This COVID-19 pandemic impacts the health, safety, and livelihood of every Angeleno, and Los Angeles needs a City Council President we can rely on to lead us through these difficult times. On March 23, 2020, Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez made the unilateral decision of cancelling City Council meetings scheduled for March 24 and March 31.
We are calling for Nury Martinez’s removal as City Council President immediately for effectively shutting down the legislature of California’s largest city for two weeks in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. It pained us to have to call for a change in City Council leadership, but make no mistake, we must have a City Council President who will act with urgency in a crisis.
Nury Martinez was unable to provide a consistent message on her decision to cancel the necessary meetings. The first statements about the cancellation were made to the press that afternoon, and a full public statement was not issued until Monday evening. Explanations given early on Monday to constituents calling their Councilmembers mentioned problems with the Brown Act and the City Attorney’s Office, but those problems were not mentioned in any public statements. By the evening, the explanation was solely focused on technical issues. As of the end of the day on March 25th, Martinez’s office had still not given a timeline as to when a meeting will be scheduled.
The sudden cancellations have confused and upset Angelenos who are counting on COVID-19 related relief from their elected officials. The timing leaves important legislation unfinished, including emergency protections for renters, workers, and the unhoused. Residential and commercial renters and mortgage holders need assurances that they will not be evicted and become homeless or lose their business if they can’t afford their rent on April 1st. Mayor Garcetti’s means-tested eviction moratorium order does not provide sufficient protections. Workers need 14-day paid time off to stay home and self-quarantine if they are sick. The unhoused need 24/7 access to bathrooms, hand washing stations, and other hygiene measures to keep themselves and the larger community health.
Councilmember Martnez said public statements that COVID-19 relief legislation is urgent, however, her actions contradicted these messages. Councilmember Martinez said so herself last week. After the previous meeting on March 17, Martinez stated on Twitter “for all our working families, WE ARE FIGHTING FOR YOU. Today @LACityCouncil introduced 46 motions to protect Angelenos during the #COVID19 pandemic, including our motions for eviction bans, paid family leave, childcare for @LASchools families, & #taxrelief for businesses.” Although health and safety precautions are needed during this time, teleconferencing and webcasting are suitable and effective options that should prevent cancelation of City Council meetings for two weeks. Other cities from San Francisco to San Diego to neighboring Glendale held City Council or Supervisorial meetings on the same day as LA’s cancelled meeting. This is a problem we could have solved, but Nury Martinez’s office did not have the foresight or willingness to solve it.
Nury Martinez’s failure of leadership hurts the most vulnerable Angelenos and threatens the stability of our city as a whole. In the midst of a crisis, we need steady, responsive, and courageous leadership. Instead, our City Council President has shirked her duties and provided no clear answers. Nury Martinez has caused a crisis within a crisis. We are not expected to emerge from the coronavirus crisis any time soon. It is imperative that Nury Martinez step aside as soon as possible to make way for a more capable leader who can respond with urgency during times of crisis.