Notes, Quotes, and Observations from Last Night's AirTalk with Larry Mantle Town Hall on Santa Ana Gentrification
More than 100 people in attendance last night...
With apologies to Orange County Register sports genius Randy Youngman, notes, quotes and observations from last night's epic town hall on SanTana gentrification wars held by KPCC-FM 89.3's AirTalk with Larry Mantle.
*More than 100 people attended last night at Librería Martinez--and those were just the people sitting down. The aisles also had listeners, and others were still filing in long after the conversation started.
*This was the first time AirTalk had done a live recording in SanTana in about six years--they had previously done one in Librería Martínez (at their old shop on Main Street), and the topic then was immigration.
*Weirdest moment of the evening: the PETA protesters above. Ladies: SanTana Mayor Don Papi Pulido NEVER attends public events unless he's guaranteed a sycophantic audience--and the one last night definitely wasn't.
*Larry Mantle was at his devil's-advocate best, grilling all the guests--SanTana councilmembers Busty Bustamante and Michelle Martinez, dentist Arturo Lomeli, Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD) head Eric Altman, and longtime Centro Cultural de México volunteer Carolina Sarmiento--on their stated positions, then flipping the questions to put them on the defensive about the opposite side. At one point, a crowd member whispered in my ear, "Does that güey have a bias?" when Larry seemed to be endorsing wiping out Mexican neighborhoods. Wonder how that person felt when Larry advocated the other side.
*Bustamante claimed that Fourth Street was in need of revitalizing because Mexicans were "assimilating more into the Wal-Marts and Targets." HAHAHAHAHA. That's a line the Brave New Urbanists are starting to repeat as a mantra, one repeated by the Orange County Register: Fourth Street is empty because wabs now have more shopping choices. By that logic, Fourth Street should've suffered dearly when Orange County had many more swap meets that catered to Mexis, back in the days when the Lemon and Orange Drive-Ins were still around. Also? Wabs have shopped at Target since they've been around--as one who grew up running in the grease-smeared aisles of the old Target location on Lincoln in Anacrime, TRUST ME...
Busty also came out as a full-fledged Aztlanista, but of the pocho variety. He insisted SanTana's gentrification schemes aren't designed to drive out Mexicans from the city, whether poor or rich. "We're not going anywhere," Busty said at one point--and isn't that what Mechistas say all along? Of course, Busty made it into an issue of where successful Mexis like him could shop in the city--he wants a place where he can "buy a suit," which shows how clueless he is about Fourth Street because YOU ALREADY CAN.
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*Altman was good, if a bit too earnest, using progressive terms like "dialogue" and "consensus" a bit too much. When Larry asked how is it that SanTana's council keeps getting elected despite Altman's assertion that community members didn't have a voice, Altman couldn't really respond. But when Altman brought up the subject of developers, Larry ignored that topic.
*Lomeli was not ready for radio, stuttering and stammering a bit much. He did make the salient point that, for all the talk of the Mexis in downtown SanTana not contributing much to the city, it still remained SanTana's second-highest tax revenue base and felt that could only improve if the Don Papi put in more infrastructure improvements and eliminated paid parking. But when Larry pointed out that downtown Santa Monica and Pasadena--previous examples of redevelopment cited as triumphs by Brave New Urbanists--charges for parking and makes mucho profits, Lomeli didn't have a response.
*Funniest line of the night: "When has Carlos had a taco in Santa Ana?"--uttered by an audience member when Busty claimed he eats tacos in the city. During the course of the interview, he was seen dining beforehand at Chapter One: The Modern Local with his entourage.
*The biggest disaster of the night by far was Martinez, who is proving to be the new Claudia Alvarez--vindictive, prone to histrionics, and just plain dumb. She claimed that before OCCORD and others got together to unsuccessfully try and get the SanTana City Council to sign off on a community benefits agreement in return for the mega-development that's coming, there had never been "engagement from communities" in SanTana, conveniently forgetting how her puppet master got into power and Chepa Andrade. She also repeated the Don Papi-approved mantra that there was no need for a CBA because the council would deliver on all the points in it. When Larry pressed her on why not just pass it then, Martinez said, "If you don't have the vote," it's not going to pass, and that "we didn't have the vote." Doesn't sound like a progressive council to me! Yet when Michelle insisted the city ran an "open council," everyone laughed--a moment of levity that started Martinez on her path to getting unhinged.
At one point, Martinez began railing about a lawsuit that activists have filed against the City Council over the Station District concept. She claimed that those activists were holding the city down, and if that didn't go through, that there would be no other developers who wanted to come into the city. She actually lost her temper! The audience laughed anew, and nearly hooted when Martinez said that her parents wouldn't allow her and her friends to visit the downtown area as teens (which would've been the mid-1990s) because the were either "get killed or raped." Funny!
And funniest part of all? Martinez kept pronouncing SanTana as "Santa Ana"--again and again. She over-enunciated it, again and again. Don't worry, Michelle: we all know you're Flora Park-worthy!
*Sarmiento only appeared at the end of the broadcast, yet proved the feistiest and most well-spoken. She challenged Larry on his questions, pronounced the city as SanTana, and brought up previous examples of successful CBAs. When Larry pointed out that the city and current developer didn't want to enter into a CBA, Sarmiento shot back "Find another developer." She also pointed out that the city's continued focus on just one part of SanTana to make it a regional draw only leads to divestment in the rest of the city. "Are we building a Santa Ana for people outside Santa Ana?" she openly wondered toward the end, to which Martinez and Bustamante had no answer.
*Martinez finally broke down and pronounced Santa Ana as SanTana toward the end. HILARIOUS...
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