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Opinion

Editorial: Leaving so soon, Councilman Fuentes?

Felipe Fuentes, Jose Huizar, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Bernard Dory
Felipe Fuentes, left, a councilman elected in 2013 to represent the northeast San Fernando Valley, is stepping down to become a lobbyist with the Apex Group in Sacramento.
(Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles City Councilman Felipe Fuentes had already announced that he was giving up elective office and would not run for a second term next year. But now he’s decided he can’t even be bothered to serve out the rest of his term. Fuentes told Times’ reporter David Zahniser that he will step down on Sept. 11 in order to become a lobbyist in Sacramento.

That means his more than 250,000 constituents in the North San Fernando Valley will have no representative on the City Council until a replacement is elected next May and sworn into office on July 1. Until then Council District 7 will be overseen by a City Hall bureaucrat. Thanks a lot, Councilman Fuentes.

The job of an elected official is different than most other jobs. It comes with a commitment to serve for a set period of time. Fuentes signed up for four years and he’s leaving after three. It’s true that politicians often skip out before the end their terms — usually to run for other elected offices — but that tends to be an unfortunate side effect of term limits, in which ambitious politicians are forced to hop from office to office to avoid getting termed out.

Fuentes, on the other hand, is leaving office for the private sector. He will join Apex Group, a Sacramento lobbying firm, where he will work as a paid advocate for the Associated General Contractors of California, a statewide trade group. But what’s the urgency, beyond his own desire to get out of City Hall?

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When Fuentes ran for the City Council in 2013, the Times Editorial Board said that Council District 7, which includes the communities of Sylmar, Pacoima and Sunland-Tujunga, needed an extraordinarily talented and committed council member who could enhance the area’s industrial potential while ending its use as a dumping ground both for garbage and bad development. Fuentes, who had served in the state Assembly after working for former Mayor James Hahn and former Council President Alex Padilla, had the most experience in a field of novice politicians. The Times reluctantly endorsed him, noting that he was “smart enough to be really good one day, if he wants to be.” Apparently he doesn’t want to be.

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