LA WATCHDOG - When the FBI and the IRS raided the offices and home of Councilman Jose Huizar on November 7, 2018, the members of the Los Angeles City Council were shocked, shocked that one of their saintly members would be a target of an investigation into corruption.
They were even more shocked as the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a host of charges against Huizar and his flunkies, eventually resulting in Huizar finally pleading guilty on January 20 to charges of conspiracy (RICO) and tax evasion. And throughout this four-year slog, the City Council washed their hands of this mess, claiming they had nothing to do with Huizar’s illegal activities.
Au Contraire. The City Council is guilty as hell since they enabled Huizar by placing him in a position of authority and ignoring the many telltale signs of corruption.
City Council President Herb Wesson deserves a large portion of the blame. After all, he appointed Huizar as chair of the powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee (“PLUM”). Wesson also arranged to have development rich Downtown Los Angeles redistricted into Huizar’s district. He gave Huizar a gold mine which Jose then proceeded to plunder.
The councilmembers who were on PLUM had to know something was fishy. There were many variances that allowed for increased density. And there were controversies involving selected developments and the trade unions that just disappeared. PLUM members, Councilmen Harris-Dawson, Englander (prior to his troubles), Blumenfield, and Price had their heads in the sand, afraid to blow the whistle because of the fear of retribution from the political establishment.
The Councilmembers were also well aware of the inordinate amount of campaign contributions received by Huizar from developers who had business in DTLA or throughout the City. They knew something was amiss, but said nothing.
And where was Vince Bertoni, the Director of City Planning, and the rest of his executive team? If anybody was in the know, it had to be Planning. But not a peep.
And what about the politically appointed members of the City Planning Commission? They must have known about Huizar’s shenanigans as well as those involving the Hollywood Millennium. But not a peep from Commissioners Samantha Millman, Vahid Khorsand, David Ambroz, Caroline Choe, Renee Dake Wilson, Karen Mack, Marc Mitchell, Veronica Padilla-Campos, and Dana Perlman. After all, they might upset the politically ambitious Eric Garcetti who appointed them.
Will the City Council and Mayor Bass clean up the City’s act? Will they create an Independent Redistricting Commission? Will they limit the City Council’s powers over land use decisions? Will they address campaign finance reform? Will they empower the Ethics Commission? Will they impose limits on lobbyists? Will they expand the City Council? Will they endorse open and transparent labor negotiations?
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. He can be reached at: [email protected].)