By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The City Council dragged its feet this week on the proposed appointment of a temporary successor to colleague Jackie Goldberg, who is leaving to join the state Assembly. Although this appointee would serve only until Goldberg’s elected successor takes office, the council sent the matter to the Government and Efficiency Committee for review. The betting is that by the time it gets back to the council, Election Day may be so near that it won‘t matter.
There’s a precedent for this kind of official reluctance. The council, which was empowered to make such appointments under the old charter, has refused to make them for years.
There are arguments against such appointments, but until now, the strongest argument for them was the sad denouement of the career of the Little Emperor of the Great 9th District.
Councilman Gilbert Lindsay was the first black person on the L.A. Council -- he claimed his electoral history to be so ancient that, “at that time I was a Negro.” He represented the district surrounding City Hall, from Chinatown down to South-Central, then and now a residential poverty pocket. The Lindsay legacy certainly includes our high-rise, housing-shy downtown. Not to mention his knack for staying ahead of the law while virtually proclaiming himself to be on the take.
Lindsay died in office (one of two council incumbent to do so in the 20-plus years I‘ve been here) after he’d been in a coma for months. It took six more months to elect a successor. So Lindsay‘s district went underrepresented for most of two years before Rita Walters took over in 1991. I mean no disservice to the latter’s record (nor that of the city officials who handled constituent services in the interregnum) when I say that the 9th has never recovered.
But making an appointment is no longer just Ferraro‘s decision. The city’s new charter specifies a council majority must make an appointment -- or hold a special election -- to fill any empty City Council seat. The tricky part, according to City Attorney James Hahn, is that there‘s no deadline for making such an appointment. The appointee suggested by Goldberg and Councilwoman Laura Chick would be longtime Goldberg chief of staff Sharon Delugach.
Delugach seems an appropriate choice -- and to placate the council she’s pledged neither to run for the office nor endorse a candidate in the April election. But she caught flak during this week‘s council hearing from district residents who argued that if Goldberg wanted her agenda continued, she should not have left her post.
Absent Delugach -- or someone else sitting in that seat and voting -- 13th District residents will lose out until the installation of Goldberg’s successor, noted Chick. But it wasn‘t this concern that brought in the heavy hitters (including eight union locals) from among the 40-odd organizations that listed themselves in support. Their goal is to preserve Goldberg’s progressive regional agenda while referring to the needs of constituents.
The fact is that the quarter million in Goldberg’s council district includes tens of thousands of denizens of severely yupscale Echo Park and Silver Lake. Who aren‘t quite urban proletariat, except perhaps in their own minds. In any case, Goldberg’s prime issues, such as getting living-wage pay scales for that big, impending North Hollywood development, providing better housing and creating equitable benefit programs for city part-time workers, reach way beyond her district‘s borders. This is important policy, and these are issues on which I agree with Delugach’s supporters.
That said, the new charter makes the appointment of a Goldberg temp “mandatory,” in the apt words of USC law professor Erwin Chemerinsky, who served on a panel that developed the charter.
And Delugach would do fine.
But the point that Chemerinsky and his fellow chartists may have missed is that, particularly with an activist such as Goldberg, there may be a broader interest in keeping the councilwoman‘s agenda alive after her departure than in actually seeing to it that residents are served. And most of the impetus for keeping that agenda alive -- for better or worse -- is going to come from outside the district. Which may be one of the reasons the council -- avoiding controversy as always -- shied away from the proposal and let the thing hang.“