A Changing of the Guard in Santa Ana

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Santa Ana City Councilman David Benavides (right). Councilman Sal Tinajero is to his left. (Photo by: Violeta Vaquiero)

The Santa Ana City Council swearing-in ceremony Tuesday night didn’t reveal any cracks in a council majority bloc known as the “Santa Ana Spring” as some City Hall watchers had expected, but it did show signs of a reconciliation of sorts and a willingness to share influence.

The council, which now includes new members Angelica Amezcua and Roman Reyna, unanimously appointed Councilman Sal Tinajero as mayor pro tem, a position he says he will hand off to another council member in two years.

Tinajero said he hopes to begin a tradition whereby council members rotate the mayor pro tem title regularly. The previous holder of the largely ceremonial title was former Councilwoman Claudia Alvarez, who stepped down during the meeting. Alvarez held the title for at least four years.

Alvarez was a staunch ally of Mayor Miguel Pulido during the Santa Ana Spring’s rebellion against the mayor. Tinajero had joined in the council majority’s chorus of criticism against the mayor and backed Councilman David Benavides’ unsuccessful challenge this year to unseat Pulido. Yet the mayor still supported Tinajero’s appointment.

The Santa Ana Spring, a title coined by Tinajero, got its name from the Arab Spring revolutions that have ousted a series of dictators in the Middle East. The council majority argued that the longtime mayor has over the years concentrated his power at City Hall and ignored the will of the council. Pulido rejected the Santa Ana Spring term, calling it a fallacy because he is democratically elected.

During he election, voters approved a term limit for the mayor’s seat. Councilman Vincent Sarmiento described the election as a clear sign that the voters want decentralization of power on the council.

“The message was loud and clear,” Sarmiento said. “They want this to be a body that’s not unilateral.”

Pulido said that he had a conversation about “many things” with Sarmiento and was looking forward to working with the new council. Pulido also thanked Benavides for congratulating him on his reelection.

“We all have the interests of this city at heart,” Pulido said.

Meanwhile, new council members Reyna and Amezcua gushed with joy at taking their council seats.

Reyna, whose eyes welled with tears, recalled his beginning as the son of cotton field workers. “Only in America can things be possible … where you can move classes,” he said.

Amezcua said that she understood the importance of having “open communication” with residents and that she would have open office hours. She thanked her family and friends for supporting her during the election, and she thanked her new colleagues for reaching out to her after her election.

“I really want to make Santa Ana a stronger, more vibrant city, a city we’re so proud to call home,” Amezcua said.

— ADAM ELMAHREK

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