The Santa Ana Sentinel

PAC Linked to Controversial Downtown Inc is Backing Benavides

Posted in Civics, Downtown by Omar Ávalos Gallegos on October 31, 2012

A political action committee with close ties to the controversial downtown community management district entity “Downtown Inc” was recently discovered as being behind a defamation campaign aimed at Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido. The group is called the “Stand up for Santa Ana Coalition.”

The names of those involved with Downtown Inc and the PAC are available here.

The question of who is behind Benavides’s campaign was answered piece by piece this week.

There is at least one downtown restaurant owner who is backing him. On Monday night Benavides campaign signs were added to the inside of an empty storefront at the Empire Building on 2nd & Broadway courtesy of a Chapter One business owner. Access to the building was made possible by the building owner, Bob Stewart, who is a former director of Downtown Inc.

Another piece of the puzzle comes in the form of the current Downtown Inc director, Vicky Baxter. She distanced herself and the entity from the mayor over the controversy around the possibility of moving pro soccer club Chivas USA to Eddie West Field, and later, Willowick Golf Course. Downtown Inc was supportive of the move until they were intimidated by a vocal minority in town. She stated in that email, in which she distanced the entity from the mayor, that Downtown Inc does not politic.

Not exactly.

Instead, at least two members inside of Downtown Inc are listed as members of this PAC, acting with a name separate of Downtown Inc, but the members are one in the same.

The pattern that has emerged is one of the Downtown Inc network being behind the attempt to oust Pulido.

Downtown Inc has been largely criticized for being out of touch with the longtime local population of Santa Ana and for co-opting ideas based on the OC Film Fiesta and the Grain Project’s Farmer’s Market. The Farmer’s Market ran for years prior to the existence of a Downtown Inc. The entity has also been criticized for showing an unwillingness to work with those that have experience in the downtown, like the directors of the Film Fiesta and the Grain Project.

Another criticism of the entity, that lends to the idea of them being out of touch with Santa Ana, is that they are made up largely of non Santa Ana residents or newcomers.

The entity was formed out of a controversial and unpopular property based tax known as the PBID (Property Based Improvement District). Benavides defended the PBID in the past by taking a dismissive tone of an Orange County Grand Jury Report that was critical of the PBID. He too is a newcomer to Santa Ana in comparison to many others.

The downtown entity is looking for ways to remain solvent, or for a political structure in their favor, perhaps one that will continue to execute a PBID or something similar.

They’re betting on Benavides to be their guy in City Hall.

14 Responses

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  1. not quite said, on November 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Omar, you have it all wrong. Personally, I’m not a fan of Downtown, Inc or the PBID for similar opinions you’ve written about. However, Benavides campaign is not tied to Downtown Inc. Is it too far fetched of an idea to actually believe that someone finally had enough of politics as usual and jumped into the fray to actually pose a change on how things have run? are you not troubled by $500k finder’s fees, taco truck scandals, questionable bank loans from the bank where you are on the board, or no real plan for the city as a whole? So the Chases gave a couple hundred dollars, they have given much more to Pulido in the past. Not Sheldon Adelson money by any means and not enough to cry collusion. As for the Chapter One owner, so he is a supporter and has given them access. So what? Doesn’t this contradict with the RUMOR that Benavides irked Downtown with the proposed Mike Harrah sale of Santora. The Mike Harrah that supports Pulido? Don’t over do it Omar, you will end up being considered as a sidekick equivalent of Art “can’t win an election” Pedroza. The reality is Miguel has had a good run, went from renting an apartment as a councilmember to owning a multimillion dollar property. I’m assuming he made all of this as a successful business man who in no way benefitted from his elected position. PS – I remember his position on prop 187. I was a college student then and I will never forget. You shouldn’t either.

    • Omar Ávalos Gallegos said, on November 1, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      If you want to argue semantics or syntax, we can do that.

      Downtown Inc is not “tied to Benavides” because that is not the name of the PAC that is. That name is the “Stand Up for Santa Ana Coalition.” And there are people in both organizations simultaneously. That much has been discovered as a matter of fact. Connect the dots. I did.

      There is nothing wrong with jumping into the fray to try to change the culture of City Hall, but I’m convinced that Benavides is not the person qualified to do so.

      Benavides made some poor decisions of his own, particularly with his complete disregard of the impact of the arts in Santa Ana. By the way this is NOT A RUMOR. Excuse me. He went on camera to attempt to convince HIS church congregation to buy the Santora, and in the eyes of artists and free-thinking individuals like myself, that was an affront and it was moronic.

      I’ve read every suggestive article on Pulido in years past, and of course, I always expected what outcomes came of them. And what was there ultimately? Nothing. No wrong doing. No $500,000 payoff. I’ve said repeatedly to people in Santa Ana that if Pulido is guilty of any wrongdoing then he should pay as anyone else would. My take is that the articles have turned out to be suggestive and spin.

      The “Miguel abuses his office to enrich himself” is a broken-record allegation. It is speculative and suggestive unless it is proven true.

      I wasn’t a college student during prop 187 nor was I as observant of politics as I am now, but I see that we’re talking about an 18 year old issue. Are we to ignore that politicians, and people in general, change positions for better or worse? Especially over the course of nearly two decades?

