LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles City Council elected Paul Krekorian as its new council president Tuesday following a four-hour meeting that was held virtually due to COVID-19 exposure after last week's meetings were disrupted by protesters amid the City Hall racism scandal.
Krekorian will be immediately tasked with leading the council through a turbulent stretch, with Councilmen Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo facing fierce calls to resign for their roles in a recorded conversation that included racist comments and discussions over favorable redistricting that led to former Council President Nury Martinez resigning her council seat last week.
Krekorian -- elected on a 10-0 vote, with de León, Cedillo, Curren Price and Monica Rodriguez absent -- stressed collaboration in his first remarks as council president, in a likely attempt to contrast with Martinez's efforts on the leaked tape to work behind the scenes to consolidate power during redistricting, as well as comments she made insulting her colleagues.
"The presidency will be a collective enterprise," Krekorian said. "It is critically important to me that our leadership includes disagreement. Because that's how we move forward as a community. By listening to each other and working together."
Krekorian, speaking in front of a virtual background of the council chamber, said he will make efforts to reduce the power of the council president.
"The era of unilateral decision-making on this council ... that ends today," Krekorian said. "Through this work, we make clear that no one in this city ever again feels excluded or belittled, demeaned or disrespected, or left behind by the people that they elected to represent them."
Krekorian, 62, has served on the council since 2010 and is in his third term representing the 2nd District, which covers a wide swath of the central San Fernando Valley. He chairs the Budget and Finance Committee. Krekorian previously served in the state Assembly, winning election in 2006 after a 20-year career as an attorney in the private sector.
The council operated through most of the meeting with 10 members present, the minimum to establish a quorum. Rodriguez left partially through the meeting due to a family emergency. Price, who was also a contender for the council presidency, did not attend, saying he was protesting the decision to hold the meeting virtually. With de León and Cedillo absent, the meeting would have ended had any remaining member chosen to leave.
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The council has also voted to begin the process of placing a measure on the 2024 ballot or sooner that would create an independent redistricting commission for both the city and the Los Angeles Unified School District, and to explore a ballot measure that would increase the number of council districts in Los Angeles.
Tuesday's meeting came one day after O'Farrell said he would remove de León and Cedillo from their committee assignments.
Over the weekend, hundreds of members of local indigenous communities marched in downtown Los Angeles, demanding the resignation of de León and Cedillo. Some of the demonstrators wore traditional Oaxacan outfits.
Martinez can be heard on the leaked recording calling Oaxacans "little short dark people."
"I don't know what village they came [from], how they got here, but boy they're ugly," the former council president says at one point.
De León, 55, has been on the council since 2020 and made an unsuccessful run for mayor this year. He previously served in the state Senate and Assembly. Cedillo, 68, has been in office since 2013 but was defeated by Hernandez in the June primary.
Harris-Dawson sought a bit of empathy for the pair, noting the intense media focus on the scandal and the potential that they might feel like they've been misunderstood.
"They all, particularly Gil Cedllo, they have a body of work that sort of gets overlooked in the heat of this particular moment," Harris-Dawson said. "So, I just think it takes a moment emotionally and logistically to get to the place where you can step up and do the right thing."
Harris-Dawson, who is Black, was mentioned in the leaked recording. He said he hasn't spoken to either councilman.
"You always know that there's anti-Black racism all around you," Harris-Dawson said. "You don't realize that there's anti-Black sentiment sitting right next to you. So I think it's going to be a while before we get to the stage where there can be regular interaction."