It's rare for a Los Angeles City Council member to face a strong challenger at reelection time. It's even more unusual for an incumbent to face such a challenge after just 18 months in office. But Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who was elected in a special election to fill the vacant 6th Council District seat, is indeed in a dramatic rematch with former Assemblywoman Cindy Montañez, who won the most votes in their 2013 primary and then went on to lose the runoff — and now wants another chance to represent this mid-San Fernando Valley district that includes Sun Valley, Arleta, Panorama City, Van Nuys and Lake Balboa.
The Times endorsed Montañez in the special election, and we recommend her again.
Martinez has done a perfectly adequate job. She's responsive to community concerns. She's worked on quality of life issues such as cracking down on prostitution on the Sepulveda and Lankershim corridors and trying to close illegal medical marijuana dispensaries. Complaints that she hasn't done enough to clean up the district, fix broken sidewalks or stop illegal dumping are unfair. These are long-standing problems in the 6th District — and citywide — that will take time, money and community involvement to correct.
On policy, Martinez was an author and supporter of the $15.37 minimum wage for hotel workers — an industry-specific pay hike this page strongly opposed. But she's also proposed common-sense changes, including calling for the finance department to stop blindly issuing tax certificates and collecting tax revenue from illicit pot shops.
However, adequate isn't enough. Montañez would be better for the 6th District and for the city as a whole. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of state and local government. In her 20s, she served on the San Fernando City Council, where she helped preserve historic buildings as part of makeover of the city's downtown — which could be a model for overhauling drab Van Nuys Boulevard. At 28, she was elected to the state Assembly, where she passed significant consumer protection, environmental and infrastructure bills. She later served on the L.A. Planning Commission and worked as a government affairs consultant for the Department of Water and Power — giving her hands-on experience with two of the most complicated and contentious agencies in the city.
People who have worked with Montañez consistently describe her as independent and thoughtful, someone who delves into an issue, asks critical questions and comes up with practical, achievable solutions. The best council members not only respond to constituents' concerns, but also look for solutions to those problems citywide. They send out a truck to pick up a discarded sofa, but they also press the Bureau of Sanitation to develop a program to address persistent illegal dumping in the city's dirtiest neighborhoods. They get on the phone with the DWP when a new business can't get its electricity turned on in a timely fashion, but they also push the DWP to reform its bureaucratic, customer-unfriendly ways.
The woman elected March 3 may have the opportunity to serve for as many as 12 years (or 141/2 if Charter Amendments 1 and 2 pass). This is an opportunity to put a strong, independent voice in City Hall to better the city and to transform the 6th District, by preserving established residential neighborhoods, redeveloping struggling commercial corridors and helping create jobs and businesses on vacant or underused industrial properties. We think Montañez is the candidate who can make the most of that time.