The Consequences of Santa Ana Losing its Top 10 Status

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Monday, March 28, 2011 | 2010 Census figures showing Santa Ana to have shrunk in population over the last 10 years mean the city will almost certainly lose some state and federal funding — but officials say they don’t know how big the financial hit will be.

The city went from 337,977 residents to 324,528 in 2010, according to Census figures released this month. Because of the population decline, Santa Ana was bumped from its status as 9th largest city in the state to 11th largest.

The two-slot drop will have at least some effect on federal funding sources tied to population like the Community Development Block Grant program, which funds things like affordable housing projects and infrastructure improvements.

“Federal dollars have shrunken over the years, so there are less funds that would be impacted, but it would still be a negative,” said City Manager Dave Ream.

State funding sources that could be affected include revenues from state vehicle license fees, highway users tax and Proposition 1B funds, which are funneled to local transportation improvements.

Determining the influence of the population drop on revenue sources is difficult because population is but one of many factors in the formulas used to dole out funds to cities, said Interim Community Development Agency Director Nancy Edwards.

In any event, Mayor Miguel Pulido has vowed to fight the Census figures, according to this Orange County Register story. The city is preparing to conduct a block-by-block review of the count.

Pulido did not respond to calls for comment.

“If there’s any big mistakes, they’ll be pretty easy to identify,” Ream said.

The population shrink could have its biggest impact on Pulido’s personal influence in Sacramento.

Now that Santa Ana is number 11, Pulido is no longer a member of a coalition of mayors from California’s ten largest cities known as the “Big 10.” The Big 10 frequently lobbies the governor on issues affecting large cities, said California League of Cities Spokeswoman Eva Spiegel.

“There’s power in that collective voice,” Spiegel said.

Last year the coalition sent a letter that pushed former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to apply for federal education funds.

In a more recent example, they have been urging Gov. Jerry Brown to withdraw a proposal that would ax the state’s 400 redevelopment agencies.

As members of the Big 10, the mayors also have opportunities to rub elbows with big business. The mayors met in January of 2010 with 12 CEOs at Morton’s Steak House in San Jose. The mayors and CEOs discussed economic issues and how to “make the state more business friendly.”

Although the new census figures might see Pulido out of the Big 10 club, it won’t drastically curtail Santa Ana’s influence in Sacramento. As a large city representing over 300,000 people, Santa Ana still has a lot of clout, Spiegel said. She added that the fact that the Big 10 is still lobbying on issues that affect large cities means Santa Ana will still benefit from their successes.

And given Pulido’s myriad business contacts throughout the state, it is difficult to imagine him being denied any access to corporate honchos or high-level state politicians and bureaucrats, said Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies.

“I’m sure he’ll still be a part of that,” Stern said.

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