      The record also shows that he and the council denounced Arpaio tactics in Arizona. It also shows that he and the council walked out when Benavides awarded a known Mexican basher and “Minuteman” an award at a city council meeting. Where else in this country does this occur? The confederate sympathizing south probably.

      So in 1986 or 1994 when demographics were not as they are today, he was criticized for not being pro-Mexican enough. The whites that elected him made him their guy.

      In 2012 he’s criticized for being too Mexican because of his attempt to bring the Chivas USA pro soccer team to Santa Ana. Chivas is a symbol of Mexican identity and pride but some residents take it as an affront. Chivas is a project of Mexican capital. I strongly believe that this is a good project for Santa Ana because it creates more opportunities for residents and their kids to use space. I have kids playing street soccer in front of my house knocking their ball into the backyard etc, they need a place. A project like that also creates jobs. It is progressive and it looks to the future. I’m glad that he tried to bring that here.

      It is a vile shame that a small group of people scared Downtown Inc into dropping support of the project. That, is an affront and it is anti Santa Ana.

  2. not quite said, on November 1, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Again, I agree with you on the Chivas effort. But Downtown Inc’s support or lack of had no bearing on the project. Chivas USA then owner, Antonio Cue, leveraged talks with Santa Ana to try and get a better deal with the Coliseum. He ultimately sold the team to Vergara and Chivas is still looking at Los Angeles.

    Again, I am not a fan of Downtown Inc. or the PBID. AT ALL.

    In referencing 1986 or 1994, you remind me the lack of integrity and leadership that has always been missing. He wasn’t a child, he was a fully developed adult that would “forget” where his own family came from for his political aspirations. Believe me, if you were of college age then, you do not forget and would always remember the rallying cry “Chinge su madre Pete Wilson!” It was the year the Republicans lost California and we Latinos realized it. It will happen in AZ soon enough…

    Now with reference to his ethics and success… You’re right, nothing has formally been proven.

    However, I’m pragmatic and unless we saw a chain of ACE Muffler Shops or that his exporting catalytic converters developed into a full fledged multinational corporation, I have to wonder…

    With regards to the Santora, my take on it is simple. Who owns it? If he’s selling, then work with him on who buys it. I think you would agree that if the city is invested, it should invest in libraries and parks. They’ve subsidized enough of the Artists village and its time for the Artists to become self sufficient.

    Either way, I like what you are doing here Omar. Really do. Just don’t go down the path the other blogger did. If he only knew the pity and ridicule with which his name is discussed.

    • Omar Ávalos Gallegos said, on November 1, 2012 at 5:54 pm

      I must say to you and to all who care enough to read this blog (thank you by the way), that there is no finalized deal with the Coliseum group at Exposition Park. The park was sold to USC and that school has to make a decision as to whether or not they’re going to build a soccer stadium on the site of the Sports Arena, which is expected to be demolished.

      The only city or group etc that has openly been proactive about attracting Chivas is Santa Ana. Not USC, not the City of Los Angeles, or Pomona or any of the other possible cities.

      A Chivas USA insider said that the club has until 2014 to find a stadium, because they’re not going to renew their lease at the Home Depot Center.

      Now if I’m mayor then I’m thinking of being proactive about attracting them here and not wasting time, not waiting for USC to make up its mind about building a stadium. The mayor has to be a booster.

      Club directors have said in the past that the club ideally wants to own its stadium to control all revenues. This would not be the case if they become tenants of USC.

      Any city or mayor in talks cannot give up easily in spite of all obstacles. He or she must remain convinced that bringing a project like that is good for the city. He or she must attract that investment. Is it not the task of all cities to attract investment?

      I’d like to see that happen and I’d like to see Pulido win in order for this project to have another chance. If Vergara absolutely does not want to invest in Santa Ana then I want to hear it from him.

      • Not quite said, on November 1, 2012 at 6:16 pm

        What I want to see goes beyond just having a soccer team.
        Revitalization of the south east, south west, north and central Santa Ana. Not just downtown.
        A city plan that integrates the demographics of the city, a young 27 avg. that means business friendly environment for the types of business that cater to a young city.

        fundemantal schools across the board

        .Libraries in every ward.

        And a police budget that is no more than 40% of our annual budget.

        A pipe dream? Maybe, but tell me what has been the plan the last 18 years?

  3. Omar Ávalos Gallegos said, on November 1, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Tell me what you mean by saying “a business-friendly environment for the types of business that cater to a young city.”

    No I know, full liquor licenses. That’s what much of this has to do with. I know because of one type close to Benavides that complains about this matter of not enough full liquor permits. He’s his and their (DTI) consultant. Proof wants to sell more booze and expand but they can’t because it requires rezoning of the space that they want to occupy.

    The Copper Door wants a full liquor license.

    The Sparrow wants a full liquor license.

    The Playground wants a full liquor license.

    Shall I go on? Who else wants one? Line up because Benavides & Co are going to pass them out like free pancakes. Is it any surprise that downtown inc wants to hand its network of restaurateurs liquor licenses and that they’re backing him?

