It was the first major policy announcement from the new administration of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, a declaration of a state of emergency aimed at providing immediate relief to thousands of homeless residents.
That declaration requires a city council vote on Tuesday before taking effect, a fairly simple task in a calmer political moment. Except the council still has a meeting until mid-January and is struggling to conduct business amid a scandal surrounding council member Kevin de León.
De León faces a furor over his participation in a conversation featuring racist remarks and, most recently, a violent incident involving protesters at an Eastside toy giveaway, which only intensified the barrel atmosphere of powder at the town hall. He plans to attend Tuesday’s meeting, while guaranteeing there will be a show of force from protesters who have demanded that all council meetings be canceled until he steps down.
Several organizations, including Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Tenants Union, on Monday urged their supporters to show up for the meeting. Ricci Sergienko, co-founder of the militant group known as the People’s City Council, pointed out that even President Biden called for De León’s resignation after the secretly taped conversation became public.
“The city cannot move forward with him on the council,” Sergienko said.
An aide to Bass declined to comment. Council Chairman Paul Krekorian, who endorsed Bass’s emergency declaration, said the council would continue its work.
“We will not be deterred by distractions or disturbances or disturbances,” he said.
The emergency declaration would give Bass greater power to spend money on facilities and programs to help the city’s homeless population — without council approval or a bidding process. Still, that’s not the only big problem facing the council on its last day before winter recess.
Also on the agenda is a vote on whether or not to keep Krekorian as president. Until that decision is made – and the public has a chance to intervene – the meeting will be led by City Clerk Holly Wolcott, who will be responsible for responding to any disruption to the hearing.
To complicate matters further, some board members walked out the last time De León showed up. If too many pursue this strategy this time, the board will not have enough members for a quorum.
Calls for De León to step down began in October after The Times covered a year-old audio featuring him and three others – then-board members Nury Martinez and Gil Cedillo and Ron Herrera, then head of the County Labor Federation. On the recording, Martinez said then-Council member Mike Bonin treated his young son as if he were a “prop” and said the child was “because changuitoor “like a monkey”.
Bonin is white and his son is black. De León appeared to compare Bonin’s handling of her child to Martinez holding a luxury handbag. He later said he was referring to Martinez’s “penchant for luxury accessories”.
Protesters flooded City Hall immediately after the audio aired to express their outrage. De León said he was “extremely sorry” but has no intention of resigning.
In recent weeks, a much smaller group of activists have tried to prevent the council from meeting – by chanting, ringing bells, banging water bottles on benches and using mirrors to shine a look in the eyes of council members. Dozens of police were assigned to each meeting, escorting protesters out of the room one by one or in pairs.
Tuesday’s meeting is expected to draw a much larger crowd following a violent confrontation between De León and a group of his critics.
On Friday, five protesters showed up at a Lincoln Heights tree lighting organized by De León’s office, yelling at the council member and chasing him out of the room in front of dozens of children and parents. The group cornered De León in a back room and surrounded him, with an activist, Jason Reedy, inches from his face.
De León pushed Reedy into a table and down a hallway. Reedy hit De León at least once.
The two men filed a complaint with the police. De León has publicly accused Reedy, 35, of headbutting him during the incident. Reedy’s lawyer called the account false, saying De León had “lost touch with reality. »
The incident, in part captured on video, has only heightened concerns about security inside and outside of City Hall. On Saturday, Council Member Monica Rodriguez accused protesters of engaging in “terrorism” at the Lincoln Heights event.
Rodriguez defended her use of the term on Monday, saying protesters also showed up outside her San Fernando Valley home, surrounding the car she and her husband were in and blocking them from leaving.
“I don’t know what else to call it,” she said. “It’s meant to instill fear and intimidate more people, elected officials, and intimidate them into embracing whatever their beliefs are.”
Hamid Khan, an organizer with the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, strongly disagreed with those assessments, saying the board was waging a “war” on political dissent — and treating protest as a crime.
“They paint this picture of violence. But there was no violence,” he said.
For much of the past three years, protesters have gone not only to council meetings but also to the homes of elected officials. Last year, after then-council member Mitch O’Farrell worked to clean up an Echo Park Lake homeless encampment, the popular town council created “Mitch Watch,” encouraging his followers to report where he finds himself and to confront him.
On Saturday, police expelled several people from a swearing-in ceremony for council member Traci Park, who took office on Monday to represent coastal wards. Everyone stood up and shouted as Park tried to make his remarks.
“I worry about my safety, as I worry about the safety of my colleagues here in the city,” Park said, appearing at an event to commemorate the record number of women elected this year at the hotel. of town.
De León returned to the board on Friday after a two-month absence, prompting an immediate outcry from a group of members of the public. Krekorian immediately called a suspension, during which De León supporters and critics yelled at each other.
Reedy and another audience member were kicked out of the meeting. Police said they took them out because they feared they were in a physical fight.
In an interview, De León spokesman Pete Brown said his boss is committed to representing his district, which has a large share of low-income households and monolingual Spanish speakers. Some of those voters attempted to testify at a council committee meeting last week, only to find that there were no translation services available.
District residents also attempted to call Friday’s meeting, but found the public comment period had been sharply curtailed following the council chambers disruption, Brown said.
“They weren’t given the opportunity to voice their concerns,” he said. “It’s a form of deprivation of rights.”
Krekorian, for his part, renewed his call for De León’s resignation, saying it would make the board’s job “much easier”.
“That being said, it’s not in my power to force him to do this,” Krekorian said. “So in the meantime, we will continue the work of the people of the city council.”
Another X-factor is whether every board member will stay in the room once De León arrives.
When he entered the council chamber last week, council member Nithya Raman and two of his colleagues walked out. Asked if she planned to leave on Tuesday, Raman said Monday she would consult with Krekorian and others on “what’s best for the city.”
“I think we take each day as it comes,” said Raman, who represents a Hollywood Hills neighborhood.
Board member Eunisses Hernandez, who took office on Monday, said she intended to leave the board if De León ran. Hernandez, who represents part of the Eastside, said she and others are trying to do this in a way that keeps the meeting going.
“There is a process that we are figuring out,” she said.
California Daily Newspapers