Charges against Price draw outrage, sadness and sense of ‘Black loss’ in South L.A.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren Price, center, at a City Hall news conference in April.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Curren Price was sworn in for his third term on Los Angeles City Council last fall with a promise to mend rifts.

After leaked recordings had exposed Latino council members plotting to consolidate power in a conversation laced with anti-Black tropes, Price was a counterpoint — a veteran Black leader who had forged unity in his majority Latino district.

“He is someone for me that embodies everything we need in this moment,” said Councilmember Monica Rodriguez.


Seven months later, Price has been charged with perjuring himself by failing to disclose his wife’s business dealings with developers whose projects he voted on, and with embezzling city funds by having his now-wife receive spousal health benefits when they were not legally married. Price called the charges “unwarranted.”

Some of the criminal charges filed against L.A. City Councilmember Curren Price involve his votes on matters involving his wife’s clients.

June 16, 2023

In Price’s district and among leaders of L.A.’s Black communities, the charges have been a political earthquake, one heightened by the recent conviction and downfall of Mark Ridley-Thomas — long a power broker in the Black community — and lingering acrimony over how Ridley-Thomas was pushed out and his constituents went unrepresented for months.

“The impact is very clear. Black electeds are dwindling exponentially. We will have no representation, no voice, no advocate to speak up on our behalf,” said Pastor Xavier Thompson of Southern Missionary Baptist Church on West Adams Boulevard.

“It definitely is a blow. It definitely is painful to see,” said Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, whose legislative district envelops Price’s.

Jones-Sawyer recalled being unable to get out of bed after Ridley-Thomas was indicted, feeling “depressed” — and now sees another official facing charges. “You are looking at individuals who have dedicated their life to public service. When you look at their body of work and what they have contributed, it is a shame that it has come to this,” he said.

Claudia Oliveira, chief executive of the DTLA Chamber of Commerce, near arena.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

“It’s disturbing and heartbreaking that, for a city as diverse as Los Angeles, we only have two African American people left in council,” said Claudia Oliveira, chief executive of the DTLA Chamber of Commerce, identifying herself as “Afro-Indigenous Caucasian.”

Price’s third term representing the 9th District expires in 2026, but Oliveira and others immediately recognized the criminal charges could put the seat in play sooner. Price could resign or be removed from office if convicted, prompting a special election, or the City Council could appoint an interim caretaker or even a temporary voting member.

“This is a big turning point,” Oliveira said.

A sign hangs on a light pole near Curren Price's 9th District office
A sign hangs on a light pole near Curren Price’s 9th District office as corruption charges were filed against the L.A. City Council member.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

The 9th District, which stretches from L.A. Live and the Convention Center south along the 110 Freeway toward 95th Street, has been represented by Black politicians since the 1960s.

It is home to the historic heart of the city’s Black community along Central Avenue, but the area’s demographics have shifted markedly. Today the district is four-fifths Latino and just 13% Black, although with the high number of young people and immigrants who are not eligible to vote, the share of Black voters nearly doubles to 25%.

“There is a sense of Black loss or erasure” across the district, said Manuel Pastor, director of the USC Dornsife Equity Research Institute and the co-author of the book “South Central Dreams.”

Price, who was first elected in 2013 and last year trounced Dulce Vasquez, a Latina, by a 2-to-1 margin to win his third term, recognized those changing forces. He drew deep support from organized labor, had a staff that was overwhelmingly Latino, and rolled out programs like a Dia De Los Muertos event and an immigration clinic.

Still, many predicted Price could be the last Black politician to win in the 9th District. On the leaked audio, Councilmember Kevin de León refers to “a future Latino” leading the district as if it was demographically inevitable — with the earliest possible date in 2026.

Now, that choice of successor could come sooner.

“The timing has moved up,” Pastor said of Price’s charges. “This is accelerating a conversation that it would be nice to have a longer time to have,” adding: “Who is going to lead the district, who is homegrown, who has solidified ties between the Black and brown community?”


Price has resigned from his committee seats, including his post as second in command to President Paul Krekorian, but not from office altogether. Krekorian has initiated the process of suspending Price, which would further sideline him while an interim appointee may run his office.

