City Council President Herb Wesson formally proposed Wednesday that ex-Councilman Greig Smith temporarily fill the District 12 seat being vacated by Mitchell Englander, who was given a warm sendoff by his colleagues during his last official meeting.
Smith represented the San Fernando Valley district from 2003 to 2011, and Wesson announced weeks ago his intention to appoint Smith to fill the seat.
Wesson introduced a motion proposing the appointment Wednesday during at the council’s last meeting before a long holiday break, so Smith’s appointment will not be voted on until the council reconvenes in January. Englander announced in October that he would be stepping down at the end of the year to take a job with the Oak View Group, a global sports and entertainment advisory, development and investment company.
Englander served as Smith’s chief of staff, and officially gave his support to his old boss during a farewell speech as Smith sat in the front row. Smith has pledged not to run in any special election, so he will only fill the seat until voters choose a replacement.
“He has been my mentor, not just as a city council member and as his chief of staff, but as a role model, as a father, as a husband, as a leader in the community, as an individual with integrity,” Englander said of Smith. “The fact that he’s agreed to step up again — the fact that his wife let him — I hope that you will all vote for him in January.”
Smith’s appointment must be approved by a majority vote of the council because he would be granted a seat as a voting member of the body until the position is filled through a special election in June. A runoff, if necessary, would be held in August. The winner will fill the remainder of Englander’s term, which ends Dec. 13, 2020.
In recent years, the common practice when a City Council seat has become vacant is for the council president to appoint a “caretaker” for the district — essentially a non-voting member who oversees the day-to-day operations of the district until the seat is filled through an election.
When Felipe Fuentes announced in September 2016 that he was stepping down, Wesson appointed himself as caretaker of the district until the seat was filled about 10 months later by Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, who was elected May 2017 and officially took the seat that July.
When he announced his intention to seek Smith’s appointment, Wesson said each district is not a “cookie cutter” situation, and he was considering the option due to Smith being available to fill the role, being highly respected by the current members of the council and pledging not to run in the special election.
Smith is currently the president of his own consulting firm.
Before Wednesday’s council meeting ended, each council member gave Englander kind and supportive words, with many noting that while Englander is the only Republican on the body, it has not prevented him from having a collaborative relationship with his more liberal colleagues.
“There are things that we do that are challenging for Mitch because of philosophical differences, but whenever he needed to lead, whenever he needed to he set an example for this council as a perfect example of an individual that put party, politics aside and just flat-out could do his job,” Wesson said. “I will personally miss him, not only because he is a friend, but because he is somebody that I counted on and would count on a regular basis and somebody that has never refused a request that I’ve made because he put the people of this great city first.”
Englander ran for a seat on the county Board of Supervisors in 2016 but failed to make the runoff in a crowded field, with Kathryn Barger ultimately winning the seat.
A reserve officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, Englander has chaired the council’s Public Safety Committee, which oversees issues regarding the police and fire departments. Englander often spoke about how gun violence has impacted him personally, as his uncle was shot and killed by gang members in 1994 during a robbery, a crime that he said drove him into public service.
Englander was also known for a style that was often more aggressive and combative than his colleagues. He was often quicker to kick out a disruptive member of the audience than others and more likely to publicly berate a city official from a department he felt was deficient in its duties.
During his farewell address, Englander was surrounded by his staff, most of whom were wearing at least one piece of yellow clothing, including a few in bright yellow suits. It was an inside joke, as Englander had banned staff from wearing yellow in the office, or from even using yellow pencils.
Englander explained that his aversion to yellow stemmed from an incident in childhood, when his father — shortly before leaving the family — put two bicycles on layaway for him and his brother, but he never paid them off.
“Mine was yellow. You don’t get a little boy in the valley back then a yellow bike that you don’t even pay for,” Englander said. “And I think the day after I got it, it was stolen while I was riding it — that’s another story. There’s the color yellow. So I want to thank my staff for reaching deep for the heart strings, because they all know the story.”
Over the last year, Englander has pushed for rules restricting what potentially dangerous items can be brought to public protests, supported a linkage fee on developers for affordable housing, called for a faster timeframe on street and sidewalk repairs before the 2028 Olympics and supported changes to the much-debated Deferred Retirement Option Plan for police and firefighters. He made some headlines when he proposed that Los Angeles International Airport install marijuana amnesty boxes where passengers could surrender cannabis before departing on flights.
Englander also pushed for tougher laws to crack down on illegal street racing, which has long plagued his district, and also for stricter regulations on the natural gas industry. His district includes the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility, the scene of a massive 2015-2016 methane leak near Porter Ranch that displaced thousands of residents.
Englander thanked his colleagues for their support, despite being the only Republican on the council.
“You’ve also three times, back to back to back, voted unanimously to vote me into one of only two elected leadership positions on this body, as the president pro tem of the city council,” Englander said. “And I think that says it all, not about me, but about you. Not making it about party. Not saying let’s exclude, but let’s include. But you’ve done it across the board, not just in party, but in race, religion, sexual orientation. You’ve been so open to so many, to everyone, not just around this horseshoe but around the city of Los Angeles, which is what has truly been the biggest honor, to work with all of you, and I’m grateful for that.”
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