By Rosemary Jenkins
Many of you, who have read some of my previous articles, would know that I was appalled when Ms. Lopez (Assemblymember for AD 39) was elected to her current position just over a year ago. I was and still am concerned by her own inexperience as well as that of her staff (which has seen so many turn-overs, it would make your head spin).
What is even more worrisome is her unwillingness to acquire the skills, knowledge, and acumen necessary to be an effective representative for her constituents. She seems oblivious to the concerns that many neighborhoods in her district have–due, in part, to her lack of interaction with them. Anonymous sources have shared with me how aggrieved they feel because she neither visits their communities nor attends their council meetings and that her absence often makes them feel that their neighborhoods are invisible to her.
In addition, the failure of Ms. Lopez to reach out to communities that do not represent her most enthusiastic supporters is rather common knowledge. It has been inferred by many that she has given herself permission to ignore, at least on occasion, those who may have voted against her.
The fact is that Ms. Lopez has such conservative credentials that it is hard for most Democrats to think of her as one of them. This attitude on their part is a direct result of her not wanting to work with her legislative cohorts to advance many critical programs, to offer sponsorship or at least to support bills that are clearly an integral part of the Democratic Platform. She has lost support in Sacramento from the Democratic leadership that once tried to have her back when she first took up her role as a novice in the legislature.
She simply fails to or does not know how to introduce meaningful bills and guide them through the legislative process to fruition. A staffer of a different officeholder, who is also a colleague of mine, noted with astonishment that even after a year in office, people working for Ms. Lopez still ask staffers from other offices about the mechanism for successfully managing more consequential bills. It is simply inconceivable that at this late date such knowledge has not been acquired. Unnamed sources have shared with me that of the few bills she has introduced, most were in response to other people’s suggestions and not derived from her own insights.
Furthermore, she is remiss about attending functions that honor hard-working Democratic volunteers and does not support many of the Party’s fundraising activities—those which help fund candidate and issue campaigns and other related beneficiaries. For example, she was absent from the latest annual Roosevelt Dinner (which I attended) where volunteers from her own District were honored. Unlike other Assemblymembers who presented certificates of recognition to their honorees, our people received nothing from her—an unnecessary and unacceptable slight to say the least.
I am distressed that she is not answering the urgent entreaties of far too many of her authentic constituents but instead has become malleable in the hands of a discrete number of “lobbyists”—the usual suspects whom I have alluded to in previous columns–many of whom are the ones who made the difference in making her the victor in that narrow election last fall. To those parties, as a consequence, it appears that she feels particularly beholden.
At the same time, however, she has become neglectful of other segments within her district that also depend on her to get things done. At a meeting I recently attended, several concerned citizens reported that, for quite a number of complainants, there seems to be a pattern of neither addressing nor making attempts to resolve their legitimate constituent problems—perhaps such neglect comes from issues just falling through the cracks of a less-than-organized office.
One gentleman, Robert (last name withheld upon request) who is an activist on the Arleta Neighborhood Watch, shared that he has more than once gone to her District office, requesting help for a concern. One issue in particular that was bothersome to him was the graffiti being scrawled on the sound wall being constructed at Sharp and Branford–such blight is abhorrent to any community. He asked for removal of the unsightly signs and symbols and was told that the office did not know what to do about it and hoped the construction workers would clean it up by the time they were through with the project. Robert went ahead and got the graffiti removed on his own—now that’s the kind of conscientious citizen we should all emulate!
In the meantime, the response he received at the office is totally irresponsible. The City of Los Angeles does have a network of companies that remove graffiti and it would have been easy for Ms. Lopez’s office to make the appropriate contact and take care of the situation. If her staff is unwilling or unable to handle such a seemingly minor problem, what can we expect of her people with regard to more major issues?!
This man’s neighbor also reported that he approached a staffer who took down the information but never got back to him. He subsequently returned to the office, only to be told that they did not know what to do about the issue and could not help him.
Again and again, her staffers claim ignorance of issues and seem unwilling to educate themselves about problems that need attention. I have made such observations myself. I have seen her commit to supporting a bill after hearing from a delegation (of which I was a part) without ever having asked a question. Though we were excited that we had her vote, we were equally astonished that she accepted what we had to say without seeking additional research to support our claims or to find information that might dispute it.
