Access Denied

TheLiberalOC, with a verbal invitation from Councilman Vince Sarmiento, went to the Claudia Alvarez Apology Tour at the Santa Ana Police Station and we were denied access.  City official Mark Lawrence punted to Acting City Manager and Police Chief Paul Walters who said he could not offer access as “this Town Hall is a private event.” All conversations with Chief Walters, Mark Lawrence and Jose Gonzalez were civil and respectful, but we’ve noted this event does nothing to promote the notion that Santa Ana city government is transparent.

Claudia Alvarez Forum
Claudia Alvarez greets invited guests to closed community forum on race relations and civility. (Photo Dan Chmielewski)

Walters said the event “isn’t costing the city a cent.”  Spokesman Jose Gonzalez said local businesses were hosting the tables and Mayor Pro Tem Alvarez was buying lunch.  However, we noted no fewer than seven city employees at the event and have to wonder who’s covering their costs as well as the cost of the city staffers in organizing and managing the event.  And none of the business sponsors were identified prior to the meeting.

Update: The Chase’s did not attend the event; hat tip to Andrew Galvin at the OC Register.  We did not see either Irv or Ryan Chase but it’s possible they got there early.  We counted about 40 people in attendance.  While the press isn’t invited, George Collins who runs a small blog in Santa Ana is in attendance and asked a question, and Planning Commissioner Sean Mill who contributes regularly is also in attendance.  New Santa Ana blogger Art Pedroza and his wife Camille were invited, but Gonzalez and Lawrence insisted it was a mistake and he would not have been admitted. 

When the press was denied is a mystery.  In watching the program, the content is excellent.  It’s something everyone should see.

But the notion that this is a Open Town Hall that Councilman Sarmiento proposed and was voted on by the council, this program is not.  The general public, many of whom expressed themselves at City Council meetings, should have been allowed to come here personally.  The invite list was clearly designed to make this event as politically safe for the Mayor Pro Tem as possible.  The suggestion that the event hasn’t cost the city a cent doesn’t ring true when you see the number of staffers working the event the cost of streaming the meeting and the security in the building.  And it’s also clear that Councilman Sarmiento’s invitation or influence over this event carried no weight whatsoever which is a shame considering this forum is his idea.  It’s been hijacked.

Now we’re sorry we’re missing out on lunch paid for my the Mayor Pro Tem; and our food taster is out sick today.  We just hope she didn’t order ham sandwiches, carnitas, or shrimp salad.

UPDATE: We finally got a portion of our public records requests related to the forum. We have the Invitation and Invitation Distribution List, and the list of people who attended. When you look at the invitation to the event, you will see that it was sent out on official city letterhead. This fact kind of contradicts the assertion made by Chief Walters that the Forum was a “Private Event.”


  1. If it is a private event – what private party paid for the rent of Community Room that belongs to the people of Santa Ana and how much rent did they pay?

    How do we get that information? – inquiring minds want to know.

    • As you know the city has informed Comlink, the SA resident forum, they will no longer validate parking in the parking structure *paid for with taxpayer money* But city was delighted to validate parking for the out of towners to come chat among themselves. Who knows Clownia is so desperate to try and make people believe she isn’t a psycho b*tch, she might have paid for parking also………doubt it

  2. As for Alvarez paying for the lunch, I am reminded of the famous Adam Sandler quote – Whoop-itty-doooooo !! – btw he is Jewish you know.

    Alvarez created this mess and the cost of City employee time and effort and rent puts the cost to the City of her misbehavior into the thousands.

  3. It was actually a good event Mike. The streaming video lost any meaningful effect during the workshop portion which is why it would have been good to let the press in. But I continue to question the sincerity of the Mayor Pro Tem’s apology.

  4. I still think the whole idea of a closed townhall is a stupid concept. I also believe the whole idea of a townhall over this issue is in the least insincere. Everybody get in line and profess how tolerant you are. Just smacks of shalllowness and rings hollow. Other than that it sounds like a lovely event. :o)

  5. I like Alvarez having to pay the fine of buying everyone lunch. Kind of like when we park too long at Santa Ana C.V.S. pharmacy and have to pay everyone to get our car out of the Tow Yard.

  6. This is such a joke. all this distracting sensitivity B.S! If you want to be involved in a political think tank or community forums with the actual community members stop by one of our Santa Ana Occupy meetings around 9 in the evening right after one of our General Assemblies. Organic Democracy, not distracting B.S.! You are all complicit in that other junk, crying about being offended or apologizing for being insensitive. The people demand solutions not nonsense. If you can not offer substance, just retire!

  7. I was just laughing at the account on New Santa Ana. I never raised my voice to anyone but had no problem telling them the event violated the spirit of what Sarmiento proposed and the council voted on. Paul Walters insisted the event didn’t cost the city a dime but did not know who sponsored the event. Even Gonzalez wouldn’t name the sponsors other than Alavrez buying lunch for everyone.

    For anyone who watched the event, the streaming was ineffective when they actually got to the workshops.

    If the press wasn’t alllowed, I questioned why Art Pedroza ande George Collins were on the invitation list; George was in there and asked some questions, so the notion it was closed to the media is interesting. So even if Art did get the day off from his job at the Disney Resorts, he would not have been admitted.

    There were a number of people invited who did not attend. Three Irvine city council members are Jewish but only two were invited and neither of the two invited showed up.

    The city’s PIO says the event will be available for viewing later and I ecnourage folks to see it.

  8. Dan,

    I did catch a bit of the event – it was very good as a seminar. However, it was not intended to be closed to the general public according to Councilman Sarmiento and the action of the SA Council.

    Was there any discussion of Claudia’s remarks that brought this about?

  9. Yes there was Mike. But those running the event certainly catered to her and deferred to her. I went with Councilman Sarmiento’s invitation but he neglected to add me to the list. But I wasn’t expecting to be admitted but wanted to let them know closing this for a “private business function” ewas not what the council voted on.

    As you might imagine, Art’s version of events he didn’t witness are inaccurate. I never raised my voice, I did ask Mark Lawrence and Chief Walters why Art was invited, why Sean was allowed in since he continues to write for NSA and why George Collins who has a blog were allowed in (so much for no media allowed).

    I did sit down outside while I wanted for Chief Walters but was on the phone with one of my employees regarding client reports. I’m sorry Art Pedroza couldn’t get time off from his job at Disney to try and get in.

    When you compare the invite list with the RSVP list, this wasn’t an open town hall; it was a meeting of mostly Alvarez supporters.

  10. Did you see Sean on TV? I guess it is really true the camera adds 20 pounds, or in his case 30. I hear he is the power bottom bear to Art’s fruitty top.

Comments are closed.