Clarification: Cardenas spokeswoman Sybil MacDonald says the cash used for these excursions comes from donations to the council offices — our boss says it's mostly leftover campaign contributions — and does not constitute tax dollars (though we argued it's still your money if it's destined for public use) and was given only because these folks represent you.
Despite the budget crunch of the last few years, some L.A. City Council members have been … let's say liberal with your tax dollars when it comes to restaurant and hotel spending. (And remember, these are the highest-paid elected city officials in the nation).
San Fernando Valley Councilman Tony Cardenas spent $10,000 in 15 visits to E3rd Steakhouse & Lounge a few blocks from City Hall, according to an expose of the spending in La Opinion newspaper Thursday. His total restaurant, hotel and travel spending was pegged at $81,500.
In one outing alone, documented as a “personal holiday” (or, in the awesome untranslated parlance, un fiesta personal … indeed) Cardenas spent …
… nearly $3,000.
Now, why the hell are you paying for a councilman's fiesta personal? Before we address that, wait, there's more:
Eastside Councilman Jose Huizar spent $2,845 for 13 visits to Pacific Dining Car, and $259 for a night at Elevate Lounge, a 21st-floor, DJ-driven club downtown.
In all La Opinion counts up $ 850,000 in spending by City Council members for hotels, trips and restaurants in the last decade.
The cash comes from council members' “discretionary funds,” which allow them to spend lots of cash pretty much however they like.
Top spenders were identified as Ed Reyes, Cardenas , Greig Smith and Janice Hahn
Interestingly, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, known for his travel to Europe, Mexico and Washington, D.C., came off as one of the more conscientious spenders in City Hall. La Opinion added up $23,500 in recent discretionary hotel and travel spending for the mayor.
Westside Councilman Bill Rosendahl was one of the most miserly on the body, with only $1,116 in such spending.
For his part, Cardenas tells the paper:
“When I have a meeting with a member of the community I pay for everything.”
Eh, make that we pay for everything, councilman.