Los Feliz - “I wouldn’t blame them at all if they never want to be interviewed by me again, or be quoted,” said Allison Cohen, the publisher of the Los Feliz Ledger.
She was talking, of course, about the office of City Councilmember Nithya Raman, against whom Cohen is spearheading a recall effort.
By and large, people who cover the news try not to become part of the story they are covering. (There’s actually a debate in some newsrooms over whether political journalists should even vote.) And up until now, Cohen seems to have stayed within the usual parameters: The occasional election endorsement, a voice in the local business improvement district, and a futile attempt to get baseball fields in Griffith Park.
But then this USC journalism graduate began calling for Raman’s recall. And it went beyond just penning an editorial. On June 9, a notice of intent to recall was delivered to the Raman's council office, signed by Cohen and four other proponents from throughout the district.
This is, Cohen said, new territory for her.
“We’re figuring it out day by day,” she said.
Problems at a Los Feliz encampment
So why this? And why now? Why jump head first into the deep end of local politics, against a first-term councilmember who’s barely been in office for half a year?
It was that homeless encampment on Berendo Street, near Hollywood Boulevard, Cohen said.
For months, residents complained that it had been taken over by a criminal gang, and the Los Angeles Police Department has confirmed it has been run by a group called La Mirada Locos.
“Renters and homeowners alike on North Berendo have begged, respectfully, for help since December for the situation, which deteriorates by the day,” The Ledger editorialized in April.
In May, Raman told ABC7 News that almost all the tents had been removed. The news report then showed a few homeless structures that were still there. As this situation developed, the Ledger criticized Raman for reportedly leaving early from meetings with constituents.
“I can’t count how many people have said, ‘We call, we don’t hear back,’” Cohen said.
Nithya Raman responds
A statement from Raman’s office in response to the recall does not address these kinds of criticisms specifically. Instead, the Councilmember focused on her progressive agenda.
“We’ve enabled systematic outreach and connections to housing for dozens of encampments that had long been neglected,” the statement said. “We’ve introduced and passed legislation to better protect vulnerable tenants from harassment, to support small businesses, and to improve our homelessness response. We’ve successfully advocated for a budget that restores funding and full staffing for Rec and Parks and that funds mental health services and alternative crisis response for the district. And we’ve worked with constituents in every single neighborhood of the 4th District to effectively address their concerns.
"I love the people and the neighborhoods of this district. That’s why I ran to represent it. I invite the organizers of this recall to work with me on making it an even better place to live, work, and raise our children.”
That note of courtesy at the end is echoed by Cohen, who spoke well of Raman as a human being.
“I think she’s a lovely person. I’ve interviewed with her,” Cohen said. “I think she’s in the wrong role. ... I think she would be great focusing on that passion - the homeless, and getting homeless people housed.”
Covering a council district that stretches from Silver Lake to Sherman Oaks, however, requires more than that, Cohen said.
“There’s a lot of bread and butter issues in the district that need to be dealt with,” Cohen said. “Tree trimming, potholes. Not sexy stuff, but important infrastructure.”
Long road ahead for Nithya Raman recall
So Cohen is moving forward - and everything she’s done so far is just a fraction of what needs to be done.
Her group now has to submit the petition to the City Clerk - in a certain required typeface, in a certain required point-sized type. After the clerk reviews the document, recall proponents will have 120 days to gather at least 28,064 signatures - 15% of registered voters in District 4. And they plan to gather most of those signatures in person, rather than online.
That is where you will find this publisher for the next few months.
“The truth is there aren’t that many things I feel that strongly about,” Cohen said. “The recall was one of those things. And the baseball field was the other.”