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Santa Ana Mayor Pro Tem apologizes for Hitler comparison

August 26, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Santa Ana City Council member is apologizing for a statement she made comparing a Jewish businessman to Adolf Hitler. The controversial comment at Wednesday's council meeting involved a dispute over a downtown business tax.

"I did let my emotions take the best of me," said Santa Ana Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez.

Alvarez says she didn't mean to offend local Jewish businessman Irv Chase when she compared him to Adolf Hitler.

"I specifically told them, 'Hey, if Hitler rents you a place, is giving us a great deal, so who cares what he stands for?'" said Alvarez at Wednesday's city council meeting.

The comments were made at a special meeting dealing with a downtown Santa Ana tax.

Chase and his son Ryan own property in Santa Ana. They're both also on the board of Downtown Inc, a non-profit organization that administers the special tax.

Businesses must pay the tax to cover security and marketing costs. But dozens of business owners in what's largely been a working-class Latino shopping area complain that the fee is unaffordable and they receive no benefit.

Alvarez accused Chase of ethnic cleansing.

Chase expressed his frustration at a July 18 council meeting.

"What we're trying to do is broaden the appeal into the downtown, pure and simple," said Irv Chase on July 18. "This isn't a matter of race, this is a matter of business. And I'm really sick and tired of the race issue being played over and over and over again."

"I do want to apologize to the Chase family for whatever reason they found my comments offensive. That was not my intent," said Alvarez.

Alvarez's comments were condemned by the Anti-Defamation League of Orange County, saying she "invoked centuries-old anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews."

The city also issued an apology.

"I apologize to the Chases and anyone else that she offended sitting on this dais, and I think it's very unprofessional," said Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamante.

The Chase family didn't want to appear on camera. But Ryan Chase says he does not accept Alvarez's apology. He says his grandparents survived the Holocaust and he says Alvarez's actions speak for themselves.

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