PAC Linked to Controversial Downtown Inc is Backing Benavides
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.
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.