The OC Register and LA Times have weighed in on yesterday’s Agent of Change event in Santa Ana, the By-Invitation-Only event and the city sent out a press release proclaiming the closed Town Hall was a success. From the content presented, it was an excellent forum but the workshops certainly were not helpful to those watching on Streaming Video (lots of mummering and people making sounds at tables do little to help those watching online understand what’s going on).
From the Register’s story: ”
In her closing remarks, Councilwoman Claudia Alvarez suggested that such forums should be held four times a year.
“Is this the only forum we’re having?” she asked. “This forum was long overdue. … I”m going to call this chapter one, … maybe set up a quarterly forum.”
The LA Times story carried more detail and background. From the Times story:
On Thursday, it was Alvarez who was helping lead a forum on cultural diversity to examine issues of hate that have cropped up not just in Santa Ana but throughout Orange County.
The invitation-only event quickly underscored the anger and frustration still being felt.
“How is this going to help anything?” one woman asked.
Said another: “Our civil rights are being violated, and it is kind of a secret thing to get rid of the Mexican community in downtown Santa Ana.”
This all comes at a difficult time for the city, which could see a $30-million deficit in the next fiscal year. As of Sept. 30, there was only $313,000 on hand in the General Fund, said Francisco Gutierrez, the city’s finance director. However, Santa Ana is still expecting revenue from sales and property taxes before the end of the year.
The battle by Latino business owners against a special property tax, which is what led to Alvarez’s Hitler comment, looms large in Santa Ana, where 78% of the 324,000 residents are Latino. Some contend that the tax money benefits businesses that don’t cater to families or the Latino clientele.
Alvarez’s remark, however, is not an aberration in the county of 3 million, according to Kevin O’Grady, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of Orange County and Greater Long Beach.
The Times also reported that a Facebook page that targeted Irv and Ryan Chase called “Ethic Cleansing in Santa Ana” was taken down by Facebook which citing the page as an example of hate speech. When we checked the links on that page yesterday, it featured a link back to the New Santa Ana blog under “website” but in fairness to NSA, anyone who created the page could have placed that link there. The photo used was featured in a post on New Santa Ana.
From the Times story: “Irving Chase, the downtown business developer whom Alvarez likened to Hitler, was invited to the forum but declined.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to attend because I believe it’s political in nature,” he said.
Chase and his son, Ryan, were even the target of a Facebook page that talked of ethnic cleansing and pictured the two men.
A Facebook spokesman would not comment specifically on the page, but did note that it had been taken down, saying in an email that the company is sensitive to content that includes “direct statements of hate against protected groups of people, and actionable threats of violence.”
Chase, for one, thinks talking is a good step.
“Any time you can create a dialogue between groups that somehow need a dialogue, I think it’s a good idea,” he said.
Here’s the city’s press release:
Community Leaders Embrace “Agent of Change” Community Forum on Cultural Diversity
SANTA ANA, Calif. (October 28, 2011) – Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez, in conjunction with the City of Santa Ana, hosted a Community Forum on Cultural Diversity and Conflict Resolution on Thursday, October 27, 2011 at the Santa Ana Police Community Room. A cross section of over 60 community leaders attended the four-hour Forum to learn how diverse communities can resolve conflict in a respectful and constructive manner.
Michele Ruiz moderated the Community Forum, and presentations were led by the American Jewish Committee, the Latino-Jewish Coalition, the Anti-Defamation League, the Orange County Human Relations Commission, and the National Conflict Resolution Center.
Forum participants represented a variety of community organizations that included Santa Ana neighborhood association members, Santa Ana business merchants, Mayor Miguel Pulido, Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez, Councilmember David Benavides, the Office of Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, State Senator Lou Correa, the Islamic Center of Santa Ana, Father Al Baca from the Catholic Diocese of Orange, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Bar Association, and the Consulate of Mexico in Santa Ana. Also in attendance were Jewish congregational leaders that included Rabbis Heidi Cohen, Marc Dworkin, Steve Einstein, and Frank Stern.
Community Forum participants actively engaged in the discussions and exercises and expressed their enthusiasm to continue the dialog on cultural sensitivity.
Mayor Pro Tem Alvarez stated, “The forum was a huge success thanks to the participants’ willingness to attend and engage in constructive dialogue. It not only served to reinforce the long-standing working relationship between the Jewish and Latino communities, but also further educated participants on cultural sensitivity and conflict resolution. I thank all that participated and look forward to continuing to work with you on improving our community as ‘agents of change’.”
Community members may view the Community Forum on the City’s website at: http://www.santa-ana.org/communityforum/ . In addition, the Community Forum will replay on Santa Ana cable channel 3 Tuesdays at 6:00 p.m., Thursdays at 6:00 p.m., and Saturdays at 6:00 p.m.
Here’s a copy of the invitation list for the event followed by a copy of those who RSVP’d:
Community Forum on Cultural Diversity & Conflict Resolution
The Individuals listed below were invited to attend the City of Santa Ana’s Community Forum on Cultural Diversity & Conflict Resolution. Additionally, we have included a separate listing of individuals who participated in the Forum. These individuals represent a cross-section of community leaders identified as “Agents of Change” because of their demonstrated commitment to their respective communities. A variety of community organizations were represented including: American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Latino-Jewish Coalition, National Conflict Resolution Center, Santa Ana Neighborhood Association members, Santa Ana Business Community, Islamic Center of Santa Ana, Catholic Diocese of Orange County, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Bar Association, and the Orange County Human Relations Commission.
|Mayor Pro Tem Claudia||Alvarez|
|George & Janett||Collins|
|Armando||De la Libertad|
|Thelma Melendez||de Santa Ana|
|Ray & Evangline||Gawronski|
|Lawrence R. “Larry”||Labrado|
|Pastor Donnell O.||Miles|
|Art & Camile||Pedroza*|
|Ray and Jean||Poppa|
|Mayor Miguel Pulido||Pulido|
|Councilmember Vincent F.||Sarmiento|
Community Forum on Cultural Diversity & Conflict Resolution
|Harvey||De la Torre|
Now, the event’s content was good, but it appears Mayor Pro Tem Alvarez has another thing to worry about. She made the cut from OC Weekly as one of the Scariest People in Orange County from the paper’s annual Halloween issue.
From the story:
The Santa Ana councilwoman had been a vendida for most of her 12 years on the Banana Republic‘s ruling junta, taking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from gentrifying developers while vilifying activists fighting the same developers as malcontents. Then sometime this year, the Orange County prosecutor got all MEChista and began railing against those same developers for their supposed ethnic cleansing of the city’s downtown—the same ethnic cleansing she had applauded for a decade. No one believed her act, and it didn’t help when Alvarez publicly compared property owner Irving Chase to Hitler, a stance that effectively squashed any criticism of Santa Ana’s city-led gentrification efforts for good. Mitigating Factor: She’s termed out next year.
It’s our opinion that the person who got the biggest lesson from yesterday’s event is Councilman Vince Sarmiento who had an idea for an “Open Town Hall.” He turned the idea over to City Staff and was pleased to learned the Mayor Pro Tem was taking an active role in the forum. But then, it wasn’t an open event. None of the announcements mention any business or corporate sponsors which makes little sense for a program needed in Orange County. Sarmiento, in an interview with us last month, noted that Alavrez faces the burden on putting things right. She made a step forward in one respect, but by failing to open the forum to the public took a step backwards. Perhaps Sarmiento will see this through himself next time.
The Chase’s have already stated they have moved on and will not engage Alvarez further. But Alvarez, who called the flack against her “a distraction,” will likely face off against the Chase’s again as they work towards reforming Santa Ana’s PBID.