like watching a remake “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” rewritten as “Mr.
Portantino Goes to Sacramento” — the accidental politician becomes the
obscurity of serving quietly and industriously as one of California’s
120 lawmakers to stumbling into the political spotlight as a lone voice
challenging the leadership and record of failure of a hopelessly
He has made headlines in newspapers
across the state, inspired editorials sharply critical of Assembly
Speaker John Perez’s abuses of his power, prompted two major newspapers
to sue the Legislature for refusing to release how much it spends on
itself and its staff — that’s taxpayer money, not the special-interest
money that puts them into office and provides costly favors to them.
daring to break ranks from his fellow Democrats and voting against a
state budget based on phony revenue estimates while putting dangerous
criminals onto our streets early, doing nothing to provide jobs or hold
government agencies accountable, Portantino is being treated like a
political leper by his own party leadership.
They have issued
notices to his staff that they will be furloughed on Oct. 21 for 40
days, claiming that he overspent his budget — the same budget they
refuse to release for all legislators. On Thursday, they tried to
squelch Portantino’s right to speak on the Assembly floor when he tried
to praise three Republicans who joined him in defying the speaker by
releasing their budgets themselves.
“I can’t concern myself with
retribution,” Portantino said near the end of our 90-minute
conversation. “I just have to be who I am and connect to the people I
represent. You can’t do anything else.”
This isn’t a personality
squabble. It’s about honesty in government. Transparency.
Accountability. Solving the people’s problems. Fixing what’s broken.
Spending tax money wisely. Looking after the public interest, selling
out to special interests.