One of the most troubling endorsements this campaign season came from the Los Angeles Times when the paper recently backed former state Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, also known as the “Worst Legislator in California.” He's running for the L.A. City Council District 7 seat in the northeast San Fernando Valley.
Fuentes, who's part of the alarming trend of unimpressive state legislators running for local office and turning L.A. into “Sacramento South,” has the awful habit of allowing special interest groups to do his job and have them ghostwrite his bills.
But the L.A. Times thinks CD 7 residents need a guy with this kind of “experience.”
“Fuentes stands out not simply because he has raised so much more money than the other three candidates,” the L.A. Times writes, “but because he has valuable background and experience in getting things done here.”
Out of 24 bills Fuentes “authored” in the 2007-2008 state legislative sessions, 10 of them were ghostwritten by special interest groups, according to an eye-popping study by San Jose Mercury reporter Karen De Sa.
Fuentes “valuable background and experience” is allowing powerful, deep-pocketed special interests to do his job for him — and to the detriment of the real people he's supposed to represent.
Last year, for example, the California Teachers Association wrote a bill for Fuentes that would have removed student test scores from teacher evaluations. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and tons of other education reformers ripped into Fuentes' ghostwritten bill.
Fuentes ultimately caved and withdrew the bill.
The Times-endorsed Fuentes also pushed forward a bill ghostwritten by Los Angeles' Community Redevelopment Agency that would have dramatically altered the term “blight,” which would have displaced thousands of minority and poor residents in L.A. by including areas with high incidences of obesity and few parks.
The CRA would have been able to claim such areas as blighted, take the land, shove residents out, and allow developers to rebuild. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill.
Hilariously, the L.A. Times, which spends an enormous amount of ink justifying its endorsement of Fuentes, writes that CD 7 voters “will want evidence that he can think for himself and keep the interests of constituents foremost in his mind and actions.”
Ah, all evidence shows that Fuentes does the exact opposite.
Fuentes is not just happy to do the bidding of special interests. He also likes to help himself out — the former assemblyman authored a retroactive bill that would have immediately removed lawmakers from office if they were found to be living outside of their district.
Two days after introducing that bill, Richard Alarcon, who represents L.A. City Council District 7, was facing an investigation for doing exactly that. Convenient timing, eh?
“Fuentes, if elected, should expect close scrutiny,” writes the L.A. Times. “Despite any understandable discomfort about him, though, he's still the best candidate in the field.”
The paper adds, “And despite his rocky start in the Legislature, he quickly improved his performance. In this field of candidates, he's the one who comes closest to being ready to serve.”
The L.A. Times doesn't show any “evidence” of how he improved, and he was still pushing other people's bills — take the CTA's bill, for example — in 2012.
The L.A. Times' endorsement is largely based on the common, and quite mistaken, wisdom that someone with any kind of government experience is needed to be a City Council member. The paper doesn't consider, however, the quality of that experience.
Heck, Fuentes clearly picked up some major bad habits during his stint in the California State Assembly.
And what's wrong with real life experience? Rather than the experience of learning how the game is played in the political halls and back rooms of Sacramento and Los Angeles.
The other candidates in the CD 7 race are Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council member and actress Krystee Clark, former Alarcon aide and Boys & Girls Club development and marketing director Nicole Chase, and Los Angeles Housing Department code enforcement official Jesse David Barron.
If those candidates are truly out of their league — which is probably not the case since the work of an L.A. City Council member is clearly not rocket science — and Fuentes is such a stinker, why even endorse at all? An endorsement for endorsement's sake?
Nothing says a newspaper has to support someone.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.