Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson was easily reelected president of the city's lawmaking body for two more years, cementing his status as one of the region's most powerful elected officials.
Wesson, who has been council president for the last 18 months, won on a 13-0 vote. Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who tangled with Wesson during last year's redistricting process, was not in the room. But Wesson's other colleagues heaped praise on the former speaker of the state Assembly.
Newly installed Councilman Mike Bonin thanked Wesson for providing support after his predecessor, Councilman Bill Rosendahl, was diagnosed with cancer. Councilman Joe Buscaino said Wesson treated him “like family” after he joined the council last year. And Councilman Gil Cedillo, attending his first council meeting, called Wesson "a member’s member."
“He pays attention to all the details and to all those things big and small that are important to the members of this body,” said Cedillo, also a former state lawmaker.
Appearing for the vote, Mayor Eric Garcetti promised to work with Wesson and the council to help the city recover from its five-year financial crisis. "Let us take this next session of these next two years to put L.A. back on track," Garcetti said, "to put the recession in the rear view mirror, to do the right things for business, to reach out our hand to our constituents."
Wesson thanked his colleagues for their support, promising them he would put them in a position to help them deliver on their campaign promises. "I give you my word that I will not let you down. I will not embarrass you," he added.
Since he took the council's top leadership post in January 2012, Wesson has been successful in muscling through a number of initiatives. He secured unanimous approval of a plan for luring an NFL stadium to downtown Los Angeles. And he won passage of a measure that rolls back retirement benefits for future civilian city employees, despite fierce opposition from major labor leaders.
Other efforts have been less successful. Wesson succeeded in putting a proposed $215 million sales tax hike on the March ballot, only to see voters reject it. And the redistricting measure, which redrew boundaries for 15 council districts, has proved to be especially divisive, sparking a pair of lawsuits.
During his address, Wesson also laid down some rules for the lawmaking body, sternly reminding members they have a responsibility to show up at the council’s 10 a.m. meeting on time and that they don’t all need to speak on an issue. “Don’t play to Channel 35,” said Wesson, referring to the city-owned television channel. “We are not actors. We are public servants."
Wesson also told his colleagues that he had been wrongly portrayed by critics as a dictator. “I’m not that guy. But I do want to be efficient. I don‘t tell you how to vote. We build coalitions here,” he said.
After Wesson was selected, the council voted to name Councilman Mitchell Englander as president pro tempore.
[For the Record, 12:10 p.m. PDT July 2: A previous version of this post said Wesson was reelected on a 14-0 vote. The actual vote was 13-0.]