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Santa Ana fills council seat in thrifty fashion

Replacing a member who won an Assembly seat, the City Council skips an election and names a lawyer who served on the redevelopment board.

January 04, 2007|Jennifer Delson | Times Staff Writer

Deciding to forgo a special election, Santa Ana City Council members voted 4 to 2 late Tuesday to appoint attorney Vincent Sarmiento to serve the 21 months remaining in the term of Jose Solorio, who recently was elected to the Assembly.

Sarmiento, who served on the city's Community Housing and Redevelopment Commission, said he hoped to advance the city's redevelopment plans, which include land between the city's downtown and train station along Santa Ana Boulevard.

"I think, more than anything, I have some experience, talent and skills that I can lend to the city to help it progress," Sarmiento said. "I'd like to see the council take a real leadership role on issues having to do with redevelopment."

Sarmiento, 42, a Democrat, immigrated to Santa Ana from Bolivia when he was a year old. He has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a law degree from UCLA. He and his wife have three children, ages 7, 4 and 1.

The decision to appoint Sarmiento signaled a political loss for Mayor Miguel A. Pulido's opponents on the council. Noting both the $340,000 cost of a special election and the likelihood of a Pulido-backed candidate winning, Councilman Sal Tinajero said he and Councilwomen Claudia Alvarez and Michele Martinez decided an appointment was prudent.

"We just got on the council and we all still have campaign debt," said Tinajero, who was elected in November. "You are talking about a mayor with an infrastructure that is around for 20 years. He would have had all sorts of resources to put behind a candidate in a special election."

Sarmiento, who shares Pulido's redevelopment vision for the city, declined to say whether he would be part of Pulido's voting bloc.

He allowed only that he would make pro-business votes that will benefit Santa Ana.

"I know and respect people on either side of the aisle," Sarmiento said. "I think last night they displayed a lot of maturity and made the city proud by saving as much money as they did. It was a step in the right direction and not because it was me who was elected."

Alvarez and Martinez voted against Sarmiento's appointment.

jennifer.delson@latimes.com

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