LA city council has a record six women on a panel controlled by men for decades – Whittier Daily News
By Marianne Love
For the first time in the history of Los Angeles, six women will take seats on the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday, Dec. 13 along with the first female mayor, Karen Bass, and the first female city attorney, Hydee Feldstein Soto.
“Since its establishment by the California Legislature in 1850, the council has seated only 19 women,” but has had scores of men, according to the March 2021 Los Angeles Public Library report, “The Women of the Los Angeles City Council: Part One .” The report explains that “each councilwoman has made her own unique contribution to the City of Los Angeles.”
The first three women elected or appointed to the Los Angeles City Council were Estelle Lawton Lindsey (1915); Rosalind Wiener Wyman (1953), who at 22 was the youngest person ever elected to the city council, and only the second woman to serve there; and Harriett Davenport (1953), who was appointed after the death of her council member husband.
When Laura Chick was on the city council from 1993 to 2001 representing the west San Fernando Valley, there were four women on the city council and then five women. But years later, the Los Angeles City Council was again all-male — until Nury Martinez was elected in 2013, only to fall from power as the council’s president this year, due to her role in the racism scandal that has gripped City Hall since October .
Chick says having women on the LA City Council matters.
“Women have a different perspective and different strengths than men,” Chick said in a recent interview. “The LA City Council has been screaming to be changed and reformed in how it conducts the people’s business. When I was there, it was very clear that four or five women were not enough to really change things. I always talked about how we needed a critical mass of good, strong women to make the kind of impact on the same old way of doing business. Maybe women can bring a different point of view and a different way of behaving that will work better. We didn’t invent the rules of the game of politics … the boys did.”
Three newly elected female council members, Eunisses Hernandez, Traci Park and Katy Young Yaroslavsky, join current female council members Monica Rodriguez, Nithya Raman and Heather Hutt this week.
The remaining seats are held by men, and one seat remains open after Martinez stepped down amid the fallout from the leaked recording in which she and her colleagues, labor leader Ron Herrera and council members Gil Cedillo and Kevin de Leon, made disparaging comments about their colleagues and constituents.
Hernandez beat incumbent Cedillo at the voting polls, ending his bid for a third and final term. She will now represent Council District 1 with its core parts in northeast and northwest Los Angeles.
Park’s Council District 11 includes parts of Venice, Mar Vista, Westchester, Playa del Rey, Brentwood and the Pacific Palisades and is considered the wealthiest of the 15 council districts. She is replacing incumbent Mike Bonin who didn’t run for reelection.
Young Yaroslavsky will represent Council District 5, a Westside district that meanders from Bel Air to Palms, Pico-Robertson, Greater Wilshire and Mid-City West. She replaces termed-out incumbent Paul Koretz who took a stab at the Los Angeles city controller’s office seat, but lost on Nov. 8.
In advance of Tuesday’s Los Angeles City Council meeting, Rodriguez held a press conference Monday morning to bring together the record-breaking women who will be serving on the council.
The women delivered remarks on the personal importance of this moment.
Rodriguez said that having six women on the city council is an important and meaningful step for representation in Los Angeles.
“Frankly, it’s quite shameful that it has taken 241 years that the city has existed and only 23 women have ever been elected to serve on the Los Angeles City Council,” Rodriguez said. “It still isn’t helped. We have a long way to go, but we have made great strides. I think it’s reflective of the overall environment that has not welcomed women in non-traditional, professional roles and respected contributions — and I think this is going to mark a huge shift.”
Hutt, who represents the 10th District, pointed out that in the past few years we have seen the first female vice president of the United States, a record number of women sitting in Congress, an all-female Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the first female mayor and city attorney.
“This is truly a promising era for women everywhere,” Hutt said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to work alongside my fellow council members to change this city for the better and hope to continue to be an influence on young women of color around the world.”
Young Yaroslavsky addressed a time when women weren’t in the decision-making rooms.
“Representation matters not only for its own sake, but because of the perspectives and experiences women bring to tables where decisions are being made,” she said. “Because she who holds the pen holds the power. And for too long, women didn’t hold the pens.”
Park said a new path for Los Angeles women was being created in city leadership by an historic number of strong women.
“We come from different backgrounds and experiences, and collectively we span a large ideological spectrum,” Park said. “And while we are not a perfect representation of the diversity of women across LA, we are certainly a good start. We have a long journey ahead of us and I am proud to be on it with each of these elected leaders.”
Newly elected LA City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto, the first female city attorney, was also present.
“I’m so honored to be part of this historic moment at City Hall,” Feldstein Soto said. “Having such smart, talented female leaders holding the highest offices in local government is a huge step forward that will enrich our city as a whole. As the first female city attorney and first Latina elected to any citywide office in Los Angeles, my goal is to give young Angelenos a sense of empowerment and hope for the future. But we aren’t here simply to shatter glass ceilings, we are here to make fundamental change and create a fairer, more just city that works for everyone.”
Women have also set milestones this year, far beyond the Los Angeles City Council: 12 women won races for governor, breaking the record of nine; and 149 women will serve in the US House of Representatives and US Senate, breaking the previous record of 147, according to Rodriguez’s office.
— Staff writer Linh Tat contributed to this story.