L.A. City Council. Photo courtesy of LACity.org livestream

After a week of virtual meetings due to COVID-19 exposure, the Los Angeles City Council is set to return to the chamber Tuesday for the first time in more than a week as it continues to address the fallout from the City Hall racism scandal.

Two weeks after the release of the leaked recording from the October 2021 conversation that included racist comments and redistricting maneuvers, Councilmen Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo have defied widespread calls for resignation that range from President Joe Biden to nearly all of their council colleagues.

On Oct. 12, the last time the council had a meeting at City Hall, protesters chanting “No resignations, no meeting” effectively forced the council to adjourn without starting the meeting. The following meeting on Oct. 14 was canceled, and then the council met virtually last week after two of its members tested positive for COVID-19.

Newly installed Council President Paul Krekorian has instituted a hybrid setup for public comment this week, allowing people to call in to give testimony in addition to in-person. The pandemic-era remote option for public comment was taken away when the meetings reopened to the public in the chamber in May.

During last week’s meetings, several callers asked for a hybrid option for public comment, pointing out that many people who would like to address the council had to be at work or otherwise could not make a midmorning trip to City Hall. These could include older adults and people experiencing homelessness.

On Monday, Krekorian wrote a letter to de León denying his request to be excused from attending meetings, returning a letter that de León sent last week in which he asked for time to focus on the healing process and take professional sensitivity training. De León has conducted numerous television interviews over the last few days stating that he will not resign.

“There is no path forward that includes your continued participation in this council,” Krekorian said.

Tuesday’s agenda includes consideration of holding a special election to fill the former seat of Nury Martinez, the third council member who took part in the conversation. Martinez resigned a few days after the recording was leaked.

The election would take place on April 4, 2023 at the earliest, with a runoff — if necessary — taking place on June 27. The council is set to discuss calling a special election at Tuesday’s meeting and allocating $7.65 million for the two elections.

In the recording, the council members openly discussed appointing Heather Hutt as a fill-in council member for the 10th District for suspended Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who is facing federal corruption charges, because they believed Hutt would support them. Hutt was appointed to the seat in September.

“The way they talked about the appointment process has sullied the appointment process, so if there’s any way to prevent us from having to go through that again, I think we do that,” Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said to City News Service after Martinez resigned. “The best way is to go directly to the voters.”

The council is also set to consider holding an election for president pro tempore. Krekorian and Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, the current president pro tempore, introduced a motion last week nominating Councilman Curren Price for the position.

Price was interested in seeking the council presidency, but the council voted 10-0 for Krekorian earlier this week.

“Whether any of us sit in this chair or around the horseshoe, we are all public servants,” O’Farrell said while chairing Friday’s virtual council meeting from the chamber. “Both Paul and Curren are dedicated and very capable leaders. Since Paul was the council’s unanimous choice for president, I feel it’s important that Curren have the opportunity to serve as pro tem. He’ll do a terrific job.”

O’Farrell has served as president pro tempore since fall 2021.

Price, in a statement to CNS, said he was deeply humbled by the nomination.

“Coalition building is the hallmark of my leadership style,” Price said. “As a Black council member representing a majority Latino district, I have been embraced by a diverse cross section of constituents.”

“Over the years, this City Council has come together as one body with one goal: to lift people up and leave no one behind and we will continue to do so because it is simply the right thing to do. In the name of justice, equity and inclusion.”

The 71-year-old Price has been on the council since 2013 and is in his third term representing the 9th District. He chairs the Economic Development and Jobs Committee.

A spokesman for Cedillo has repeatedly said that the councilman is “at a place of reflection,” though Cedillo only has a few weeks left on the council after he lost his re-election bid. A spokesman for Krekorian did not immediately respond Monday when asked if Krekorian has excused Cedillo from attending meetings.

Prior to last week’s virtual meetings, several protesters who attended the meetings the week Oct. 11 vowed to return to the chamber and continue trying to disrupt meetings until de León and Cedillo resign.

During the first virtual meeting last week, a couple dozen protesters gathered outside City Hall, trying to enter the locked building. The protesters were confronted by police in riot gear, and a video posted by Spectrum News on Twitter showed one officer grabbing a protester on the back of the neck to keep him out of the building as another protester was trying to push him into City Hall.

On Monday, the activist group People’s City Council wrote on Twitter in response to the possibility of the council trying to stop them from disrupting meetings: “Not going to happen.”

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