@THE GUSS REPORT-LA City Council President Nury Martinez just did what she does best: send the nation's highest-salaried local lawmakers to another unscheduled, paid recess despite multiple ongoing deadly crises.
Who didn't see that coming?
On March 2, 2020, exactly one year ago, this column reported on colorful criticism by City Hall's tenacious gadfly set leveling Martinez for embracing only the ceremonial part of her ascent to the City Council presidency, but not the nuts and bolts of leadership:
"If you don't regularly follow LA's zany political gadflies, you're missing quite a show and sometimes astute, if cringe-worthy, observations.
While new LA City Council president Nury Martinez, 47, was feted just a few weeks ago as the 'historic' first Latina in that role, she has yet to fully embrace running City Council meetings, a key responsibility.
For at least half of the meetings since she was sworn in as the City's top lawmaker, Martinez deferred running the meetings entirely or in part to her male back-ups President Pro Tem Joe Buscaino, Assistant Pro Tem David Ryu and Councilmember Paul Koretz.
Gadfly Patricia McAllister had just about enough with Nury's failure to embrace responsibility, letting it rip with this take: ‘I want to say that Ms. Martinez, you brought your mother and everybody here and we gave you a good welcome. You're not woman enough to be up on that podium? (Ryu) is not the president. . . If you want to be with the boys, you got to do your job, okay? You're supposed to be at that podium, ma'am. . . Now you be a woman and stand-up for women and do your job. . . Now you wanna run with the boys, you gotta be like the boys, okay. . . Now you wanna get that kind of respect, you be like the boys. Get that skirt off, put some pants on and do your job.’
Not quite how most would say it, but McAllister makes a valid point. Being Council president means leadership, including running of meetings, agenda management and not just having the title, historic or not."
And that was before we knew how bad the coming pandemic was going to be. It was before the George Floyd riots and alongside the nation's worst homelessness and a local financial crisis that has the City of LA considering defaulting on its bills. It was right after the FBI raided City Attorney Mike Feuer's office and right before it arrested Martinez's chum Mitch Englander, now headed to federal prison. And don't forget their pal Jose Huizar, now headed to a federal corruption trial.
When the coming City Council agendas popped into my inbox last week, the word "RECESS" was once again abundant as Martinez has chosen another breather amid all of this. Couldn’t they make it to work to ensure that LA gets the vaccines we were promised, but haven’t materialized? How about a public meeting about curbing their in-house side-hustle of cash-for-corrupt-land-development votes?
Since the beginning of the year, Martinez has already canceled or recessed more than a dozen Council meetings despite a nearly month-long combined Thanksgiving/New Year's break. And when Council is in session, she has suffocated public comment (i.e., public criticism) by limiting the public’s speaking time or relegating it to Committee meetings which are not telecast. And scores of those Committee hearings have been canceled in recent months, as well.
Not that her peers on the City's thin-skinned legislative body are complaining. LA's further degradation is on their watch despite being given billions of dollars to remedy or at least curb these ills. Meanwhile, Mayor Eric Garcetti spent the past year submissively taking a knee, traveling the country with Joe Biden, and giving depositions for the sexual harassment chaos drowning his remaining time in office.
And Martinez isn't exactly knocking it out of the park with the broad swath she represents in the Valley, which in many places looks more like Aleppo than Van Nuys.
Los Angeles is the second biggest city in the country. It needs, pays for, and expects full-time representation led by someone present, ready and who keeps her exceedingly well-paid and overly staffed peers on the job rather than on the beach.
Perhaps they can take this up upon return from their mid-March nap.
(Daniel Guss, MBA, was runner-up for the 2020 Los Angeles Press Club journalism award for Best Online Political Commentary and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, iHeartMedia, 790-KABC, Cumulus Media, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal, Pasadena Star-News, Los Angeles Downtown News, and the Los Angeles Times in its Sports, Opinion and Entertainment sections and Sunday Magazine, among other publishers. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.