Perea: Santa Ana City Budget Should Reflect People’s Values Not Political Interests

Oswaldo Farias

Santa Ana City Council

For the second time in a decade, the City of Santa Ana is drowning in a sea of red ink.

According to various news reports, the city is “upside-down” about $10 million this new fiscal year. This is no surprise to those following the city’s Santa Ana Police Officers Association (SAPOA) influenced budgetary decisions. As Kim McPeck, a city employee stated, “They say at least…a third of those [police union] members got at least an 8-percent raise. Why are you willing to find money for them, and nobody else?…We are not naïve. We see behind the curtains.” We saw this fiscal crisis coming the moment the SAPOA leadership made it clear that it was willing to drive the city into bankruptcy in exchange for short-term monetary and political gains.

Last month, Santa Ana city staff released the General Fund’s third-quarter budget update to the city council wherein they shared that the city is projecting a $17.1 million budget deficit by the end of the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

The city seems to continue a legacy of costly mistakes at the behest of the SAPOA leadership. For example, the city’s decision to construct a shared police and jail station by borrowing over a $100 million decades ago just as crime was dropping continues to be a costly mistake today. A recent joint-analysis by Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), the ACLU of Southern California and the Advancement Project CA found that the jail had been costing the city millions of dollars for several years well before the cancellation of the ICE contract. The best and more conservative course of action would be to immediately close the jail and reuse it in a way that will benefit the community. However, the city has stalled on releasing jail reuse plans, making the future of the jail unclear.

Thanks to residents and advocates, it’s not all doom and gloom. At the city council meeting on June 19, residents raised their voice for families and youth. To their credit, the city council listened. The city decided to budget about $2.6 million for youth services and to allot $80,000 for the city’s Constitutional City Legal Defense Fund, ensuring Due Process legal support for Santa Ana residents who may be facing deportation proceedings.

This would be one of the strongest and boldest move by a Constitutional City that has declared itself a Sanctuary City, but it’s not official yet. There is a final vote set for Tuesday, July 3. As found by UC San Diego Associate Professor Tom Wong, 65% of likely voters and Santa Ana residents support funds to ensure Constitutional rights and procedural justice for all residents regardless of immigration status. As such, community proposals to increase the allotment for the city’s Constitutional City Legal Defense Fund, also known as Universal Representation, by another $150,000 are strongly supported. We encourage the city council to stay focused on youth and family services.

Staying focused on youth and families in Santa Ana means acknowledging that fully supporting undocumented immigrants is vital for the long-term community health and business ecology of the entire city. A 2016 report by Public Counsel found that deportations in addition to causing a significant loss of wages for families, places a financial burden on employers as well. Looking at turnover costs, the calculations in essence suggest that each Santa Ana employer would be losing $10,000 for every employee that is deported. A more intentional investment in Universal Representation on behalf of the city would do more to help the local economy than one comparable subsidy.

The city has made some important steps in the right direction. However, Santa Ana residents deserve steps with an even bigger emphasis on providing resources for families and honoring its promise as a Constitutional and Sanctuary City, and not steps continuing to only benefit political interests that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in election campaigns that have only hurt the city financially.

*** Views expressed here are of the individual and not of Resilience Orange County ***

Carlos Perea is the Policy and Programs Director for Resilience Orange County, an immigrant rights and youth empowerment organization that focuses on social-systemic transformation and building resilient youth leaders. He has spent the last 5 years advocating against immigration enforcement and deportations in Orange County and has worked on issues regarding the school to prison to deportation pipeline, which disproportionately impacts youth of color.

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org