In the 2020 general election, 75% of registered voters in LA County, turned out to vote. George Gascón received 54% of those votes, winning decisively over incumbent District Attorney Jackie Lacey.
By Chasity Jennings-Nuñez
As the previous District Attorney of San Francisco, Gascón’s views on the criminal justice system were well known. He campaigned on calls for changes in cash bail, misdemeanor charges, and the handling of juvenile defendants. He was vocal about new policies on police accountability. With this platform, he won the majority of votes in LA County and was elected District Attorney in November 2020.
In the last few weeks, several cities in LA County have placed items on their city council agendas to discuss resolutions expressing a vote of “No Confidence” in LA County DA George Gascón. Santa Clarita seems to have been one of the first, passing a resolution on March 9th . Since then, several cities have had council members request similar items be placed on their council agendas. Last week, Arcadia, Diamond Bar, Manhattan Beach and Santa Fe Springs considered resolutions. In the face of public comments, which for some councils numbered over 100, with most from crime victims, there were few city council members brave enough to question the value or merit of the resolutions. Even fewer were willing to appear “soft on crime” or face the wrath of community members by being in opposition. Despite every assessment concluding that these resolutions are largely symbolic gestures, city councils spent hours in mostly one-sided discussion.
What is the Resolution?
The No Confidence resolutions circulating in LA County all contain similar text and much of the same copied and pasted language. They all include a series of “Whereases.”
Whereas, the city values public safety and places it as its highest priority; Whereas, DA Gascón issued certain Special Directives that contradict State laws; Whereas, we believe these Special Directives undermine public safety.
The conclusion is that the city wishes to express a vote of no confidence. As of now, at least 14 cities have passed a resolution addressing this issue; the pressure for others to put it on the agenda is growing. Interestingly, Arcadia is the only city in the near San Gabriel Valley that has put a resolution on the agenda, with Alhambra, Pasadena, South Pasadena, San Marino and Monterey Park so far choosing not to devote city council time to this item.
San Gabriel City weighs in
On May 4, Councilman Harrington asked the San Gabriel city staff to include the discussion of a No Confidence vote on the next meeting agenda on the May 18th agenda, On May 18th ,Item 7 for New Business was: “CONSIDERATION OF RESOLUTION NO. 21-19 EXPRESSING A VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY GEORGE GASCÓN FOR HIS ATTEMPT TO UNDERMINE LEGISLATION AND THE BALLOT INITIATIVE PROCESS AND PLACE THE SAFETY OF THE GENERAL PUBLIC AT RISK.”
The biased wording of the agenda item makes it difficult to believe there was an intention to provide a presentation that served to inform or facilitate an open exchange or consideration of alternative actions. San Gabriel’s Resolution 21-19 also differs from the majority of other cities in that it “demand[s] Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón rescind every Special Directive issued since entering office on December 7, 2020, that contradicts state laws, undermines voter-approved initiatives and risks public safety.” Other cities simply directed the resolution, if passed, to be transmitted to applicable and interested parties and organizations.
Did Gascón act illegally when he issued the Special Directives?
Special Directives are not new to the LA County DA’s office. Previous DA Steve Cooley issued over 20 Special Directives.
The Association of Deputy District Attorneys filed a lawsuit asking for an injunction against two of the 9 Special Directives. Those were SD 20-08 (Sentence Enhancements) and 20-14 ( Re-sentencing). In January 2021, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant ruled a portion of 20-08 to be contradictory to the current California Three Strike Laws, and issued a temporary injunction halting its application to old cases; the judge did allow the Special Directive be used in new cases. After the injunction, DA Gascón immediately complied, but he is appealing the ruling. None of the other nine Special Directives have been challenged or deemed contradictory to current State laws.
Valid concerns about safety, particularly concerns about the rising number of hate crimes directed at the AAPI community, have been exploited with blanket statements made by people who know better that SD 20-07 won’t allow for prosecution of any misdemeanor and will lead to rampant lawlessness. These statements are made despite SD 20-07 having many exceptions, one for the prosecution of criminal threats related to domestic abuse or hate crimes.
Last week, the Los Angeles County Registrar approved a petition to gather signatures for an initiative to place a recall of Gascón on the ballot. Almost 580,000 valid signatures from registered voters in LA County must be obtained before October 27. The likelihood that Gascón will be recalled is low. For comparison, this is the 6th Newsom recall campaign and it took from June 10, 2020 to March 17, 2021to obtain the ~1.5 million validated signatures from registered voters in the state of California.. City Councils and Police Departments will need to continue to have a positive relationship with the DA’s office and work in a collaborative manner to benefit their residents. Regardless of individual councilmembers feelings about Gascón and his “progressive agenda”, it would seem unwise to align the your city against the DA and to attempt to negate the votes of the millions who put him in office. If the recall effort moves forward, the voters will have another opportunity to choose.
A post by my daughter Cecilia Nunez to address the wave of hypocritical behavior sums it up well:
With the wave of Los Angeles County city councils, including our own in San Gabriel, who are either considering or voted “no confidence” on DA Gascón on the “grounds” of the most basic attempts at policing and criminal justice reform, let’s make one thing clear: you cannot say you support Black Lives Matter in name only. All who, especially politicians, rushed this summer to take photo ops at rallies, who posted black squares, and still have BLM in their bios should consider how they can feel entitled to this message when they are now so quick to turn around and renounce even an attempt at change. While Black and Brown Angelenos protest yet another police killing of a Black man without accountability in Pasadena, our city councils are showing their true priorities. Black Lives Matter is more than just a hashtag, it is a true political, social, and cultural movement. Especially in the huge increases of violence against Black, Brown, and Asian people in our country, this is the moment to create solidarity and work together to imagine something better for all of us, not allow ourselves to once again be divided by white supremacy and racism. We must reject this “soft on crime” narrative that has always been used to disguise racist policies that have devastated communities of color, and allow ourselves the imagination to believe that change is possible and necessary. Black and Brown lives deserve better, and the actions of our government officials in this moment must be remembered.
The May 18 San Gabriel City Council meeting was rescheduled due to technical difficulties. I hope that the additional time will prompt a thoughtful consideration of matters by the San Gabriel City Council and others who may be considering this resolution. It is not too late to remove it from the agenda and focus on one of the many other pressing needs in our city like business development, affordable housing, street improvements, jobs for youth, and addressing homelessness.
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