    That’s their solution to the downtown economy: more full liquor permits. My father tells me of the downtown when it had too many bars. So drink up the future of the downtown.

    • Not quite said, on November 1, 2012 at 7:10 pm

      All that you mentioned is downtown. The city is larger than that.

      What do young families need in a city? Not liquor liceneses.

      How about a nice movie plex for starters?
      Miniature golf? Batting cages? A Melrose corridor Latino style?

      No more empty lots policy. An action plan to work with property owners to not allow whole neighborhoods devalued because of this practice.

      How about a real plan for Harbor Street?

      Again, it’s not all about downtown.

      • Omar Ávalos Gallegos said, on November 1, 2012 at 7:45 pm

        I agree that parts of town need to be redeveloped in fact I share some of your ideas. A movie plex is good. Harbor… obviously. I’ve done much brainstorming for improving Ward 5, where I’m from.

        But candidates Benavides and Reyna are not campaigning on ideas like these. No, instead they’re recycling typical politico rhetoric. Benavides is making his campaign about Pulido and not about substantial plans. “25 years is enough.” That’s 25 years of being mayor and a councilman. That’s his campaign motto and it is weak. He has no real plans otherwise I’d hear about them. What I do hear is this mantra about what’s wrong with the culture of City Hall and about insiders and interests etc. Would Downtown Inc not qualify as an insider and lobbyist if they succeed in putting him in? He and they would then become the status quo. He asks, “Are you okay with the status quo?”

        I need to hear ideas for redeveloping wards, and especially Ward 5 in my case. Reyna should be paying attention especially but he’s said zero about redeveloping Ward 5. Everyone says they’re “business friendly.” Everyone says they “want to create jobs.” But no one gives specifics as to how they’re going to do it.

  4. not quite said, on November 2, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Then simply make an appointment and ask for a meeting. Have you tried? I tried to get a meeting with the emperor and got staffed. Literally, talk to staff. Now if I were a developer I might have been invited to the compound. I wouldn’t even post normally but for the first time in the last 10 years, I finally see a candidate strong enough to dethrone the king. Hopefully on Tuesday I get to celebrate.

  5. Omar Ávalos Gallegos said, on November 2, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    I’m sorry but I, nor anyone else, don’t have to make an appointment to hear this candidate’s, nor any other candidate’s, political platform. He’s supposed to be campaigning publicly on concrete, substantial proposals with specificity.

    Alas, Benavides is another rhetorical, aspiring, career politician with no substance.

    I had a candid conversation, publicly, with the mayor not too long ago and I’m not a developer.

    I’ll give you that Benavides appears “strong enough.” But it most certainly is not because of his true character. If he gives the appearance of being “strong enough,” it’s because he has the backing of the Downtown Inc network with its restaurateurs and others. A network comprised largely of new-coming, outside interests. Yes, the newly founded downtown network has some clout and may be acting in a bloc but know that the mayor and councils past are what made it possible for them to do business in the downtown.

    You post your signs and I’ll post mine, I did so today.

    • ni madres said, on November 3, 2012 at 10:42 am

      Say what you will, but you have no standing on which to question his character. read pulidos mailers on prop 187 and tell me of his character. but go ahead support the vendido, malinche and “why he won’t let go” politician.

      • Omar Ávalos Gallegos said, on November 3, 2012 at 11:02 am

        Way to sidestep Benavides’s awarding of a minuteman. That’s in a mailer too and it happened very recently, not 18 years ago.

        You see, that was even more proof of him being out of touch with Santa Ana. It’s apparent that this guy had no clue about how polarizing a figure he awarded. This guy is amazing. He also showed that he was out of touch over the near sale of the Santora to his church. The downtown renewal was built on the arts and this guy risked changing that. You should’ve seen a member of his congregation complain over something as harmless as a fashion show done at the Santora. I’m glad that he and they didn’t get their way with the building.

        You want to have this guy learn on the job? I don’t. He’s barely getting to know this town!

        Should there be another person in the mayor’s seat eventually? Of course.

        You can argue that we can do something different or better than Pulido but I can tell you with all the assuredness in the world that we can do better than Benavides.

  6. sundayfunny said, on November 26, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    Ha, ha! No Chivas USA coming to Santa Ana! Not by my neighborhood! Whew. The noise, the trash, the traffic…NO THANKS! So glad that is not happening. As for DTI employees, 5 of the 6 office employees LIVE IN SANTA ANA! Why do you and Art spread such lies? Grow up.

    • Omar Ávalos Gallegos said, on November 28, 2012 at 10:47 am

      Where did you get your information? Do you know in fact that the club is not moving here? Nowhere is it confirmed that Chivas has a finalized deal with USC. Nowhere. So read this link where the commissioner says that there’s a wide variety of sites beyond USC. Then you can stop being a pathetic troll. I don’t know why you find it so necessary to defend that entity. 5 out of 6 employees live in Santa Ana? Who, and for how long? Don’t surprise me by telling me that they’re newly arrived. Newly arrived means that they’re still out of touch with this place. Maybe you are a newcomer. Newcomers that are set on promoting newcomer interests, that’s what “downtown inc” is to me.


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