By ERIC HE
LOS ANGELES – With five new members set to take part in their first Los Angeles City Council meeting Tuesday, uncertainty lingers over another member whose attendance could again lead to chaos in the chamber in the final meeting before the council’s winter recess.
Embattled Councilman Kevin de León — who has defied widespread calls to resign for his role in the City Hall racism scandal — made an unexpected appearance at Friday’s meeting, his first time showing up in the chamber since Oct. 11. But protesters were quick to shout for de León to leave, and de León was no longer present after a conversation with Council President Paul Krekorian and a 45-minute recess.
Hours later, de León fought with community activist Jason Reedy at a holiday event in Lincoln Heights. Reedy and other protesters have regularly shown up at City Council meetings the last two months to demand that de León resign before the council conducts its business.
Pete Brown, de León’s spokesman, said over the weekend that de León “absolutely” intends to be at Tuesday’s council meeting despite the likelihood that it would create disruption. Brown said that it would be “up to the leadership on the council to control the activities in council,” which was “outside of Mr. de León’s control.”
On Friday, de León slipped quietly into the chamber and into his seat during the meeting while his supporters — who filled several rows in the chamber — were giving public testimony defending his persistence to stay on the council. A staffer went over to talk to him, and several moments went by before the audience realized de León was in attendance.
While de León has been formally censured by the council, the decision is largely symbolic and currently bears no penalties under the City Charter. The council cannot remove a member. There is a recall effort against de León that is in the process of collecting signatures.
Three members indicated on Monday at a briefing that they would stay even if de León tries to attend the meeting.
“We have a tremendous amount of work to do to move our communities and our city forward,” said Councilwoman Traci Park, who replaced Bonin as the 11th District’s representative. “I think the position’s been made perfectly clear by all of us about how we feel with respect to Council member de León and his role on the council. But we’ve got to move the work forward.”
Councilwoman Katy Young Yaroslavsky, newly elected to represent the 5th District, said she would stay “because this is my first City Council meeting.”
“There’s a lot of city business to do, and we can’t keep putting it off forever,” Yaroslavsky said.
Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez agreed, adding that she planned to “continue to do the work for the people that elected me, and for the oath that I took.”
In response to de León’s fight with Reedy, Councilman Hugo Soto- Martinez said on Twitter that the video showed that de León “chose to be defiant, just as he’s done multiple times in council chambers.”
“This is yet another example of what disqualifies him to lead,” Soto- Martinez said. “For our city to heal, he must do the right thing and resign.”
Raman, in a statement on Monday, said that de León’s “continued presence on the City Council is causing severe and ongoing harm, and his apparent lack of concern for this fact is further evidence that he is unqualified to lead.”
The council requires 10 members for a quorum — which means it can afford to lose four members to still hold a meeting, with the Sixth District seat vacant after Nury Martinez’s resignation.
Hernandez, whose first meeting will be Tuesday, told the Los Angeles Times that she plans to walk out if de León enters the room. But she said that those planning to leave are trying to make sure the meeting can continue without them, according to The Times.
Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled to include an election for City Council president and ratification of a state of emergency on homelessness. Mayor Karen Bass declared the emergency as her first official act on Monday.
Keep LA Housed, a group of tenants, organizers and advocates, will also hold a rally and news conference outside City Hall calling for permanent tenant protections with the expiration of the COVID-19 eviction moratorium in February. The council is expected to adopt a resolution to end the city’s state of emergency due to COVID-19 at the end of January.
No council member has publicly voiced interest in challenging Krekorian for the council presidency. The council will also hold an election for president pro tempore, the council’s second-in-command. That post is currently held by Councilman Curren Price.
After Tuesday, the council is off until mid-January.
You can watch the city council meeting live at 10 am here.