With two members refusing to resign over their involvement in leaked racist recordings, the Los Angeles City Council found itself in limbo on Thursday, unable to convene enough members for a meeting on Friday, and with little clarity on what would happen next.
Acting City Council President Mitch O’Farrell canceled a meeting scheduled for Friday as it became clear that neither Councillors Jill Zedillo nor Kevin De Leon would immediately follow former City Council President Nuri Martin Ness’ leadership.
She resigned from office on Wednesday after backlash over racist and derogatory remarks she made during recorded conversations.
Two other members — Mike Bonin and Marquese Harris-Dawson — said they saw no point in holding a meeting if Zedillo and De Leon refused to step down. Meanwhile, protesters were angry that Zedillo and De Leon were still in office and threatened to meet again next week if the two did not step down.
“Our elected officials need to put more pressure on these two men to resign,” said Jason Reedy, an organizer of the People’s City Council, which has brought protesters to City Hall twice in the past week. . “We haven’t seen them outside their houses. We haven’t seen them on these streets.”
The cancellation reflects the chaotic state of the council, as the remaining members face a double challenge: they must save the soul of a city suffering so much, while also somehow keeping the city government’s secular machinery running.
The council usually meets on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. In addition to sweeping policy decisions, the legislature is responsible for a range of day-to-day responsibilities that help keep cities running, such as approving contracts, weighing real estate projects and resolving lawsuits against the city.
And because City Hall is also a public forum where Los Angeles residents have voiced their anger and pain in loud and disruptive ways, the city’s legislature is deadlocked.
But it’s unclear how — or if — if De Leon and Zedillo don’t offer to resign, they’ll do it next week.
If Zedillo and De Leon don’t resign, Reedy said, he and other protesters will return to the chamber on Tuesday to do what they did earlier this week: “Close the meeting.”
Councilman Curren Price criticized O’Farrell’s decision to cancel Friday’s meeting.
“While the councillor respects the views of the acting council president, he does not believe the city should be held hostage by two council members who cannot see the light. Likewise, we have a duty to look after the affairs of the people,” Price spokeswoman Angelie Na Valencia-Dumalot said.
Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. President Stuart Waldman also criticized the decision to cancel, saying council members “need to pull together” and “work for the city’s business.” Waldman, who lives in Martinez, said he wants the council to meet so that a special election can be scheduled to replace her.
The San Fernando Valley district of Martinez is currently represented by a non-voting caretaker.
“We’re going to be disenfranchised until a special election is called,” said Waldman, who lives in Van Nuys. “It just prolongs that time.”
O’Farrell spokesman Dan Halden said late Thursday that his boss intends to hold a scheduled council meeting on Tuesday.
“He also wants Congressmen De Leon and Zedillo to do the right thing for Los Angeles and resign early,” Halden said.
Both Bohning and Harris-Dawson declined to say whether they would attend Tuesday’s meeting if their colleagues had not resigned.
“hope [O’Farrell] Know what we don’t know,” Harris-Dawson said of the possible resignation.
Bonin has been at the center of the maelstrom as Martinez made racist remarks on the tape, mocking his young son, while the other participants laughed and occasionally echoed.
“I pray to God that it won’t even be a problem by then, they’ve all resigned and done what Los Angeles needs,” Bonin said when asked if he would attend Tuesday’s meeting.
Bonin, who attended Wednesday’s council meeting on Zoom after testing positive for COVID-19, said he’s “still trying to figure things out this week. So it’s hard for me to get myself into next week.”
In October 2021, secretly recorded conversations between Martinez, De Leon, Zedillo, and a top labor leader (all Latino) targeted a coalition of rainbow groups against blacks, Jews, Armenians racist, derogatory or rude remarks made by people, indigenous people and homosexuals.
Ron Herrera, who was heard on the recording, also resigned as president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor on Monday. President Biden, California senators and virtually the entire local political establishment have called for Zedillo and De Leon to resign.
Postponing the meeting indefinitely could create legal and procedural hurdles for the rest of the council if they choose to stay put.
But the council still needs a quorum of 10 members to meet, an issue that prevented Wednesday’s council meeting from moving forward.
“City charters don’t really address this impasse,” said Rafael Sonnenson, a local governance expert at the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles.
Protests, anger and tears roiled Tuesday’s council meeting – the first since the leaks became public. Demonstrators overwhelmed O’Farrell’s attempt to convene Wednesday’s meeting for the order in about an hour. The meeting eventually adjourned after Harris-Dawson left the room, causing the council to lose a quorum.
Harris-Dawson’s spokeswoman Rhonda Mitchell said Wednesday afternoon: “He left the room because he felt the chair of the council was out of control, and that’s why he went upstairs.”
Halden also said O’Farrell plans to vote on a new council chair at Tuesday’s meeting. In recent days there has been intense political activity at City Hall over the next council president – O’Farrell, who stepped in as interim president this week on an acting basis.
“I certainly don’t think we can accomplish anything until they leave,” Bonin said Thursday of Zedillo and De Leon. “And I certainly don’t think we can seriously consider electing a new president until they leave.”
Council members Price and Paul Krekorian have both expressed interest in becoming president, a move that requires the support of eight of the council’s 14 members. But whoever wins the position may not hold it for long; at least four new council members will take office by the end of the year, and there may be very different ideas about who should serve as council leadership.
Times staff writers Ben Oreskes and Dakota Smith also contributed to this report.