LOS ANGELES (KABC) — The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday elected Councilman Paul Krekorian as its new leader to replace a president who was forced to resign amid a burgeoning scandal over racist remarks.
Krekorian replaces former Council Speaker Nury Martinez, who resigned her leadership post and her council seat after she was caught on a leaked recording making racist comments and discussing manipulation of the city redistricting process.
Krekorian is now tasked with leading the council in a series of policy reforms while dealing with increasingly vocal calls for the two other members embroiled in the dispute, Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, to also step down.
Legally, the council cannot force members from office without serious criminal charges, but most other members of the council have said the resignation of the two is the only way for the city to heal and move forward.
Krekorian said he will aim to reduce the position’s power.
“The council presidency is a position of collaboration, not command,” Krekorian said in a statement. “I want to see the power of the Council Presidency reduced, not expanded. The era of unilateral decision-making and consolidation of power ends today.”
And he repeated calls for Cedillo and de Leon to follow Martinez and step down from office.
“Three elected members of this council have lost the public trust. One has already resigned, the greatest service to the city that the others can now provide is to resign their offices so we can begin the process of healing.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti praised the selection of Krekorian.
“Paul is a committed and conscientious leader who can bring a smart, collaborative and effective approach to a painful moment when Angelenos deserve firm leadership on the City Council,” Garcetti said. “I am confident that he will assemble a leadership team of bridge builders and I will work closely with the Council to help heal the wounds caused by the hateful words of a few.”
Protesters gathered outside City Hall on Tuesday — although the council itself met online — to call on Cedillo and de León to resign.
At one point, protesters tried to force their way into the building, which was closed to the public.
Police officers wearing riot helmets pushed them back.
It was not immediately clear why the protesters wanted to enter the building as the meeting took place online. Only councilor Mitch O’Farrell, who served as acting president at the start of the meeting, was inside the council chambers, while nine other members met online.
They may have hoped to close the meeting until Cedillo and de León resign. Some protesters were heard chanting “No resignations, no meeting.”
Some protesters opposed the election of Krekorian.
“It’s a slap in the face, given what just happened with the previous City Council leadership, that they put someone in place who is actually worse than Nury Martinez,” said Black Lives Matter leader Melina Abdullah.
Some Black Lives Matter protesters remain camped out in de León’s neighborhood and say they will stay there until he steps down. De León has been publicly silent since the scandal broke, and there was no sign of him at home.
“Our prayer today is simply that these elected officials would do what is best for the city,” said the Reverend James Thomas of the San Fernando Valley NAACP. “This issue has tried to tear this city apart. But thank God for Black Lives Matter and those who organize for justice, who have been committed to ensuring that all the solidarity built, all the unity built over the last few years, will not be destroyed as a result of elected officials.”
Tuesday’s meeting was expected to be a starting point for a series of reforms and a change of power. Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who temporarily served as acting president when Martinez resigned, earlier this week stripped de León and Cedillo of most of their committee assignments and leadership positions.
Other reforms on the table include changing the redistricting process and expanding the size of the council to increase representation.
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