At precisely the moment when Santa Ana faces a financial crisis, the head of the Santa Ana police union is leading a crusade costing taxpayers’ $700,000 to kick me off the City Council — all because I voted against a budget-busting pay hike for city police.
The election takes place May 19.
This all has a been a smear campaign of everything police union boss Gerry Serrano could throw at me. But among his many dubious claims, the most ridiculous may be that this recall effort — now nearing $500,000 of union money — “is not about a contract vote over a year ago.”
In fact, Serrano’s campaign to remove me from office is only about that vote.
Last year, Serrano demanded that the Santa Ana City Council approve a $25 million pay hike for police.
On Feb. 6, 2019, when the pay hike came to a vote, I said no. My reason was simple: We can’t spend what we don’t have.
Looking at the city’s already high taxes and massive public debt (what the watchdog group Truth in Accounting called “a sinkhole” and among the worst in California), I could do nothing else.
I was outvoted, and the pay hike sailed through. Why? Here’s where a little political experience becomes helpful: My colleagues, whose City Council campaigns are supported by the police and other employee unions, routinely vote for such pay hikes for unions, no matter the budget impact.
Voting yes means they get their next campaign photo taken with a police officer — along with the high-dollar support of Serrano, head of the Santa Ana Police Officers Association.
If you vote no, as I did, you face a recall.
Since that vote, Serrano has made a series of bogus complaints against me. When he tells you that city, county and state officials have failed to act on his complaints, what he means is that neutral legal experts declared them groundless.
When Serrano tells you that I’m hostile to our immigrant families, I seriously laugh: Most people who know anything about me know that I’m an immigrant and the daughter of immigrants. And no, I don’t support the separation of immigrant families.
But in pushing for his own self-interest, Gerry’s mad race for higher salaries for police is raising the cost of living for everyone, including immigrants, in Santa Ana.
That sort of greed has separated our families every day as parents work more than two jobs to pay for hikes in the sales tax, in higher rents and taxes.
Indeed, during this pandemic, our immigrant families have been the hardest hit.
We could have used that $25 million pay raise to help our residents during these troubling financial times. And I don’t see Gerry Serrano giving back his own salary to help Santa Ana families.
About that salary: the city’s taxpayers pay Serrano more than $350,000 annually in salary and benefits. Is it because he’s busy fighting crime? No. Thanks to sweetheart deal in the union’s contract, Serrano gets to work full time for the union while on the taxpayers’ payroll.
When Serrano tells you that he cares about public safety, remember that Serrano is the guy who rear-ended a car in Westminster and left the scene, according to the victims’ account in police reports, after failing to persuade the victims to not call the police. Westminster police ultimately arrested him for driving while intoxicated. In order to have complete public safety, I believe Serrano should be removed.
It is no surprise that Serrano has dumped unlimited funds into a campaign to recall me while recruiting other union bosses with an ax to grind, most notably the Santa Ana teachers’ union and the Democratic Party of OC.
They’re still upset that, as a school district trustee, I attempted to limit the rising cost of retirement benefits and advocated rewarding teachers based on their classroom performance.
I was voted down on that one, too. That vote led directly to a budget catastrophe and the district’s decision to lay off some 300 teachers. Santa Ana’s teachers are paid a bit more today, but there are far fewer of them, and now the district (whose budget is separate from the city’s) faces a massive $52 million shortfall next year.
I do not hate to say, “I told you so.”
I’m a public servant. So when you hear union leaders say that I hate public servants, remember that what they mean is I’m serving the public — defending all residents, not just those with good political connections at City Hall.
Click here to see Council Member Cecilia Iglesias’ Facebook page.
Click here to join the No on the Recall campaign.