In comments to Voice of OC late Tuesday, Santa Ana Councilman Sal Tinajero leveled sharp criticism at Councilwoman Claudia Alvarez for the way she has waged her battle against the tax district that funds Downtown Inc., the city’s downtown booster organization.

Tinajero said during an interview that he believed Alvarez was pandering to her base of supporters and not thinking of the best interests of the wider community in her battle against the tax district.

He singled out a comment she made at the meeting that implied Councilman Vincent Sarmiento was pandering to the audience when he received applause for making an impassioned speech in support of affordable housing.

“I thought that was kind of interesting that she used that word,”  Tinajero said, “because I thought she was pandering to the folks who were supporting her.”

Alvarez could not immediately be reached to respond to Tinajero’s comments, but she emailed a response Wednesday to a Voice of OC reporter via Public Information Officer Jose Gonzalez.

Alvarez asserted in the email that Sarmiento was attempting to persude a crowd of Occupy Orange County protesters — who cheered Sarmiento’s comments — that Alvarez did not support an affordable housing requirement the council was considering. She had challenged specific provisions of the proposed ordinance and said she wanted to know where the Business Industry Association stood.

Alvarez ultimately voted that night for the affordable housing ordinance.

Sarmiento spoke “as if he were in fact opposing someone that stands against such values and craving applause for each of his point,” Alvarez wrote.

Sarmiento said his comments were not aimed at Alvarez. “Really the thrust of my arguments was just to support the ordinance,” Sarmiento said.

In her email, Alvarez also challenged Tinajero to place the downtown tax issue on a meeting agenda and vowed not to “pander.”

“I have known Councilmember Tinajero for a long time and I trust that he would not trivialize the property owners and their families plight in fighting the grave injustices of the PBID [downtown tax] based in his newly perceived notion of me pandering,” Alvarez wrote.


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