L.A. City Council’s Paul Krekorian Delivers Epic Rant On Progressive Candidates

Cityside Column: The veteran council member and budget expert responds to a shift in the political landscape

It was understandable that Paul Krekorian’s mood had soured on June 24 around lunchtime. The Supreme Court’s neanderthal decision, announced that morning, to overturn Roe v Wade had depressed, shocked, and angered people across the country. Krekorian, who for a dozen years has represented District 2 on the Los Angeles City Council, was feeling similar to much of the city about the reversal.

Krekorian acknowledged that he didn’t enter a luncheon hosted that day by the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum, where he was the featured speaker, intending to go off on a rant. But then he launched into the topic of elections and those who opt not to vote because they think the government is a sewer and all politicians are the same. He pointed to the consequences that can spill.

“It is unfathomable to me that people in this country are willing to give up our democracy—and that is what is happening, folks, right now,” he told the crowd of about 60 attorneys, consultants, union reps, and others chowing down on salmon and potatoes at the Downtown Palm. “We all need a sense of urgency about saving our government, saving our Constitution and saving our country.”

Krekorian, a former attorney, was just getting started. He twisted from national elections to local voting and in the process, veered into the results that can follow the election—not of conservative Republican legislators who help shape the make-up of the highest court in the land, but those who skew hard left and consider even liberal Los Angeles elected Democrats to not be nearly progressive enough.

“I hope that all of you will take an opportunity to look very closely at the candidates who are on your November ballot for the City Council, for the City Controller, and for the City Attorney,” Krekorian remarked. “I can’t imagine a more critical moment in the history of the city than Election Day, November 2022. And that’s as much as I’m going to say about that right now.”

But that wasn’t as much as he was going to say. Maybe it was the applause that rang out after the last line or maybe it was just his passion. Whatever the reason, Krekorian picked up the theme of those so dissatisfied with the city’s leadership that they are ready to “blow things up in the hopes something better will come.”

He turned to billiards—really!—and said the situation reminds him of a newbie who enters a pool hall, sees a bunch of difficult shots on the table, and decides, “I’m just gonna slam this thing as hard as I can, and hope that as the balls bounce around the table and maybe one of them will go in a pocket. That’s what we’re doing right now.

“And so,” the councilman continued, “I just leave you with this: Trust professionals. 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.”

It wasn’t hard to tell what, besides the big SCOTUS reversal, had riled up Krekorian. The results from L.A.’s June 7 voting was an electro-shock to City Hall, with two-term District 1 incumbent Gil Cedillo bounced by community organizer Eunisses Hernandez, and another two-term pol, District 13 rep Mitch O’Farrell, forced into a runoff by labor organizer Hugo Soto-Martinez, who has a healthy vote lead. Neither Hernandez nor Soto-Martinez has held political office and both were endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America Los Angeles chapter.

Krekorian’s reference to the city controller contest pointed to newcomer Kenneth Mejia. The progressive candidate has energized young voters but during the campaign, some of his past vitriolic social media posts were revealed; they include the time that he tweeted that then-presidential candidate Joe Biden is a rapist and a racist; Los Angeles reported in June that Mejia’s campaign has also paid the activists who disrupted mayoral debates by hurling expletives at the candidates, including an incident earlier this year during a forum inside a Jewish synagogue. Still, Mejia finished far ahead of Councilmember Paul Koretz. The two will meet in a November runoff.

A number of left-leaning Angelenos may view Krekorian as part of the old guard and along with other political veterans, he has been targeted by activists for a stance on issues such as the city’s homelessness crisis. But those who follow L.A. politics closely tend to view Krekorian as one of the more sage, thoughtful and level-headed figures in city government. He’s firm yet personable, with an expansive understanding of the intricacies and machinations of Los Angeles. If for some reason you conducted a draft of all 18 elected officials in the city based on who could keep the metropolis running functionally and responsibly, he’d be at least in the top six picks.

This assessment is not just ideological, it’s also practical. For more than a decade Krekorian has chaired the council’s Budget and Finance Committee, and he helped shepherd the city’s ravaged economy as it emerged from the depths of the Great Recession. He keeps a focus on matters that don’t command much attention, even if they can impact public life—during the Current Affairs Forum event he discussed topics including creating a city position of Chief Heat Officer and revamping the procurement process so local governments buy more stuff, as he said, from businesses in “North Hollywood rather than North Carolina.”

Krekorian is also among the pols who have clashed with the progressive crowd over how to respond to sprawling tent encampments. He lamented the intractability that has arisen.

“Like so many other issues, this has become so demagogued,” he said. “Anybody in public life now has to choose—either you support the homeless, which means anything goes and you can live anywhere you want and there’s never going to be any restrictions on what you do. Or if you don’t have that position, apparently you just believe in criminalizing homelessness. That’s an absurd, false choice.”

The change in council composition is likely to alter discussions of homelessness and other topics; on this, Krekorian stressed that he doesn’t mind “robust disagreement.” That’s good because for too long there was little dissent around the council horseshoe and years of 15-0 votes certainly contributed to the sense of public distrust of the local political process. It also fomented the appetite for alternative candidates.

Still, Krekorian warned of what he considers the ramifications if people keep sitting out elections.

“It’s up to all of us to figure out, how do we get people to realize that not being involved is a political choice, with political consequences?” he asked. “And the political consequences are, you are going to get amateur hour. You are going to turn over [the city’s] $11 billion budget to people who think, ‘We should abolish the police department. We should all of a sudden have the city take over all of the obligations for mental health care that the county gets funding to do.’ Or whatever else.

“[There is] no concept whatsoever of what a city does, and this is going to be your next generation of city leadership if you don’t do something about it,” he said.

Still, despite his warnings, Krekorian and his allies have more votes than the amateurs he frets over—at least for now.

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