Column: How the fight over a City Council seat is tearing apart Black Los Angeles (2022)

As a community advocate, Joe Delgado has learned to expect dysfunction from the city of Los Angeles.

For months, he and others with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment have been trying to get help for hundreds of Black and Latino tenants living in slum-like conditions at the Chesapeake Apartments, a sprawling complex in the heart of the L.A. City Council’s 10th District.

“They’ve identified potentially 160 units that have lead exposure where kids are living,” Delgado told me. “And there has not been any action taken to come and do blood testing to make sure these kids don’t have permanent brain damage.”

But, as difficult as it has been for him to get the city to act, chances are, it’s about to get a lot worse.

On Tuesday, an L.A. County Superior Court judge ruled that Herb Wesson, the termed-out councilman who has been representing the 10th District on an interim basis, can no longer perform “any functions” of the job. For now anyway.

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Judge temporarily bars Herb Wesson from performing L.A. City Council duties

(Video) Column: How the fight over a City Council seat is tearing apart Black Los Angeles

A Judge has temporarily barred Herb Wesson from performing duties as Mark Ridley-Thomas’ appointed replacement on the L.A. City Council.

It’s just the latest plot twist in an unfortunate political drama that has been playing out since October, when Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas was indicted on federal bribery charges and then suspended from the City Council.

Wesson has been serving in his stead since March.

But now, he too is barred from voting, from meeting with constituents and from introducing proposed ordinances.

And that means, once again, the tenants of the Chesapeake Apartments — along with hundreds of thousands of other residents in the 10th District neighborhoods spanning South L.A. and Mid-City — have lost a desperately needed point person on the City Council.

“They’re already living in s— conditions,” Delgado lamented. “And then when they organize a solution, they hit barriers like this from the city, which should be doing the complete opposite and focusing on how to expedite what they need.”

Indeed, even by L.A.'s reputation for dysfunctional politics, this is bad. There’s plenty of blame to go around for it too.

Ultimately, though, it’s City Council President Nury Martinez who decided to make a bad situation worse in the 10th District, leading to infighting in the Black community, in particular.

She was the one who opened the door to Tuesday’s ruling by appointing Wesson to represent the district in the first place. And the rest of the City Council then walked through that door by approving him with a unanimous vote.

Therefore, Martinez bears most of the responsibility for what has gone wrong since then and also has a responsibility to help make it right.

(Video) Column How the fight over a City Council seat is tearing apart Black Los

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Column: Why South L.A. is staying loyal to Ridley-Thomas, even as he faces federal charges

Many are rising to defend and pray for the councilman, while calls escalate for him to step down or, at the very least lose, his committee assignments.

Because picking Wesson, even on a temporary basis, even with support from voters in South L.A., was always a legally dubious decision. He had already served the three full terms on City Council, the maximum allowed under the City Charter, and it was questionable whether he could return.

And so, unsurprisingly, Ridley-Thomas’ allies, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California and several 10th District constituents, quickly filed a lawsuit challenging Wesson’s appointment.

And then, also unsurprisingly, Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel sided with the plaintiffs Tuesday, saying they were likely to prove Wesson couldn’t return to the City Council because he is termed out.

In response, Martinez griped that it was “wrong that a group of individuals with suspect agendas are working to keep over 250,000 residents from having representation on this council.”

Perhaps.

Or perhaps she could’ve just prioritized the needs of the 10th District’s residents, many of whom were still dealing with the fallout from Ridley-Thomas’ unexpected indictment and suspension.

Martinez could’ve appointed someone from his staff, making it easier to continue constituent services, such as with tenants of the Chesapeake Apartments. Or appointed someone more likely to have a good relationship with the county, given that Wesson lost his last bid for office to Supervisor Holly Mitchell.

At the very least, she could’ve appointed someone who wouldn’t have drawn an immediate lawsuit.

In fact, Martinez still can do any and all of these things.

Strobel, in her ruling, made clear that she would be fine with someone being appointed to be a voting representative of the district. It just can’t be Wesson.

On Wednesday, Martinez appointed Wesson’s chief of staff, Heather Hutt, to be its nonvoting caretaker.

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“My clients have no problem with appointing someone as a temporary representative,” John Sweeney, the attorney for the SCLC of Southern California, told me Wednesday. “They just want a voice in the process.”

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Column: How the fight over a City Council seat is tearing apart Black Los Angeles (3)

On Tuesday, an L.A. County Superior Court judge ruled that Herb Wesson, seen in 2019, can no longer perform “any functions” of his interim spot on the City Council.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Meanwhile, the damage to the 10th District has been done, especially in South L.A.

Gina Fields, president of the McClung Bronson Block Club in Leimert Park, said she has watched as the political class of Black Los Angeles has divided into two camps: Wesson supporters and Ridley-Thomas supporters.

