In the closing minutes of the heated Downey City Council Meeting on July 13th, Downey City Mayor Claudia Frometa disclosed her intent to bring forth a potential vote of no confidence in L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón.
Mayor Frometa was responding to a line of speakers who advocated for a no confidence vote, which many of Downey’s surrounding cities, including Norwalk, La Mirada, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, and Whittier, have already implemented.
A speaker identifying as a 31-year resident of Downey, said “George Gascón has abandoned crime victims and their families. Gascón has disregarded the rule of law and weakened sentencing requirements.”
Another speaker identifying as a policeman, asked “Why haven’t we denounced Gascón’s policies? I think we all know why. Why should something that concerns all of the residents of this City be stymied because Council Member Mario Trujillo, who sits on the Board, is closely connected to Gascón and his administration?”
While Mayor Frometa often responds to speakers, she did not comment on this topic during public comment. However, at the end of the meeting she stated “Out of respect and curtesy to our Council colleague, Mario Trujillo, we are not going to be discussing that until after his retirement in August. I think that is a fair thing to do.”
The political context
Since taking office, opponents of Gascón have held that he is too lenient on crime and too harsh on police. Notably, Gascón has drawn significant criticism for his willingness to meet with activist groups, including Black Lives Matter Los Angeles. At the time of the meeting, co-Founder Melina Abdullah said, “This is a great first step, but we also want to make it very clear that we also plan to hold you accountable.”
In Downey, Gascón’s recall is one of three recalls that are likely to be supported by similar voters. The recalls of Governor Gavin Newson, District Attorney George Gascón, and now Downey Council Member Catherine Alvarez all seem to be conducted by voters who disagree with the more "progressive wing" of the Democratic Party. Gascón was notably endorsed by self-described democratic socialist Senator Bernie Sanders.
An uphill path for Frometa
To move forward with a vote of no confidence in Gascón, Mayor Frometa must find at least two other votes among her colleagues. Yet, it is difficult to see where she could possibly find such votes.
Council Member Mario Trujillo is a Deputy District Attorney, working directly with Gascón. Writing on his Facebook in support of Gascón's 2020 campaign, Trujillo said "We can absolutely continue to make protection of the public a priority while we also focus on rehabilitation for offenders. Incarceration is very expensive and should be reserved for the dangerous, not the mentally infirm, those suffering from addiction or the poor."
Like Trujillo, Mayor Pro Tem Blanca Pacheco and Council Members Catherine Alvarez and Sean Ashton are all Democrats, and the L.A. County Democratic Party strongly supports Gascón. Chair Mark Gonzales issued a statement on the recall, saying “Make no mistake, Los Angeles Democrats will fight any attempted recall of this District Attorney.”
If Frometa does place the vote of no confidence on the Council agenda, it seems likely that she will be the only vote against Gascón. If so, the vote would add to her record of standing on her own during politically charged, high-profile votes—such as her vote in opposition to raising the PRIDE flag during the June 22nd meeting.
Downey City Council meetings take place every 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month. Mayor Frometa is expected to present her case by November.