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City Atty. Mike Feuer wants to double the size of the City Council — and slash its pay

Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer
Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer, pictured with Mayor Eric Garcetti, wants to pursue a 2024 ballot measure that would double the size of the City Council while also scaling back members’ pay.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer said Monday that if elected mayor, he would pursue a ballot measure to double the number of City Council districts — while also slashing the salaries of each council member.

Feuer, running in the June election to replace Mayor Eric Garcetti, said those two changes would make city government more accountable, causing each council member to represent half as many people, allowing them to know the neighborhoods in their districts more intimately.

“The closer you can get to the people you serve, the more likely it is that you’re going to be responsive to their needs and get the job done,” he said.

Feuer said that as mayor, he would work to put the measure on the 2024 election ballot, using the power of the position to gather signatures and “galvanize the public.”

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The city attorney disclosed his proposal just as a 21-member citizen committee is beginning to draw new boundaries for each of the 15 council districts, relying on last year’s U.S. census data. Because L.A. is home to nearly 3.9 million people, each district needs to have a population of roughly 260,000.

Feuer said his proposal would take the annual salary of council members to about $112,000, down from $224,000, while also cutting their office budgets in half. The proposal also would reduce the number of four-year terms a council member is permitted to serve, from three to two.

In L.A., the numbers of constituents represented by council members are “absolutely huge,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School. Shrinking the size of each council district would allow Angelenos to feel less disconnected from their local elected officials, she said.

Still, persuading voters to create even more politicians at City Hall may be a tough sell, Levinson said. Voters will probably be more enthusiastic, she said, about cutting council members’ salaries.

Political candidates are visiting neighborhoods with large homeless populations to lay out their plans to address the crisis. Activists aren’t happy.

“You have the bitter pill of adding more politicians and the sweetener of less pay, which is generally quite popular,” she said.

Feuer is not the first candidate to call for an increase in the number of council districts. City Councilwoman Nithya Raman was elected last year after campaigning on the idea of expanding the council to 30 or more members. So far, Raman has not issued any legislative proposals to achieve that goal.

Monday’s announcement offered the latest sign that Feuer is seeking to ramp up his campaign, unveiling policy positions and holding impromptu news conferences.

Feuer announced this month that he wants to increase the size of the Los Angeles Police Department to 10,000. Last month, the LAPD reported it had 9,442 officers.

After a homeless man was slain last week, Feuer quickly showed up on the scene and called on county officials to remove the encampment where the killing took place. He has also become more openly critical of the council, chiding members for delaying payment on tens of millions of dollars in police overtime until years in the future.

Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas declined to say whether he thinks the idea of a larger City Council is a good one. However, he said the push to cut council members’ pay and scale back the number of terms is the latest sign that both Feuer and Councilman Joe Buscaino — another candidate for mayor — are looking to wage campaigns against City Hall.

Ridley-Thomas said he does not think either candidate will succeed with that strategy.

“Feuer and Buscaino both are City Hall insiders and are perceived as such by the voters,” he said. “They will not be successful in shedding their garments. They are adorned in City Hall apparel.”


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