Both men have deep legacies in the community. Wesson was the first Black president of the City Council, and Ridley-Thomas is, as Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, put it, a “one-man institution in Black politics.”

Many voters and stakeholders told me they feel caught in the middle. They respect both men and don’t want to pick or make either one an enemy.

“It’s tearing us apart. This is not what any of us wanted,” Fields told me. “It’s not that these two men are both fighting for their political careers. It’s that they’ve been put in this position where they have to do this.”

For months, allies of Ridley-Thomas have been advocating for him, reminding anyone who will listen that he has denied the federal charges he’s facing and, therefore, deserves to have his seat back on the City Council.

The SCLC of Southern California, of which Ridley-Thomas was executive director in the 1980s, set the tone early on. Just weeks after the indictment and suspension, the civil rights group held a screening of “Selma,” followed by a panel discussion about the disenfranchisement of Black voters in the 10th District.

“If you don’t like that you don’t have a voice now, if you don’t like that they are trying to sequester and trying to omit, and trying to oppress and trying to keep our voices down by getting our elected leader out of the way, then you need to say something!” Pastor William D. Smart Jr. told those who came to watch.

California

Column: A fight for Ridley-Thomas is a fight for voting rights? Call it the MLK strategy

Without a voting member on the L.A. City Council, residents in the 10th District are voiceless in local government. Some insist it’s voter suppression.

(Video) If You See a Coin In Your Car Door Handle, Run And Call the Police!

There also have been protests, including one outside L.A. City Hall that was attended by civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr. contemporary the Rev. James Lawson Jr. And earlier this year, activist and academic Cornel West made a point of stumping for his longtime friend during a trip to Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, Wesson has upped the ante by quickly firing two of Ridley-Thomas’ longtime aides, including his former chief of staff who had been serving as the district’s first nonvoting caretaker, and bringing in his own people.

“Everyone has the greatest respect for both of these two men,” Fields told me. “And so the city kind of doing what it has done has caused one to be pitted against the other in people’s minds, and that breaks our community apart. If we’re all tugging in different directions, we’re not going to get anywhere.”

At this point, many just want someone who can vote on the City Council. Fields said she would prefer Ridley-Thomas or Wesson, but “we need qualified, talented, knowledgeable representation, and that’s what we’re demanding.”

And quickly.

At the Chesapeake Apartments, Delgado has watched as tenants have gotten sicker with each passing week. Breathing problems and horrible skin rashes from what they suspect is black mold but haven’t been able to get tested. Reports of vermin and even raw sewage.

With Wesson sidelined and, even before that, too often unengaged, he urged Martinez to step up.

“Now that he can no longer do it or his staff can’t do it, she needs to define what the city is going to do in lieu of that,” Delgado said. “Hold a conversation with the constituents so that they’re in the know, you know? They have to be.”

As a community advocate, Joe Delgado has learned to expect dysfunction from the city of Los Angeles.. Ultimately, though, it’s City Council President Nury Martinez who decided to make a bad situation worse in the 10th District, leading to infighting in the Black community, in particular.. She was the one who opened the door to Tuesday’s ruling by appointing Wesson to represent the district in the first place.. Therefore, Martinez bears most of the responsibility for what has gone wrong since then and also has a responsibility to help make it right.. Martinez could’ve appointed someone from his staff, making it easier to continue constituent services, such as with tenants of the Chesapeake Apartments.. It just can’t be Wesson.. It’s that they’ve been put in this position where they have to do this.”. At this point, many just want someone who can vote on the City Council.

People stand in line to receive the monkeypox vaccine at San Francisco General Hospital on July 12.. State Sen. Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco, was at a birthday gathering of mostly gay men recently when the conversation turned to monkeypox.. Sadly, such feelings of isolation and frustration are being borne out by a so-far sluggish and botched response to monkeypox, mostly at the federal level, as the disease spreads among bisexual, transgender and communities of men who have sex with men.. But in the midst of a pandemic during which we supposedly learned the value of quick action to educate and vaccinate, the response to monkeypox is appalling and suggests a collective indifference that stems from the disease largely hitting LGBTQ communities.. Although monkeypox isn't fatal, usually clearing up without serious side effects in a few weeks, Wiener says he sees similarities between that era and now.. At a press conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Anthony Rendon, the leader of the state Assembly, called on U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to declare a public emergency to mobilize resources, and others called for sufficient supplies of vaccines to cover healthcare workers and everyone in affected communities.. Some places don't have enough of the vaccine to even count as a public health response.. Fresno announced its first confirmed case this week, and a spokesman for its health department told me the county has 20 doses of the vaccine, and 20 more on order.. Rendon pointed out that monkeypox testing isn't covered by Medi-Cal, the state insurance plan for low-income people — creating a huge barrier for the most vulnerable.. That could have the effect of dissuading some from seeking care if they do contract monkeypox, and give the general public the false sense that this virus isn't a problem for us all.. On June 17, Ford, who had not thought much about monkeypox until then, received a call from a friend whom he'd spent time with the week before — and who now had monkeypox.. Ford had the good sense to isolate himself as soon as he saw the spots, but after the confirmed diagnosis, he received a health order requiring him to stay in his home — which he did for three weeks and three days, until cleared by a medical visit.. It's an alarming time, he said of all that far-right furor, and he hopes "people show up for us in this moment," for the health of a vulnerable community and the health of a democracy that is being purposefully divided by hate.

