Residents who live in the 6th district in the San Fernando Valley are currently without representation. Following the leaked tape heard around the country, which forced the resignation and shattered the political career of Nury Martinez, a temporary caretaker has been appointed to oversee the Valley district.
Sharon Tso, the city’s chief legislative analyst has been given the “caretakers” role and is now responsible for overseeing the council office to ensure that constituent services are being met.
However, the cost to the district and the city coffers is significant and has complicated the political process. A special election to replace Martinez, the former president of the City Council, is estimated to cost the City of Los Angeles up to $7.65 million.
The LA City Council voted last month for an ordinance that set the election for April 24, 2023, with a runoff election, if warranted, on June 27.
Martinez was expected to serve until 2024 but now when you call her former office — staff members answer the phone with “District 6,” no longer mentioning her name. They are in the process of removing her name and photos from all their public communication tools including the district’s website which is currently being reconstructed. Constituents are now told to communicate to the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
All memory of Martinez has also been removed from the council office doors.
Street signs bearing Martinez’ name are still posted throughout the district, which includes the Northeast San Fernando Valley communities of Arleta, Lake Balboa, North Hollywood, North Hills, Panorama City, Van Nuys and Sun Valley, but are also expected to be removed.
While removing Martinez’ name is expected, what is still being clarified is how staff members will respond to constituent calls. There are residents living in her district who are finding a disconnect and less concern from the council office staff since Martinez resigned.
There are mixed messages given to residents about what it means for a caretaker to “oversee the district” and how they should be responding to constituents’ needs.
A member of the Sun Valley staff who answered their phone said they are not logging constituent calls or constituent concerns because “unfortunately we don’t have a council person. We don’t have anyone we could forward such information to, so we aren’t taking in that information. Usually, we could forward that information to a council person who could bring it up at a council meeting on enacting policy — we don’t have a voting member.”
One local resident said he went into the Sun Valley field office with a concern and was told flatly, “we don’t have representation.” He described the office as “dark inside with few staff members.”
When contacted by The San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol, a member of the communications team at their downtown office said they are still providing assistance to constituents.
“We are still taking calls, we are still paving and cleaning streets and trying to help the district and conducting the day-to-day business for the council district. We are still out there every day.”
The media team who worked with Martinez for years to present her well with the prestige of being the first Latina City Council president, facilitated public events and media opportunities for Martinez, placing her front and center before the cameras, from one day to the next, they faced an unexpected firestorm of negative media coverage and have been in the throes of crisis communication. They were caught flatfooted and not prepared to respond to the massive outrage over what was perceived as blatant racial slurs spoken by Martinez caught and leaked on audio tape.
They have developed a new message that they are now readily sharing: “It’s not about the member, it’s about the district.”
Sharon Tso, the city’s chief legislative analyst who has been given the “caretakers” role is now responsible for overseeing the council office to ensure that constituent services are being met. The caretaker has no voting power and doesn’t hold a seat on the council. The caretaker can bring significant issues to the current council president but doesn’t have the political power to introduce them.
“[It] basically entails … ensuring that the constituents of CD 6 will continue to receive service,” said Tso. “Having this office serve as the caretaker is not an unusual event. It’s happened many times over the decades.”
Heather Hutt was appointed caretaker of District 10 when Mark Ridley-Thomas was suspended after being charged in a federal corruption case. She was appointed as a councilmember last month.
Meanwhile, at the former council offices of Nury Martinez, the staff is continuing to pick up the pieces. When contacted by The San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol about the lack of attention that residents have experienced from staff working at their field office, Sophie Gilhurst, communications officer replied via email:
“Council District Six staff is here to connect residents to resources and advocate for solutions that impact their neighborhoods. Residents have continued to call our District and City Hall offices and we will continue to address their needs and concerns. Residents can also follow us on @CD6LACity on social media and email us at CouncilDistrict6.lacity.org. As public servants for Council District Six, we will continue to work on behalf of the residents of the District.”
Diana Martinez contributed to this article.