The county registrar of voters office late Monday confirmed that a citizens group seeking changes in the structure of Santa Ana city government has enough valid petition signatures to put a proposition before the voters.
A preliminary count showed that the group, Santa Ana Merged Society of Neighbors, had 6,346 valid signatures, just 58 more than needed. Going door-to-door last month, the group collected about 7,100 signatures, 12% more than the 6,288 required.
According to state law, only registered voters residing in Santa Ana were eligible to sign the petition, which calls for direct election of the mayor and district-only elections for the City Council, rather than a citywide vote. The tedious validation process, which lasted into the early evening Monday, resulted in a count that SAMSON spokesman Jim Lowman described as "a cliffhanger."
Upon learning about 8 p.m. Monday that the group had more than enough valid signatures, Lowman got down on his knees outside the Santa Ana Council Chambers, clasping his hands in prayer.
Other members of the organization, a coalition of groups that had been on the losing end of council decisions over the past year, greeted the news with pleasure and relief.
Nativo Lopez, a Latino rights activist, said: "Jim Lowman doesn't have the political experience of some of these people, but he has the support of the voters."
George Hanna, a group member who spearheaded an effort to have the city's controversial north-central traffic system overturned by the courts, said: "We did the impossible within a very short time frame. We do applaud the City Council in coming to their senses in this thing."
SAMSON members have waged a three-month-long campaign to alter city government, resulting in a beat-the-clock petition effort aimed at a March 7 deadline for calling a special election on June 3.
Meeting Set for Today
The City Council will officially receive the petitioners' results at a special meeting called for 8 p.m. today by Santa Ana Mayor Dan Griset. The council is expected to vote to place the proposition before the voters in the June 3 election.
If the voters approve the proposition, council elections would be called in November.
The group's petitions were initially rejected after City Atty. Edward C. Cooper determined that the documents weren't written in the correct form as required by state law. The City Council voted Saturday, however, to have the signatures counted anyway.
Representatives of another citizen's group, the Good Government Committee of Santa Ana, voiced their opposition to proposed changes during the council's scheduled Monday night meeting. Chairman Victor Alleman said his group, representing "about 100" people, most of them businessmen, believes the current form of government should not be altered. He said the committee has been in existence for at least 30 years and is most active in endorsing candidates during council elections.
"We feel that we should come forward and say: 'Hey, for our size city, we think the council-manager form of government works fine.' " Alleman said that if the issue goes on the June ballot, the group will organize a campaign to defeat it.