The LA City Council unanimously voted to make Paul Krekorian its next president. He represents the Eastern San Fernando Valley, which includes North Hollywood, Studio City, and Valley Village. His new leadership role comes more than a week after the release of a secretly-recorded redistricting meeting that led the resignation of former council President Nury Martinez.
Krekorian tells KCRW that he wants to create a council that embraces different viewpoints, welcomes disagreement, and gives less power to its president.
“We have 15 council members, each of whom represents over a quarter of a million people who elected them. And our districts include an incredible diversity of priorities of constituents' needs. And so each council member has to represent that diversity of interests and concerns.”
He adds, “I want to have the council be a place that welcomes that, and understands that we may not always agree with one another. But we have to work together and find where we can move forward on common ground for the best interests of all 4 million people of Los Angeles. The days when we can think that we represent a certain faction or a certain group or one narrow issue or concern are over.”
He supports a motion that increases the number of council members in office.
“It's important because the smaller the district, the closer the elected representative is to the people and the more responsive the elected representative is.”
Krekorian says the leaked redistricting recording is an example of council members who have too much power.
“We can't lose sight of the fact of what the purpose of the meeting was. And that was to advantage one group of candidates or elected officials over others, to advantage one race over other races. And we can't have that kind of a system. So the more seats we have, the more we will be able to ensure that everyone's voice is heard, and that everyone feels as though they can have access to representation in the City Council.”
He also wholeheartedly supports the creation of an independent redistricting commission.
“The problem with the system we have now is it's the worst of all worlds. We say we have a citizen’s commission, but it's neither independent nor accountable. So what we need is — just like the state has managed to do for its legislative districts, just like the county does, like so many cities around California do — we just need to turn this process over to an independent commission of capable people who aren't connected to government, and let them draw it, and then the election cards can fall as they may.”
Krekorian adds that he’s insisted to LA City Councilmember Gil Cedillo that he resign. However, he has not spoken directly with Councilmember Kevin de León since the tape was made public.
In June, Krekorian spoke off the cuff at a luncheon event about the upcoming election. “Trust professionals,” he said. “Trust people who know what the hell they’re doing, and even who have some idea of what the function of a city is. Please trust those people, and maybe we have an opportunity to save the city that we all love.”
Krekorian now says, “In retrospect, maybe those phrases were not as well chosen as they could have been. What I meant was that when we have people who have served in office and developed some experience, that they should know how to operate the levers of government effectively for the people.”
He emphasizes, “I understand that people in the city are frustrated and angry. And I understand that people across the country are frustrated and angry. I just hope that people will be cautious, not to let that frustration and anger lead to a desire to simply tear down institutions, rather than trying to rebuild and improve institutions. And right now, we have an opportunity before us that’s brought to us by this crisis, to really get serious about making this a better City Council.”
The key to building that trust, Krekorian says, is to lead by example and uplift the viewpoints of everyone who sits on the council.
“The leadership of the council isn't just going to be me. It's going to be all of the council members. And we're going to try to organize this in a way so that authority is diffused. I really do see this as an opportunity for us together as a city to turn a new page, to create a new beginning. But we have to do that in concert with one another. We have to do that in a way that shows respect for one another.”