SANTA ANA — Bowing to public pressure, the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce announced Thursday that Mayor Miguel A. Pulido Jr. will give his state of the city speech in Santa Ana after all, not Irvine.
The new site will be the Turnip Rose banquet room. The date, time and $25 price tag will remain the same.
"Everyone's focusing on the location and not the message," chamber President Mike Metzler said, "and that's not what we want."
The mayor, who had faced criticism this week over the chamber's selection of Irvine, said he also was bothered by the location, but was reluctant to decline the invitation. He applauded Thursday's move.
"What people are really going to judge is the content of the speech," Pulido said. "If anything, it points out that we do need larger venues in the city."
The chamber had booked Wednesday's speech at the Orange County Airport Hilton in Irvine, citing a lack of appropriate place in Santa Ana that could fit about 250 people for a formal breakfast affair.
At least one local venue--the Santa Ana Elks Lodge--has a 550-person capacity.
But the chamber had two conflicting priorities: holding it in Santa Ana, and making sure the venue was a chamber member.
The Irvine Hilton, a member of the chamber, won out over the non-chamber Elks Lodge.
And like a good member, Metzler said, the Hilton agreed to break next Wednesday's date without charge.
The Turnip Rose also is a chamber member, but Metzler said space will be limited given the location's capacity of about 200.
Metzler said that more than 100 people have so far signed up to hear the mayor's speech.
On the Santa Ana City Council, supporters and opponents of the mayor praised the latest move, but differed on whether the incident would come back to haunt Pulido.
"In the end, no one is going to remember where the Chamber of Commerce almost scheduled a speech," Councilman Brett Franklin said. "But they will remember this is the mayor who brought the Discovery Science Center and the federal courthouse, which were headed to Irvine, to Santa Ana."
Councilman Ted R. Moreno, who often clashes with Pulido, predicted that the incident would likely be used against Pulido, and believed that the speech should be given for free.
The $25 will cover the costs of the event, and Pulido will not be paid for his appearance.
Last year, Pulido hosted President Clinton on the steps of the Old County Courthouse in Santa Ana as thousands filled the surrounding area.
"You're able to bring the president of the United States here, and there was enough room to host thousands, but there's not enough room to host the 225 people to hear the state of the city by the mayor," Moreno said.