Councilman Ed Reyes, pictured here in July 2011, would get emergency mayoral… (Los Angeles Times )
I explained in an earlier post that if Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa leaves office early to become, say, U.S. secretary of Transportation, the acting mayor would be the City Council president. And right now, that’s Herb Wesson Jr.
If I had been paying attention, I would have noticed the post by Alice Walton on the KPCC news site that reports that Wesson is recovering from a serious fall at his home that sent him to the emergency room and required stitches. I wish him a quick and full recovery. This is a hardly the time to be thinking about him taking over as mayor.
Still, it does make one wonder, right? What if Villaraigosa leaves early and for some reason Wesson isn’t able to take over? What happens then?
Under the emergency provisions in the city Administrative Code, if the council president is unavailable, the mayor -- strictly for emergency purposes -- is the council’s president pro tempore. At the moment, that’s Ed Reyes.
But what if Reyes isn’t available either? The assistant president pro tempore is Tom LaBonge.
Then it goes by council seniority. And the senior-most member of the council is -- well, wait a minute. Who is the most senior? When was Richard Alarcon elected, anyway? 1993, right? But then he left in his second term to join the state Senate, then when he was termed out he ran for the Assembly and served there for a couple of weeks -- OK, let’s be fair, it was more than three months -- and then came back to the council in 2007. He’s been there 10 years -- less than the 11 years that five of his colleagues have served, although he started earlier than they did.
So who is senior? Do we date Alarcon’s seniority from 1993 or from 2007? I don’t know. Maybe by the time we get that far down on the totem pole, it means whatever emergency happened was so disastrous that it doesn’t really matter which City Council member is in charge.
But we press on. If Alarcon isn’t in the picture, the emergency mayor of Los Angeles is one of those five council members who took office in 2001, except there will be only three because one of them, Reyes, would already be out of the picture as the unavailable president pro tempore, as would another, LaBonge, as the unavailable assistant. How do we choose among the remaining three? Alphabetically, according to the Administrative Code. Sorry, Dennis Zine. End of the line for you. Next up would be Eric Garcetti, then Jan Perry. And then to the class of ’03, Tony Cardenas and Bernard C. Parks. And Jose Huizar and Bill Rosendahl were both elected in 2005, but Rosendahl is senior by six months, as Huizar came aboard in a later special election to fill the seat previously held by Villaraigosa before his election as mayor. And then the Paul Ks, first Koretz (July 2009), then Krekorian (December 2009). And if all of them are gone, Mitchell Englander (2011) can lord it over Joe Buscaino (2012).
And if they’re gone too, the mayor’s emergency powers are to be exercised by the chairman of the Emergency Operations Board. That would be the chief of police.
It’s important to know what the succession order is and what the emergency powers are. For an example, look to the town of Springfield, where the mayor and the police chief had to leave the scene of a monorail emergency to consult the city charter on such questions. They discovered that the chief, as top constable, is entitled to “one pig every month and two comely lasses of virtue true.”