On Tuesday Dan Chmielewski discovered, to his surprise, that the Santa Ana sponsored Open Forum/Town Hall meeting to discuss race relations was not going to be open to the public or the media. The forum, which became necessary because of Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez’s anti-Semitic comments while chairing a Council meeting, according to Council meeting minutes was clearly to be an open forum. Specifically, Councilman Vince Sarmiento’s motion, in addition to condemning Ms. Alvarez’s remarks called for staff to “solicit the Human Relations Commission to provide an Open Forum/Town Hall meeting regarding race relations, tolerance, and civility.”
The direction from the motion is not at all ambiguous. It is in fact, as clear as Ms. Alvarez’s remarks were anti-Semitic.
In deconstructing things, we have determined that Councilman Sarmiento essentially turned the matter over to staff to implement after the Council meeting. He was aware the Ms. Alvarez had taken an active interest in the planning of the event, which he found appropriate. After all, it was happening because of her, it only makes sense for her to be actively involved.
Apparently Ms. Alvarez however figured out that if she was actively involved she could pretty much control what would happen, and who would be there in person. Through her manipulation, Ms. Alvarez has managed to narrow down the guest list to a select group of primarily her supporters, and according to Mark Larwence from the City Manager’s office, absolutely no media. Invited guests will be able to spend a few hours of their day being distracted about diversity, and share a celebratory victory luncheon in her honor at taxpayer expense.
We requested the guest list, and the invite list, for the event from the City. Our request was met with cold silence other than an acknowledgment of our requests from spokesman Jose Gonzalez. If we get the list, we’ll share it with you. What we do know is that Ms. Alvarez was in control of the invite list. We know that other members of the Council were not afforded the opportunity to suggest people to invite, or invite individuals themselves. We know from Councilman Sarmiento that he is disappointed that City staff is using this format for the Town Hall. As he put it; “this is not what I envisioned when I proposed this.” The Councilman envisioned an open meeting for the community to attend.
It is amazing to me that Ms. Alvarez is actually getting away with absolutely no consequence for her anti-Semitic comments. She got a slap on the wrist that would have been worse if it wasn’t for her tie-breaking vote. She declared victory over the “distraction” at the following Council meeting; and she and her supporters today will get a victory luncheon, paid for by a virtually bankrupt city.
The event is allegedly supposed to be live streamed form the Police Department Community Room from 10:00 AM till 2:00 PM. This is the link provide by the city: http://www.santa-ana.org/communityforum/ I hope it works. City staff have complained for years that they cannot broadcast live on TV or the Web Council meetings conducted in the same room, so I’m not sure how they’re planning on pulling this off. But if they are successful, I wonder if they will apply their new-found technical skills and start broadcasting the second Council meeting of every month live, online at least?
Such is life in the Banana Peel Republic of Santa Ana.