@THE GUSS REPORT-This column tried to call into Tuesday’s LA City Council meeting just hours after it was announced that another of its own, Jose Huizar, had been arrested on RICO/racketeering charges. (Former Councilmember Mitch Englander is expected to change his federal corruption plea to guilty in early July.)
The call-in system told me that there were 20 people ahead of me to speak, but after an hour and 13 minutes on hold, and about a hundred other callers getting through, struggling LA City Council president Nury Martinez had not taken my call.
Funny how that happens. . .
I then emailed Martinez and her staffers Ackley Padilla, Alexis Wesson and Rick Coca to ask the same question I would have asked during the meeting: “(is) Nury is going to have an immediate heart to heart talk with all incumbents to determine whether any of them are tied to Huizar's alleged crimes, including Herb (Wesson), who has repeatedly referred to Jose as ‘my best friend.’”
With more than 13% of current or recent LA City Councilmembers seemingly destined for federal prison, and several of their non-elected pals and chums copping plea deals with federal prosecutors who say more indictments, plural, are on the horizon, Martinez fails LA by staying mum.
A steady Council president would proactively tell the public that she personally asked all Councilmembers, and the three other elected city officials, Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Controller Ron Galperin, City Attorney Mike Feuer, and all of our handsomely paid department heads to declare whether there is any reason to believe that they are on the FBI’s radar.
Martinez has not shown such leadership.
Note: Alexis Wesson is the daughter-in-law of Martinez’s controversial predecessor Herb Wesson; Feuer’s City Hall office was raided by the FBI about a year ago; and Coca previously served as Huizar’s communications guy. Don’t tell me that Martinez is unaware of who needs to be asked this question. In fact, Martinez herself was investigated by the FBI for campaign finance shenanigans. While she has yet to be charged, she has yet to be cleared and the investigation is presumed still open.
Seems like a completely reputable crew. . .right?
Martinez has been criticized for failing to embrace the serious, sometimes mundane, responsibility of being LA City Council president. She was chosen for that role by the other 14 Councilmembers, raising the question of whether she was chosen by them because she isn’t willing to ask the tough, important questions.
Given the handcuffs placed on Huizar, Englander, their flunky bagmen (or the more politically correct bag-people) and who-knows-who-else on the horizon, the time is right for every LA elected official and department head to stand up and say for the rest of us these seven simple words: I have nothing to do with corruption.
If you can’t say it, you can’t claim it.
And if you can’t claim it, why should we keep any of them in office or their lucrative political appointments?
Shortly after the FBI raided Huizar’s home and City Hall offices a year and a half ago, during which we now know the agency seized at least $121,000 in cash from Huizar’s home, including some wrapped in paper with Chinese letters on them, I wrote this column another FBI raid that took place just a few blocks from City Hall.
At the time, the FBI confirmed for me that the raid took place, but reneged on its promise to field certain questions, including whether the raided suites at the location were misleadingly listed in the building directory as vacant.
I checked back in with the agency after the Huizar arrest on Tuesday to see whether it would now address my questions. It said that it doesn’t recall our earlier discussion, so I forwarded it to the agency to refresh its memory.
I was recently on the nationally syndicated Larry O’Connor Show, aired locally on 790-KABC, to discuss some of these issues. The host asked me what Angelenos can do to seek shelter from the latest political chaos and civic unrest and I told him that I see absolutely nobody in LA politics as comprehensively transparent and trustworthy.
He asked me what we can do to get out of this milieu and I said that change is completely in our hands: elect people from outside the political system or those without the stink of corruption lingering nearby. Let’s stop electing career politicians whose spouses and kids have government jobs with virtually no qualifications for them or, as in the case of Wesson’s wife, Fabian Wesson, got a $265,000 per year job at the South Coast AQMD after misrepresenting her educational quals. Mrs. Wesson claimed to have a four-year degree but does not. And even if she did, how did she wind up replacing a Ph.D.?
Is there a snowball’s chance in Hacienda Heights that you would get away with that?
We put these people in office and keep them there for all the wrong reasons, like voting for incumbents because their name is familiar, or their last name sounds like ours, or their skin tone looks like ours, or they spend our money giving away free food at their events.
We must elect people who have achieved things in other fields and who are so new to the political process that they don’t know the first thing about accepting, let alone soliciting, bribes. Their colleagues going to prison is a good deterrent. But look at the havoc just a few of them can wreak for decades before they are caught.
If we get rid of the corruption, we can then address the incompetence.
(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, iHeartMedia, 790-KABC, Cumulus Media, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal, Pasadena Star News, Los Angeles Downtown News, and the Los Angeles Times in its Sports, Opinion and Entertainment sections and Sunday Magazine, among other publishers. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.