Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar might be the first incumbent ousted by an outsider (Rudy Martinez, profiled here) since the 1980s if he isn't careful. The MayorSam watchdog blog is following La Opinion in exposing that Huizar funneled $1.5 million from a fund for offsetting air pollution on L.A.'s Eastside — and Huizar used it to pay his huge personal staff's salaries and to “repair streets.”
Last year, Huizar got caught by Colleen Williams at KNBC-4 spending $3,000 in public funds to go to the East Coast — where he just happened to attend his school reunion. He repaid the money only after learning of KNBC's report.
Of course KNBC found that most of the Los Angeles City Council members, who earn a staggering $178,789 for doing what LA Weekly has shown many times to be a shoddy job (but read “Los Angeles on $300,000 a Year,” for the distressing details all in one swoop)
use taxpayer money on personal luxuries.
But Huizar is the only one of the City Council incumbents facing a challenger in the March 2011 primary who has a nice, fat campaign chest of $250,000.
So Huizar's every step in recent months, and in the next couple of months, will be reported by bloggers and media who see him as weakened and vulnerable.
About $2.4 million has been set aside to offset pollution caused by CLARTS, a huge garbage transfer and recycling facility built in Council District 14.
But as reported by bloggers and La Opinion just as everyone was leaving Los Angeles for Christmas week, Huizar has talked his fellow City Council members into diverting more than $1.5 million of it into his own special projects, and to help pay for his big, personal staff.
From initial reports, it looks like zero pollution mitigation — zero — was achieved with the diverted $1.5 million.
Huizar foolishly refused to tell what happened to that money, even months after bloggers and members of the media asked under the California Public Records Act or Freedom of Information Act what Huizar he had done with the cash.
As MayorSam notes:
Huizar called the on-going efforts of the Voice Newspaper, El Sereno Neighborhood Council, the former Garment and Citizen Newspaper and his recent appointment to the MTA Advisory Board BHNC President Jose Aguilar, part of a “dirty political war”.
Maybe or maybe not.
But powerful Los Angeles City Council members with huge personal staffs of 14 to 22 people are not believable when they tell bloggers and newspapers to ask somebody else for their spending data because they don't keep track of it.
That was Huizar's absurd excuse to those trying to force him to be transparent.
Here's the English translation of the La Opinion story, which does not actually detail the pet projects and “street repair” that Huizar funneled the money to.
If you're too busy to read “Los Angeles on $300,000 A Year,” here's a key excerpt on Jose Huizar:
One of the worst back-patters is José Huizar, whose Eastside Council District 14 has the largest illegal immigration population, and desperate problems.
Alvin Parra, who was once Huizar's field director and ran an unsuccessful race to topple his boss, recalls how Huizar decided to distribute 10,000 free, energy-efficient light bulbs from the Department of Water and Power. In fact, the “free” bulbs were financed by Angelenos. Cardenas' office passed out the bulbs using community organizers — and of course called the press to take credit for it.
Huizar, who tools around in a taxpayer-financed Toyota Highlander hybrid that costs $40,000-plus, got media coverage painting him as a “green” councilman. But behind the scenes, when Huizar saw the wrappings covering the light bulbs, Parra says, he ripped into his staff. Why? The packaging didn't say “Compliments of José Huizar” or have his picture on it.
Huizar is viewed by some of his colleagues as the laziest council member, and his personal schedule obtained by the Weekly bears out such sentiment: It is filled with empty blocks of time, light weekends and workdays that sometimes end at 4 p.m.