It is a well known fact that the majority of the Black American population living in the city of Los Angeles currently live in the 8th, 9th, and 10th city council districts. Out of the 15 governmental districts in L.A. city government, those are normally considered the “Black” districts, and all three usually have Black politicians elected to those seats.

As explained in this column several times during the last year, there remains a major problem with the 10th district which cannot be explained away by citing its continuing and growing homelessness problem. That other problem is, well, the one of legal representation. Who represents the district on the L.A. City Council?

At the last major election in 2020, Mark Ridley-Thomas got the most votes. Then, several months after he was sworn in, he was indicted in federal court, accused of crimes allegedly committed when he was a member of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. After the indictment, the L.A. City Council voted to temporarily remove him from his elected seat until he either clears his name in court or is convicted and sent to prison. If the latter occurs, a special election will be scheduled to replace him on the Council.

The City Council also recently approved former City Councilman and Council President Herb Wesson to temporarily replace Mr. Thomas until the legal situation can be clarified. A group of clergymen, including members of the Southern Crenshaw Leadership Conference (SCLC), the group made famous by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the major part of the U.S. Civil Rights struggle, challenged the Council’s appointment of Mr. Wesson.

Just a few days ago, a L.A. Superior Court Judge (Mary Strobel) ruled in the group’s favor and said Mr. Wesson could not legally represent the 10th district because he had termed out—he had previously served for three terms, and according to the L.A. City Charter, city councilmen can only be elected for three terms. 

The judge overrode the Council’s decision and summarily suspended Mr. Wesson’s appointment. She said it was only a suspension because the city sued against her decision.

Meanwhile, since the suspension was announced, that same judge recused herself from the case, since the city cited behind-the-scenes work done on preparing the Los Angeles City Charter, and in her former life the judge had been a part of that work.

Just last week, Ms. Heather Hutt, the former chief deputy for then State Attorney General Kamala Harris when she held that position prior to becoming the Vice President of the U.S., was chosen by the council to step into the 10th district post. We have since found out, however, that she was only chosen to be the 10th district chief of staff. She could not vote for nor represent the district officially in council matters.

So, the point is, there currently exists no legal voting representative for the 10th district. That means the area representing the largest population of African-Americans in L.A. has no real representation currently on the L.A. City Council. No one is watching the store, though the lights are on and the doors are unlocked.

What to do? There is another court hearing scheduled for August 16. At that hearing evidence is to be provided that further clarifies the intent of the City Charter concerning L.A.’s elected City Council. The most logical result will be that Herb Wesson will be allowed to complete the initial appointment made by the City Council to substitute for Mr. Thomas through the remaining months of 2022. 

The City Charter’s language spoke about how many times one could legally run for and be elected into office. Mr. Wesson’s appointment does not violate that section of the City Charter. He is not, and cannot be, a candidate to permanently replace Mr. Thomas.

Meanwhile, the 10th district can finally get a voting representative to look out for this exceedingly important area of the city. It is a situation that must be rectified as soon as possible — money is being spent, and property decisions are being made. 

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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