In the City of San Fernando, local politics can either cause some to get their blood pressure up or be viewed as entertainment for those who consider city council meetings as another soap opera episode.
Councilmember Jaime Soto sits at the center of entertainment.
Political soap operas in San Fernando was what the successful recall effort in 2012 was supposed to stop. But as it turns out Councilmember Jaime Soto, a close ally of those who were voted out, is maintaining the tradition.
(Soto, in fact, now lives in the same home that was previously occupied by Maribel De La Torre, one of those who was sent packing. It’s the same house still owned by her family members.)
With his long winded statements, conjuncture and often times nonsensical rhetoric from the dais, he quotes material from afar.
At a recent council meeting he spent much time sounding like he was a member of ICE, questioning whether this (San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol) 112-year-old paper was “legal,” and then laboriously began reading the definition of a “legal newspaper” from source material which he handed to the city’s attorney.
The city attorney then told Soto that it had no relevance because he was quoting from a document that pertained to the state of Pennsylvania, which caused residents in the council chamber to laugh.
It even caused his fellow council members, who couldn’t a straight face, to get a pretty good laugh in, too.
At one point Soto referenced not knowing where he could pick up a copy of the SFV Sun, to which a member of the staff informed him it was available at City Hall in the same building where he sat. Following a quick recess, Councilmember Sylvia Ballin, wearing a smile, returned to the dais holding the local paper.
Soto, it seems, has been hard at work to create drama by not only taking pokes at his perceived foes, but also by taking some serious action against his supporters, too.
He has not only kicked off one of his own appointed commissioners — he has kicked off two. First, Soto banished David Bernal, his handpicked commissioner on the Planning and Preservation Commission; more recently, he dismissed Commissioner Yoland Haro from the Parks, Wellness and Recreation Commission.
Bernal’s infraction, according to City Hall sources, was that his wife had a work-related meeting with an individual that Soto didn’t approve. and Haro’s infraction was to be upset that Soto kicked off Bernal. Haro and Bernal are related.
Vice Mayor Joel Fajardo responded to Soto’s action by making Bernal one of his commissioners.
While it can be amusing to watch, it isn’t so funny for residents who point out that Soto has already cost the City nearly 40K in legal fees following his violation of the Brown Act late last year for sharing information that was provided in closed session.
Residents have expressed their concern with keeping the City from sliding back into the red, and point out that paying large city attorney fees to look into a council members’ antics is not in the budget.
Unlike other cities, the City of San Fernando doesn’t broadcast its council meetings live; perhaps it should. At the very least, the meetings can be streamed on the Web.
Knowing that they are being watched may cut down the drama. But in San Fernando — with all of the political “climbers” the small town has birthed — a live broadcast could increase the grandstanding. Who knows?
Maybe the City can create a “Pay Per View,” as a revenue incentive to offset the attorney’s fees spent on Soto, and residents can tune in to watch the latest installment of… As the City turns …