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Mayor’s reasoning is just shy of believable

Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido is a heck of a good-looking guy with a charming personality. Dresses well. Articulate as all get-out. You could almost see him hosting a TV talk show.

Sad to say, then, that the longtime mayor (elected to the job in 1994) has a terrible shyness affliction. He just hates to see himself on the tube. Not only that, he hates giving interviews. He’s about as hard to snag for an interview as Donald Bren. And Pulido isn’t even a billionaire.

But shyness is nothing to joke about. It’s a real problem for some people -- especially if you’re in public life.

At least, I’m assuming shyness is Pulido’s particular curse. Why else would someone that sharp and photogenic be so insistent about limiting TV coverage of Santa Ana City Council meetings?

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If that isn’t it, then we’re left to read something more conspiratorial into it. Like, uh, not wanting the public to watch the council in action. Like not wanting people to know how the council reaches decisions. Like not broadcasting citizen complaints.

Please tell me that isn’t it.

The mayor has led the charge to limit TV coverage to one council meeting a month. Since there are only two, you have to wonder what the big deal is in televising both. Makes a conspiracy theorist wonder if all the boring stuff will be discussed at the televised meeting and all the juicy stuff at the blacked-out one.

When explaining his reasoning at the last meeting (televised!), Pulido said it was because the cameras made some council members nervous. He didn’t name names, perhaps not wanting the public to know which others suffered from his same damnable curse. The mayor also implied that a council might do a better job “off-camera in an informal setting.”

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I think the Taliban has the same philosophy.

At the last meeting, only Councilwoman Michele Martinez favored all access all the time. She made a motion to that effect, but her shy compatriots were too nervous to offer a second, no doubt wondering just why Martinez was such a glory hound and wishing this were one of those meetings where they could huddle off-camera in an informal setting.

I talked to Martinez late Friday afternoon, and she’s irked. With various technological ways for residents to watch council meetings, she said, “We shouldn’t, as elected officials, choose if they should or shouldn’t. It’s not our government, it’s theirs.”

That apparently is a radical notion to the other six council members.

I have no idea if Santa Ana residents are policy wonks or not. The stereotype is that, especially among the immigrant population, many residents are working more than one job and don’t have a lot of time to watch a council meeting. Even if true, that has nothing to do with not televising the sessions.

I asked Martinez what she thought of the mayor’s rationale that more gets done off camera. “I think that’s B.S.,” she said, choosing her initials carefully. “We’ve chosen to be in the public eye, and if we didn’t want it, we shouldn’t be elected officials.

“Everyone’s always going to be scrutinizing us on how we look, what we say. We’re human beings, and we’re going to make errors on public TV. We’re normal. But not to give people the ability to view for themselves and judge us -- it’s wrong. We shouldn’t censor ourselves to the public.”

I don’t know where this young woman (she’s 28) got such radical ideas, but at least there seems to be no danger of them spreading to the rest of the council.

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And that leads directly to Pulido, the shyest of the shy and the man who runs Santa Ana as if he planned to be mayor for life.

I have to confess, he disappoints me. We talked for nearly an hour in his office last May and, what can I say, I liked the guy. He’s good company.

If he were your mayor, you’d think he had the perfect public face for your city.

It’s just a shame and bordering on scandal that he’s got this shyness problem.

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Dana Parsons’ column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He can be reached at (714) 966-7821 or at dana.parsons@latimes.com. An archive of his recent columns is at www.latimes.com/parsons.


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