Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas (File photo)

Mark Ridley-Thomas should encourage the plaintiff and his friends to drop this frivolous lawsuit and allow Herb Wesson to serve as the “Interim” Councilmember of the 10th District and let’s move forward on working for the people and not for individual glory and political gain.  Nobody could serve as the Interim Councilmember of 10th District better than Herb Wesson.

For the past several months, our community has been enthralled in a political battle about Mark Ridley-Thomas and should he or should he not have been suspended from the City Council, and could he be appointed to serve again?  Mark felt that they should have not suspended him, the courts ruled that his suspension was legal and that he cannot return to the City Council until he is either vindicated of the charges of bribery and embezzlement or the charges have been dropped.  

Next question, should Herb Wesson be appointed or not be appointed as the “Interim City Councilmember” for the 10th District of the City of Los Angeles?  The courts will address that on March 17.

Council President Emeritus Herb Wesson (File Photo)

Unfortunately, this type of in-fighting and bickering is the very thing that far too often cripples our community and harms the very people we profess to be fighting for the most.  Call it what you want – “crabs in the barrel” or “dogs in the manger.”  It is the people who live and work in the 10th District that need and rightfully deserve a sitting Council representative now and should not be subjected to these constant and fruitless battles.

We can all agree that Mark Ridley-Thomas deserves his day in court and we all hope and pray that he comes out of these legal proceedings victorious and found “innocent of all charges.”  But, we most also deal in the reality of what Mark is facing.  These charges are serious and until such time as he can prove his innocence, the Los Angeles City Council has already voted to suspend him and the courts have ruled that they were within their rights to do so.  

Let’s also be clear that Council President Nury Martinez nor did any of the other members of the City Council vote to “suspend his pay.”  That decision was made by and at the sole discretion of City Controller Ron Galperin, who has the authority to make or not make that determination completely on his own.  

Herb Wesson (Courtesy Image)

The City Council nor did the Council President have anything to do with Ridley-Thomas’ suspension of pay.  Mark and others have alleged that Nury Martinez made the decision to suspend his pay.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Now, let’s deal with the appointment of Herb Wesson as the Interim City Councilmember for the 10th District.  The reality is that MRT has been indicted on 21 counts of bribery and embezzlement and literally in the middle of the fight of his life.  Herb Wesson, Council President Martinez, the other members of the City Council and none of the citizens of the 10th District had anything to do with these charges.  But, the citizens of the 10th do deserve to be represented and not penalized for Mark’s legal issues.  

Herb Wesson has served honorably for over 12 years as the Councilman for the 10th District.  He is and has remained extremely popular within the district and only left the seat because of term limits.  Now, Mark’s attorneys and others are challenging Herb’s appointment, which makes no sense at all.  Herb didn’t run for the seat; he was recruited by many of the voters and leaders within the district to come “off the bench” and he agreed to serve on an interim basis to ensure that the 10th District had a voice and a vote as the city moves forward with addressing serious issues and dividing up resources throughout the city.  

As of today, the 10th District and its citizens are floating aimlessly about like a boat with no rutter and still have NO VOTE and NO VOICE and no advocate to fight for them.  They need a representative who knows how to deliver for the 10th and someone who can hit the ground running as the city moves forward with budget negotiations, allocation of homeless and housing resources, street and infrastructure improvements, business subsidies, police, fire, sanitation and the allocation of a variety of other city services being discussed in which the 10th District and its citizens are currently unable to participate in.

Now, as for the legal proceedings and the lawsuit filed by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California (SCLC-SC) – Pastor William Smart, Joy Atkinson, Mary Lee, Kwame Cooper, and Harry McElroy, collectively known as “League of Registered Voters of District 10” (on behalf of Mark Ridley-Thomas interest). This lawsuit is the very type of community posturing, which does our community and the people who need services no good.  Given the fact the SCLC-SC is not in good standing with the State of California, one would think that the Reverend Smart would spend his time and resources focusing on ensuring that the very agency he leads is in good standing with the state before he is engages SCLC-SC and its reputation in any lawsuit.  

As for the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit  – Joy Atkinson, Mary Lee, Kwame Cooper and Harry McElroy – what is their motivation behind filing the lawsuit?  They talk about “open and fair process,” but one simply needs to ask, why would five people file a lawsuit on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of people who live within the district who need and deserve proper representation?

On two of their three motions, the courts have already ruled. They found that the Los Angeles City Council was within their rights to “suspend” Mark Ridley-Thomas from representing the 10th Council District until such time as The United States of America vs. Mark Ridley-Thomas has been resolved and that Council President Martinez and the City Council are within their rights to appoint an Interim Councilmember.

Given the court’s final ruling regarding the validity of Mark Ridley-Thomas’s suspension, we have to ask the question.  Why wouldn’t Mark Ridley-Thomas come out in favor of Herb Wesson’s interim appointment?  Herb and Mark have been political allies for years.  Herb serves no threat to Mark’s reascending to his place on the City Council when his court case is resolved.  

Which then begs the question of why would Mark fight so feverishly to keep Herb from representing the 10th District?  Since it is clear that when his criminal case is resolved, he can gracefully return to his seat on the City Council?    All he must do is beat the 21-count federal indictment.   

“If Not Herb, Then Who?”  No one can be better qualified to represent the 10th District than either Mark Ridley-Thomas or Herb Wesson.  Mark cannot currently serve the 10th District, so Herb Wesson is the obvious choice.

In Rev. Smart’s own words, “This isn’t about Herb, this is about an open process.” But, to that end we ask, what could be more of an open and public process than to have a motion brought before the City Council and have all 14 Councilmembers UNANIMOUSLY approve Herb as the “Interim Councilmember” of the 10th District?  

Right now, the citizens of the 10th District are being subjected to “Taxation without Representation,” which as we all know is unconstitutional.  The residents of the 10th need and deserve to have a representative on the City Council.  The 10th was already absent during re-districting conversations of late last year and now with the city’s budget negotiations underway, they cannot afford to be locked out and not provided an advocate who is willing and capable of fighting for their fair share of the city’s budget pie.

Everybody is talking about serving the people of the 10th District, but it is truly the people of the 10th District who are suffering from a lack of representation throughout all this political maneuvering, noise making and harmful behavior.

We, as a community, need to unite and get out of our own way.  Let’s check our egos at the door and for once and for all, let’s do what is right for the people we profess to love, care and are fighting for.

Mark Ridley-Thomas deserves his day in court, but the people of the 10th District also deserve to be represented while Mark’s legal issue gets resolved.  The people of the 10th District didn’t cause Mark’s problem, nor did Herb, nor did Nury Martinez, nor did any of the members of the City Council.  We cannot allow the people of the 10th to be the perpetual sacrificial lambs of the political process just for the sake of Mark’s ego.  That is ridiculous and does not serve the members of the 10th District.  

Everyone should ask Mark’s allies to drop this frivolous lawsuit and allow Herb Wesson to serve as the “Interim Councilmember” of the 10th District and let’s move forward on working for the people and not for individual glory and political gain.

Finally, if the courts rule that Herb Wesson cannot represent the 10th District because of term limits, we should accept that decision just as we have been forced to except the court’s ruling that Mark cannot serve for various legal reasons.  But, the 10th District needs and deserves representation and someone will and needs to be appointed to that position and the responsibility will and does fall into the hands of the Los Angeles City Council.

The Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Sentinel