Santa Ana resident Mary Jo Geczy was in a panic a few Saturdays ago after powerful winds caused a 100-foot Sycamore to topple onto her house in the city's Washington Square neighborhood.
Worried that at any minute the tree would come crashing into the entryway of the 1933 lath and plaster house, she called the city to have someone come out to remove it. But the city official who showed up told her that it wasn't an emergency, so she would have to wait until Monday.
That was not an acceptable answer to Geczy, so she did what few residents would even consider: She drove to Mayor Miguel Pulido's house.
She arrived at the wrong driveway, a one-way path that serves as an exit to the nearly two-acre Pulido compound in the affluent Floral Park neighborhood. But her mistake proved to be good fortune, and her timing was impeccable. Around the corner came the mayor in his Toyota Prius. The two were face-to-face.
Geczy implored Pulido to help her get that tree off her house. And the mayor came through.
“My interaction with the mayor was very cordial, he was very to the point. He asked for my cell phone number, and he said I will get this taken care of,” Geczy said. “And he was definitely a man of his word.”
According to Geczy, Pulido called Mark Lawrence, the assistant to the city manager, who saw the pictures showing the gravity of Geczy's dilemma. She said Lawrence recognized that the tree would have to be removed immediately.
“I met the mayor 10:16 Saturday morning, and by 12:18 p.m. there was a crew out there to remove the tree,” Geczy said.
Although frustrated at first, Geczy views her story as a positive for Santa Ana's much-maligned City Hall.
Santa Ana news in recent years has been dominated by political battles between City Council members and Pulido, more than $1 million spent paying off departing top bureaucrats while services are cut to the bone, allegations that an ousted deputy city manager engaged in quid pro quo, patronage at the police department, social strife in the downtown over gentrification and a near municipal bankruptcy.
But for residents like Geczy, such issues are largely abstract. What matters to her is the on-the-ground quality of service she receives from the city.
There's still some work to do. The sidewalk was smashed when the tree uprooted, and Geczy said she is hoping the public works department will continue to perform.
“Heretofore my experience has been pretty amazing,” Geczy said.
Pulido did not return phone calls, email or text messages seeking comment for this article.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Mary Jo Geczy's name. Also, the tree that fell on her house was misidentified.