I spent Sunday afternoon watching one of my favorite movies…The Untouchables. In case you don’t remember, the 1987 film starred Robert DeNiro as crime boss Al Capone and Kevin Costner as the federal agent Elliot Ness commissioned to enforce Prohibition in 1920’s Chicago. The city was known for rampant corruption and lawlessness and nearly the entire leadership of the city – from the elected aldermen to judges and police – were on Capone’s payroll and under his control. It’s a political legacy that has colored Chicago politics from both the Daley “Vote Early and Vote Often” Regimes, to the recent felony convictions of Jesse Jackson Jr. and former Governor Rod Blagojevich.
I know Moreno Valley is not Chicago, but as I watched the movie, I saw eerie similarities: from last year’s felony conviction of then-councilman Marcelo Co and the pimping and prostitution conviction of school board member Mike Rios, to the multi-agency task force’s raids on the homes and offices of the mayor and all city councilmembers and their connection to the city’s single largest landowner, whose offices were also searched.
Moreno Valley’s single largest landowner understands the power of politics and utilizes his position and wealth to serve his interests. In every recent council election he has funded candidates and while he has not been indicted for corruption, he has been under investigation, and more than any other private entity doing business in the city, he has had unfettered access to city hall, often at the expense of Moreno Valley citizens and taxpayers.
With an unprecedented three of the five council seats on the ballot this November, you can be sure that his independent expenditure fund is pushing “his” preferred candidates in his effort to maintain control of the council. In District 2 he is supporting Jeffrey Giva. Of the field of nine candidates vying to fill the seat vacated by the current Councilman Richard Stewart, recall advocate and District 2 candidate Debra Craig admitted at a recent forum I attended at Crossword Church, that “the developer of the Skechers warehouse is the one person” the city needs the most. She met with him and he convinced her that warehouses are what the city needs, of course on his land. She wants to entertain “warehouses” she said to the moan of the audience. “I know you don’t want to hear that,” she said. In my opinion she didn’t just drink the Kool-Aid, she gulped it down without taking a breath…and then asked for seconds.
Unlike Ms. Craig, Corey Jackson, also a candidate for the District 2 seat, said he has heard from the people of that district in overwhelming numbers that they don’t want warehouses in the current proposed area, but instead in the area originally zoned for warehousing near the 215 Freeway. The problem with that, however, is it wouldn’t benefit the one person who is working so hard to control the council and thereby the city.
To keep his majority, the landowner is funding an Independent Expenditure effort to support the recently removed councilman Yxstian Gutierrez in District 4 and “No on the Recall ” of councilwoman Victoria Baca in District 5.
The voters of Moreno Valley have a choice to make. Either accept the belief that one person’s interests are more important than everyone else’s in the city and vote to support his candidates, or fight for transparency and elected leaders who listen to what their constituents believe is best for the entire community.
And remember one of the last scenes in the film, Elliot Ness’ final words to Capone in the courtroom. You know the scene. Ness’ small band of untouchables, the only non-corrupt team he could put together had been battered and bruised, two members of the small team had been killed, the rest threatened, but Ness didn’t give-up. When he finally gets a conviction, albeit for tax evasion, on his way out of the courtroom he leans over to a perturbed and angry Capone and says “Never stop…Never stop fighting…till the fight is done.”
“Here endeth the lesson.”