DEEGAN ON LA—-Voters and jurors spoke loudly in the past several days by getting ready to invite one new City Councilmember into an office at City Hall, and sending a disgraced former City Councilmember to a cell in a Federal prison.
Add this to the recent election that brought a new Mayor to City Hall, along with a handful of new Councilmembers, and the shaking has stirred the city into a new political reality with lots of fresh faces to deal with stale problems like what to do about the homeless and the need for affordable housing for more than the unsheltered. The city is becoming unaffordable across the board, no matter what housing price range.
In back to back events of political consequence—a trial and a primary election—a jury found former sate legislator, county supervisor and city council member Mark Ridley Thomas guilty of federal corruption charges. After decades of truly great service at every level of government, the genuine servant of the people was busted for possibly caring too much for his son, whose fate remains TBD. MRT’s CD10 vacated seat is currently occupied by a Council appointed seat-filler who seems secure in it, although no final decision about her tenancy has been made. The City really can’t afford paying for another special election and the accompanying tumult when there are other pressing needs for funding, and the seat will be up for re-election next year.
The second consequential event is that voters have just been through a special election. The primary was April 4. The two top vote getters will face off in June. This time it was to replace another disgraced City Council member who also happened to be the Council President: Nury Martinez who was caught on a secret recording spewing racist remarks. Wisely, she immediately resigned. It was her vacant CD6 seat that voters will fill in a June run-off election.
Hindsight and near-sight draw a picture of a rapidly changing “old school” way of doing politics in Los Angeles. An influx of progressives have flushed out some of the serial politicos that had worn out their welcome with voters. Vacancies in CD6 and CD10 need to be filled. At the end of the year, candidates for all of the half-dozen even-number council seats (2-14) will be declaring their candidacy for those seats.
In less than one year from today, we will have an outline of what the shape of city government may become with a majority of seats being subject to being flipped between the last (2022) and next election cycles (2024) and bring us a brand new day at City Hall with the old guard left in the dust.
To truncate a thought by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: though the mills may grind slowly, yet they grind exceedingly small. With patience and exactness, they grind all.
(Hopefully, the aggregated changeover will be progressive enough to take the next big step: expanding the size of the city council and redrawing how council boundary lines are established. There may be a need for Charter reform.
It’s also time for acknowledging what’s proven to be an intractable homeless problem as a factual failure, and learning to exist with it,by accepting that Los Angelenos will always live with tents on their sidewalks. And, accepting that the housing boom will favor upper middle class renters, not those in poverty or sleeping on sidewalks; that for a significant slice of the population L.A. housing will never be abundant nor affordable.
An option for potential middle class escapees is that LA is surrounded by smaller, better run cities like Beverly Hills, Culver City, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Glendale, and Pasadena. Each is just a few miles from DTLA and allow quick hops into the “big city” for work, retail and recreation opportunities as LA otherwise hollows out in a deepening quagmire.
Many city council political eggs are heading toward a basket labeled “progressive”. Will they be the incoming calvary? Let’s see if their become scrambled or a beautiful soufflé.
(Tim Deegan is a civic activist whose Deegan on LA weekly column about city planning, new urbanism, the environment, and the homeless appear in CityWatch. Tim can be reached at [email protected].)