A group of residents in Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas’s district blasted the city’s political leaders on Monday, saying they still do not have a voting representative just as a redistricting plan is coming up for a vote.
The group, which gathered outside Southern Missionary Baptist Church on West Adams Boulevard, said they need someone to advocate on their behalf when council members take up the redistricting plan, which is expected to establish the city’s political boundaries for the next decade.
Ridley-Thomas was suspended last month after being indicted on federal bribery and conspiracy charges. The council is scheduled to cast its first vote on the proposed map on Tuesday, followed by two public hearings and another vote Dec. 1.
Participants in Monday’s press conference called out the council members who voted for the suspension, chanting “shame on you” after each one’s name was read aloud.
“We believe they stole our vote,” said Diane Robertson, a resident of Leimert Park.
Prosecutors have alleged that Ridley-Thomas conspired with a USC dean to steer county money to the university in return for admitting his son Sebastian into the graduate school with a full-tuition scholarship and a paid professorship. The councilman has pleaded not guilty and, through his lawyer, denied that he abused his position at any point in his political career.
Days after he was indicted, Ridley-Thomas sent the council a letter saying he intended to refrain from participating in council and committee meetings to avoid becoming a distraction. The council acknowledged receiving that letter when it voted 11 to 3 to suspend him.
Robertson said she believes that, following that vote, some council members attempted a “power grab” targeting Ridley-Thomas’ district. In one redistricting proposal drafted last week, Councilman Gil Cedillo asked for a piece of the Harvard Heights neighborhood to be moved out of Ridley-Thomas’ 10th District and into his.
In another proposal, Councilman Paul Krekorian proposed shifting several blocks near Robertson Boulevard and 18th Street out of Ridley-Thomas’ district and into Councilman Paul Koretz’s district.
Council President Nury Martinez said neither of those changes drew support from the ad hoc redistricting committee, which sent its proposed map to the council last week.
Instead, Martinez said, all of the changes made by the committee to the 10th District were requested by Ridley-Thomas’ office, which is currently led by the district’s newly appointed caretaker, Karly Katona.
Harry McElroy, a neighborhood leader who lives in Leimert Park, warned that the Cedillo and Krekorian proposals could still be resurrected. Katona, who spent much of the past year as Ridley-Thomas’ chief of staff, should be given the authority to vote at City Hall, he said.
“She pretty much runs the trains anyway,” said McElroy, who is involved with the Hepburn Avenue Homeowners Assn. “So it makes sense to me that if you’re going to put a caretaker in … they should be able to have voting rights.”
Asked about selecting an interim council member, Martinez spokeswoman Sophie Gilchrist said the council president is “still in the process of looking at all the options.”
Katona declined to comment to The Times. However, she sent a letter to the council on Monday voicing her opposition to Cedillo and Krekorian’s redistricting motions.
“While it is my understanding that these motions will not be advanced, I want to underscore that an effort to reconsider these proposals would have a detrimental impact on the 10th Council District,” she wrote.
The proposed redistricting map was prepared by Martinez’s seven-member committee on Friday, following several weeks of citywide debate. Under the map, the biggest changes would take place in Councilwoman Nithya Raman’s Hollywood Hills district, which would lose such neighborhoods as Hancock Park, Park La Brea, and Miracle Mile.
In exchange, Raman’s district would take on new portions of Encino, Reseda and Studio City in the San Fernando Valley.
As part of Tuesday’s deliberations, the council is also expected to decide which district will represent USC and adjacent Exposition Park in South Los Angeles.
Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson previously called for both to be returned to his district after a 10-year absence. Martinez’s committee did not support such a move, recommending that both remain in Councilman Curren Price’s district.