In what is shaping up as the roughest and toughest election battle in the March 8 primary, Councilman Jose Huizar took a hit in La Opinion on Friday over turning over funds to the city that were intended for local community improvements.
Noting it took 10 months instead of the legally allowed 10 days to get the information under the California Public Records Act, the Spanish language daily reported (Google English translation) Huizar transferred “almost half of the $ 2.8 million he got from a special fund which, in theory, should be used exclusively on improvements for their community.”
The money comes from the the CLARTS program because of a recycling center at Clement Junction and is supposes to be used to mitigate the impact of the transfer station and for other community benefits.
The Eastside community newspaper, the Voice, originally sought documents from Huizar’s office nearly a year ago but was stonewalled and the issue was taken up by the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council.
“We tried to get the information without success. We have asked the councilman in person,” said Jose Aguilar, president of the.Boyle Heights NC, who said the largely poor working class community has a long list of needs that could have been met with the money.
Huizar dismissed the questions raised in the LA Opinion article, saying: “I’ve always worked for transparency in government. This is part of the ‘dirty war’ election. They want to create controversy where none exists.”
Entrepreneur Rudy Martinez has put together the best-funded campaign against an incumbent in the March 8 primary to challenge Huizar, a long-time ally of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on the City Council and in his previous role on the L.A. School Board.
Information leaked by the Huizar campaign has attempted to damage Martinez’ credibility over his role in opposing anti-tobacco legislation nearly 20 years ago and his possession several years ago of an LAPD badge.
The Eastside district == stretching from parts of downtown to Mount Washington and Eagle Rock – has a long history of fierce political fights dating back to the years Richard Alatorre represented the area and continuing through the election of Nick Pacheco who was defeated by Villaraigosa in 2003.
Huizar and Tom LaBonge, the feckless and often bewildered CD4 Councilman, are widely seen as the most vulnerable incumbents at a time when the city is slashing core public services and facing a deepening financial crisis.
LaBonge is being challenged by community activists Stephen Box and Tomas O’Grady who both have solid bases in a gerrymandered district that includes Los Feliz and Toluca Lake and parts of many other disconnected communities.
Both face deep questions about their effectiveness in dealing with local issues and their near-perfect records of support on citywide issues that have sparked intense controversies over planning, CRA projects and DWP policies.
Nowhere in the city are politics more contentious and personal than on the Eastside and the Huizar-Martinez race is certain to be marked by damaging revelations and mudslinging.
The mayor and city unions are lined up with Huizar while the activist community is rallying behind Martinez so the race is a test of whether the disenchantment and alienation so widely felt in the community will lead to an upset at the ballot box.