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L.A. City Council: Wesson strips Parks, Perry of key chairmanships [Updated]

January 27, 2012 |  2:50 pm

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson engineered another shake-up at City Hall on Friday, removing Councilman Bernard C. Parks from his post as chairman of the powerful Budget and Finance Committee, which serves as the clearinghouse for budgets proposed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The  move is expected to widen the bitter divide between Wesson and Parks, two of the council’s three African American members, who are already at odds over new proposed boundaries lines for the 15 council districts.
Parks, a budget hawk who had run the committee for eight years, did not show up for the Nov. 23 vote that made Wesson the council’s newest president. Parks’ spokesman said afterward that the councilman was ill. But Wesson said after that vote that he was disappointed.

Wesson also removed Councilwoman Jan Perry from her post as chairwoman of the Energy and Environment Committee, which reviews proposals for electricity and water rate hikes at the Department of Water and Power. Perry, like Parks, did not attend the council meeting where Wesson was elected president.

The changes could make it easier for Villaraigosa, a Wesson ally, to see some of his proposals win passage. Parks, a powerful voice on the city budget, had stalled or killed key Villaraigosa proposals while heading his committee. For example, he helped defeat a proposal to balance the budget by borrowing $43 million over five years to pay for costs associated with an early retirement program offered to city employees.

Perry has been an obstacle to Villaraigosa's efforts to increase utility rates at the DWP. And both she and Parks have been critical of a proposal to borrow 27 years' worth of street construction funds to pay for a blitz of road repairs.

The budget committee will be headed by Councilman Paul Krekorian, who represents the San Fernando Valley. Parks is off the budget panel, while Perry is no longer on the energy committee.

Even before the committee assignments were made, Parks and Wesson had been at odds over new council district lines proposed by a 21-member panel. Over the last week, Wesson’s appointee on the Redistricting Commission pushed a plan -– now abandoned -– to strip most of Baldwin Hills, the neighborhood where Parks lives, from the South Los Angeles district he represents.

The proposed redistricting map, which was released Wednesday, takes Baldwin Vista and the residential section of Leimert Park out of Parks’ 8th District.  Parks responded by saying that his district was being treated like a “junkyard,” with commissioners trying to remove different pieces of it.

The redistricting panel is run by a former Wesson aide, Andrew Westall, a key figure in a legal dispute over campaign funds that are owed by Parks' 2008 campaign for county supervisor. Parks opposed Westall’s hiring when the commission was formed.

Wesson gave the top position on the energy committee to Councilman Jose Huizar, a close ally of the mayor. The redistricting proposal would shift most of downtown -– a powerful hub of campaign fundraising -– from Perry's district to Huizar's. Perry, a mayoral candidate, said the plan would leave her district dominated by pockets of poverty.

[Updated at 3:33 p.m.: The changes, which take effect Feb. 6, are part of a larger batch of committee assignments made by Wesson. Ed Johnson, Wesson’s spokesman, said his boss would not comment on the committee assignments at any point Friday.

Perry said she saw a connection between her absence from the presidency vote and her removal from the energy committee. Nevertheless, she said she was happy to be placed on the council’s Education and Neighborhoods Committee, which oversees neighborhood councils.

“It gives me a forum to reach out on a citywide basis on such things as redistricting, DWP rate hikes and issues like transparency, corruption and civic engagement,” she said.

Parks also downplayed any hard feelings, saying he never felt entitled to any committee assignment. “I'm looking forward to having an extra 20 to 30 hours a week to focus on my district and my constituents,” he said in a statement.]


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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall