County-wide “Town Hall” on Race and Diversity Leaves Out Community; Santa Ana Restricts Access

An Update: Councilman Vince Sarmiento, who came up with the idea for the Town Hall, called this afternoon to say the event isn’t taking the direction he hoped it would take.  He said he was disappointed that City Staff is using the format for the Town Hall as this is “not what I envisioned when I proposed this.” The Councilman envisioned an open meeting for the community to attend.  It’s unclear who made the decision to close the meeting to a select invitation list.

This Thursday, the Claudia Alvarez Apology Tour is scheduled to conclude with a County-Wide Community Forum on Race and Diversity hosted by the City of Santa Ana Thursday morning from 10AM to 2PM at the Santa Ana Police Community Room.  Now this is an impressive event with guests from the Orange County Human Relations Commission, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Latino-Jewish Coalition — community leaders if you will.  But if you’re just a member of the Orange County Community or a member of the press and you want to attend this event, you are SOL. 

It’s by-invitation only.

I’ll write that again.  A by-invitation only Town Hall. The city is apparently borrowing a page from the Bush/Cheney campaign for restricting access while giving the appearance of taking the high road. And that’s all this “town hall” is — bread and circuses.

The City is issuing a press release of its roster of invited guests for the Thursday morning to mid-afternoon event.  The Media is not invited.  Mark Lawrence from the city has a streaming video feed would be provided for members of the media. 

Back in September, when this situation occured, the motion made by Council member Vince Sarmiento was to “solicit the Human Relations Commission  to provide an Open Forum/Town Hall meeting regarding race relations, tolerance and civility.  The city’s October 13 press release stated: “Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez, in conjunction with the City of Santa Ana, is hosting a Community Forum on Cultural Diversity and Conflict Resolution, on Thursday, October 27, 2011.  The Community Forum will be held at the Santa Ana Police Community Room from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  The purpose of the forum is to explore how diverse communities can resolve conflict in a culturally sensitive manner.”

Lawrence, in a phone call with me, said the Community Forum was never stated as an open event.  He said it’s a community forum with community leaders invited to provide full representation on behalf of a number of community groups.  We’ve already expressed our opinion of the decision to exclude the press and members of the general community from this event as horse excrement to Mr. Lawrence because that is exactly what this is. 

We met with Councilman Sarmiento earlier this month and asked about this event less it be forgotten as Santa Ana’s city finances sink deeper into the abyss. And we gave the Councilman props when the October 13th press release came out even though the timing continues to strike us as odd (the middle of the day for a community forum); There was an October 20 deadline for an RSVP and I responded well in advance.  But with Lawrence’s phone call, this “community forum” is anything but a Town Hall envisioned by Councilman Sarmiento and voted on by the City Council as a rebuke to the Mayor Pro Tem’s anti-Semitic comments directed at Irv Chase and his son.  I have to wonder, is Irv Chase on the Invite List?

So either Sarmiento or Lawrence is lying.  Which one?

So the Big Distraction comes to a whimpering close. A Mayor Pro Tem makes an anti-Semitic statement from the dias at a taxpaying property owner at a public city council meeting.  Her apologies are dubbed weak sauce and she’s condemned by a number of community organizations.  A vote of rebuke and punishment is agendized and a softer motion is substituted for which she’s allowed to actually break a tie vote.  She gets some bad press, her wrist slapped and sits through a series of meetings to seek greater understanding why her hurtful comments were indeed hurtful.  A week later, she refers to the hub-bub as “a distraction” minimizing the impact of what was said.  A community forum, open Town Hall, is proposed to heal the community rift and wounds. 

But you can’t come unless you’re invited. 


  12 comments for “County-wide “Town Hall” on Race and Diversity Leaves Out Community; Santa Ana Restricts Access

  1. Mike Tardif
    October 25, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    It just makes me sick at the depths this city will sink.

    You could have left this part out – “The city is apparently borrowing a page from the Bush/Cheney campaign for restricting access while giving the appearance of taking the high road.” – It just upsets some who would otherwise be on your side. This is a community event not a partisan campaign – big diff.

    What would happen if people (members of the community) just showed up? This is an outrage.

    • Andree Weger
      October 25, 2011 at 2:14 pm

      I might just show up !!!

    • October 25, 2011 at 3:16 pm

      Mike — apologies if you were offended, but the Bush/Cheney Town Halls on the campaign trail were very inclusive affairs.

  2. Andree Weger
    October 25, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Another example of the mis-guided effort. That the public is not invited is disgrace!!!!
    We vote, pay taxes put up with sub par PD etc.
    What now Claudia is too good to go public with her disgrace?
    The sooner we are rid of her the better.
    I do not know which is worse Claudia or PD Waters filling in as City Manager. Does he collect TWO paychecks???

  3. Mike Tardif
    October 25, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Santa Ana says: “The Community Forum is an invitation only event to facilitate candid dialog among the participants.”

    That is BS – the forum is by invitation only in order to silence the true community. They could easily accommodate SA residents by asking for respect for all of the panelists and taking some questions in written form from the community.

    Anyone who participates in this sham is complicit in the quashing of the right of free speech for the residents of Santa Ana.

  4. Does Sean Mill steal from his employer?
    October 25, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    Sean Mill says:
    October 25, 2011 at 4:32 pm
    I got my invitation Mike, I’m shocked you weren’t invited.

    It appears that Santa Ana Planning Commissioner Sean H Mill may be using his employers resources to blog during company time. (Alledgedly) Stealing resources from your employer could very well be a violation of the cities code of ethics.


    • Anon
      October 26, 2011 at 1:09 pm

      Hey Sean’s mom has a mortgage to pay. Leave the guy alone. He’s nothing but bluster.

  5. francisco barragan
    October 25, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    So sad that by restricting participation, this creates further tension, and the feeling of further conflict.

    City Council and city staff are doing themselves and Santa Ana citizens a disservice!!!

  6. October 26, 2011 at 8:05 am

    So far, from what we have been able to figure out, the invites to this event went from Councilwoman Alvarez to her supporters. I have yet to find one of her detractors who was invited to this event.

    Rather than being a true discussion of race relations and diversity in a public setting, this is looking more like a thank you luncheon, at tax payer expense, for those who supported Alvarez throughout this conflict.

  7. Anon
    October 26, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Sean Mill got an invite? Does this mean he’ll take time off from his recepionist’s job at Advantage Title to attend? He is the one who can really benefit from bigotry training

  8. Claudia time off
    October 26, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    So is Claudia taking a vacation day from the DA’s office? And who’s buying lunch

Comments are closed.