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Latino Activists Call Santa Ana Mailers ‘Racist’ on Issue C

Times Staff Writer

Latino activists in Santa Ana protested Friday what they described as “racist campaign literature” mailed before last Tuesday’s election and said they will try to place another measure restructuring local govenment on the November ballot.

Speaking at a luncheon of the Hispanic Affairs Council of the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce, Amin David, president of Los Amigos of Orange County, said the mailer was intended to portray backers of Measure C as “swarming multitudes about to occupy” the city. Measure C, defeated by only 282 votes, would have established elections of City Council members by wards and citywide election of a mayor.

The mailer was written and paid for by a group called the Good Government Committee. Many members of the committee also are members of the chamber.

“Do you suppose many who read your flyer envisioned ever-growing masses of Mexicans and Central Americans in their mind’s eye? Of course they did, and sadly, we fervently believe you intended to do just that,” he said.

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The mailer warned that “a small group of extremists from outside our city are trying to seize control,” and that their goal was to strike down the city’s aggressive code enforcement which keeps “our city from becoming an overcrowded East Coast slum.”

Immigrant activist Nativo Lopez said the “racist” mailer was intended “to whip up hysteria among the Anglo population to defeat a measure that would have given Latinos more representation on the City Council.” Before he left the luncheon, Lopez said, “Quite frankly, I feel more at home with the swarming multitudes that are supposed to be creating a slum out of Santa Ana.”

Lopez added that he and other members of the Santa Ana Merged Society of Neighbors--the coalition of groups behind Measure C--will try to put the measure on the November ballot, “and this time, we will win.”

Lopez said Robert Miranda, an officer of the chamber and of the Good Government Committee, would be held “personally accountable” for the mailers. He also denounced other Latino leaders who opposed Measure C, including the U.S. postmaster in Santa Ana, Hector Godinez, and two of the partners in a planned Latino shopping center, Robert Escalante and Jose Ceballos.

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George Hanna, another SAMSON member, said a legal notice will be published in newspapers today, as required by law before signature-gathering can begin to again place the measure on the ballot. An affadavit of that publication will be delivered to the city clerk Monday, he said.

The proposition, which Hanna said would contain only “minor changes,” calls for council members to be elected by voters in their respective wards and for the mayor to be elected citywide. If approved, it would require all eight council positions to come up on the 1988 ballot.

Hanna said the closeness of the vote Tuesday (the lead changed four times during the counting) convinced members to try again. He blamed the defeat on the mailers. “It wasn’t a fair fight. It was lies that beat us,” he said. “I don’t like to be hit below the belt and kicked in the teeth.”

Miranda and Michael Metzler, executive director of the chamber and a spokesman for the Good Government Committee, defended the mailer and characterized Friday’s protests as “truly unfortunate” personal attacks by “sore losers.”

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The mailer said that Lopez, one of the leaders of SAMSON, is a “radical activist” backing rent control and rent strikes in the city.

“The leaders involved in SAMSON had particular issues and that’s what we focused on. There was nothing racist about it,” Metzler said. He added that chamber members are quite willing to sit down and talk out the issues and noted that SAMSON spokesman Jim Lowman refused an invitation to speak to the board of directors before they decided whether to oppose Measure C.

Miranda, who said his father came to the United States as an undocumented worker, said: “The issue here is Measure C. The board of directors voted to oppose it. . . . It was never considered a Hispanic or a non-Hispanic issue. I personally don’t believe the mailer was racist.”

The Hispanic Affairs Council voted to table a motion to call for the chamber’s board of directors to denounce the mailer at their next meeting on June 26. Council Chairman Mike Silvas said he would appoint a group to study the issue and discuss it at the board’s meeting in July.

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However, board member Bob Lopez, a Measure C supporter, said he would bring up the issue at the June meeting anyway.

City Clerk Janice Guy said she had advised Hanna of the deadlines for putting a proposition on the November ballot. The group would have to submit 6,288 valid signatures to Guy by July 4 to give her the required 30 days to count the names. The final day to put a proposition on the ballot is Aug. 8 and the City Council, which must approve that action, meets on Aug. 4.


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