The Los Angeles City Council will convene an emergency meeting Friday, allowing members of the public to comment by phoning in or sending email, an aide to Council President Nury Martinez said Wednesday.
Martinez spokesman Rick Coca said the council president decided to call the meeting after staffers successfully tested a remote dial-in meeting Wednesday. Martinez plans to be on the council floor for the meeting, along with a city clerk, a city attorney and possibly a handful of other officials.
“Last week we were going for 50 people or less,” Coca said. “Now we’re trying to go for 10 or less in the room.”
The decision to conduct a Zoom conference call for council members comes two days after Martinez abruptly canceled the last two regularly scheduled council meetings in March. Labor unions, nonprofit groups and community activists quickly voiced alarm, saying council members need to act swiftly on protections for renters and workers suffering financially amid the coronavirus pandemic before April rent is due.
“The people who are the most vulnerable are being left behind,” said Eagle Rock resident Jane Demian, a member of the Los Angeles Tenants Union, hours before Coca announced the upcoming meeting.
Although Martinez had left the door open to an emergency meeting, she went days without indicating when that might occur. By Wednesday, one group of activists had begun calling for her to resign as council president because of the canceled meetings.
The homeless advocacy group KTown for All said in an online petition that Martinez had given inconsistent explanations for her decision and left vulnerable Angelenos in limbo by failing to convene the council.
Coca declined to address the petition, saying his boss wants the meeting to be safe for participants and capable of allowing public comment. But he said Martinez, who represents such working-class areas as Van Nuys, Sun Valley and Panorama City, is acutely aware of the need for the council to act.
“She knows very well what people are feeling, because she has felt it herself. She grew up in poverty. She understands action is needed and hopefully we’re going to be taking our action on Friday,” Coca said.
KTown for All, in a message on Twitter, called those remarks “a smarmy and cynical move aimed at damage control.” Coca and the councilwoman “have zero respect for your intelligence and are desperately hoping you have the memory of a goldfish,” the group said.
KTown for All is part of the Healthy LA Coalition, a collection of groups pushing for the emergency relief measures. The Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, an advocacy group also involved in the coalition, said it opposes any effort to oust Martinez as president.
“For us, the important thing is that we get a vote to protect workers and tenants at the emergency meeting on Friday,” said spokeswoman Haley Potiker.
City officials have struggled in recent days to convene public meetings in a way that allows the public to weigh in. The Board of Public Works and the Department of Water and Power commissions — panels that are made up of appointees of Mayor Eric Garcetti — both called for and then canceled meetings that were scheduled for Tuesday.
Coca said Friday’s meeting is expected to involve voice votes by council members. There’s also a possibility that participants — not just members of the public but also council members — will get cut off during the session.
“We’re gonna fight our way through it best as we can,” Coca said.