MAILANDER’S LA - The Mayor's questionable appointments extend to endorsements. Many volunteers from his Valley campaign ran to the aide of Eric Garcetti's endorsement for Council District 6, former DWP lobbyist Cindy Montanez, canvassing for her this weekend.
There are two Latino machines in Los Angeles: one on the Eastside and the other is in the North Valley. Montanez has not been the lucky recipient of the largess of the North Valley machine, but of Villaraigosa's formerly powerful but now sputtering Eastside one. By supporting Montanez, Garcetti has been able to co-opt some of the Eastside Latino Machine's remaining fragments.
After Montanez lost to North Valley machine candidate Alex Padilla in the 2006 State Senate primary, Mayor Villaraigosa appointed Montanez to the City's planning board--although she had no background in planning and for that matter had no college degree at all. She soon moved over to the DWP for a plum appointment ordered by Villaraigosa to former general manager David Nahai.
Meanwhile, the speaker of the State Assembly appointed her at the same time to the State Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, a $129,000 a year position. It was a one-day-a-month position. She also took home well over $100K a year while serving as a lobbyist for the DWP and still works as an assistant manager there.
The substantive backing of Montanez by the Garcetti team is precisely the kind of cronyist boost that the voters knew was the downside to the Greuel/Garcetti faceoff.
Montanez still likes to note her legacy of participating in a 14-day hunger strike on behalf of preserving UCLA's Chicano Studies program in 1993 in the hopes of making it a full fledged department at the school. Local political activists Tom Hayden and others were able to help fetch the hunger strike some media attention, and Montanez was photographed barefoot outside a tent, a far cry from the handsome salaries she fetched last decade. Her mother and sister spent time in the tent with her during the strike.
While the strike was "successful" to some degree (Chancellor Charles Young described it as the strikers "putting a gun to his head"), Montanez never finished college. But she was still able to get elected to the City of San Fernando's city council in 1999 and the State Assembly in 2002, a back door to local politics that gave her some name recognition cred with the voters, along with the tilde she added to her last name.
(Joseph Mailander is a writer, an LA observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He is also the author of Days Change at Night: LA's Decade of Decline, 2003-2013. Mailander blogs here.)
Vol 11 Issue 59
Pub: July 23, 2013