CATHEDRAL CITY – The California Labor Federation seems to have made a major misstep with its 2018 COPE Questionnaire, specifically in Cathedral City.

The California Labor Federation represents more than 2 million working men and women and 2,100 affiliated unions in California.  The questionnaire that was sent to some Cathedral City City Council candidates, but not all, was designed to be used by union members and leaders to make endorsement decisions at the state and local level, and to demonstrate the differences between candidates in member communications.

In a poll of City Council candidates, John Rivera and Enrique “Rick” Saldivar, were the only two candidates to receive – or acknowledge receiving — the questionnaire.

Those confirming they did not receive one and the District they represent are:

  • Ernesto Gutierrez, District 4
  • Mark Carnevale, District 3
  • Juan Carlos  Vizaga, District 3

While Saldivar, District 4, received it, he said he cannot open the attachment.

Raymond Gregory, seeking a seat in District 5, would not say whether he received the questionnaire.

“We will undoubtedly seek endorsements from a select number of organizations which we feel are relevant to what is happening in the city and our district, but it would be too much of a distraction from the campaign to follow up on all,” Gregory told Uken Report. “We appreciate the efforts of every group that has contacted us and are honored they thought to include us in the process; therefore, we will not be making comments about any individual endorsement questionnaire”

The California Labor Federation questionnaire is reportedly the subject of an internal debate between an outgoing leader for the California Labor Federation and an incoming leader who authored the questionnaire. The outgoing leader did not like the questionnaire. Whether that played a role in who got it and who did not is unclear.

Communications Director Steve Smith did not return requests for comment.

The irony of the debacle is that the one person who did receive the controversial questionnaire, Rivera, who is seeking a seat in District 4, did not want it.

As a member of the City Council, Rivera said the elected official is tasked with conducting the city’s affairs in a balanced, responsible manner. What’s expected above all else is that the streets and utilities are maintained, that the schools and neighborhoods are safe, and that the taxpayers’ money is wisely spent with full transparency, Rivera told Uken Report. The mayor and City Council have a duty to plan for the city’s future growth and success. Most important of all is that the City Council act as the voice of our constituents, he said.

“No sooner had the names of the candidates been released than the mudslinging began,” Rivera said. “What I found to be even worse was the urgency of political groups and committees to get candidates to pledge their commitment to support and advocate whatever cause or political point of view they plan to advance. Sadly, I find that most candidates can’t get in line fast enough to make those pledges and take the campaign money.”

While this may be the norm, Rivera continued, “I see it as a moral and ethical violation in that advocates of these groups are effectively acting as lobbyists for these groups while serving as a Councilmember. Some of these groups may have the best of intentions, but they all speak to very specific issues and not always for the city as a whole.”

Ever since this race began, Rivera said he’s been approached by all the same political groups that have approached every other candidate.  His response to all, he said, has been to decline signing a pledge and to decline their endorsement.

“Most recently, I respectfully declined an endorsement from the California Labor Federation,” Rivera said. Some people might say, ‘just sign the pledge, just take the money. Everyone does it, it doesn’t really matter.’ I happen to think that if you can’t see the conflict of interest at this stage, then what happens when it comes times to decisions being made a City Council and you’re asked to vote yes or no?”

Rivera said it is “heartfelt conviction” that in order to effectively represent all the citizens in his district that he make a commitment to remove politics from his campaign just as he has during his service on the city Planning Commission and on the city Architectural Review Committee.

“I plan to continue working to make Cathedral City a place where every citizen has an equal voice – one voice,” Rivera said.