By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The mayorship of San Fernando is not elected but rather rotates among council members. So when Mario Hernandez's rotation finished in March of this year, Esqueda became mayor. ("Unfortunately, only in San Fernando, with such poor qualifications could you still become the mayor," the Sun wrote at the time.)
Esqueda — along with Hernandez and Maribel De La Torre — soon found herself facing a recall of her own. One of the campaign's leaders is Julian Ruelas, nephew of Julie. And once again, the Sun has strongly supported throwing the politicians out.
In an April editorial published in the Sun, the recall committee detailed its grievances: the $14 million aquatic center De La Torre championed, Esqueda's alleged relationship with Alvaro Castellon, the council's handling of Maria Barajas' lawsuit and the final straw: the shame Mario Hernandez brought on the city of San Fernando with his very public announcement.
"Our city had become a laughingstock, a telenovela of international proportions," Linda Campanella Jauron wrote.
After Hernandez resigned from the council, Martha Diaz Aszkenazy wrote an editorial, one that never disclosed her sister's status as the wronged wife. Esqueda and De La Torre "have brought only shame and scandal to our community," she wrote. "They need to go!"
Reflecting on the 2008 recall she helped lead, Brenda Esqueda knits her expertly penciled brow and fixes me with a meaningful look. "I should have asked more questions," she says.
Since then, she adds cryptically, certain information has come to light that she wishes she had known at the time. She stops short of saying she was manipulated. Instead, Esqueda says, "With this recall, I tell the people: Ask questions."
The mayor is sitting in a booth at Mi Abuelo; she arrived at the dimly lit Mexican restaurant with an armful of opposition research — photographs, sworn statements, emails — about cops in the San Fernando Police Department who, she claims, are corrupt.
"A lot of it is retaliation," she says of the current recall.
Like her allies on the City Council, Esqueda has been publicly accused of having an affair — hers allegedly with police sergeant Alvaro Castellon.
Castellon is the officer accused of threatening Maria Barajas, the young cadet sleeping with police lieutenant Tony Ruelas. Esqueda defends both men, maintaining that the lawsuit was retaliation orchestrated by members of the department's "good ol' boys club," who were upset that their choice for chief was passed over in favor of Ruelas.
The Sun consistently refers to Castellon as Esquedas' boyfriend, while officially noting that Esqueda has refused to confirm the rumored affair. For his part, "We have a strong working relationship," Castellon says. "We've been there for each other through hard times."
When I ask her about their relationship, Esqueda pauses before saying thoughtfully, "I'm not going to say it's an affair — I'd say it's an emotional relationship."
That subtlety, however, appears lost on her husband. Roy Esqueda is among those who have accused the mayor of conducting an affair with Castellon. The website BrendaEsqueda.com, which is brimming with negative information about the still-married mayor, is registered in his name. So is VoiceofSanFernando.com, a website supporting the recall.
This spring, Roy Esqueda brought his grievances to the local newspaper. Diana Martinez, editor of the San Fernando Valley Sun, conducted an interview with Esqueda, which the paper ran over two consecutive weeks.
Among his inflammatory claims: allegations that the mayor of San Fernando uses the term "wetback," that she has difficulty spelling and writing because she dropped out of high school when she became pregnant with her first daughter, and that she has lost weight, bought new clothes and started using Botox since she began dating Castellon. Roy Esqueda added that his estranged wife keeps Castellon's photo on her nightstand.
He also reported that his wife filed a restraining order against him, threatening his lifelong dream of becoming a gun dealer. It was all part of a misguided attempt, he told the Sun, to pressure him into testifying that the mayor had not met in secret with Hernandez and De La Torre — a violation of California's Brown Act. (Roy Esqueda says the meeting took place in his home, where the three council members asked him to close the shutters so they would not be observed.)
An italicized footnote, tacked on at the bottom of the last piece, explains that Brenda Esqueda initially "failed to return our calls by press time." Later, an interview was scheduled, but at the last minute, the paper declined Esqueda's request to change the terms and location, and the interview never happened. The same footnote adds that, while scheduling the interview, the mayor denied ever using the term "wetback" or acting unlawfully.
Esqueda says the Sun refuses to hear, or print, her side of the story — or, for that matter, the sides of De La Torre or Hernandez, while routinely printing brazen attacks. "They actually wrote in their newspaper once that Maribel De La Torre 'will put anything between her legs,' " Esqueda says.
In a lunch conversation, Martinez defended the paper's integrity while citing her credentials as a reporter for KFWB News Talk 980 AM in the 1980s and '90s. She maintains that the paper's owners have never attempted to influence its content.
It would be funny if it wasn't such an outrage. In defense of the current councilmembers, San Fernando city government ineptitude is hardly a new phenomenon. For decades, city leaders have either been nasty or dumb as lampposts. This trio seems to be both nasty and dumb, which is why it's newsworthy.
I grew up in this town in the pre-Ashkenazy days when it may as well have been an outpost in the old West. Many young people left after finishing high school/college to move to communities where it wasn't so difficult to see a movie and have a craft beer on a Friday night, neighborhoods with a bookstore or a restaurant with vegan menu options. I'm sure that sounds like snobbery, but I'd rather be a snob than be stir-crazy from isolation. The town's chief characteristic is a strange combination of provincialism, nimbyism, and insularity from the rest of Los Angeles. There have been some upgrades in the last decade, chiefly Library Square, and I'm happy to hear that the Sun now does more than publish legal notices and grip-and-grin photos of Chamber of Commerce execs. Perhaps this recall election and JC Penney finally giving up the ghost are golden opportunities to shake off the cobwebs and tumbleweeds collecting around the rest of the city.
why did thishappen between two elected officials? it's nature and nurture (underdeveloped frontal lobes and high school memories lost).
At Brian Arra. I don't think you have actually seen her in person have you? Cause she is not hot at all. Don't go by the picture on this magazine or the google images. This article made DeLa Torre and Barajas look hot!! But if you look at them in person one of them looks like the chilindrina and the other like... Well.... De La Torre
The owners of the San Fernando Valley Sun Newspaper, Sev and Martha Aszkenazy are in foreclosure and jeapordizing San Fernando's livelihood.
TWO MAJOR PROPERTIES ARE IN FORECLOSURE AND SET FOR AUCTION SALE ON OCTOBER 31ST AT 9AM IN POMONA!
Check it out for yourself.
Look at properties that are in foreclosure and up for sale!
#F12-00066 120 N. Maclay Ave
#F12-00091 1030 Pico Street