Yes we CAN solve the City of Santa Ana’s budget crisis!

I met yesterday with members of the Greater Santa Ana Business Alliance PAC (this organization used to be known as the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce PAC) and with members of the Santa Ana Firemen’s Association.  Both organizations spent the day interviewing candidates for local office in Santa Ana.  One of the questions posed by both organizations was how did I plan to fix the City of Santa Ana’s budget crisis – the City is currently in the hole some $17 to $28 million.

That is quite a big hole!  Deficits like that don’t happen overnight.  They point to deep-rooted problems at City Hall.  Consider that when the City Council first raised our water rates, about a year ago, I found out through research that the Moulton Niguel Water District, in south Orange County, has a similar-sized water budget.  But they spend 19% on administration of their water budget.  The City of Santa Ana spends 33% on administration of their water budget.  Houston, we have a problem!

Imagine how much waste exists throughout the City’s budget!  The problem is that our Mayor, Miguel Pulido, and our City Council are either unwilling or unable to challenge our City Manager, Dave Ream.  He has carte blanche to do as he pleases.  The results are not good – and yet he hasn’t changed a thing in over twenty years of civic failure!

In fact I know what one of our problems is – Ream likes to hire his overpaid cronies.  He appears to have a large network of retired City Manager “consultants” who make a ton of money advising various City departments.  And in many cases Ream outright hires these people, and pays very large salaries to them.  He could hire others for less, but he is busy doling out civic welfare to his “posse.”

And, at a time when so many people in Santa Ana are having their homes foreclosed upon, both our City Manager and our City Clerk got big raises this year.  In fact just this week our City Council approved a massive pension spike for the City’s employees.  Is that a wise thing to do when you are drowning in debt?

How else can we reduce our massive civic debt?  How about selling off much of the land the City owns that is not vital to City services?  At the very least we ought to demand that the City’s Redevelopment department develop the many parcels of land purchased with money that is supposed to be spent on affordable housing.  There are vast tracts of brown fields all over our City that are lying fallow – doing nothing for the people of our City while Ream tries to figure out a way to use these properties not for affordable housing but rather for one luxury town home scheme or another.

And how about reversing the ban on big box stores that the City Council passed last year?  That ban already cost us a Best Buy that we were supposed to get over at the City Place shopping center.  That Best Buy was built on Tustin Ave., in Orange, instead.  Now the City of Orange has two Best Buys, at a time when thousands of local residents are buying new TV’s as their old TV’s have become defunct.

We also need to make it easier for folks to open new businesses in our city.  Instead our City administration tends to push away businesses they don’t want.  They busy themselves outlawing entire business sectors while they refuse to negotiate with other businesses, particularly any that target Latino customers.  One of the region’s largets Latino Superstores, La Curacao, opened up in Fountain Valley after Santa Ana City officials showed no interest in helping them find a local location.  Does that make any kind of sense?

How else can we save money in Santa Ana?  How about outsourcing wherever possible?  A few years ago Ream finally outsourced our tree trimmers – the question you have to ponder is why were they ever made City employees when this is a service easily procured on the open market, for much less?

Another problem is that our City Council is entirely too beholden to special interests.  Consider that they spent thousands of dollars automating the parking lot at the Civic Center.  However they then supported unionizing the very same parking lot attendants who this new equipment ostensibly made obsolete!  Now you have to hand them your money and they then run it through the automatic equipment.  It’s just insane!

What about new taxes?  One of the ideas being floated around many towns is raising local sales taxes.  The problem with this idea is that it hurts the working poor the most.  That isn’t much of a problem in a well-off city like Brea – but it is a major issue in Santa Ana.  Raising taxes should be the LAST thing we do!  I firmly believe we can meet our needs by cutting waste, outsourcing, selling surplus City property, encouraging new businesses to locate in Santa Ana and by doing away with Ream’s network of overpriced consultants.

Will that do the trick?  I don’t know – but believe me there is plenty of waste to do away with!  In fact I believe it is criminal to pay the City Council members $600 a month in car allowance.  That is ridiculous!  Most of them already own their own cars.  Let them pay for those cars themselves!  Or at least cut this crazy allowance to a more reasonable $100 a month.  And if a City Council member is already driving a car he doesn’t pay for, as does Pulido who gets to use a hybrid car for free as a member of the AQMD Board of Directors, then they ought not get ANY car allowance!

I don’t know if the City Council members get free health insurance too, but if they do that needs to go as well!  These people should not be mooching off the hardworking people of Santa Ana – not now, not ever!

We CAN resolve our City’s budget crisis – but not by doing the same stupid things we have been doing for over twenty years.

About Admin

"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.