The residents of Montebello need to loudly let their city officials know whether they think it is okay for either the City Council or paid City staff to restrict a duly elected council member from voicing her opinions on city matters.
Can a city withhold the city letterhead from an elected council member? Should a non-elected city manager and city attorney have such a strong influence over the city council that they would be willing to pass a city ordinance that would prohibit a fellow elected council member from speaking for the city — and restrict that privilege to the “mayor” of the moment or the city manager?
We think not.
We understand that there are limits, no one councilmember should be allowed to make city policy or use city letterhead in a way that makes it appear that they are the official voice of the city, when in fact they are not.
By the same token, however, the council should not be allowed to silence an elected official whose views they don’t happen to agree with.
Members of the council and city staff are blaming City Councilmember Christina Cortez for besmirching the city’s reputation by seeking to have HUD, FBI, and the Attorney General investigate whether city failed to use certain restricted funds as required by law.
We have no doubt that the years of political infighting in Montebello have left many in the city wary of any pronouncements by either city staff or council members that there is no need to worry, “everything will be okay.”
These latest efforts by the city manager and city attorney, most likely with the blessing of members of the council, smack of the same type of pettiness and behind closed door politics that most people hoped were a thing of the past.
Like it or not, Montebello had been mismanaged for years and not talking about it will not make it all go away. Two weeks ago the press was blamed for the city’s problems in securing a bridge loan, we have to wonder who they’ll blame next.
If anything, by keeping city staffers and elected officials feet to the fire, they have been forced to deal with issues that were for too long swept under the rug in order to paint Montebello as a place with few if any issues.
It’s not unreasonable to think that had it not been for residents, and yes Councilwoman Cortez, keeping the pressure on, the city would have continued many of its past bad habits.
That being said, it is also important to acknowledge that for the most part, the people now running Montebello are new, and not responsible for past wrongdoings. They should be credited for what they have done to turn things around. We also would like to remind Councilwoman Cortez that it not enough to oppose what is going on, you also have to put forth workable strategies for moving forward.
Who is right and who is wrong?
Far more details on the entire matter, read Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou’s story on the front page.