News

City Councilwoman, Former California Assemblywoman, Dies at 49

City Councilwoman, Former California Assemblywoman, Dies at 49

The California State Capitol building in Sacramento, Calif., on April 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

City News Service

City News Service

10/22/2023

Updated: 10/22/2023

SAN FERNANDO, Calif.—Cindy Montañez, a politician and environmental advocate who had an elementary school named in her honor last week, died Oct. 21 at the age of 49, city officials announced.
“It is with inconsolable grief and deep sadness that we announce the passing of Councilmember Cindy Montañez, current CEO of TreePeople, and former California State Assembly Member,” San Fernando officials wrote.
“Cindy will be remembered as a fierce advocate and a champion for environmental justice across California. To her family Cindy will always remain a loving daughter, sister, aunt and great aunt, and will be missed dearly.
“The family requests that their privacy be respected during this difficult time. Details regarding the memorial service and funeral will be shared as they are made available,” the statement continued.
The cause of death was not provided, but Ms. Montañez was recently diagnosed with aggressive terminal cancer.
Ms. Montañez was the youngest person ever elected to the San Fernando City Council in 1999 at age 25, and the youngest woman elected to the California state Legislature at age 28 in 2002. Two years later she chaired the powerful Assembly Rules Committee, becoming the youngest person, first Latina, and first Democratic woman to hold that post.
She was tapped as CEO of TreePeople in 2016. The educational and environmental advocacy organization works to support sustainable urban ecosystems in the greater Los Angeles area.
“I’m deeply saddened by the passing of Assemblywoman Montañez. The Assemblywoman was a relentless trailblazer who led with conviction and a vision of a better Los Angeles for all,” Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said in a statement Saturday afternoon.
“I saw her tenacity up close many times. She was by my side when we fought together in Sacramento, making difficult decisions to help our state and she advised me when I served in Congress on a range of issues impacting our city. Throughout it all, one thing was always clear—Assemblywoman Montañez’s heart and soul were always dedicated to the people of Los Angeles,” Ms. Bass continued.
“It was an honor just last month to recognize her with members of the City Council. I join so many Angelenos in holding memories of the Assemblywoman close. My thoughts are with her friends and family as we mourn the loss of a great Angeleno.”
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Unified School Board voted unanimously to rename Gridley Street Elementary School in San Fernando to Gridley-Montañez Dual Language Academy.
“I think it’s incredibly inspiring both that the school community came together around this potential change, and wanted to retain its connection to Gridley,” LAUSD board member Kelly Gonez said, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. “And the students spoke to seeing themselves in Cindy’s story, and were inspired by all of the amazing achievements that she had in her young life.”
In August, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously renamed Pacoima Wash Natural Park to Cindy Montañez Natural Park.
The Los Angeles County Democratic Party released a statement mourning Ms. Montañez, calling her a “trailblazer” who “shattered multiple glass ceilings.”
“Her enduring legacy of advocating for environmental justice, climate change and housing will resonate for generations to come,” the statement said. “Our hearts go out to her family, and may her influence persist with strength and purpose.”
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