After three weeks off for winter recess, the Los Angeles City Council will be back in session Tuesday, with fallout from the racism scandal roiling City Hall expected to continue impacting the meetings.
Councilman Kevin de Leon has responded to widespread calls to resign over his participation in a racist conversation with two of his colleagues and a top county labor official — in which they sought to manipulate the city’s redistricting process — by refusing to step down and attempting to return to the chamber for meetings.
De Leon’s attendance at the last two meetings before the recess led to raucous objections among protesters who have shown up regularly at council meetings since the scandal broke in October to demand that de Leon resign before the council resumes city business. The other officials who took part in the conversation have either resigned or left office.
De Leon intends to continue attending meetings, a spokesperson told City News Service before the recess. It is unclear how Council President Paul Krekorian and the rest of de Leon’s colleagues will handle de Leon’s expected appearances. Several council members have walked out of meetings as soon as de LeÃ³n has entered the chamber.
If de Leon attends Tuesday’s meeting, it will likely lead to some members making a difficult decision between walking out of the meeting in protest or staying to vote on several pivotal items. The council needs 10 members present to maintain a quorum.
Tuesday’s agenda includes a vote on continuing the city’s state of emergency over homelessness, and what could be a controversial vote on ending the state of emergency due to COVID-19 at the end of the month.
A motion to scrap the end date and continue the emergency indefinitely — which would also keep temporary renter protections put in place at the start of the pandemic — failed during the Dec. 13 meeting but received six votes, two short of passing. De Leon, Krekorian and Monica Rodriguez did not vote on the item. Council members in support of keeping the state of emergency until the council implements permanent protections are expected to bring another motion to the floor amending the resolution.
On Wednesday, the council is set to request a report on a list of potential consequences for censured council members (de Leon was censured in October) and seek a draft ordinance updating the city’s campaign finance policy.
De Leon has attempted to slip quietly into his seat in the middle of meetings, but protesters have forced the council into an extended recess on both occasions. During the Dec. 13 meeting, de Leon was allowed to remain in a back room while still casting votes. That was after an hour-long recess in which de Leo³n made a show of sitting by himself in the horseshoe, conferring with staff and mulling his options while protesters jeered him from the other side of the barrier.
Krekorian, who has pledged to keep meetings going, said to reporters after the meeting that the council “can either choose to make a statement or we can choose to make a difference, and I think the members want to make a difference.”
Krekorian later said in an interview with NBC4 that he may consider taking more “forceful steps to ensure the City Council is not disrupted.”
Hugh Esten, a representative for Krekorian, told City News Service over the recess that the council will be “scrutinizing its existing rules and the standing precedents, along with best practices from other jurisdictions” in addressing protests.
Esten said both the First Amendment and Brown Act limit restrictions on public comment, “which means the existing limitations are quite lenient.”
Only one council committee is scheduled to meet this week, with the Public Safety Committee holding a special meeting on Wednesday. The rest of the committees, whose members were shuffled by Krekorian with new council members joining, had their meetings canceled.