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California

Wesson to step down as City Council president to focus on county supervisor campaign

Herb Wesson
Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, shown in 2015 with council members Marqueece Harris-Dawson, left, and Paul Koretz, said Wednesday he will step down from the post in January.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson said Wednesday he intends to step down from the council presidency in January and is pushing for Councilwoman Nury Martinez to succeed him in the post.

Wesson, president of the 15-member council since 2012, said he is leaving the powerful post to focus on his bid for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in the March election. He introduced a motion calling for a vote on his replacement to be held Tuesday. He will continue to serve on the City Council until his term expires in December 2020.

Wesson, who represents neighborhoods stretching from Koreatown to the Crenshaw Corridor, touted a list of his accomplishments as president, including multiple increases in the city’s minimum wage, passage of a $1.2-billion bond measure to battle homelessness and a shift in the city’s election schedule to even-numbered years, a step aimed at boosting voter turnout.

“I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish as a unified council over the last eight years,” he said in a statement.

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Still, some have argued that the council has been too unified under Wesson’s tenure, with open debate kept to a minimum and the vast majority of decisions receiving unanimous votes. Rob Quan, an organizer with the advocacy group Unrig L.A., went further, arguing that Wesson has fostered a culture that discourages dissent.

Quan, whose group is focused on reducing the influence of money in politics, said Wesson led the council as it reduced the amount of time given to members of the public to comment.

Last month, Quan was approached by security officers — and publicly chastised by Councilman Joe Buscaino — at a meeting where he pointed out that the council did not have a quorum to continue conducting business legally.

“I was threatened with arrest if I didn’t leave the council chambers for simply questioning the fact that they didn’t have enough council members on the floor,” he said.

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Wesson is campaigning in the March election to replace County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who is facing term limits after 12 years in his post. Other candidates in the contest include state Sen. Holly Mitchell, former Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry and author and political commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson.

Ridley-Thomas, who has served on the council previously, is now one of the candidates running for Wesson’s seat.

Council presidents wield a great deal of power, deciding when and how policy proposals are discussed at public meetings. The president determines the makeup of council committees that oversee homelessness, public safety, real estate development and other issues — and hands out plum appointments to those who want to head those panels.

Martinez, whose district includes Van Nuys, Arleta and Panorama City, thanked Wesson in a statement for nominating her and said she hopes to earn her colleagues’ support for next week’s presidency vote.

Wesson and several of his colleagues have also nominated Buscaino to serve next year as president pro tem, replacing Martinez.


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