If you are a neighborhood council member, your freedom of speech is at risk, but this time it's from the City of Los Angeles through its neighborhood council agencies and its commission.. We've been getting warnings for a couple of months that the city might try to create something called a Digital Communications policy for neighborhood councils.. That means, if I read the draft correctly, that the city is trying to control not only how your neighborhood council does its own website, but even what you as a board member can do on your private Facebook page or your private website.. This is the state law that says that a legislative body such as the City Council or your neighborhood council cannot meet in secret to decide in advance how it is going to vote in public.. It isn't the technology that is important, but the fact that you would be communicating about something that will be coming before your neighborhood council board.". "Because many neighborhood council board members use social media and have created websites or newsletters in their personal lives and individual capacities, this policy (at Section 8) also provides basic guidelines for neighborhood council board members who utilize websites, social media, newsletters, and the like as private individuals and in their individual capacities.". Another line from the draft: "No neighborhood council board or committee member is authorized to establish or administer a personal website, Social Media, or newsletter utilizing their title or position on a neighborhood council to publish information concerning the neighborhood council's meetings, events, and activities.". My response: You mean if I, Robert Gelfand, an elected board member of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council, mention that the board wrote and passed a motion opposing the Draft Digital Policy just a few nights ago, and that I not only support it, I helped write part of it, why then the city will claim the authority to punish me as a board member?. By the way, this section gets even sillier: "If individual board members wish to encourage civic engagement through the neighborhood council, they may post a link to the Neighborhood Council Website, and shall, to the greatest extent that a given platform allows, block the ability of any posts and/or comments to avoid any discussion regarding neighborhood council matters.". You see, even with all the bad prose and ambiguous wording, it is clear that the policy document seeks to control the way we neighborhood council board members use our own personal websites and Facebook pages and the comments we put up on Twitter.. Due to the risks that a neighborhood council board member or committee member's use of a private, non-neighborhood Council Website, Social Media, or Newsletter may appear to reflect on a position or policy on behalf of a neighborhood council or the City, interfere with the public's rights under the Brown Act, convert a platform into a limited public forum protected by the First Amendment, or create an appearance of a conflict of interest or bias, violations may result in disqualification of an individual or neighborhood council from participating in a manner pending or that may come before the board, or actions by City under section 22.818(e) of the Los Angeles Administrative Code or remedies such as those listed at Section 22.818(e) of the Los Angeles Administrative Code.". That's because this code section changed a long-standing function of DONE into that of judge, jury, and executioner through the use of something called "exhaustive efforts," a misnomer if there ever was one, and gives the city the authority to kick people off of neighborhood council boards.

The dynamics of this dispute may have changed on February 27, when LAPD was asked to investigate a threat of violence arising from when developer Dr. David Lee said he would use his AR-15 assault weapon to keep the community away from his development project.. She relayed that Dr. Lee said that “if we don't let him build, he will put up a wall, pave over, and cut the trees down, he will use his AR-15 rifle and shoot people who step on his land.. Now LAPD Detective Ron Kim is investigating this case.. The Council President is committed to fostering a community atmosphere free from intimidation.” While Detective Kim may or may not wind up seeing what Dr. Lee said as being a “threat” or “intimidation,” the City Council President apparently saw it that way, which could be why he spoke out so forcefully in his public statement, and why he alerted the City Council’s LAPD Liaison to inform the police of the incident in the first place so it could be properly investigated.. It’s almost incredible that such a threat would be made in a meeting at the Council President's district office to a room full of politicos and community stakeholders.. DEEGAN ON LA-It got ugly at a meeting hosted by City Council President Herb Wesson (CD 10) a few days ago, where he was attempting to bring both sides of a development dispute together -- community stakeholders and the developer -- in an attempt to reach consensus.

Bosetti and Jones will likely run on their records as fiscal conservatives and defend their hard line against the city's employee unions on rolling back retiree benefits.. Bosetti and Jones won the early endorsement from Redding's largest business organization because both incumbents have done what they said they were going to do when they campaigned for council in 2006, said Frank Strazzarino, chamber president and CEO.. The business group will interview each of the eight challengers and consider endorsing one of them, Strazzarino said.. The Redding Peace Officers Association, which represents rank and file police officers, has endorsed Murray, Sullivan and Speer.. In fact, Jones endorsed Cadd when he ran for council in 2008.. Two other challengers besides Hunt have withdrawn from the race.

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