Attorney John Sweeney suggests that his clients would rather see Karly Katona, a person who doesn’t and has never lived in Council District 10, oversee the district rather than have one of the community’s most endeared African American leaders, Herb Wesson, represent the district
Since 1963, when Tom Bradley defeated Joe E. Hollingsworth to become the first African American elected councilmember of the 10th District, the seat has always been seen as a Black seat.
Since 1963, the seat has been held by noted African American community leaders Tom Bradley, David Cunningham, Nate Holden, Martin Ludlow, Herb Wesson and Mark Ridley-Thomas. Now, Mark Ridley-Thomas’ allies want to give up the historic leadership in the 10th District so that his former chief of staff, Karly Katona, who doesn’t even reside in the district and lives in Hancock Park, can lead the district.
On Friday, March 18, at a press conference regarding Herb Wesson as the interim replacement for Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas (who was suspended by the City Council following his federal indictment on charges of bribery and embezzlement) it was suggested that appointing Ridley-Thomas’ former chief of staff, Karly Katona, as the interim councilmember instead of Herb Wesson – who has served honorably as the councilmember for the 10th District for over 12 years – would be the best thing for the district.
This suggestion has many voters within the district furious and the mere idea of this appointment is an insult to those who have labored to keep the leadership within the district Black. For John Sweeney’s clients to suggest that we, as a community, would lead the movement for changing the face of leadership by vacating a seat that has been historically Black and appointing a non-Black woman to the position is outrageous. If we voluntarily give up the seat, we may never get it back.
When a reporter asked Attorney Sweeney following his press conference about a short list of candidates to fill the vacancy, Sweeney replied, “There is no short list. We’ve come up with one name and that name is Karly Katona.”
For John Sweeney (on behalf of his clients) to suggest this is an insult not only to Herb Wesson, but to all the Black men and women who live in the district, who have served the district socially and politically for years, and are very capable and qualified to hold the historically Black seat.
There are so many strong Black men and women that already live in the district that should be on their list – such as Jacqueline “Jackie” Dupont-Walker and Melina Abdullah – before we voluntarily vacate one of the most significant and historically Black seats in the history of Los Angeles and it is disgraceful and an insult to all who live in the 10th District and to the legacy of those leaders who previously served with honor and dignity.
The suggestion to appoint Karly Katona because she was Mark’s selected chief of staff may be good for Mark’s ego, but certainly is not in the best interest of the 10th Council District or its residents.
The Registered Voters of the 10th contingent have been saying that their opposition to Wesson’s appointment is based upon it not being an open process. What people have to remember is that the process lies within the authority of the Council President Nury Martinez.
Martinez has openly met with community residents and leaders throughout Council District 10 for months, including many of the members who are a party to the lawsuit. She ultimately selected Herb Wesson to serve as the interim councilmember and this selection was approved unanimously by the entire Los Angeles City Council.
How much more of an open process could anyone ask for? For this group to only be capable of coming up with one name and that one name does not live in the district is unreasonable, irrational and lacks the credibility that a person making such a vital decision requires.
Karly Katona doesn’t even live within the boundaries of the 10th Council District. In fact, the Sentinel has learned that before Judge Mary H. Strobel made her ruling that revoked her temporary restraining order in favor of Wesson being appointed and serving as the “interim” councilman for the district, Attorney Sweeney on behalf of his clients – SCLC-SC President Pastor William Smart, Joy Atkinson, Kwame Cooper and Harry McElroy (collectively known as the Registered Voters of District 10) – proposed that they would drop their case if they would be allowed to move Katona into the district and then nominate her as the “interim” councilmember for the 10th Council District.
Wesson and the City of Los Angeles rejected the settlement offer, believing that their case was strong and that they would be victorious in court and in fact, they were. Mr. Sweeney did acknowledge that Karly Katona did not live in the district, but said, “As of about three weeks ago, her statement was that she was willing to move into the district to comply with the City Charter.”
Attorney Sweeney, in an interview with the Sentinel, was asked why would his clients suggested appointing a person to the seat who does not live in the district, he responded, “They (my clients) are extremely confident that Mark Ridley-Thomas will be reseated as the councilmember for the 10th District in this calendar year. This is a temporary caretaker who knows the operations of the council office. That was their overriding concern until their elected official is reseated.”
However, Katona had no relationship with the 10th Council District until Mark Ridley-Thomas won his City Council seat and she was named chief of staff a little over a year ago. How can this person be better suited to serve the district than Herb Wesson, who left office only because of term limits and has remained extremely popular within the district because of his thoughtful and caring service to the people of the 10th?
Many residents in the district are outraged that this small group of people would go to such lengths to deny Herb Wesson the right to serve the 10th Council District – a man who is eminently qualified and who has served the district well for years and who continuously won re-election to the seat by over 60% every time he ran for the office.
I am shocked that Rev. Smart and SCLC, Joy Atkinson or any of the other petitioners in the lawsuit would advocate for our community to give up the power of having a Black seat – for a day, for a week, or for a month – it is a violation of the hard work that so many have put forth to retain one of the most historically significant seats in our community. If we give up this seat, which we have fought long and hard to secure and retain, we may never get it back.
Herb Wesson has been selected to lead the Council District 10 until such time as Mark Ridley-Thomas has been cleared of the charges facing him, and until that happens, we must embrace this decision and support this proven leader who can and will provide the 10th Council District with the type leadership it must have and deserves.