Marilyn Green, an activist and an at-large representative for Zapata King Neighborhood Council, urged a “wait and see” approach toward Price, whom she credited with helping to rebuild a nearby park and adding more police officers there.

“He should be given a chance to prove himself … and we will stand behind him,” Green said.

A sign sharing the history of Central Ave.
A sign sharing the history of Central Avenue stands in front of the 9th District office of City Councilmember Curren Price.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

But looking toward an interim replacement or another election for the post, Green was blunt: “I, personally, will fight to have an African American replace him.”

Jones-Sawyer, who is vying to be the next council member for neighboring District 10, would not say whether Price should step down. But looking to a process where a caretaker may serve in his place, he called for those on the City Council to listen to Price’s constituents.

“We should not start from the top down, but the bottom up, and talk to the people who reside in that district and have an honest discussion about what they want and what they believe is best,” Jones-Sawyer said.


It’s a process that underscores a challenge for Black politicians in this historically Black district and beyond.

“Being able to cross over is going to be the key to African Americans’ power and success in the future,” Jones-Sawyer said, noting that he is one of the few officials who represent a district where a super-majority of constituents are not his race or ethnicity.

“Since our numbers aren’t what they used to be,” he said, “we have to represent all of Los Angeles and be that elected official that really understands the needs of the constituents they serve.”

Among Price’s constituents, collaborators and supporters, the charges against him triggered wariness, sadness and skepticism.

Alberto Tlatoa, who is active in a neighborhood council in the 9th District, called for his hasty exit: “I definitely think Curren Price should resign, because he sold out our community. It’s not fair that we are the ones paying the price.”

Kahllid A. Al-Alim, a parent activist for Students Deserve
Kahllid A. Al-Alim, a parent activist for Students Deserve, has grappled with the announcement of charges filed against Councilmember Curren Price.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

For the record:

8:16 a.m. June 17, 2023A photo caption in an earlier version of this article misspelled the name of Kahllid A. Al-Alim, a parent activist for Students Deserve. The caption also stated Al-Alim is president of the Park Mesa Heights Community Council. Al-Alim is no longer on the council.

Kahllid A. Al-Alim, a parent activist for Students Deserve, said he considered it “paramount” for the City Council to have a Black person holding the 9th District seat in light of the leaked audio.

“This opens the door to lose Black leadership. Folks are going to lose trust in Black leadership within that very diverse council district,” Al-Alim said.

The Rev. Norman Johnson, convener of South L.A. Clergy for Public Accountability, said he was “very much concerned” about Price and “how the council will decide to provide representation” to those who put him in office for three terms.

Many expressed doubt about the case against Price and differentiated the accusations against him from the other council members, such as Jose Huizar, who was indicted by a federal grand jury in an elaborate pay-to-play scheme involving developers and cash bribes.

Johnson called the timing of the charges “curious.”

Thompson, the pastor, said “I cannot speak to the innocence or guilt of Curren Price. But it feels fishy. It feels targeted. It feels petty.”


“We’re a bit skeptical about the whole situation,” said Edward Garren, who has lived in South L.A. since 2011 and said he and his neighbors hold Price “in an incredible amount of esteem.”

“Like when you find out a member of your family is in trouble, you don’t really care whether the allegations are true or not … You feel bad,” said Garren, who serves on the board of the Voices Neighborhood Council.

Many framed the charges against Price as a blow to the community and faith in government.

“It won’t just be Curren Price as an individual who will take the fall, but the people in our community,” said Ronald Gochez, an organizer with Unión del Barrio who was part of the crowded field running against Price in 2013. “I sincerely hope the charges are false.”

For many residents, the feeling is simply “that it’s happening again,” coupled with fears that the district will go without representation at City Hall for a prolonged period, said Azusena Favela, a lifelong resident of the district who works in philanthropy.

Favela also worried about what might happen to neighborhood groups and residents who had built strong relationships with Price — and whether anyone could preserve or rebuild those deep ties.

“How do you go back to those folks and really reinforce that they should continue to be active in their communities, active in voting?” she said.


Times staff writer Emily Alpert Reyes contributed to this report.