When Michele Martinez was first elected to the SanTana City Council in 2006, and she was getting buzz as a possible savior of the Banana Republic that would be beholden only to the People, I thought of doing a cover story on her. She was young, ambitious, smart, and had a story to tell. I knew the title: “Will Success Spoil Michele Martinez?”
I never got around to doing it, but her political career has answered my hypothetical question: ¡Sí, señor!
Martinez is entering the final two years of her council run, with absolutely nothing to show for it other than conspiring with SanTana Mayor-for-Life Don Papi Pulido—a man who once publicly humiliated her when she dared run against him in 2008 by having lackeys leak to the press that her brother was rounded up in a gang raid—to get rid of a city manager who accused her of sexual harassment. Actually, her only other accomplishment might be a bizarre rant she unleashed at the Feb. 7 council meeting.
The issue at hand was a $500,000 pool of money that the SanTana council had approved in September to dole out to community groups. That was before the SanTana police officer’s union spend nearly half a million dollars to get cop-gobblers Jose Solorio and Juan Villegas (himself an OC sheriff’s deputy) elected and do their will—and their will was to get that $500,000 meant for kids to get spent on cops instead.
After dozens of community groups urged the City Council to honor their September promise, Martinez began ranting. She yelled at the city’s Executive Director of Finance, Francisco Gutierrez, calling the $500,000 a “slush fund” for former City Manager David Cavazos. After Solorio spoke against giving out the money and Councilmembers Sal Tinajero and Vince Sarmiento spoke in favor of granting the money to kids as originally intended, Martinez started yammering anew.
She tried to portray herself as an independent truth-teller. “At the end of the day,” she said, “I could care less if this mayor and council doesn’t support my agenda. But I have a responsibility, when I find things out and do my research, to tell the public of what’s going on. Because that’s what you elected me to do.”
Fair enough. But then Martinez got wacky.
“And so when I get notes like this,” Martinez said, as she grabbed a sheet of paper on her desk she had obviously been holding all night to eventually use as a prop. “Mayor Pro Tem/Title: A Sellout” she read, as she lifted it up so the audience could try and see it. Then she pulled out another paper, and read it out loud. “PLEASE. DON’T BECOME A SELL OUT ON THE COUNCIL” in font that looked stolen from a Wild West “Wanted” poster.
“I’ve never been a sell-out!” she growled to the perplexed council chambers. “I’ve been for this community 100 percent. I’ve been protecting this city for 10 years.”
(Unless you sell tacos, of course)
“So you all can count, email this to me,” she continued, waving the second paper again as she babbled on for another minute—and then she waved the paper one more time.
“Because it’s insulting,” she snapped again, grabbing the hate paper, “that I have to be told that I’m not willing to support our youth.”
That’s when it finally occurred to me: Martinez not only has done nothing during her time on the SanTana City Council, she has morphed into the worst person she could be besides the Don Papi: Former SanTana councilwoman, incompetent prosecutor for Tony Rackauckas, and current Rancho Santiago Community College District trustee Claudia Alvarez.
For the kids: Claudia Alvarez was the original Michele Martinez, winning a council seat in 2000 and serving for three terms. How are they the same? Let us count the ways:
*Both attended Santa Ana College and graduated from Cal State Fullerton with bachelor’s (bachelorette?) degrees in criminal justice.
*Both won their initial council races against Pulido-endorsed rivals.
*Both talk with an accent: Claudia, because English isn’t her first language; Michele, because she’s a Chicana who grew up in SanTana (seriously: at the council meeting, she dropped an “Imma” and pronounced “picture” as “pitcher,” almost as if she was imitating George Lopez doing a stereotypical homeboy accent).
*Both held extracurricular positions to bolster their resumes for their inevitable runs for higher office: Alvarez, as a former president of the Orange County Hispanic Bar Association, Martinez as a past president of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO)
*Both always had aspirations for higher office while on the council, yet lost again and again. Alvarez ran for state assembly twice—in 2004 and 2006—and lost each time. Martinez is a three-time loser: failed push against Don Papi Pulido in 2008, failed State Assembly campaign in 2012, and failed supervisorial race last year against incumbent Andrew Do.
*Both are women in the historical sausage party that is the SanTana City Council—about the only sympathy they deserve.
*Both got caught up in embarrassing blabbermouth. In 2011, Alvarez earned national infamy after she played the Hitler card against the Jewish family that owns many buildings in downtown SanTana (full disclosure: my wife is a tenant in one of them). In 2012, an editor overheard Martinez boasting over the phone while using Metrolink that Native American tribes were going to help her with some independent expenditures in her ultimately failed state assembly try. Alvarez issued a half-hearted apology for her gaffe; Martinez didn’t bother.
*Both hate food trucks. Martinez is one of the main SanTana councilmembers behind the city’s ridiculous push to regulate loncheras out of existence. Alvarez was part of the city council that tried regulating food trucks back in 2005, only to get their resolutions thrown out by the courts.
*Both spent their final terms acting as champions of the people—Alvarez as a foe of gentrification, Martinez as the only councilmember, as she put during the Feb. 7 council meeting, who’s never accepted money from the police union for a SanTana council race (she claims they spent money on her during her failed Assembly race because they wanted her out—um, yeah…)
Finally—and most importantly—both turned from charming, enthusiastic, funny mujeres to petty, paranoid pendejas. And the Don Papi wins again…