Nury Martinez

It was a historic day for Los Angeles. In the city’s 170-year history, the first Latina is now president of LA’s City Council.

The downtown council chambers was filled with notables — including Secretary of State Alex Padilla, also from the Northeast Valley — to watch Nury Martinez take the tallest seat on the dais, reaching a powerful pinnacle of political success.

Martinez, always smartly dressed, wore a white suit and said she was most proud that her 10-year old daughter was there to witness the day.

“While I am the first Latina City Council President in the city’s history, I cannot be the last. Young girls of all backgrounds should have the opportunity to lead the city council one day or occupy any position of power. Our work under my presidency will focus on making sure they, and others, have the opportunity to do just that.”

It was not only her first meeting as Los Angeles City Council President, it was the first meeting for a Significant New Year that begins a new decade, and Martinez was prepared to roll out her plan and set priorities.

Martinez announced on Tuesday, Jan. 14, she will focus on issues that affect families and work to decrease the city’s homeless population that will begin by looking closely at the local agencies that handle those issues.

“We face tremendous challenges here in our city, challenges that demand us to lead with a sense of urgency,” Martinez said. “The working people of this city are doing everything they can to ensure that they keep a roof (over) their heads, but it’s still not enough. Our children are living with parents who can’t guarantee whether they’re going to be able to have a home next month.

“As public servants, we have an obligation and a purpose to help them.”

The struggles of the working poor who work in exhausting and unstable jobs is an experience she knows, growing up as a daughter of Mexican immigrants who worked as a dishwasher and factory worker. 

“I remember being in the bedroom and listening to my mother cry when she was going to lose her job,” Martinez said. “I remember the conversations and anxiety that took over our house when my parents didn’t know if they were going to be able to pay the mortgage the next month.” 

Martinez, who grew up in Pacoima, went to San Fernando High School and later moved to the City of San Fernando. Prior to being elected to the LA council, she served as a council member for the City of San Fernando.

As she sought higher office, she aligned herself with other Latino elected representatives who offered their endorsement and support, and now she is the first Latina to ever serve as LA’s council president, representing the Northeast San Fernando Valley. She was first elected to the council in 2013, and at the time was the only woman serving on the panel. 

She represents the 6th district, which covers the Northeast San Fernando Valley. The area she represents includes Van Nuys, Lake Balboa, Sun Valley, Panorama City, Arleta, a pocket area of North Hollywood, and North Hills East. She currently lives in Sun Valley.

As the new council president, Martinez introduced several motions, which are part of her “Families First” initiative that includes reevaluating the city’s role with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and reviewing the city’s Homelessness Strategic Plan.

“Right now, in the city of Los Angeles, there are families that are doing everything right, yet it is not enough. My main priority is to create a families-first agenda that ensures every child has the opportunity to make the most of this city’s many gifts,” Martinez said.

“Our families-first agenda is a call to action to lead, to be courageous and to act with urgency. We want to see children of the working poor, women and families, fulfill their dreams, which benefits the whole city.”

She also introduced motions to create incentives for businesses to hire foster youth who are transitioning into adulthood, to create a way for more women to be hired by the city, to create an internship program for low-income youth and to create a revolving loan program that would help people pay for essential items to prevent them from becoming homeless.

When asked by reporters about what will be the difference between her presidency and that of former Council President Herb Wesson, Martinez said there would be some noticeable changes.

“I’ve made that very clear. I have a different style and approach to solving issues,” Martinez said. “I think it comes from being a woman and perhaps from being a mom. I just don’t have a lot of patience for not getting things done.” In contrast to commonly unanimous votes under Wesson’s tenure, Martinez said she is “not afraid of having an 8-7 vote on any given Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday.”

She has led the charge at the council level to fight human trafficking on Sepulveda and Lankershim boulevards, and created a task force increasing efforts to assist women who are used in that business to escape and get the assistance they need. She also took action to punish the “Johns” and worked with law enforcement to clean up areas in the Northeast Valley known for prostitution.

Martinez also has her own “Green New Deal” agenda that is focused on environmental justice for low-income communities that historically suffer from pollution.

Martinez said she also will continue to be “relentless” in seeking public safety, transportation and clean street resources for the families of the Northeast San Fernando Valley.

City News Service contributed to this story.