her commission appointment might have something to do with Leonâ€™s support of Miguel Pulidoâ€™s opponent Al Amezcua for Mayor. Apparently it was okay for Leon to support Martinez when she challenged Mayor Pulido for mayor in 2008, but not any more since Martinez is now supporting Pulido.
Whatever Michelle Martinezâ€™s real motivation is, the fact remains that people who serve on city commissions, serve at the pleasure of the member who appoints them. Ultimately Martinez can do whatever she wants and the Council majority will likely support the action. That doesnâ€™t make it right; it just makes it the price of the political game.
It is no different than the price Councilman Tinajero had to pay to get former Planning Commissioner Sean H. Mill to resign. He had to provide Mill with a city recognition certificate for his years of dedicated service; even though Tinajero told me personally in a meeting shortly before Mill resigned, that he intended to remove Mill as his commissioner because his antics as a blogger had proven to be an embarrassment to him and the city, if he did not resign.
Mill, like Pedroza, always references that he resigned from the commission.Â And that’s true.Â But he clearly would have been removed if he hadn’t and Mill can deny as long s he’d like to but it wouldn’t make what Mill says true.
This City Council Meeting will be held a couple of blocks away from the Council Chambers at the Yost Theater, Fiesta Market Promenade, 307 N. Spurgeon, Santa Ana. The Closed Session portion of the meeting begins at 5:00 pm and the open sessionÂ willÂ followas soon asÂ Closed Session concludes.Â With the meeting being held off site, it will not be broadcast on cable TV. How convenient.
C’est la vie. Just another day in what Gustavo Arellano over at OCWeekly has appropriatelyÂ called the “Banana Republic of SanTana.”