OPEN LETTER - I am writing you as a retired 50-year employee of the City of Los Angeles, having served 38 years with the LAPD and 13 years as a City Councilmember.
Monitoring the city council over the past several months has been disturbing for various reasons that should be obvious. And, the handling of the 10th District representation is just another example of this council’s poor judgment.
This string of poor decisions is linked and can be traced back to the 2011-2012 redistricting process, in which you and I both participated as councilmembers. We were both tasked with voting on a redistricting plan unnecessarily manipulated by former Council President Herb Wesson that sought to move convicted former Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas’s home from the Eighth District into the 10th. It’s evident now that— just like other self-serving moves performed during that process— this was orchestrated to allow Ridley-Thomas to run in the 10th, which he did, with disastrous repercussions.
Call it a policeman’s hunch, but my bet is that Wesson exchanged Ridley-Thomas’s new boundary lines for his decision not to outwardly endorse a successor at the Board of Supervisors.
Fortunately, Wesson lost that election, saving the entire Second Supervisorial District from the man who once thought it was a good idea to give convicted former Councilmember Jose Huizar the bulk of downtown by way of his hand-crafted redistricting plan.
10th District voters weren’t so lucky. Ridley-Thomas’s election to his new-found district set forth a comedy of errors by too many of our city’s electeds, who were supposedly voted into office for, among other things, their decision-making skills.
Error #1- Ridley-Thomas Gets Himself Indicted
As I’ve mentioned before, getting indicted is pretty hard to do unless you’ve committed major felonies. Our former President is now finding that out. So, if you’re rooting for the judge to throw the book at him, you should at least understand the federal government’s attempts to hold Ridley-Thomas accountable. And, for those who think this is a black/white thing, please see Ridley-Thomas’s co-conspirator, Marilyn Flynn, who is either white or looks a lot like someone who is white. She was also convicted.
Error #2- Wesson Gets Himself Appointed
When Wesson left the council, it was common knowledge that he was termed out. But, laws be damned! Then-Council President Nury Martinez appointed him to take over after Ridley-Thomas was suspended. It’s probably no coincidence that Wesson was the driving force behind Martinez’s rise to council president. So, now the man who once thought it was a good idea for Martinez to be council President and thought it was a good idea to give Huizar the bulk of downtown was now running the 10th(into the ground) again.
This decision went against a 60-year policy of selecting either someone from the Chief Legislative Analyst’s Office, an existing member of the current council staff or an outside member of the community to serve as a non-voting caretaker for the vacated office. This was initially done when the office was overseen by Karly Katona, Ridley-Thomas’s then Chief of Staff.
The most important part of this process is that the person selected to lead the office has no desire to run for the seat, so as not to give that person an unfair advantage come election time. A recent but rare instance when this council got something right was when it dealt with the replacement of Councilmember Mitchell Englander, who probably just to fit in, got himself both indicted and convicted. In this case, the council followed this policy to the letter when it selected former Councilmember Greig Smith to oversee the 12th District. And yes, Smith made it clear prior to his appointment that he had no interest or intent of running for a third term.
But, apparently under the influence of Wesson, Martinez ignored the Englander/Smith scenario that played out right in front of her. After Wesson was back on board, he fired the two top aides in Ridley-Thomas’s office and replaced them with his own people. When it was determined during a court battle that Wesson’s appointment was inappropriate, he was forced to leave the office. But, strangely, the two people he inappropriately brought with him, were allowed to stay.
What should not be lost in this is the cost and liability these acts put on the city.
The taxpayers paid court costs for a case with a pre-determined outcome. And, meanwhile, someone with the city should send a card or a nice fruit basket to the two people who were terminated by somebody who had no authority to do so and hope they don’t sue.
Error #3- Martinez Gets Herself Recorded
You only have to read the transcripts of the secretly recorded 2021 conversation featuring the-Council President Martinez, former councilmember Gil Cedillo, Councilmember Kevin DeLeon and then-Head of the LA County Federation of Labor Ron Herrera to get a very clear understanding of why Heather Hutt is now the choice to remain as an incumbent in the 10th. It sets a bad precedent to have elected officials and other dignitaries selecting the communities they serve versus the communities selecting their representatives. Based on these recordings alone, every single act by Martinez should be held under scrutiny, just like the Board of Supervisors did when they moved to audit the legislative actions of Ridley-Thomas.
There is no shortage of candidates currently vying to become the next 10th Councilmember, and it would be totally unfair and in violation of all known democratic norms to allow a political appointee to gain a significant advantage of being listed as running as an incumbent councilperson.
Although the three-year period in which the 10th council district has not had an elected representative is excessive, it has been caused by extraordinary legal limitations outside the control of the city or its residents. It should not give the council an excuse to now compound the body’s many prior mistakes and self-inflicted wounds to rush through this process. Doing so would be totally unfair to the candidates or the community, despite the cost. The city has already spent $7 million on the Council District 6 Special Election. Exercising financial prudence now is inconsistent with this body’s previous decision to move forward with the case on Wesson’s appointment. Choosing to spend money to ensure a former elected stays employed instead of maintaining democracy shows how far this council has fallen. A more pro-active council might’ve tried to settle with Ridley-Thomas so that elections in Council Districts 6 and 10 could be held simultaneously.
I ask that as you debate this issue, you seriously welcome the input of the city’s constituents, unlike the way the majority of the council has routinely patronized them during previous redistricting processes.
I personally believe the thought of neglecting the 10th District of an election is narrow, and I honestly believe your opinion would be different if you were a candidate or solely a voter.
I recommend that the council take a pause and reevaluate the circumstances from the beginning that caused these concerns. You should remove all the real and perceived obstacles to a fair election and create a process that’s fair and protective of the voting rights of all concerned; be they candidates or the community. Without these steps, our city will become a haven for election deniers, who might this time… actually have a point.
I realize I have made suggestions before that have gone ignored and that ultimately you’re going to do what you want to do. So, either way, I’m content to continue being right if you’re content to keep pissing on the public’s legs while trying to convince them that it’s just raining.