Take the case of Northeast San Fernando Valley Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes who, while nobody was watching largely because he has been so invisible, took steps to strip the City of L.A. and its citizens of their basic right to decide land use issues by letting developers do almost anything they want like tear down houses and put up apartments.
It should be noted that his skullduggery was aided and abetted by the fact the Daily News no longer has anyone in Sacramento and the Times still doesn’t care about such mundane matters as the well-being of the city.
But word does get around and on Friday Rick Orlov reported Fuente’s deceit and a brushfire of outrage quickly spread across the city.
(Strike up the appropriate music by clicking here to get in the right mood for what follows)
With a little help from his friends, Fuentes has concocted a measure, AB212, that ”would limit the ability of the city to make zone changes in areas where the community plan is not consistent with the general plan,” according to Orlov.
That lack of consistency is everywhere since the general plan is a fraud and the community plans outdated.
Fuentes’ goal is affordable housing — a code word for taxpayer subsidized housing for the poor and densification of neighborhoods all across L.A.
Now I don’t know at this point who would get rich from Fuentes’ effort to strip the people of L.A. and their government of control of land use but an examination of how he came to be an elected official and how this legislation came to be might be instructive.
For starters, you need to know Fuentes is a tool of City Councilman Richard Alarcon and former City Council President Alex Padilla, who is now a state senator.
Now 39, Fuentes is a Valley boy who boasts he “began his career promoting immigrant and children’s rights through the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law,” so he is not unaware of the importance of respecting people’s rights. He went to work for Padilla in 1999 and two years later, undoubtedly with the support of the Padilla, he became weak Mayor Jim Hahn’s deputy in the Valley until he returned as Padilla’s chief of staff.
It gets more incestuous fast.
When Padilla resigned to move to the Assembly and a special election was held in May 2007, Fuentes was going to run his council seat but Alarcon wanted to be home more and make a lot more money so he took the council slot and pushed everybody else out of the way so Fuentes could go to the legislature.
Right after his election, Alarcon helped Fuentes get some cash he needed to set up his new life – a $7,500 bonus awarded for services rendered which the council passed unanimously without discussion.
At the same time, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa named Ernesto Cardenas, brother of Valley Councilman Tony Cardenas, to the city Public Works Board, the only city commission that pays its members a salary, a handsome one at that.
As luck would have it, Ernesto replaced a relative of Felipe’s, Yolanda Fuentes. An even more amazing coincidence: Yolanda was named by Villaraigosa to be his Valley liaison.
(Try another chorus of “Small World” if you’d like)
OK, none of this is just a coincidence. It all came about as part of backroom dealing and conspiracies. The same surely is true of how Fuentes came to gut a dormant one-sentence budget bill and turn it into the monstrosity it is today.
For that you have got travel back in time to last year when 14 Assembly members proposed AB 212 as a dummy bill to change state budget procedures It read in full:
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF
SECTION 1. It is the intent of the Legislature to enact statutory
changes relating to the Budget Act of 2007.
It sailed through the Assembly and onto the Senate as part of the Democrats’ budget negotiations strategy but nothing came of it. So on July 17, 2007, Fuentes quietly laid the groundwork for his gambit by gutting AB 212, putting his name on it and turning it into a radical change in zoning law.
The ingenuity of this deceit is that the measure is alive throughout this year’s session because it passed one house already and can linger like a deadly poison until the legislature’s last frantic moments when all hell breaks loose and almost anything can happen.
Indeed, the Fuentes transformation of the bill from a budget measure to a zoning measure rested pregnant with sinister possibilities until he amended it nearly nine months later to apply only to L.A. and to qualify it as an emergency so it would take immediate effect On May 6, Fuentes put the finishing touches on his bill which would give developers a license to trash every single neighborhood zoned residential in L.A.
On Friday, the stench of AB212 finally reached City Hall where the City Council voted 13-0 to oppose it.
Councilwoman Wendy Greuel captured the council’s sentiment by saying, ”The last thing we need is Sacramento telling us how to do land use.” No offense to Wendy, but the council members zealously and jealousy regard selling out the public interest in their districts to developers as their own personal prerogative. After all how else could they raise all that money for campaigns and perks.
For his part, Fuentes says with a bit of candor that he just wants to make “sure that people who want to build affordable housing are not blocked by delays that could occur,” Heaven forbid, the community have some say in how their neighborhoods are going to be turned into gang-infested slums.
And while most council members were beating their chests at the insult of not being told in advance and cut into this scam, Fuentes found at least one ally, the aformentioned Mr. Alarcon.who, with the innocence of a newborn baby, wants to “try to work with him to see why he introduced it.”
Well, we’d all like to get to the bottom of that.
Street-hassle blogger Joseph Mailander has offered to pursue the backroom dealings story on the inside mechanics and positioning of AB 212, so email him at email@example.com.
And if you know who stands to get rich off of this deal, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.