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Sparks Still Fly in San Fernando City Politics

The comedy of errors, blunders, and weak personalities make for an entertaining but unproductive city council meeting....AGAIN !

By Alex Garcia ~ Contributing writer San Fernando Sun
Published on LatinoLA: October 19, 2012


Sparks Still Fly in San Fernando City Politics


Originally published at sanfernandosun.com

As it happened in the previous city council meeting, an hour and a half of closed session discussion this week did not lead to a decision on proposed personnel layoffs or furloughs to deal with a $1 million city budget deficit in San Fernando.

"It was unfair for us to make a decision, we haven't met with the POA (Police Officers Association) yet. We'll meet with them Friday at 3 p.m.," said Mayor Pro Tem Antonio Lopez after the meeting. He added the council had received a counter proposal from the POA at 6:07 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 15, and it needed to review it before making a decision.

Previously, at the end of the public comment section of the meeting, POA President Irwin Rosenberg asked the council to put the layoff decision until after the recall election.

Rosenberg reminded Mayor Brenda Esqueda that they had a meeting scheduled before the council meeting, but noted that Esqueda's scheduled had changed, and no meeting had taken place.

"So you have not met with all of the members of labor in this city, so before you make any informed decision, that I would hope would be an informed decision, you would hold off and allow those meetings to take place with all the members," Rosenberg pleaded.

"So we ask you to please hold off and hopefully allow people with an unbiased look at this to go forward and make decisions," he added.

Rosenberg also asked Esqueda to stop trying to intimidate residents with "lies." "Don't go around spreading lies, telling people the neighborhood watch is going away. Be honest for a change," he said.

At this, Esqueda turned to Councilmember Sylvia Ballin and said, "I'm surprised you didn't stop people speaking outside of the agenda," to which Ballin promptly retorted, "I was hoping you could do your job, mayor."

If the recall is successful – and the council must certify the results at the Dec. 17 meeting – those recalled council members would step down at that meeting. The council would continue to operate in its current configuration for its Nov. 19 and Dec. 3 meetings.

Vitriol Continues

Things turned heated once again among council members and residents of the city of San Fernando, which will see a recall election on Nov. 6.

In a reprise of what's been going on for the past year since then mayor Mario Hernandez announced publicly his relationship with fellow Councilmember Maribel De La Torre, the affair has dominated the public comment section of Monday's meeting.

Samuel Beltran, a Vietnam Veteran who has been an outspoken supporter of De La Torre, sparked further controversy as he denounced developer Zev Aszkenazy, Recall Committee member Julian Ruelas and council critic Patty Lopez.

As Beltran bellowed his attacks, often using bad words in Spanish, Ballin tried to put a stop to it.

"He is being very disrespectful. Is that city business, mayor?" she asked Esqueda, an allusion to a decorum ordinance approved recently that seeks to limit public comment to items in the council's agenda. Esqueda did not say anything. But resident Robert Ortega did.

Ortega railed against De La Torre, accusing her of consulting City Attorney Maribel Medina regarding De La Torre's criminal case. The council member is facing charges of battery and vandalism from a June 28 domestic altercation with Hernandez.

According to a San Fernando Police Department report, Hernandez – who was leaving his residence for a weekend retreat – claimed De La Torre choked him and told him that 'he wasn't going anywhere,' and also stated that De La Torre told him she 'could f____in' kill him.' De La Torre, in her statement to police, claimed that Hernandez had pinned her down, and also said she was knocked unconscious.

Hernandez filed a police report following the altercation, and pictures were taken of bruising around his face and neck. Both Hernandez and De La Torre filed restraining orders against each other, but eventually withdrew them.

Hernandez – who resigned from the council on July 10 – had sought to recant the police report, but was told police are now mandated to take action when they see evidence of battery or domestic violence. After reviewing the report, the Los Angeles District Attorney's office decided to proceed with the case.

De La Torre entered a plea of "not guilty" to the charges. She faces a maximum jail sentence of two years and a $3,000 fine if convicted.

Mocking Her "Devotion"

Ortega also poked fun at De La Torre's "devotion" to Hernandez for leaving on a trip with her sister Cindy Montanez, a former state assembly member and former San Fernando mayor, following Hernandez' revelation of their relationship last November "That really shows devotion, leaving Mario to go on a trip with your sister," said Ortega, who also alleged De La Torre had used one of her sons, whom he said did not have a driver's license, to help her leave the council chambers after a council meeting.

With that remark, De La Torre, sought to end Ortega's comments, and asked for Ortega's removal from the chambers.

"I don't have to put up with your bulls--t," Ortega said, as he was removed from the chambers.

It was the second time Ortega was removed from the chambers this year.

Visibly irritated, De La Torre asked that people stop including her children in their comments and "stop spreading lies" about her. She also said, "I have my own attorney," before turning to Medina and saying "Ms. Medina, I have not consulted you any personal matters," which Medina promptly confirmed. Esqueda kept quiet during this entire episode.

But not so Margie Carranza, another supporter of Hernandez, Esqueda and De La Torre, who said, "there's nothing wrong with council right now" and added that she could not see any improvement if all three of them are recalled on Nov. 6 and new people hold their positions, persons she referred to as "uneducated candidates, people who cannot hold these desks."

"Who the hell cares about a love affair when they're doing their job. The only reason these people are being recalled is because of a love affair. Give me a break!" she concluded. Victoria Mojica, one of the recall candidates, followed Carranza and questioned Esqueda again for allowing comments such as those made by Carranza and Beltran. "I'd like to know where those comments are in the agenda," said Mojica, an allusion to the decorum ordinance once again. Next came Ruelas and Lopez, who each spoke against Esqueda and De La Torre.

As has been his theme for months, Ruelas spoke about the "lack of leadership" by the mayor and the council member, especially after an image of De La Torre and Hernandez appeared on the front page of LA Weekly newspaper, followed by an article detailing the city's travails.

"That's not controlling the city's image," he said, clutching a copy of the publication. "Again you're showing that your not true leaders. I'm talking about Maribel De La Torre and Brenda Esqueda." Lopez followed this criticism, speaking in Spanish.

"How sad, but everything comes to an end," she said. "A year goes by fast and this Nov. 6 we're going to celebrate.

Finally, our city will have peace and tranquility."

...life goes on, and the sun continues to rise and fall in the City of San Fernando

About Alex Garcia ~ Contributing writer San Fernando Sun:
Originally published in the San Fernando Sun ~ a private community newspaper supporting the needs & interests of the good people of San Fernando
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