I met with Alfredo Amezcua before he announced his campaign for Mayor of Santa Ana. I was really hoping he would be the answer to defeating the incumbent Mayor, Miguel Pulido.
In the next few months, Mayor Miguel Pulido’s allies will tear into Amezcua and leave him destroyed. That is what they did to Pulido’s last mayoral opponent, Michele Martinez, in 2008.
However, Amezcua isn’t really a bad guy. Is he the solution to our city’s vast problems? After further review, I don’t think so. My fear is that he is going to turn out to be a lot like Pulido.
Pulido isn’t a bad guy either. Like Amezcua, he grew up wanting more. Amezcua became wealthy as a lawyer, while Pulido took a different road. He capitalized on his dad’s muffler shop, then began to work the system, first as a Councilman and now as our Mayor.
What Pulido has become expert at is using his various appointed and elected positions to benefit himself. He now fashions himself a consultant on green matters. He learned about those as a member of the Southern California Air Quality Management Board. The AQMD even gave him a free hybrid to use. But of course he still gets a car allowance from the City of Santa Ana.
Amezcua, on the other hand, allegedly resigned from the Rancho Santiago Community College Board of Trustees, so that the rest of the Board could give more contracts to his friend, businesman George Pla.
Does that name sound familiar?
Pulio also pals around with Pla. In fact Pulido engineered the granting of a huge city contract to Pla, to design the light rail system that Pulido wants to install in our city, to connect our downtown with Garden Grove’s downtown.
Amezcua partnered with Pla to start up the Santa Ana Business Bank, which was recently acquired by investors in Los Angeles. The plan for that bank, I believe, was to make it a depository for local government bonds. Amezcua worked to pass the Rancho Santiago Community College District’s bond, which was largely wasted on the construction of an O.C. Deputy Sheriff’s training center that we didn’t need.
Amezcua also worked to pass two bond measures put forth by the Santa Ana Unified School District. In fact he co-chaired the last such measure, and his daughter, Valerie, and his then acolyte, the aforementioned Michele Martinez, also worked on that campaign. Measure G has since proven to be a total fraud.
Those bond measures raised our local property taxes to record high levels. And the plan reportedly was to put all of that money in the Santa Ana Business Bank.
The bank’s board was loaded with friends of both Pulido and Amezcua, including Santa Ana Councilman Carlos Busamante – and his twin brother. The head of the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce, Mike Metzler, was also on the board. So were a number of Santa Ana City Commissioners, including a member of the Santa Ana Planning Commission.
But the plan backfired when the economy tanked, which killed attempts to pass more bond measures. And the bank was sold, reportedly at a huge loss to its investors.
Now Amezcua chairs a community organization he started to advocate for affordable housing. He calls this coalition “Sacred.” But that group has been infiltrated by former Pulido supporters, who some in town refer to as the “Usual Suspects.” These folks are opposed to affordable housing and are supporters of Pulido’s gentrification efforts.
Amezcua and his Sacred group have even joined forces with these people to sue the City of Santa Ana for wanting to tear down city-owned properties in the Transit District area, ostensibly because the homes are historic.
I have seen these homes. They are dilapidated wrecks and are of no value. They were acquired by the City of Santa Ana using redevelopment funds that are allocated for affordable housing. Why sue the City over this?
Santa Ana is broke – and our future is dim for many reasons, but particularly because our city leaders have given tremendous contracts to city workers, including huge pensions. Pulido gets the benefit as the fire and police unions always support him. But Amezcua won’t change this culture. He is very connected to big labor.
We need a Mayor who will be willing to fire city workers and outsource their work. Neither Pulido nor Amezcua will go there. They are both partisan Democrats and are simply too entwined with big labor to be able to make such tough decisions.
We need a Mayor who will stand up for our people, but this Friday, when I went to observe the police DUI checkpoint at Rosita Park, I was the only activist in the city to do so. Amezcua was not there, nor was anyone from his Sacred coalition. Those checkpoints are used to take cars away from immigrants. The city then extorts these poor residents and forces them to pay hundreds of dollars to get their cars back.
We need a Mayor who will work to make it easier to open businesses in our city. A recent study found that the City of Santa Ana is the fourth most expensive city in Orange County to do business in. Pulido has made this worse by advocating for tax increases and assessments. Amezcua has never opposed any of these measures.
The point I am making is that Amezcua most likely will turn out to be another Pulido. He will likely work to enrich himself and his friends, just as Pulido has done.
I had really hoped I could get behind Amezcua, but I just can’t do so, knowing what I know about him. Like Pulido, he is not an evil person. But neither of these men have the best interests of our residents at heart.
So what to do? I spoke this week to two friends of mine who are thinking of running for Mayor. I believe they will do so, and others may file as well. We are going to have more choices this year than ever. It is likely that Pulido and Amezcua will destroy each other. That may create a perfect scenario for a Latina or an Anglo-American to become our next Mayor.
This vote split doomed Pulido’s candidates for the Council in 2006. Tino Rivera lost to the aforementioned Michele Martinez, and Jennifer Villasenor lost to Sal Tinajero. In both races, Anglo candidates split the vote and allowed the non-Pulido canidates to emerge victorious.
This time Pulido himself may be doomed by a vote split.
My advice to you, my readers, is be cautious in assessing Amezcua. I know a lot of you want to take out Pulido, but Amezcua’s past history gives us little reason to believe that he is really the answer. Indeed, he just might make things worse! We can ill afford that outcome.