I have tried to give her every benefit of the doubt, but it often seems that her word is not her bond and that she cannot be trusted to represent the needs of her broader constituent base as opposed to listening to and acting upon the pressures applied on her by a very narrow group of lobbyists.
To me, she is betraying her District because she is too often misinforming and misleading her people or going back on her commitments. Case in point, the bullet train dilemma. She claims that a large and diverse group of her constituents “are really upset [over that project which was approved by voters long ago]” and, as a consequence, she opposes its construction in any iteration. She asserts that this response is in accordance with her constituents’ wishes when in reality it is only a minority of her backers that feel this way (although they are very vociferous about it).
Of course, they would be worried when she is disseminating distortions and outright untruths about what the actual plans are. Her presentations on the subject are not balanced so her listeners are given the impression that if they would only oppose construction of the bullet train, the project would go away. She refuses not only to listen to reason but seems to disregard the facts as they are presented to her. What is perhaps worse for an elected representative is that she is guilty of not doing her due diligence to engage in fact-based research that would undoubtedly allay any real concerns that she holds.
In one meeting, she wore a vest displaying the four options being considered for the bullet train pathways as they would affect the Northeast Valley. She placed a red line through each, as if by saying I oppose all of the choices will stop construction of that leg of the project.
Reality? The four corridors in question are possibilities so it is up to an informed electorate to select for consideration the one that is least intrusive or objectionable. As I have stated in earlier columns, though every choice may come with certain concomitant problems, the E4 choice is the least problematical because fewer inhabitants (human and animal) and businesses would be adversely affected or disrupted.
The SR 14 corridor, on the other hand, would cut through the AD 39 territory in a significantly deleterious way; thus, logic would dictate that the District should oppose that option in favor of E4.
Instead of obfuscating, Ms. Lopez should be informing her District that every conceivable safety and health concern will be taken into consideration as plans are being made for developing the infrastructure of this statewide bullet train project. In fact, those who are most experienced in these seemingly esoteric engineering technologies have been and are continuing to address everyone’s reasonable apprehensions. What is more, ongoing input by concerned parties is still welcome.
It is ironic that despite her alleged concern over the lack of jobs for the working poor in her District, the reality is that this program will bring many new employment opportunities to people who are currently unemployed or underemployed—building (and maintaining) the trains, the stations, the restaurants (and food purveyors), and boutique shops that would offer services to the patrons of the train (and to those in adjacent neighborhoods).
At the same time, this project would lower our carbon footprint and would support the environmental standards that have held such a prominent place among Californians in general and in Democratic politics in particular (just think of how such a project would fit right in with the recent Paris Accords that just received unanimous international support).
Ms. Lopez might have what some would consider a legitimate question about cost overruns but, upon further investigation, she would learn that the first two segments of the project have already come in under budget—something that does not occur very often and ought to be lauded, not hidden from common knowledge.
The bottom line is that she has made up her mind after listening only to her right-wing, often ultra-conservative, Republican kitchen cabinet (few in number—who, for reasons unfathomable to me, strongly oppose the project) and has declared her intent to go on record in dissent of it.
So what keeps Ms. Lopez from speaking truth to power, so to speak? Is she afraid that an informed electorate might oppose her political decisions, hence upsetting her applecart and the Republican apples that ride in it?
A year ago, you might remember, I thought a recall would be the route to follow. After serious consideration, I then believed that urging her to resign might be the better action to take. Yet, in either case, by the time any action might have been pursued during a two-year term, it would have been time for re-election and the point would have been moot. Thus, the group of disgruntled activists in AD 39 (of which I am a part) decided the best route to follow was to oppose her re-election if she were to decide to pursue another term.
If Patty Lopez chooses to run for re-election, I cannot, in good conscience, support her. Just because she is an incumbent is no reason to cast your vote in her favor. She needs to earn our support–not to expect it, not to take it for granted, not to assume that we like the job that she is doing when, in fact, her inaction on too many fronts speaks louder than words.
I don’t know about you, but I cannot endorse someone who is a Democrat in name only (DINO) and who, for the most part, does not share the most universal of Democratic values. I cannot support someone who turns a deaf ear to those constituents to whom she has shown indifference. I will support a person who has a proven track record of progressive values and accomplishments and who is a genuine reflection of the morés of this broad, deep, and diverse AD 39 community.