UPDATE: A four member city council voted tonight to unanimously put to the voters a four term limit of 2 years each for the office of Mayor.
I can understand why the Santa Ana City C0uncil Members are upset at Mayor Miguel Pulido. Let’s face it – he has been running circles around them for almost 20 years. But he is now dealing with a Council that, for the most part, he did not elect. He opposed Sal Tinajero and Michele Martinez when they first ran for the City Council. He did create David Benavides, but when Vince Sarmiento was appointed to the Council, to replace Jose Solorio, he was already his own man. Unlike Benavides, he was a polished product and a guy most people respected. Who would have forseen two Pulido allies going down in flames – Carlos Bustamante’s own alleged misbehavior did him in, and Claudia Alvarez could not undo the term limits she helped create. Now Pulido, like Julius Caesar, is surrounded by short swords and although we are headed into August, it might as well be the Ides of March.
Back in Pulido’s heyday, he and former City Manager Dave Ream knew how to work this bunch. Once they got elected, they would be warmly welcomed, even if they had initially been opposed. Commission appointments would be handed out like Halloween candies and just like that Council members would be subverted. But Ream is gone and so is his magic bag of redevelopment – and now even the developers that lived high on the hog in our town for so long are slinking to the Council’s side.
It is all very frustrating to Pulido, who now faces a special meeting on Wednesday, when the Council’s Ad Hoc Term Limits Committee, made up of Martinez, Benavides and Sarmiento, will present three term limits ballot measure options to the rest of the Council: ” two four-year terms; four two-year terms; or a mayor appointed by the council regularly from among its members,” according to the Voice of OC.
The problem with all of these options is the impact they will have on Santa Ana’s standing in Orange County politics. Whether you love or hate Pulido, the fact is that he wields tremendous influence on the Boards of the Orange County Transportation Authority, which oversees public transportation in our County, and the Southern California Air Quality Management District, which has an immense impact on our local businesses, regulating emissions of every kind.
Putting a term limit on our Mayor might eventually result in someone other than Pulido representing our city but the real impact will be to negate our influence at the OCTA and the AQMD, and in other local municipal agencies. What, for example, would Benavides, a candidate for Mayor who is a realtor and mortgage banker, do on board of the OCTA, or the AQMD? He would be totally overmatched by the other board members. He would earn a permanent ticket to the little kids’ table. Tinajero is much sharper but even he would be hard-pressed to find the time to get up to speed, with all the pressure of his full time job as a public school teacher and debate team coach.
And what if the third option prevailed and we ended up rotating our Mayorship among the Council members? Imagine what damage Bustamante might have done as Mayor? Or, if he gets elected to the Council, what would Roman Reyna accomplish as Mayor when his only paid jobs have been at the Boys & Girls Club and the YMCA? If a volleyball game were to break out at an OCTA meeting I guess he would represent us well, but otherise? Overmatched would be an understatement.
And what about Martinez? Sure, she has matured in the past few years but is she ready for the big time? She got caught this spring talking about an Independent Expenditure by a gambling tribe, and the guy that caught her was an O.C. Register watchdog reporter. The resulting story was embarrassing and she lost the support of that tribe. What gaffes would she make now as an appointed Mayor?
Understand that all of this talk about term limits is just the Council Members getting back at Pulido because he tried to force Jill Arthur down their throats – I did not like that either but why cut off your nose to spite your face? The Council members are reaching collectively for the final option – for the nukes, when backroom finesse might have worked instead.
Santa Ana has enough problems, but losing face and standing in the power circles of the mostly Republican County of Orange is something that should scare us all. Revenge is not worth this outcome. And make no mistake about it, for at least one Council Member this is indeed all about revenge.
Martinez told the O.C. Register that “Nothing here is personal,” she added. “I’m just trying to do the right thing for the city.” That is a load of crap. All the movers and shakers in town knows she blames Pulido for her loss in the June primary, to Tom Daly and an unknown Republican, Jose Moreno. But you know I advised her to attack Daly and she chose instead to send a cardstock magazine about herself to the voters. Had she sent even ONE negative mailer about Daly to the voters she might have prevailed, but she didn’t. How is that Pulido’s fault?
I would much rather see the Council upstarts and Pulido challengers actually make a strong case to the voters and beat him at the ballot box. I would respect that much more. Term limits? Please. Pulido faces term limits every two years and he keeps on winning largely because his challengers have always been pretty damn lame. Will they be any different this year? I guess we’ll see about that. Pulido is a good speaker but the Council debates might prove to be a bloodbath. He isn’t very good at impromptu speeches. He is much better at programmed presentations. This is however a brave new world. The old ways are being tossed out and now it is all going to come down to who can make the best case to the voters, come November.