I would like to report an encounter I had with Downey city council-elect Claudia Frometa, and let the reader form an opinion on its content.
I had written an op-ed piece for The Downey Patriot about what we lose when candidates for public office don’t hold public debates, which not only give us an insight into their ideas, beliefs policies and breadth of experience, but show how well they deal with the pressure of having to think on their feet in an unpredictable, challenging environment.
The candidates in question were Frometa and Carrie Uva. Both were running for the 4th District seat of Fernando Vasquez, who is termed out this year and whose purview includes the downtown region, crucial to the social, cultural and commercial life of the city. Failure to debate allowed them, as I put it in the article, to hide behind the “platitudinous drivel” of carefully edited PR statements.
Frometa won the vote.
I was sitting in an aisle seat during the November 13th city council meeting when Frometa sought me out. We had never met or communicated before.
“I take exception to what you wrote in the Patriot,” she said, jabbing an accusatory finger toward my sternum. “I have a background in journalism. What you wrote is irresponsible.”
Naturally, I was taken aback by this unexpected and aggressive stance.
“Where did you work in journalism?” I asked.
“Never mind that,” she replied. “What you did was wrong.”
“You didn’t talk to me privately before you wrote the piece.”
“I wasn’t obliged to. It was an op ed opinion piece, not a news article that requires reportage. What would you have said that wasn’t in your PR statements. Why didn’t you debate?”
“Never mind,” she replied. “What you did was irresponsible.” She walked away.
This was the full extent of our conversation. I thought about it afterward and wondered about her background in journalism. Why wouldn’t she reveal where she worked? How is it she didn’t know the crucial difference between editorial opinion and news story and where a writer’s responsibility lies on each. Finally, after I had made the case, however briefly, she insisted that I was still irresponsible.
What does this tell you? Let’s see: she’s evasive about her background. In not presenting a cogent argument, and not acknowledging a counter-argument, she showed that she’s someone who doesn’t listen. That she took umbrage at an article that was not a personal attack indicates that she may be too thin-skinned for public office, or at least naively unaware of the realities she’ll be facing.
We’ll never know if those qualities may have come out had there been a public debate or two with her opponents. But I for one have had a preview of what we may have to deal with in the coming years. It’s not a promising start.