@THE GUSS REPORT-Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti keeps a scorecard of the race and gender of everyone he appoints to dozens of City commissions, as well as in which City Council District the appointee resides. It is intended -- to be said in your best Garcetti monotone -- to ensure that everyone is represented fairly and evenly.
But such well-intended ideas die quickly when they are deemed inconvenient by powerful politicians.
That was the case last week when Garcetti appointed yet another non-African American from Council District 11 to the largely ineffective Commission on the Status of Women to replace Richelle Huizar, whose 69-day political career crashed and burned the moment the FBI raided her home a few weeks ago.
Of LA’s15 City Council Districts, this seven-person Commission now has an Asian woman from Council District 11, a Latina from Council District 11 and a Caucasian (with a Jewish surname) from Council District 11. 43% of the Commission consists of non-black women from one of the most affluent areas of the city. Over all, it has two Latinas, two Asians, two Caucasians, and one African American who hails from the upwardly mobile Council District 10, after it was gerrymandered by City Council several years back.
While all the women on the panel have good qualifications and undoubtedly good intentions, why is there not a single seat occupied by a black woman from the city’s poorest and most disenfranchised area, Council District 8?
The Commission’s written purpose is “to advance gender equality…and the general welfare of women and girls in the Los Angeles community and to ensure that all women have full and equal participation in City government.”
That would include participating in the Commission on the Status of Women.
That raises the question of why this Commission still lacks a black Garcetti appointee from Council District 8, while boasting of three non-blacks from the Westside?
Neither Garcetti’s chief of staff, Ana Guerrero, nor two of his spokespeople bothered to explain Garcetti’s latest choice. So, I reached out to the 8th District’s Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson to find out whether he is aware that his constituents are still not represented at all on the Commission, and did he offer any names for Garcetti to consider appointing to the seat occupied until recently by Mrs. Huizar.
A general rule of thumb I employ when writing this column is that I don’t deal with people paid to be filters for politicians. A prime example of why is found in the response I received from Harris-Dawson’s spokesperson, Ashley Thomas, “The Council Office has and will continue to provide the Mayor's Office with qualified candidates who are representative of the Eighth District for all open commision (sic) appointments.”
But when I pointed out that the statement didn’t address any of my questions, Ms. Thomas simply replied, “That is the response my office is providing.”
So be it. I immediately replied with a public records request for the names of all people that Harris-Dawson submitted to Mayor Garcetti for this opening, including their qualifications and all related communications such as emails.
Not that Garcetti takes these appointments seriously. In his 10/20/17 letter to City Council recommending their approval of his appointment of Richelle Huizar to the Commission, he wrote, “…Ms. Huizar is qualified for the work that will devolve upon her, and that I make the appointment solely in the interest of the City.”
Yeah, of course he did. It had nothing to do with Richelle Huizar being married to sitting Councilmember Jose Huizar. Nothing to do with her plans to run for his seat when he is termed out. And certainly nothing to do with Garcetti untruthfully touting her long legal career, despite her law license being dormant for all but 10 months out of the prior 17 years.
But let’s take Garcetti at face value. In his 10/31/18 note to City Council endorsing his latest appointment to the Commission on the Status of Women, he used the same words, “…solely in the best interest of the city.”
So, the Mayor believes that it is in the best interest of the city to not have even one black female voice from his poorest and most under-represented community, on the Commission formed to specifically aid them the most.
As we await the public records response from Councilmember Harris-Dawson, I wish you a safe New Year and encourage you to stay in touch with verifiable story leads. We have lots of interesting reads ahead in 2019, but your information and ideas could potentially top them all.
(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. Join his mailing list or offer verifiable tips and story ideas at TheGussReport@gmail.com. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.