That was the response Tom Lutz received from Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido’s Secretary while trying to schedule a meeting between Lutz, Councilman Carlos Bustamante, and the Mayor to discuss concerns raised by the community group Save Our Stadium regarding the possible move of the Chivas Soccer team to Santa Ana. Pulido’s secretary was trying to schedule a meeting for 11:30 0r 12:30 and Lutz had suggested the 6:30 meeting time of the S.O.S. group. Lutz quoted the secretary as stating that the councilman and mayor “do not meet after 5:30 pm.”
So, we’ve got Carlos Bustamante, an Executive Manager job with the County Public Works Department, only available to meet with constituents before 5:30 pm. That’s weird, that’s about the time Carlos leaves his County job for the day.
We’ve been covering this story for the past month and it keeps getting more and more complicated with each passing day. What we know for certain is that the City of Santa Ana has had, what they term “preliminary” and informal, discussions with the Chivas Soccer Club to move the franchise to Santa Ana. You can read the back story here from Voice of OC.
What is starting to become clear is that the City’s definition of “preliminary” is extraordinarily liberal. Council members have claimed that they cannot speak on the matter because of confidentiality agreements which prohibit the city from publicly disclosing the level and content of the ongoing discussions. Several schools utilizing the Eddie West Field for Soccer and Football have been told, informally of course, that they need to make plans to play elsewhere in 2012. We know that at least 5 Council members have spoken to the media on this topic, expressing the same party line, and the same glowing perspective of the proposal. This is particularly troubling since it is difficult to find a legal way that a majority of Council Members could be informed to their apparent level of both understanding and consensus without somehow violating the Brown Act which prohibits them from doing so in secret.
The City Council has never placed this topic on the Council agenda for closed or open session discussion. The City has claimed deliberative process and confidentiality of these “preliminary” discussions as the reason for denial of the groups request for records. Granted the request by the S.O.S. group was a bit broad in scope, the city has made no effort to help them narrow their request so that any releasable records can be identified.
The 50 people who showed up on Thursday for the Save Our Stadium meeting on Thursday night were not buying the city position that there have been only preliminary discussions. They believe there is a “close to formal” deal in the works and that the Council is planning to keep the matter quiet till the last possible minute and then ram it through quickly avoiding as much public input and debate as possible. “We know there’s a secret deal, because they won’t talk about it,” said Tom Lutz.
Their concerns range from quality of life issues such as noise and traffic, to property values. Since the plan floating around proposes that eventually a soccer sports complex will be built adjacent to residential locations.
Tim Rush told the group “this is just one more deal that doesn’t pass the smell test.” He pointed out an interesting tidbit of information which helps call into question the preliminary nature of the Chivas discussions. “Goodwill Industries recently announced that they would be closing their computer store;” Rush said, “to open up a Chivas store. I’m sure that decision happened in a vacuum,” added Rush.
The Save Our Stadium is clearly a grass roots group of concerned residents. They are not opposed to the idea of a professional sports team coming to Santa Ana. “In a more industrial location where the impacts on residents and quality of life are limited, and with open public debate it might be a good idea,” said Rush.
Rush suggested that it was likely that the city was simply being played and that nothing would come of the project. He also made it clear that the residents couldn’t just wait around to see what happens and then be caught off guard if the project does come to fruition. They are serious about doing what they can to force the city to open up about the true status, and detail of the Chivas discussions. They passed the hat and raised in excess of $1,000 in pledges and checks at the meeting, “This is about transparency, Tom Lutz said. They’re conducting public business outside of public view.”
For more information on the Save Our Stadium group visit their website at www.SantaAnaSOS.org.
The odds of a Chivas actually deciding to abandon Los Angeles County for Santa Ana are slim. So the real issue here is the secrecy of the process that has fueled the discussions. The level of detail that the Council members and staff have about the potential Chivas move is extraordinary given the fact that no public or closed sessions of the Council have occurred on the topic.