Column: Voters in the district of Kevin de León support his recall. Now comes the hardest part

Kevin de León has started his 2023 the way he wants: by returning to a sense of normalcy.

He shows up at city council meetings and posts updates on social media like the last 2.5 months of last year didn’t happen – like a leaked tape captured him, two more board members and a union leader speaking bigoted nonsense. it didn’t change LA politics.

Gone is the council member who spent his December trying to rehabilitate his image by handing out freebies to voters, physically and rhetorically slamming activists who tried to shame him into quitting, and appearing in national and local media to reiterate why he was staying put.

Calmed down are those same activists, who en masse disrupted the first two city council meetings De León tried to attend with their bodies and mockery and are now fewer in number, resigned to booing every time De León enters the room. advice.

Quieter are De León’s other board members, many of whom demanded he resign over the leak and who walked out when he returned to City Hall after a two-month hiatus. Now they are content to grit their teeth and hold their noses during meetings as they pursue the business of the city, lest their constituents suffer because of a deceived and provocative colleague.

De León approaches his comeback as the political equivalent of a snapping turtle: an annoyance that not only won’t stray from progress, but will also retract into its shell and emerge to cut people off while challenging its enemies to push. him aside.

Well, folks, you now have one hell of a foothold to help you out.

In early December, the Los Angeles City Clerk authorized a group of residents to begin collecting signatures in an attempted recall against the council member. This is the fourth time he has faced one in less than three years – the previous ones have failed.

De León openly mocked these efforts, telling longtime Los Angeles radio host Earl Ofari Hutchinson in December that he had “enough anecdotal evidence to say with some sense of certainty that [his constituents are] dissatisfied with the recall process.

Not anymore!

A Los Angeles Times poll released Jan. 22 shows a majority of registered voters in the De León district want him out of here.

Fifty-one percent of those polled think he should quit. Fifty-eight percent would vote “yes” if a recall made it to the ballot.

In the past, De León has said it is the gentrified white residents of Eagle Rock and Highland Park who persecute him, while his working-class Latino constituents want him to stay. There’s a bit of a racial divide in the Times poll — 64% of white voters want him out, while just 43% of Latino voters do. But more than half of voters in more heavily Latino neighborhoods such as Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights said they were also willing to give it the boost.

There’s simply no way De León can spin the Times poll in his favor. More Latinos frowned on him than his colleague, former council chairman Nury Martinez, who called Oaxacan residents “ugly” and compared the black son of former council member Mike Bonin to a little monkey, among many ignominies. Only 32% of Latinos polled find De León principled or honest, and 56% believe the Eastside politician “puts his own political interest ahead of those he represents”.

After The Times broke the tape’s story, Martinez resigned, as did Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera. The fourth person on the tape, Gil Cedillo, ignored calls to resign but quit city council in December because he lost re-election to a newcomer.

More tellingly, 55% of Latinos polled in the Times poll believed the protests against De León – which included encampments outside his home and activists shouting at him over a Christmas toy giveaway that led the council member to push one to the ground – have been “fair” and “hold him accountable”. That’s more than the 46% of white voters who feel the same way.

Considering that Latinos make up more than half of District 14’s voting-age population, De León faces almost certain defeat if the recall ever reaches voters, based on the results of those polls.

But there is the pinch to rub.

A crowd of protesters calling on Kevin de Leon to resign or cancel the meeting faces police as a City Council meeting was recessed at Los Angeles City Hall last fall.

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Recalls are notoriously expensive and difficult to perform. The last LA board member removed in this way was Meade McClanahan, who was recalled in 1946 just months after his election because he refused to disavow his support for an anti-Semite.

To get the recall on the ballot, organizers have until March 31 to collect 20,437 valid signatures — 15% of registered voters in District 14. But their GoFundMe only collected just over 1,000. $ so far – a pittance in politics. They need help. But instead of helping that effort, many progressives have kept it at bay while pondering their own endeavor.

Typical of that thinking is the LA chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, which released a statement on its website last month saying it wanted De Leon recalled, but advising other travelers to “beware” the current campaign because of his supporters’ conservative messages.

It’s an allusion to Pauline Atkins, the Eagle Rock resident who led two previous failed attempts to recall De León due in large part to her distaste for his homeless policies and posted pro-Trump messages. on his Facebook page. She is a signatory to the current recall.

That’s why DSA-LA called this latest anti-De León push “unlikely to succeed on its current path” and instead voted to reach out “to leftist, labor and progressive coalition partners in an effort to to launch a coalition exploratory committee to recall” De Léon.

Nothing against DSA-LA, but they should walk with the encore in front of them, not the encore they want. Political purity could ruin as great a chance for Los Angeles to heal as it currently has.

This megalopolis of division, stratification and segregation needs a unifying cause – something it hasn’t had since the 1987 telethon after the Los Angeles Central Library was engulfed in fire.

That something gets rid of De León. The Times poll shows it’s not just doable but doable, and a citywide effort can ensure it happens.

South Los Angeles nonprofits like Community Coalition have previously protested the council member alongside Eastside groups like Inner City Struggle. But now is the time for the Westside Liberals to pull out their checkbooks and donate to the encore so organizers can spend the money they need. Now is the time for the Sherman Oaks retiree who campaigned for Proposition 13 in the 1970s to share voting strategies with Bernese.

It’s time for everyone to listen to the cry of frustration coming out of District 14. If De León fulfills the rest of his term as he has planned, then the Angelenos will only have to blame themselves.

To play on one of the most famous quotes in California history, spoken by William Mulholland when the Los Angeles Aqueduct released water from the Owens Valley into the San Fernando Valley:

That’s it, LA Take it.

Los Angeles Times

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