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L.A.'s political class takes care of its own
Daily News

JOINING the ranks of Los Angeles' politicians is a little like joining the Mafia. Both take care of their own.

Once you're in, you're in for good. You are rewarded generously for your loyalty - assuming you don't get any smart ideas and start challenging the power structure.

With that analogy in mind, it appears that former state Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez is a "made" member of the local politicians club.

After all, she's earned it. Two years ago, she voluntarily dropped a promising campaign for the Los Angeles City Council to make room for her one-time boss, Richard Alarcon.

Alarcon had previously served two council terms - the limit at the time - in the 1990s, and then moved on to the state Senate. After that, he was elected to take Montanez's former seat in the Assembly. But in that very same election, L.A. voters approved a measure allowing City Council members to stay in office for a third term.

That prompted Alarcon to seek a return to the council. But standing in his way were Montanez and Felipe Fuentes, two relative political newcomers who were running for the job.

So, in deference to Alarcon, both Fuentes and Montanez dropped out of the race, giving the former city councilman a free ride to re-election. And for their deference, both of the young politicos were well rewarded.

Fuentes got the Assembly seat that Alarcon abandoned to return to the council.

And this week, Los Angeles
Department of Water and Power General Manager H. David Nahai announced that he had hired Montanez for three months to be a "special adviser," reporting on state policy issues and helping him get things done in Sacramento.
For this full-time advising gig, Montanez will collect $12,500 a month (which would work out to a $150,000 annual salary if the job were extended that long).

Technically, however, the job is not truly "full time." That's because one day each month, Montanez will be free from her DWP responsibilities to do her other highly paid political job - a $128,000-a-year post on the state Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, a job that requires attending one meeting a month.

No doubt, Montanez will be an earnest and competent adviser for Nahai and the DWP. She's intelligent and has a history of hard work during her five years in the Legislature representing the northeast San Fernando Valley.

But Montanez' skills aside, the DWP and Los Angeles need more advocates in Sacramento about as much as DWP workers need another pay raise. The utility already has paid lobbyists and public-relations spinners.

As for access to legislators, presumably former Assembly Speaker and current L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa would have no problem getting adequate attention for the DWP's needs in Sacramento. So, for that matter, would the two former state lawmakers currently on the City Council, Tony Cardenas and Alarcon.

But Montanez has proved to be a team player among the L.A. political hierarchy. The local political bosses recognize both her bright future and her loyalty. For both, she has been amply rewarded.

Montanez is now in the company of many of Los Angeles' former and current elected officials who - even if they are termed out, lose an election or get bounced out of office - are taken care of until the political class finds them a new elective office to occupy.

Once you're in, you're in for good.

Montanez's is simply a story - one of many, sadly - of a political system that's about as concerned with serving the public as the typical organized- crime family. It's more interested in serving itself, rewarding loyalists with someone else's money, and punishing those who cross the bosses - even if it's for the benefit of the general public.

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