He doesn't lose his temper, at least not in public. He has an uncanny knack for getting along with everyone. Interviews with Santa Ana civic leaders failed to unearth a single negative comment.
In a city that has seen enough controversy in the past year to last a decade or two, everybody, it seems, is satisfied with the choice of David Ream, 41, as Santa Ana's new city manager.
"I think it's wonderful. It's the best thing to happen to Santa Ana in years," said Hal Thomas, president of Heritage Orange County Inc., a historical preservation group that had its funding revoked--then later reinstated--by the city earlier this year. "That city has had so many city managers. It's been up and down, up and down. I think this will give Santa Ana some long-needed continuity."
Even those who said they preferred not to comment echoed positive thoughts. "Dave Ream's the new city manager? That's a pretty good choice," said Sal Mendoza, a redevelopment commissioner who was ousted after he joined a citizens' group supporting a ballot proposition to alter local government. "But I'm more concerned with what's going to happen to Measure C next November."
Zeke Hernandez, president of the Santa Ana chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said he believes that Ream will be able to work out problems with the city's Latino community.
Code Enforcement Dispute
In the past year, Latino leaders have charged that the city has forced out many poor families with its strict enforcement of housing occupancy codes and that, in fact, Santa Ana has done little to provide low-cost housing.
And at the same council meeting at which Ream's appointment was announced Monday, Latino activists demanded that the city investigate allegedly racist mailers sent out by opponents of Measure C, the recently defeated proposition to impose ward elections and a directly elected mayor. (Proponents have discussed putting it on the ballot again in November.) Latino activist Nativo Lopez said the preelection mailers were designed to frighten whites into voting against a measure that could have given Latinos--who make up half of the city's population--more council representation.
"If Dave Ream accepted the position realizing the situation that's occurring--which I believe he did--he must have made some determination to work with the community," Hernandez said. "To me he seems like an honest person, and he's straightforward. Whatever problems this community has had, I think he's ready to put the past aside and move ahead."
Ream, who will take over from outgoing City Manager Robert C. Bobb on July 7, is currently executive director of community development. Ream said he plans to meet with Latino leaders to discuss their concerns, adding that he wants to be able to openly discuss any concerns within the community. "I want to be as accessible as possible, and I want to be sure that they get to collectively state their opinions," he said.
No Change Foreseen
On the code enforcement issue, he said there will probably not be a change in Santa Ana's policy, which he argued isn't any different from that of surrounding cities. "I think you have to enforce the health and safety codes or you're doing a disservice to the citizens," he said.
The stability Ream is expected to bring to the eighth floor of City Hall was a theme stressed by many City Council members, who opted against a nationwide search for Bobb's successor.
After Bobb, who joined the city in 1984, announced that he would be taking a job in Richmond, Va., the city received letters from several city managers, including a Michigan man, who came and toured the city.
Santa Ana has had seven city managers since August, 1978, although three of those have been temporary appointments. The longest term among permanent city managers was A. J. Wilson, who left to become city manager of Kansas City, Mo., in 1983 after three years and four months.
"This is a great city for a city manager who wants to crawl up the career ladder," Vice Mayor P. Lee Johnson said. "And that's exactly what we didn't want. It was time for an Eisenhower, a solid, hard-working man who can deliver. . . . The man's a rock, solid as a rock."
Ream stressed that the city's aggressive development (it currently ranks behind only Los Angeles and San Diego in building activity) is necessary and will benefit citizens rather than pass them by. He said he looks forward to seeing several key projects through to fruition, notably the $400-million expansion of Fashion Square Mall, which will be renamed Main Place Santa Ana.
Believes Dome Will Be Built
In addition, he believes that the twice-stalled plan for a Westdome sports arena in Santa Ana will become a reality, stressing that the project should be built in an industrial area to avoid adverse impacts on residential areas. "I think almost everyone in the community feels that having a facility like that would be a big source of community pride. And it's fun," he said.