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L.A. Council reshuffles leadership team, giving Mitch O’Farrell its No. 2 post

Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell.
The Los Angeles City Council voted to install Mitch O’Farrell in the council’s No. 2 leadership post
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to put Councilman Mitch O’Farrell in its No. 2 leadership position, with a third of its members missing the vote.

The council voted 10 to 0 to remove Councilman Joe Buscaino as president pro tempore and replace him with O’Farrell, whose district includes Echo Park, Hollywood and Atwater Village.

Council members took steps last week to remove Buscaino, who is running for mayor, after he and an aide were quoted making disparaging remarks about several council members. At Tuesday’s meeting, O’Farrell acknowledged that council members disagree on how to address some of the city’s problems, but said he hoped to serve as a resource.

“This is nothing that I expected, nothing that I even mentioned ... that I was interested in,” he said. “However, I wholly embrace this responsibility.”

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With the election eight months away, voters are finally getting a clearer picture of the June 2022 contest to replace Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Not present for the vote were council members Mike Bonin, Kevin de León, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Monica Rodriguez. Bonin and Rodriguez were in the chamber for part of the meeting but left before the vote on O’Farrell.

If any of them were unhappy with Tuesday’s decision, they did not make that clear when contacted by The Times.

Bonin, who has a staffer who recently resigned from her position to run against O’Farrell, had no comment when asked if he opposed the council’s decision. An aide to Rodriguez did not respond to inquiries from The Times.

Harris-Dawson, who signed last week’s motion calling for O’Farrell to replace Buscaino, did not respond to inquiries in recent days asking if he had a change of heart and no longer supports O’Farrell.

Pete Brown, spokesman for Councilman Kevin de León, said his boss had a scheduling conflict — the opening of a major homeless housing project in skid row — but supports having O’Farrell in his new leadership position.

A spokeswoman for Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas said her boss also had a conflict, and was at the same event as De León. Ridley-Thomas did not answer a question about whether he supports O’Farrell in the position.

The position of president pro tempore is not especially remarkable. The person who holds it mainly runs council meetings when the president is unavailable. However, the position is also guaranteed a seat on the powerful five-member Executive Employee Relations Committee, which negotiates employment contracts with the city’s public employee unions.

O’Farrell is taking the reins amid the run-up to the June 2022 election, when he and several of his colleagues will face reelection. Several challengers have emerged to run against him. Meanwhile, the campaign for mayor has already begun spilling into the council’s deliberations.

Buscaino has sought to make homelessness a major theme of his campaign, staking out positions and holding events in ways that have sometimes annoyed his colleagues.

Council President Nury Martinez and five of her colleagues signed a proposal to remove him from his post last week. A Buscaino campaign spokesman downplayed the significance of that action, saying council members typically step down from their leadership posts when they are running for higher office.


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