Residents of Ridley-Thomas’ LA District say they lack a voice

A group of residents of the Los Angeles City Council borough, Mark Ridley-Thomas, beat up the city’s political leaders Monday, saying they still don’t have a proxy as a redistribution plan is being voted on.

The group that gathered outside Southern Missionary Baptist Church on West Adams Boulevard said they needed someone to stand up for them if councilors were to take up the redistribution plan designed to set the city’s political boundaries for the next decade.

Ridley-Thomas was suspended last month after being charged with federal bribery and conspiracy. The council is due to cast its first vote on the proposed card on Tuesday, followed by two public hearings and another vote on December 1st.

Participants in the press conference on Monday shouted councilors who voted for the suspension and shouted “Shame on you” after each individual’s name was read out loud.

“We believe they stole our voice,” said Diane Robertson, a resident of Leimert Park.

Prosecutors have alleged that Ridley-Thomas conspired with a USC dean to fund the university in exchange for accepting his son Sebastian on a full scholarship and a paid professorship in graduate school. The city council pleaded not guilty and, through its lawyer, denied that he had abused his position at any point in his political career.

Days after he was charged, Ridley-Thomas sent the council a letter saying he wanted to refrain from attending council and committee meetings so as not to become a distraction. The council confirmed receipt of this letter by voting 11-3 for his suspension.

Robertson said she believed some council members tried to “take power” in Ridley-Thomas district after that vote. In a district redistribution proposal drawn up last week, City Councilor Gil Cedillo called for part of Harvard Heights to be relocated from Ridley-Thomas’ 10th district to his.

In another proposal, Alderman Paul Krekorian suggested moving several blocks near Robertson Boulevard and 18th Street from the Ridley-Thomas district to Alderman Paul Koretz’s district.

Council President Nury Martinez said none of these changes were supported by the ad hoc reallocation committee, which sent its proposed card to the council last week.

Instead, Martinez said, any changes made by the 10th ward committee were requested by the Ridley-Thomas office, currently headed by the ward’s newly appointed caretaker Karly Katona.

Harry McElroy, a neighborhood leader who lives in Leimert Park, warned that Cedillo and Krekorian’s proposals could still be revived. Katona, who spent much of the past year as Ridley-Thomas’s chief of staff, should be given authority to vote in town hall, he said.

“She pretty much drives the trains anyway,” said McElroy, the one with the Hepburn Avenue Homeowners Assn. “That is why it makes sense to me that if you appoint a caretaker, he should have a vote.”

When asked about the selection of an interim council member, Martinez spokeswoman Sophie Gilchrist said the council president was “still examining all options.”

Katona declined to speak to the Times. However, she sent a letter to the council on Monday speaking out against Cedillo and Krekorian’s redistribution requests.

“While I believe these requests will not be made, I would like to stress that any attempt to reconsider these proposals would adversely affect the 10th council district,” she wrote.

The proposed redistribution card was prepared by the seven-member Martinez committee on Friday after several weeks of city-wide debate. Under the map, the biggest changes would take place in Councilor Nithya Raman’s Hollywood Hills neighborhood, losing neighborhoods like Hancock Park, Park La Brea, and Miracle Mile.

In return, Raman’s borough would take over new parts of Encino, Reseda, and Studio City in the San Fernando Valley.

During its deliberations on Tuesday, the council is also expected to decide which district will represent USC and the adjacent Exposition Park in South Los Angeles.

Councilor Marqueece Harris-Dawson previously requested that both be returned to his district after a ten-year absence. The Martinez committee did not support such a move and recommended that both should remain in Alderman Curren Price’s district.

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