A little advice for Imelda Padilla, and the other newbies on the L.A. City Council

Imelda Padilla was installed as a temporary caretaker on July 5.
Imelda Padilla has been serving as a temporary L.A. City Council member until her election results are certified. Nearly half of the council’s members, including Padilla, have been in office less than a year.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
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Good morning, and welcome to L.A. on the Record — our City Hall newsletter. It’s David Zahniser, with Julia Wick and Dakota Smith, guiding you through the events of the past week.

Where did the time go?

The Los Angeles City Council comes back from summer break this week, and will finally have a representative for each of its 15 council districts — thanks to last month’s election of Councilmember Imelda Padilla, who replaced former Councilmember Nury Martinez in the San Fernando Valley.

With the arrival of Padilla, the council now has seven members who have been in office for less than a year. That makes her the latest symbol of the changes that have swept City Hall amid corruption probes, an audio leak scandal and a spate of election contests.

The other fresh faces you already know: Eunisses Hernandez, Heather Hutt, Katy Yaroslavsky, Traci Park, Hugo Soto-Martinez and Tim McOsker. All took office in December except for Hutt, who was appointed last year to replace former Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, following his indictment on federal corruption charges.

With so many newbies, there are opportunities to create major change — but also to screw up royally. So what’s a new arrival to do? We asked a few council members how they would advise Padilla and her slightly more seasoned peers.

Former Councilmember Zev Yaroslavsky, whose daughter-in-law is among the new arrivals, urged the newest members to become masters of the legislative process and experts on the council’s rules. At the same time, he said, it’s important to become a leader, and not just a bureaucrat.

Yaroslavsky advised them to look in the mirror each morning and ask themselves: “What issue am I willing to lose my job for?”


“People will respect an elected official who takes a calculated risk in the interest of the public,” said Yaroslavsky, who served several terms on the county Board of Supervisors and is now director of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Former Councilmember Mike Hernandez, who left office in 2001, said new council members should take time to “understand their power,” by getting a handle on what it takes to muscle a proposal through the bureaucracy.

“I’d tell them to slow down and to learn,” he said. “There’s a learning curve that goes on, not only for the council members, but for their staff.”

Former Councilmember Dennis Zine, who served the west San Fernando Valley from 2001 to 2013, said new council members should understand that their job is seven days a week, not a regular 9-to-5. “Your life becomes the community’s demand,” said the former police officer.

Zine’s advice for Padilla and her peers: Be honest, act with integrity and work with the diverse communities that you represent.

“You are the protector of the community. You’re the ambassador, the liaison. You’re the one who’s like a watchdog,” he said.


Of course, this is not the first time L.A. has had so many new council members legislating at once. In fact, voters have been hitting the reset button at City Hall every 10 to 12 years.

Scandals and resignations have played a role. But so have term limits, and the fact that incumbents don’t wield the same power they once did.

In 2013, the council welcomed seven new members — Gil Cedillo, Bob Blumenfield, Nury Martinez, Felipe Fuentes, Curren Price, Mike Bonin and Mitch O’Farrell. (You could count Councilmember Joe Buscaino, who took office a year earlier in a special election, as the eighth.)

In 2001, the council also brought on seven new members: Ed Reyes, Dennis Zine, Tom LaBonge, Jack Weiss, Jan Perry, Eric Garcetti and Janice Hahn. (Wendy Greuel became the eighth in 2002, winning in another special election.)

Padilla has already served a single meeting as a temporary council member — her election results had not yet been certified — and expects to be sworn in on Tuesday. And she is starting to make some moves. The community organizer, who describes herself as a “practical progressive,” plans to introduce a motion to bring council meetings back to Van Nuys City Hall after a hiatus of several years.

“I have reached out to the council president,” she said Thursday. “ And I’m actually going to follow up with him after this call.”

State of play

— LAPD SEARCH: Police officers searched a home in Eagle Rock as part of their investigation into the origin of the recording that was secretly taped at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor in 2021. Investigators served the warrant at the home of Santos Leon and Karla Vasquez, both of whom were employed by the federation when the recording was made. The recording sparked the resignations of two major political figures last year — Ron Herrera, who led the federation, and Martinez, who had been serving as council president at the time.


— A BIT PLAYER: As of yet, Mayor Karen Bass has had only a minor background role in the effort to resolve Hollywood’s ongoing strikes, with screenwriters and actors staging their first simultaneous walkout since 1960. Bass had a much more significant presence in reaching a deal between L.A. Unified and many of its lower wage workers.

— METRO MOVES: Bass presided over her first meeting of Metro’s 13-member board, spelling out her plans for the massive transit agency during an address at Union Station. Bass put a special emphasis on safety, disclosing that nearly 50 people have died on Metro’s buses, trains and rail platforms. Many of those are suspected to have been caused by fatal drug overdoses.

— SIX-YEAR SENTENCE: A real estate developer who was convicted of providing $500,000 to former Councilmember Jose Huizar has been to sentenced to six years in prison. Bel-Air resident Dae Yong Lee, who won approval for a 20-story residential tower in Huizar’s district, told the judge he would regret his actions for the rest of his life.

— WHAT’S IN A NAME?: A planned 50-acre park in Porter Ranch still remains without a name following former City Councilman Mitch Englander’s fall from grace, the Daily News reports. At one point, sections of the park were slated to be named after Englander and his mother and sister. But then Englander pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about his dealings with a businessman who secretly gave him $15,000 in cash and a debauched night in Las Vegas.

— SUPERVISORIAL SHUTDOWN: Protesters with the Youth Justice Coalition helped shut down the county’s Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday over “deplorable” conditions at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey. The hall was reopened this month after a state oversight board ordered the county to move most youths out of troubled juvenile halls in Boyle Heights and Sylmar.

— THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM? After trying and failing twice before, a coalition of housing advocates led by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation have collected enough signatures to place a measure on the 2024 ballot asking voters to repeal a major restriction on rent control, in effect allowing more cities and counties across the state to cap rents on more types of homes.


— TREE TRIMMING TUSSLE: The city issued a $250 citation to NBCUniversal over the unpermitted trimming of trees on Barham Boulevard, reducing the amount of shade for striking entertainment industry workers. City Controller Kenneth Mejia responded by saying the city’s tree trimming laws are “outdated.”

—THE COUNCIL CONNECTION: Did you see the paparazzi photos of “The Bear” star Jeremy Allen White running that briefly broke the internet this week? Well, eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed an unlikely city cameo: A Councilmember Nithya Raman safe streets sign in the background. “Council District 4 says, ‘Yes, chef,” Raman spokesperson Stella Stahl quipped Friday.

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Quick hits

  • Where is Inside Safe? The mayor’s program to combat homelessness returned to the district represented by Councilmember Curren Price, focusing on streets around the 110 Freeway from 42nd Street south to Slauson Avenue. The Inside Safe operation had gone to some of those streets earlier this year but did not get everyone indoors.
  • On the docket for next week: The council’s housing and homelessness committee is scheduled to take up a handful of tenant assistance programs, including $18.4 million in emergency aid for low-income renters and $23 million for eviction defense and prevention programs, according to the mayor’s office. The work is coinciding with the deadline for tenants to pay some of the past-due rent they accrued during the pandemic.

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