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Re-elected LA council president Herb Wesson starts term with promises, jokes (updated)

Councilman Herb Wesson was reelected council president Tuesday with a 13-0 vote. Councilman Bernard Parks was noticeably absent from the vote.
Councilman Herb Wesson was reelected council president Tuesday with a 13-0 vote. Councilman Bernard Parks was noticeably absent from the vote.
Andres Aguila/KPCC

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With a unanimous vote, Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson was re-elected council president Tuesday.

In a city government where the mayor does not have a lot of absolute power, the power that Wesson will continue to wield rivals that of Mayor Eric Garcetti. Councilman Mitch Englander from the San Fernando Valley was elected president pro tempore and Councilman Tom LaBonge was reappointed to the number three leadership post.

“You know, there have been some articles that have described me as a dictator, a mini-Amin,” Wesson told his colleagues. “I’m not that guy, but I do want to be efficient. I don’t tell you how to vote – we build coalitions here.”

“I’m proud when we have a 15-0 vote and it’s not because I said, ‘Vote that way.’”

Absent from Tuesday's vote was Councilman Bernard Parks. Wesson and Parks clashed during the redistricting process as Parks lost valuable parts of his Eighth District. After Parks declined to vote for Wesson in 2011, the new council president stripped Parks of his coveted Budget and Finance committee chairmanship.

After reminding his fellow councilmen to show up to meetings on time and keep their public presentations brief, Wesson decided to play something of a joke.

“I like to do devilish things sometimes because I’m a devil,” said Wesson as his staff handed out presents to council members. Inside the gift-wrapped boxes were socks – in bright colors and stripes. Councilman Joe Buscaino, affectionately called "Joey B" by Wesson, was put in charge of the unofficial “Weird Sock Day.”

Mayor Garcetti, a past council president, made a brief appearance in the Council Chamber to congratulate Wesson on his reelection.

“You will see us working together, myself and the council president, to make this building more accessible, to make the symbols of democracy more vibrant," Garcetti said. "And to make sure that the substance of the work that we do, too, is equally strong."

Though most of the councilmen gave speeches during the 50-minute ceremony, none mentioned the absence of women from the city’s 18 elected positions. (That will change on July 23 when either Nury Martinez or Cindy Montañez is elected to to fill the open city council seat in the San Fernando Valley formerly held by now-Congressman Tony Cardenas.)

Speaking to KPCC last month, Wesson said he believed the absence of women was cyclical.

“In my view, wherever women are a part of it, it appears to get better,” Wesson said. “I would love to see more females on the council but like I’ve mentioned … elections go in cycles.”

“I am just going to look at this through a positive lens that those numbers will kick back up,” he said. “But right now I have to deal with the council members that I have, so if it’s a bunch of skinny-legged guys, then me and my skinny-legged guys will do the very best that we can.”

As council president, Wesson gets to make committee assignments. Immediately following his re-election, his office released this list of committee chairs:

The members of the Executive Employee Relations Committee, which is chaired by the mayor, are Wesson, Krekorian, Englander and Koretz. 

Wesson’s term as council president is two years.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly named members of the Executive Employee Relations Committee.