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LA City Council's Only Republican Is Stepping Down At Year's End

Los Angeles Councilman Mitch Englander, the council's only Republican, plans to step down to take a job in the private sector. (File photo by Mae Ryan/KPCC)
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Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch Englander announced Thursday he is stepping down to take an executive job at Oak View Group, an entertainment and sports facilities company.

Englander, who is serving his second term on the council, is the only Republican on the 15-member council and was not facing re-election for another two years.

The news of his impending departure signals a major, possibly historic, shift on the council. At the same time, it leaves unclear who will represent District 12 covering San Fernando Valley communities like Porter Ranch, Northridge and Chatsworth.

The City Council, once led by Republican white males, has changed over the decades into a more liberal and diverse body.

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Today the City Council includes people of color, and every member is a Democrat -- except for Englander.

Jaime Regalado, emeritus professor of political science at Califorma State University, Los Angeles, said an L.A. council without a Republican would be significant.

"Symbolically, he represented the minority party," Regalado said.

He said even though the council is technically nonpartisan, Englander's departure could usher in a council comprised entirely of Democrats if one replaces him -- the first time in the city's history.

What happens next will depend on Council President Herb Wesson and the council. Wesson can appoint a non-voting caretaker for the district or he could represent Englander's district and his own, which is what he chose to do when Councilman Felipe Fuentes resigned in 2016.

Other options include a special election, which in the case of the Fuentes seat was estimated at about $1 million, or the council could vote to appoint a council member with voting powers.

Englander will take a job as executive vice president for government affairs at Oak View, which was founded by AEG's former chief executive. Englander said in a letter that he was offered an opportunity he could not pass up.

"While I didn't seek this out, sometimes tremendous opportunities find you," he wrote.

He called serving on the council one of the most significant events in his life and described numerous accomplishments, among them helping establish FirstSTAT, the Los Angeles Fire Department's program to improve response times.

Englander mentioned several emergencies that have impacted the district, including the "largest gas blow-out in U.S. history," a reference to the Aliso Canyon natural gas leak discovered in 2015.

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Englander's actions in the wake of the leak did not always win him full-throated praise.

Issam Najm, a resident of Porter Ranch who wants the Aliso Canyon gas field closed, had this comment:

"He exerted all the pressure he could on the Gas Company to address the grievances of the people affected by the disaster, and has since publicly called for the closure of the Aliso Canyon facility," said Najm.

"Where I would fault him, and the entire City Council for that matter, is in the fact that since that disaster, there has been no discussion, let alone action, on how to avoid the impact of a possible future event like this on the City. The fact of the matter is that there are dangerous Oil and Gas operations in the vicinity of homes all across the City, and that cannot continue."

In a written statement, Council President Wesson said Englander will be remembered as a champion not only for the Valley, but all Angelenos.

"His ability to reach across parties and personalities to deliver for his constituents is invaluable. His leadership on the Los Angeles City Council will be missed," Wesson said.

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