Mon, Apr

LA City Council Up For Grabs


GELFAND’S WORLD - For the first time in maybe forever, Los Angeles will resemble a European parliamentary democracy for a few weeks.

Can Paul Krekorian form a majority government the way a member of parliament in Italy or Israel would need to do? Alternatively, could a reform caucus invent itself out of the November election's City Council results? Consider the turnover due to the resignation of Nury Martinez, a newly appointed Council member in the 10th district, and then consider an unlikely but not impossible visit by the dead man walking, aka Kevin de Leon. 

Let's consider the numbers. 

With Nury Martinez gone, there are currently 14 remaining members on the Los Angeles City Council. With Kevin de Leon absent, there are only 13 available votes. Thus it takes 7 votes to make a clear majority. Should de Leon show up for the first City Council meeting of the new term on December 12, it would be possible to have a 7-7 tie vote on any item, including election of the City Council President or President pro tempore. 

So what is the likelihood of an uprising, and what would prompt such an action? 

The motive is clear and obvious. There are a bunch of new Council members who are coming into a scene that is best known for corruption and racism. Maybe it's not a fair image, but that's what's been going out on the late night news for weeks and weeks. In a couple of cases, we have new Council members replacing someone who was recently indicted or someone who was part of the Nury Martinez trio. 

So right now, we will have newly elected council members in districts 1, 5, 11, 15, and possibly 13 (Mitch O'Farrell vs Hugo Soto Martinez) and with the newly appointed Heather Hutt in the 10th. 

This group by itself numbers at least 5, and maybe 6 depending on whether Mitch O'Farrell can pull off a miracle comeback. It wouldn't take but 1 or 2 more incumbents to join in a reform caucus to make it the working majority. 

What do they stand to gain? 

In the most prosaic, normal political sense, they would have the clout to negotiate committee assignments and perhaps the identity of the President pro tempore. Remember that in the usual run of things, the one newest council member gets stuck with chairing the committee overseeing the neighborhood councils. One time, a senior council member (Bernard Parks) got that assignment, but only because he was on the outs with new Council President Herb Wesson. Both Parks and Jan Perry lost their choice assignments. 

If the newbies can join up as the freshman caucus (as it were), they can make sure that punishing Council members for showing a little independence is prevented. 

There are two more complications. The first is that there will be a special election in April for the Nury Martinez seat. There's no telling what kind of person will get elected -- somebody who wants to make the most of an opportunity to join with other newly elected representatives, or somebody who has other priorities. 

And last -- what if Kevin de Leon decides to start attending City Council meetings when the new term commences in December? Remember that he is legally entitled to attend and cast votes, no matter how much the other members may frown and scowl. There is even the amusing possibility that, in the case of a split council, de Leon could be the tie breaker. That would be a nightmare for the current group of protestors. 

Let me suggest that the question ultimately comes down to this: What kind of man is Paul Krekorian? Perhaps he, too, has been disgusted and embarrassed by the corruption in the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) committee. If so, then this is his time to make it clear that this sort of thing no longer will stand. That would mean that he would allow -- and even encourage -- open debate about the merits of items that would have sailed through on a unanimous vote in the past. And as we discussed above, this depends on the protection of the independent voices from the sort of punishment that befell Bernard Parks and Jan Perry. 

One other point. The effect of a substantial reordering of the City Council also depends on what kind of person the new mayor will be. I suspect that we know what kind of mayor Karen Bass would be, because we have seen her in a leadership position in the state legislature. This does not, in itself, say anything about her management skills. After all, she would be in charge of more than 3 dozen agencies and departments, which includes evaluating and appointing (or firing) department heads. But we do understand how she functions at the political level, which would include working with or against the City Council. 

May I politely suggest that we don't really know how Rick Caruso would function as mayor? Remember, that as the head of a business, he is used to being able to hire and fire as he sees fit. More importantly, he is used to giving orders and expecting them to be followed. As mayor, he can't expect to give orders to the City Council and expect them to be obeyed. Remember that the City Council has a majority of real Democrats, who are going to come to the table with a different point of view. If Caruso is elected, let's see how his proposal to create 30,000 beds for the homeless does in the budget and finance committee. The same goes for that proposal to hire 500 new sanitation workers on the city budget. Government is not just a business, but represents a lot of compromise actions designed to deal with competing interests. Making a profit is not one of them. Businessmen turned elected officials should try to remember that it is a different thing altogether. 

The Scandal that we should be reporting 

The attempts by the right-wing noise machine to excuse or deflect from the attack on Paul Pelosi are vile and evil. Here's one example from Fox News, but there are many. It's not clear whether these attacks are just following Donald Trump, or whether he is following them. It doesn't matter.


(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected])