10th District residents feeling ‘disenfranchised’

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Wave Staff and Wire Residents

LOS ANGELES — Residents of the 10th Council District continue to voice their frustration about a lack of a voice on the City Council while the rest of the City Council continues to wrestle with how to provide representation to the district.

The district has been without a voice on the council since last October when Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas was suspended after being named in a federal indictment.

Several residents interviewed by City News Service claimed there has been little to no outreach from the city while the district’s representation on the council has been in flux.

Rev. Eddie Anderson, a pastor at McCarty Memorial Christian Church who has lived in the district for three years, said he feels “frustrated and disenfranchised” by the process. Anderson thought that, as a faith institution, the church might hear from the city about the plan for filling the vacant seat.

“I haven’t got one message,” Anderson said.

Robyn Stern, a creative director and seven-year Leimart Park resident, said she is registered for most emails from her local elected officials.

“I was really disappointed by just how little outreach was provided to constituents within [Council District] 10,” Stern said. “It felt like people were nominating or putting names forward without any input from stakeholders.”

The City Council earlier this year appointed former Councilman Herb Wesson to serve on the council in place of Ridley-Thomas but the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California challenged that appointment and two Los Angeles Superior Court judges have sided with the SCLC, saying Wesson was prevented from serving, even temporarily, because he had been termed out of office in 2020.

Council President Nury Martinez then tried to appoint Heather Hutt, who had been serving as Wesson’s chief of staff, to fill that seat, but that was blocked by other council members who used a procedural rule to send the matter to the council’s Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee.

Stern, who voted for Hutt in her unsuccessful bid for Assembly last year, said the issue was not about Hutt’s qualifications.

“That doesn’t mean that I’m OK with the process by which her name was moved forward,” Stern said. “I just feel like the City Council has been doing things quickly but not properly.”

Another long-time resident of the district, Harry McElroy, said that in his 36 years of residency, the current situation for him is “unprecedented.” He doesn’t support Hutt’s appointment because of her connection to Wesson, describing it as a “trickle down from the disenfranchisement.”

“I feel disenfranchised because I voted for a particular representation,” McElroy said. “With the mind that there would be a particular infrastructure and staffing in place. But my vote didn’t matter because what I voted for is not in place.”

At the Aug. 26 City Council meeting, a speaker who identified herself as Diana Dean said that not having a council representative for District 10 has been problematic. Dean was part of a housing group that testified during public comment about conditions at the Chesapeake Apartments in South L.A.

She complained that Hutt was only a caretaker for the district.

“She’s like our babysitter because she’s not allowed to vote,” Dean said of Hutt. “I think they forgot about District 10 because our community is ugly, filthy, dirty. Because there’s nobody there. We just have a babysitter but we have nobody to represent us.”

Hutt was born and raised in the district, which stretches from Koreatown to Leimert Park in South Los Angeles. She lives in Baldwin Vista.

Hutt previously served as the first Black state director in California history under then-Sen. Kamala Harris. Prior to that, she served as a district director for former state Sen. Isadore Hall.

“I’ve spent my whole life in public service, working on behalf of my neighbors and helping them with their needs,” Hutt said. “It’s important they have a voice in the horseshoe, but it’s equally important that their day-to-day, way of life needs are met as well.”

“Leadership is stepping up during a challenging time,” Council President Martinez said. “That is what Heather Hutt has done as caretaker and what I know she will do as the council member for the 10th District.”

City Councilman Kevin de León also spoke on behalf of Hutt.

“Throughout her career, Heather Hutt has proven her commitment and dedication to public service,” de León said in a statement. “Heather possesses tremendous skills and talents that can deliver the strong leadership that Council District 10 needs and deserves.”

Sherri Ealey, president of the Baldwin Neighborhood Homeowners Association, wrote in a letter to Martinez that the district is currently vulnerable and “cannot continue to hope that other members of the council will protect or preserve our interests.”

“Without having someone who can fully execute the duties of this office CD10 could suffer irreparable harm prior to a regularly scheduled election,” Ealey wrote.

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