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In Santa Ana’s Ward 1, issues include business, homelessness and open space

Four Santa Ana residents are seeking to replace outgoing Councilman Vicente Sarmiento to represent the city’s Ward 1 district.

Candidates running in the Nov. 3 election include two planning commissioners: Cynthia Contreras, 49, legislative coordinator for the Orange County Probation Department, and Thai Viet Phan, 32, an attorney. They are seeking the post alongside Tony Adame, 32, the chief financial officer of a hair pomade company he helped create called “Suavecito”, and Thomas Anthony Gordon, a school facilities manager.

Sarmiento, meanwhile, is running for mayor – one of six candidates seeking to replace Mayor Miguel Pulido, who after 26 years on the job is termed out.

This will be the first time Santa Ana voters get to vote strictly for their own representative, as well as the citywide mayor. That’s a shift from previous elections, when council members were elected to represent their districts, called wards in Santa Ana, by all voters citywide. Ward 1 includes much of the city’s west side.

The Register sent the four Ward 1 candidates a questionnaire. All but Gordon replied. The following is based on their responses.

Contreras and Phan consider public safety a top issue in the city. Both talked about improving community-police relations.  Phan wants to see a police oversight commission and a review of police procedures, “especially with internal affairs.” Adame, meanwhile, wants to see greater “investment into our neighborhoods” and more support for programs for low-income families – the type that helped his family growing up, he wrote.

Like most cities, Santa Ana’s economy has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. In reply to a question about what his recovery plans would include, Adame said the city was slow to react and that negatively impacted business owners.

“Santa Ana has famously been uncreative in how it attracts and keeps new business. I will accommodate businesses more freedom to operate outdoors, for instance,” Adame said. “I will cut fees for new business startups and streamline the processes to open and operate a business by making use of online portals as other surrounding cities already have.”

Contreras said she would support the city’s current plans for allocating its federal CARES Act monies and work to support small businesses. “We also need to work on providing workforce training to help families get back on their feet.”

Phan said she would “simplify, clarify, and lower the cost and process of opening businesses” in Santa Ana “by providing an easy-to-access online resource.”  She also wants to see more investment in “mom and pop shops” and she would promote and expand the legal marijuana industry, “which not only decreases the presence of illegal cannabis, but provides good-paying jobs for residents and brings in additional revenue.”

Santa Ana is one of the most densely packed cities in the country, with less open space and fewer parks than most similar sized cities. But the candidates differ on what they want to see developed in the soon-to-close, 102-acre Willowick Golf Course, which is owned by Garden Grove but sits in Santa Ana.

Adame said he wants a “mixed-use approach of open space, affordable housing, and commercial development.” Contreras supports open space and would prioritize a sports park and a community center “that can become the hub of the neighborhood.” Phan rejects the idea that the land must fall into a single development category. “We can have open space, boutique mom & pop shops, and mixed housing developments,” Phan wrote.

Both Santa Ana and Garden Grove have come up with three possible scenarios for the Willowick Golf Course, but neither city has let the public see specific developer bids for the land. A coalition of residents from both communities has criticized the cities for a lack of transparency. Adame, Contreras and Phan all said they would make those plans publicly available.

The candidates also agreed on two other issues. All three would keep Santa Ana a “sanctuary city” that protects all its residents, including those in the country illegally. And all agree with the city’s ban on evictions during the pandemic.

But on other issues, the candidates disagreed.

Contreras and Phan would enforce face mask rules in the city and cite Santa Ana businesses that do not comply. Adame would not.

Phan and Adame support the establishment of a civilian police oversight commission that has subpoena powers and independent investigative authority. Contreras does not.

On the question of rent control, Adame said he is for it, Contreras said she’s against it, and Phan said she’s undecided.

None of the three candidates would seek or accept the endorsement of the Santa Ana Police Officers Association, which is accused of undue meddling in recent years as it pushed for police pay raises. Asked if they want to see the police contract grow, shrink or stay the same, Adame, Contreras and Phan said they would want to see it stay the same.

Homelessness is another topic of concern for Santa Ana residents, who have long complained that their city takes on an undue share of the county’s homeless. All three candidates support the city’s move to sue Orange County, and none want to see additional shelters in the city.

Santa Ana council members are paid $12,000 annually, receive a $600 annual housing stipend and a $6,000 auto allowance. They also are eligible for medical and dental and other insurance benefits.

Source: Orange County Register

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