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What’s next for Curren Price’s constituents? Some fear a lack of representation at City Hall

Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren Price
Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren Price attends a council meeting Tuesday.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, June 15.

For the fourth time in a little over three years, a sitting or former member of the Los Angeles City Council has been indicted on corruption charges.

The Times broke the news Tuesday that Councilmember Curren Price has been charged with five counts of grand theft by embezzlement, three counts of perjury and two counts of conflict of interest, according to a criminal complaint from prosecutors.

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Prosecutors allege that Price voted on development projects that were in his financial interest and that he received tens of thousands of dollars in city-paid medical benefits for his now wife before they were legally married.

“This alleged conduct undermines the integrity of our government and erodes the public’s trust in our elected officials,” Dist. Atty. George Gascón said in a statement.

Price, who has represented the city’s 9th Council District since 2013, said he plans to fight the “unwarranted charges” and stepped down from his position as council president pro tempore and from his committee assignments. His current term ends in 2026. On Wednesday, council President Paul Krekorian filed a motion calling on the City Council to suspend Price.

“The trial on the charges has yet to take place and a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The Council must respect that presumption,” the motion reads. “However, to preserve the public trust, a Councilmember who has been charged with public corruption should not continue to exercise the powers of City office while such charges are pending.”

The charges against Price follow a Times investigation published in April 2019 that raised questions about conflicts of interest in his voting record.

As The Times’ Emily Alpert Reyes reported back then: “Price voted on decisions involving at least 10 companies in the same years they were listed as providing at least $10,000 in income to Del Richardson & Associates,” a consulting firm owned by his wife, Del Richardson. At the time, Price denied having benefited financially from those votes.

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This week’s news marks the latest in a string of corruption indictments and other scandals that have eroded public trust in L.A. city government. If you’re having trouble counting them all, here’s a quick refresher:

  • March 2020: Former City Councilmember Mitch Englander was charged with obstructing a federal investigation into corruption at City Hall, involving a “pay to play” scheme between city officials and real estate developers. Englander was later sentenced to 14 months in prison.
  • June 2020: Then-City Councilmember José Huizar was arrested and charged with racketeering for his involvement in the same scheme. He later pleaded guilty to that and other charges and is currently awaiting sentencing.
  • October 2021: Then-City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas was indicted on federal corruption charges for allegedly taking bribes from a USC dean during his tenure as an L.A. County supervisor in exchange for funneling millions in public funding to the university. Ridley-Thomas was found guilty in March 2023.
  • October 2022: A secretly recorded 2021 conversation among City Council President Nury Martinez, Councilmembers Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo and L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera containing racist remarks and talk about consolidating power in the city became public. In the aftermath, Martinez resigned from office and Herrera stepped down from his post. De León refused calls to resign and later survived an attempted recall.

The Times has a handy guide with more details on those and other recent city scandals.

Price’s possible suspension could take a few days to materialize, but in the meantime, calls for his resignation are mounting.

So what will this mean for Angelenos in Price’s District 9? In recent years, constituents in Huizar’s District 14 and Ridley-Thomas’ District 10 were left in democratic limbo for months when their representatives were suspended.

As my colleagues Dakota Smith and Emily Alpert Reyes noted this week:

“Price’s South L.A. council district includes some of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the city, and the politician has led efforts to boost the earnings or job opportunities of sidewalk vendors, hotel workers, formerly incarcerated people and others.”

Adriana Cabrera, president of the South Alameda Neighborhood Council, acknowledged Price’s support for vendors and other low-wage workers, but is troubled by his record on development in the district.

Cabrera, a 30-year-old South L.A. native, said she’s been politically organizing in her community since she was 13. She told me residents she works with are not surprised by allegations of corruption against Price and other city leaders.

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“Right now, that trust is broken,” she said. “I hope that the City Council takes an opportunity to recognize that.”

Cabrera, who previously ran against Price to represent District 9 in 2017 and 2022, wants him to resign so the city can hold a special election to give South L.A. neighborhoods new leadership. Residents in the majority Latino, working class district have long been excluded from participating in local government, she said. She cited concerns about her community being further marginalized by a lack of elected representation, as seen with other recent council member suspensions.

