At the by-invitaton only Cultural Diversity Summit hosted last year by the city of Santa Ana between Jewish leaders and the county’s Latino community aimed at repairing Santa Ana Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez’s relationship with the Jewish community, Acting City Manager Paul Walters told us since the event was privately sponsored it was closed to the public. While denying us accessWalters delivered the quote of the day saying, “this event isn’t costing the city a dime.”
And he’s right. It’s not costing the city A dime. It looks like its costing tens of thousands of dimes.
It’s hard to do the full math on just how many dimes we’re talking about since the city continues to stonewall requests for specific costs, but it appears the Mayor Pro Tem was the beneficiary of a “private event” paid for with taxpayer dollars all designed to primarily repair her image with Santa Ana residents and the Jewish community.
The event, suggested by Councilman Vincent Sarmiento as a means of punishing Alvarez from making anti-semitic comments that compared Jewish property owner Irv Chase to Hitler in the heat of the PBID debate, featured a by invitation only list of “community leaders.” Santa Ana bloggers from two sites were permitted entry in spite of a “no media” attendence policy and the city streammed the event over the Internet from the Police Station community room. And while the streaming did help us cover the story, it also prevented the press from gauging reaction in the room to various speakers and see how the table-by-table workshops progressed — things which could have painted the city and Mayor Pro Tem in a much more positive light.
Tonight, the Santa Ana City Council will vote on item 25A of the agenda which calls for the video production company to be paid an additional $2,000 for streaming the “cultural event” and one other event, a city council meeting. Specifically, $840 covered the cultural diversity event (8,400 dimes to be exact). Go to page 137 on the agenda to read the details. The vendor, Video Engineering Services, is requesting $2,000 for work completed but not yet compensated for and this includes the Cultural Diversity event in November. We contacted the city’s Public Information Office to confirm that these fees were for the Cultural Diversity event and not for some other cultural event in Santa Ana and they confirmed that a portion of these fees was for the Alvarez event.
On a positive note, the streaming video services from the police station community room, where council meetings are sometimes held, means there’s no future barrier to live streaming all city council meetings held at this location. If the Alvarez event broke that barrier, that is a positive step forward for Santa Ana residents.
But on other matters related to the event, the city hasn’t been particularly helpful in ascertaining other costs of staff time for those who worked the event. Our public records requests are met with blanket information on contracts affecting workers but not direct costs related to hourly wages, parking, and other fees like security for those city workers who supported the event. We have already confirmed, Mayor Pro Tem Alvarez paid for a kosher luncheon and a city business paid for the table rentals and linens for the event. But there were significant other costs associated with this event that taxpayers picked up the tab for — and the streaming costs were among those tens of thousands of dimes the the city paid.
Additionally, the city still has not responded to requests for comment on our story about the $8,800 in legal fees and redacted pages related to an inquiry by Alvarez regarding her eligibility to run for what would be a fourth term which is prohibited by Measure D that limits council member terms at three (12 years). If some sections were redacted due to attorny-client privlege, isn’t the taxpayer the client since they paid for it?
So between the cultural diversity summit (of which complete costs have yet to be determined) combined with the legal fees associated with the Measure D inquiry, Alvarez’s actions and inquiries are well in excess of $10,000 to taxpayers for items that really should be paid from campaign funds.
So why are taxpayers footing the bill for her again?