Embattled Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de Leon spoke at his first City Council meeting since October, denouncing a measure that would drastically increase punishments for any members who are under censure.
De Leon has been the subject of severe scrutiny for several months now following the October Council racist recording incident, not attending nearly two months worth of Council meetings in the wake of the incident, refusing to resign despite lawmakers up to and including President Joe Biden calling for it, facing a possible recall election next year, and instigating a fight with a protestor last month. Despite having avoided many meetings, de Leon chose to attend his first meeting in two months last week to address a constituent problem, but caused such a scene that he had to leave after only 20 minutes inside City Hall. Another December appearance only lasted a few hours.
The Councilman was also censured along with another Councilman, the outgoing Cil Cedillo, in late October, becoming the first Councilmembers to receive the punishment since last century. While current censures are generally a group disapproval of another Councilmember, a measure brought up to the Council on Tuesday sough to vastly increase censure penalties. The measure includes increases such as reducing their power to introduce legislation, removal of constituent mailers, and limiting their ability to control their discretionary funds for their district.
In his first Council speech since before racist recording incident in October, de Leon furiously spoke out against the measure, saying that it would hurt his district.
“This is a potential overt attempt to injure a Councilmember at the expense of directly injuring his voters,” said de Leon. “This is a real slippery slope that can potentially harm, in a real way, the city’s most vulnerable residents. Not just in district 14, but throughout the city of LA.”
Mass support for censure punishment increases
However, many in the Council expressed that de Leon was still not welcome to the Council due to the incident, with some even being blunt about the repercussions of what he did, as well as noting that the measure was targeted at him and not his constituents.
“You’re not welcome in these chambers,” said Councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez. “I want to be very clear. I’m here Tuesday because I refuse to sit out this process and stand idly by as thousands of renters in my district face eviction. I refuse to let you continue to cause harm to my constituents by distracting from this critical vote. I give my full support for your resignation. You’ve had numerous job offers if you would resign, but you haven’t.”
“We went down that slippery slope the minute that you participated in that conversation. We’re trying to hold our Latino leaders accountable for the damage that they have done to what people think a Latino representative is. How dare you continue show up to these chambers and make yet another day that should be focused on life-saving tenant protections about yourself?”
Hernandez’s comments prompted many in the Hall to begin protesting that de Leon resign, causing a delay and extending the streak of City Council meetings disrupted by protestors.
Others said that the measure would combat a false narrative that the measure was the Council’s way of taking away money and services from the district, hinting that should de Leon resign, the district would be well taken care of until a replacement Councilmember be elected in.
“The thought that the Council has tried to move money out of the district or deprive them of services. That is a lie,” noted Council President Paul Krekorian.
While de Leon did get the support of one other Councilmember, it was far too few, with the motion passing 12-2. Following that, de Leon left the chambers, as the Councilmembers continued their shunning of him by not approaching him after the meeting concluded.
“Three months later and his image has not improved,” added Maria Costa, a Los Angeles pollster who focuses on Latino communities, to the Globe on Wednesday. “Even those friendly to him on the Council have their limits with him, with many Latinos, his core, now breaking away. There’s a strong call for him to resign still, there is a growing recall signature effort in his district, and very few are still willing to defend him. I mean, this guy has the Republicans against him. Joe Biden against him. Gavin Newsom against him. Black Lives Matters against him. And he’s still not going out because he keeps claiming that he needs to serve his constituents. But, as we saw today, they made it very clear that his constituents would not be harmed by this, and that he was still the problem. Who knows how much longer he will last.”
Following the passage of the motion, the proposal will now go to the City Attorney, who will check on the legality of increasing punishments and to see if such a motion is possible.
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