“We don’t want the same thing to happen to us,” she said. “This is an opportunity for the City Council to actually look at our community and give us an opportunity to really have a voice.”

Cabrera hopes city leaders will focus more on “the struggles that we have when accessing government,” noting that it can be near-impossible for Spanish speakers working multiple jobs to attend city meetings. The ethical issues within City Hall are systemic, she said, and they are fueling “gentrification and the lack of investment in jobs and economic opportunities” for marginalized Angelenos.

“There’s 4 million people in our city,” Cabrera said. “I’m sure we can find someone else who has more ethics and actually values the people they serve.”

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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EDUCATION

If you’re looking for a little pick-me-up after all that gloomy government reporting, these stories of kids fighting for change at their schools might give you a little hope for the future. Here’s a look at some students who got into some “good trouble” this past school year. LAist

The rise of AI has raised many a college professor’s heart rate as some universities move to ban the technology outright. But some California professors are encouraging students to use it — for limited purposes. CalMatters

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that a group of migrants were taken to Los Angeles on a bus Wednesday. Fox 11 has video of the bus arriving at a Chinatown church, reporting that the group of about 30 includes “families from Latin America and Haiti.” FOX 11

In related news, California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta has filed public records requests seeking documents from the state of Florida and Gov. Ron DeSantis related to the two private flights that ferried migrants to Sacramento earlier this month. That’s “part of an ongoing law enforcement investigation into the conditions under which the migrants seeking asylum were brought into California,” Bonta said in a statement. The Sacramento Bee

CRIME, COURTS AND POLICING

Two men, one of them a Marine from Camp Pendleton, have been arrested on suspicion of firebombing a Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa in March 2022. Federal prosecutors said the men donned hoodies, masks and gloves and approached the facility around 1 a.m., ignited a glass bottle filled with gasoline and threw it at the front door. San Diego Union-Tribune

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San Francisco Mayor London Breed is facing off with critics of her controversial policy that allows police officers to arrest drug users and detain them long enough for them to sober up. City Supervisor Dean Preston took issue with the tactic, leading Breed to call him a “white man who’s talking about Black and brown people as if you’re the savior.”
San Francisco Chronicle

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Excited to kick off summer with a beach day (once the sun returns)? Maybe read this first. Heal the Bay’s latest report card shows 23 California beaches got a C or worse for water quality (as in fecal pollution). Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Oakland Athletic’s fans showed up in force to Tuesday’s game for a reverse boycott, demanding that the ball club’s ownership sell the team to avoid a move to Las Vegas. The devout crowd of more than 27,000 wore shirts, waved signs and chanted “Sell the team!” The Oaklandside

L.A. STORIES

Beloved L.A. mountain lion P-22 was in bad shape even before being struck by a driver in December, according to the final necropsy report. Wildlife officials made the decision to euthanize the Griffith Park puma last year after discovering him suffering from kidney disease, arthritis and other chronic conditions, along with a skull fracture from the car collision. Los Angeles Times

An Italian social club founded in 1877 is undergoing a regeneration, as younger and non-Italian members are welcomed into its ranks. Besides the flow of pasta and pizza and bargain booze, the Società Garibaldina di Mutua Beneficenza offers a cross-generational sense of community and “a bit of magic” every day, as one member explained. Los Angeles Times

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AND FINALLY

Today’s California landmark is from G.K. Sharpe of Joshua Tree: Whitewater Preserve in Riverside County.

A view from the Whitewater Preserve, taken in 2023.
(G.K. Sharpe)

G.K. writes:

The Whitewater Preserve is a delightful oasis at the juncture of the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. It is skirted by the Pacific Crest Trail, and is a wonderful vantage point to watch the Whitewater River as it leaps and bounds over rocks on its way to the Salton Sea. As a relative newcomer to desert living (3.5 years) I am amazed by its lush beauty.

What are California’s essential landmarks? Fill out this form to send us your photos of a special spot in California — natural or human-made. Tell us why it’s interesting and what makes it a symbol of life in the Golden State. Please be sure to include only photos taken directly by you. Your submission could be featured in a future edition of the newsletter.

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.

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