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LA City Council elects new president amid the fallout from leaked racist audio

<i>Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images</i><br/>Paul Krekorian
Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag
Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images
Paul Krekorian

By Taylor Romine and Nouran Salahieh, CNN

In a unanimous decision, the Los Angeles City Council voted for Paul Krekorian to take over as its president Tuesday following the resignation of Nury Martinez, who was heard making racist comments in a leaked audio recording that drew the nation’s attention to the city government.

Krekorian, who represents Council District 2, an area stretching from Toluca Lake to the edge of Verdugo Mountain Park in Sun Valley, was elected in 2009 and served for years as chairman of the city’s Budget and Finance Committee. Previously, Krekorian was a California State Assembly member, according to his website.

While Krekorian thanked his fellow city council members for their faith in him, he noted the serious conditions in which this vote occurred.

“The city is not celebrating now, the city is grieving. And we are working overwhelmingly together to try to overcome what we experienced over the last week,” Krekorian said during the meeting.

His predecessor, Martinez, resigned from her seat on Council District 6 last week, two days after stepping down from her post as president after the recording came to light, igniting outrage across the city.

Krekorian said he plans to reduce the powers of the council president in light of recent events, and “the era of unilateral decision making and consolidating power — that ends today.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement Tuesday that Krekorian has his full support.

“Paul is a committed and conscientious leader who can bring a smart, collaborative, and effective approach to a painful moment when Angelenos deserve steady leadership on the City Council,” Garcetti said. “I am confident that he’ll assemble a leadership team of bridge builders, and I’ll work closely with the Council to help heal the wounds caused by the hateful words of a few.”

The leaked audio, which was posted anonymously on Reddit and obtained by The Los Angeles Times, details a year-old conversation between Martinez, council members Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera.

Much of the conversation focused on maps proposed by the city’s redistricting commission and the council members’ frustration with them. But it also featured racist remarks about a fellow council member’s Black son and about Oaxacans.

Herrera apologized in a statement released by the union and resigned last week. Cedillo apologized in a statement and said he should have stepped in during the conversation. De León called comments made during the conversation “wholly inappropriate,” and said he should have acted differently.

Cedillo and de León, who both face mounting calls to resign, weren’t at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

In addition to voting for a new president, the council on Tuesday also unanimously voted to look into the next steps to add a ballot measure to amend the city charter and create an independent redistricting commission.

They are also looking into possible steps to add more city council member seats based on population and ethics reform legislation.

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