One 'Gate' Too Many: L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar Devoured Alive by Opponent Rudy Martinez, LA Times, Gleeful Citywatchers
We'd call this a lynching -- if it weren't so based in fact. Over the last few weeks, the L.A. media hounds have gotten their paws on a series of embarrassing documents tied to L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar. And by that, we mean they received a series of embarrassing documents from Huizar's lone opponent on the 2011 ballot, reality TV star and restauranteer Rudy Martinez, for whom no speck of dirt has been too small to blast to every press contact on his list.
So how did Huizar let the stench surrounding his quarter-million-dollar run for re-election get this nasty?
To be fair, his only real mistake was making friends with a seemingly harmless, highly influential constituent a few years back:
None other than local entrepreneur Martinez, who turned out to be a back-stabbing son of a former Huizar campaign staffer. Who would have known?
Not only was Martinez totally BFF with Huizar in the years leading up to his surprise candidacy -- surely giving him all sorts of juice on the councilman's weak spots -- but his mother actually worked on the Huizar campaign team in the mid 2000s.
Ouch. That'll teach a lazy incumbent not to hire old women with charming sons-about-town -- ones who'd look mighty fly on a "4 City Council" billboard.
The latest and greatest leaked document, hysterically named Community Power Analysis, was scoped out by Martinez' mother back in her time at Camp Huizar, and is now apparently red enough on the corruption meter for the Los Angeles Times to take notice -- even print a 1,000-plus word article on the steamy District 14 race.
Turns out Huizar made a list of key community players in his district, then rated them from -3 to 3 in terms of supportiveness and 0 to 5 in terms of influence.
Times reporter David Zahniser, on the City Hall beat:
Juanita Martinez said Huizar reviewed the lists with his aides, who drafted them during office hours, and sometimes changed scores when he disagreed with their assessments. In at least one case, she said, a constituent who was ranked as a "die-hard" Huizar foe became a lower priority for the council office compared to other residents who called with neighborhood issues.
A second former Huizar staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said the councilman initially reviewed the lists every three months but did so more frequently starting in 2009, as his reelection campaign approached.
"He wanted to know who the friends of the office were; those were his words," the ex-Huizar staffer said.
The best part: Martinez gets top marks in both categories.
Multiple people interviewed in the Times piece burst out laughing upon viewing the document, including Huizar's fellow councilmember Jan Perry, who says, "Wow, this is complicated." (Which really doesn't help qualm our swelling crush on Perry, who looked mighty sassy telling off the Department of Water and Power last month. It's almost enough to overshadow all that conflict-of-interest overdevelopment crap she's so keen on pulling.)
So now that the Martinez/Huizar boxing ring has graduated from a small yet dedicated circle of L.A. political bloggers to a citywide platform, what might have been a highly localized snore of a District 14 race will become L.A.'s No. 1 municipal saga on the March ballot.
And that really is the tone today, in response to all this recent scandal-breaking: sheer city-nerd joy. After all, Huizar can't do any more harm than he already has in District 14, and it's super enjoyable to watch him stutter for an explanation in the face of irrefutable evidence.
Huizar gave varying answers about the lists when asked about them. He initially said he believed the practice had been dropped in 2006. After The Times told Huizar that it had copies of office e-mails sent and received by his staff in 2009 making reference to such lists, he said the ranking system ended as recently as two years ago.
When Huizar was shown a copy of a list for the northeast section of his district, he described it as "familiar." When he was shown one dealing with El Sereno, he said: "I've never seen this."
And the laughs keep coming: One dude scores conflicting numbers on two different pages of the list. So not only is the operation completely unethical, it's also poorly executed. Heh.
Huizar's downward spiral started with a fund called CLARTS, established to offset the (really quite farty) effects of a giant recycling center in his district. La Opinion, The Voice Community News and many others had been calling for a record of how that money was spent for years -- and when the data was finally presented a few weeks ago, it left a lot to the imagination.
Meanwhile, Huizar was like, can we puh-lease get some more money for all these damn potholes?
Then came another bombshell, from -- where else -- the Martinez campaign: The vast majority of the CLARTS fund, or over $1 million, had been used to pay city staff. [Find the whole honkin' public-records PDF here.] Kind of ridiculous, considering he's already handed $1 million in taxpayer dollars for that very purpose every year.
Now, by lining the CLARTS allocations up side by side with the power-player analysis, Huizar's No. 1 public enemy -- the Mayor Sam citywatch blog -- smells a real heffer of a rat. We're talking Rizzo status.
As this story makes the rounds among CD 14 activists this morning, many are questioning whether the grading scale compiled by CD 14 staff, with the final approval of Councilman Charro Huizzy Corleone, was the basis for allocated "monetary resources" from the likes of the CLARTS Fund and other public funds? This blogger was privy to viewing the lists before the Times story was published. For example, one "connected non-profit director" was given a "3" score for loyalty and his organization received multiple allocations from the CLARTS Fund. Thus, one could surmise that the lists was "a political credit report" on CD 14 constituents and the fact that the likes of Father Greg Boyle and Father Moretta of Boyle Heights Resurrection Church, were subjected to a loyalty grading, will surely cause a backlash.
Hot damn. Need we spell it out further? Councilman Huizar has just confirmed the best hunches of L.A. City Council skeptics everywhere -- proving that we have every reason in the world to believe that campaign contributors are given the special treatment.
And thanks to the fact that Huizar's twisty little mind was apparently too full of scandalous new ideas to keep track of all the people he should be bribing, we now have a literal list-to-chart illustration of how fucked up the bedfellow situation in L.A. has become. (You know, in case Councilman Dennis Zine's actual bedfellow wasn't enough to prove it.)
Ron Kaye, formerly of the LA Daily News, takes his usual stabs this morning, though this time they're almost too easy:
"You can just imagine Huizar aides whispering in his ear on his occasional forays among the people in his district, 'Father Boyle, 2 for clout.' Or Glassell Park community leader Laura Gutierrez 'minus 2 for support.' Or LA Clean Sweep leader Heinrich Keifer '1 for clout.'
You know how hard it is to keep these things straight in your mind when you meet so many people and only care about those who support you and have influence -- not to mention money.
What an embarrassment!"
Onetime mayoral candidate Walter Moore gets far more dramatic with the thing:
"Suppose you're one of 15 City Council Members in America's second-largest city. That city is teetering on bankruptcy, and has an unemployment rate much higher than the national and state figures. There's a massive pension debt bomb looming; employees are put on furloughs; library hours are curtailed; and yet, hundreds of millions of dollars are handed out every year to politically connected developers, "non-profits," and politicians' family members (e.g., giving Tony Cardenas's brother-in-law money to send low-rider cars to Mexico).
What should you do? What problem should you tackle first?
If you're Jose Huizar, your mission is clear. Forget the public. Forget fixing problems. You and your staff must devote your time -- paid for by tax dollars -- to identifying the politically powerful people in your district, and figuring out which ones are for you, and which ones are against you."
And a chuckle from LA Observed with "Councilman Huizar would rate this story -3":
"This is pretty funny."
But enough of this stuffy City Hall cyberfest. Today is a happy day: A window in at least one district has been opened wide. This gives Martinez another gargantuan leg up (even if L.A.'s District 12 is now a complete heir-to-the-incumbent FAIL), and it's nice as bloody hell outside.
Quick -- you're about to miss the sunset.
Update: All right guys, here are Huizar's ratings. Don't take them personally -- they're all in a day's work for the ruthless councilman with a thousand frenemies.
Originally posted on Jan. 17 at 4:25 p.m.