In a plot twist that could rival your favorite telenovela, Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León remains resolute, despite the no-holds-barred leaked audio scandal earlier this year. After enduring months of protests, including protests outside his house, being temporarily stripped of council duties, and numerous calls to step down from political leaders and social media thumb warriors, Kevin has stood fast in performing his duties for CD14, a district representing Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, El Sereno, NELA, Eagle Rock, and Downtown LA.
In an exclusive interview with Eyewitness News, Kevin de León shared his recent journey, saying, “I could’ve buried my head in the sand and pretended there’s no room for growth. But I didn’t do that. I’ve connected with folks from the religious community, other community leaders, and it’s been quite a process. This journey might take years, but it’s happening, and frankly, it’s not over yet. I think I’ve become a better person through it.”
Despite the tumultuous backdrop, Kevin’s most recent ten months in office have seen notable achievements. In May, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved the DTLA 2040 Plan, including protections for garment workers and mandatory affordable housing in Downtown LA, ensuring a mix of incomes.
Kevin received praise in Boyle Heights for securing grants for the Hollenbeck Park Lake Rehabilitation Project, a transformation of one of the city’s oldest and most iconic parks. “This $25 million, along with another $17 million that I helped secure through other grant funding sources, will transform this park into the pristine, lush space that it was when it first opened over 130 years ago,” said de León.
Meanwhile, Boyle Heights community activist Mago Amador expressed gratitude, stating, “For decades, the voices in our community that have called for improvements here at the lake have gone unanswered – until now. This project will deliver meaningful enhancements to our urban environment and reverse years of environmental pollution in Boyle Heights.”
For Downtown, Kevin spearheaded homeless encampment cleanups and community beautification projects in partnership with the Bureau of Street Services and The Downtown Center BID. He also played a crucial role in the Art Walk Revival community project, DTLA Art Night, alongside longstanding Historic Core BID Director, Blair Besten.
CD14’s sponsorship of enjoyable summer concerts in Grand Park and Pershing Square provided artists and musicians across the city with opportunities to entertain and uplift the masses.
This year de León, established Zoot Suit Heritage Week, June 3-9th, in recognition of Chicano culture and to apologize for the City’s past atrocities that occurred during the Zoot Suit Riots back in 1943.
As for the infamous leaked audio, Kevin de León joined former colleague Gil Cedillo in suing two ex-employees of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, alleging invasion of privacy and negligence. The lawsuits claim that husband and wife, Santos Leon and Karla Vasquez, recorded the audio without their knowledge or consent to tarnish their reputations.
Unfortunately, bad humor and gossip during a private October 2021 meeting where de León, Cedillo, former City Council President Nury Martinez, and former Federation President Ron Herrera discussed ways to revise City Council district boundaries in favor of Latino voters, have overshadowed Kevin’s lifetime career of accomplishments, including securing a $47.5 million grant for Skid Row, the largest infrastructure grant ever for the Skid Row district. Skid Row has the largest concentration of American Blacks in downtown LA. Politically silent in the grand scheme of voices in downtown able to bring forth positive change, blacks only contribute a mere 4% of voters within the CD14 voter pool.
Despite calls from voters, political opponents, Black Lives Matter protests, and even the President to step down, the Councilmember remains undeterred in his pursuit of re-election.
Come Back Kev!
Still, in the midst of this wild drama, some city hall pundits believe there’s a significant chance that de León could make a comeback and retain his office chair in City Hall.
Four recall attempts have failed, and de León knows people haven’t forgotten the scandal, he’s banking on an electoral victory to continues his renewed focus to improve CD-14. But, can he win?
Kevin de León was elected to the California State Senate in 2010, and in 2014 he was elected by his colleagues to lead the Senate, making him the first Latino to serve as President pro Tempore in over a century. Before his election to the Senate, Kevin served four years in the State Assembly.
Prior to joining the Los Angeles City Council, Kevin was a professor, senior analyst, and distinguished policymaker-in-residence at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs; as well as a Distinguished Fellow for Climate, Environmental Justice and Health with the USC Schwarzenegger Institute at the University of Southern California.
One thing is for sure, Kevin de León is a mean-lean getting money machine.
Kevin secured more than $68 million to revitalize the Los Angeles River, $176 million to clean up toxic waste around the former Exide Technologies facility, funding for more than a dozen new parks, and $26 million to complete the Los Angeles State Historic Park.
Outside of downtown, he’s appropriated tens of millions of dollars to make Los Angeles schools more energy-efficient through Prop 39, bringing relief to city taxpayers. Kevin also authored Proposition 68, to keep drinking water clean and open new parks throughout the state. As author of Proposition 2, he secured the largest financial investment to build permanent supportive housing for Californians experiencing homelessness, especially in Los Angeles. Those kind of investments haven’t gone unnoticed by the communities they’ve service, earning him the nickname of “the Councilmember with the golden touch.”
Prior to being elected to public office, Kevin worked as a community organizer and also as a teacher, teaching English as a Second Language and U.S. Citizenship.
Most likely, constituents of CD14 whose lives, businesses and neighborhoods have been positively impacted by Kevin de León will not cast their votes against him.
Time is on his side, and with more characters entering the storyline, support for newcomer candidates could end up splitting votes hurting the chances for more well-known political opponents in this CD14 novela, such as Miguel Santiago and Wendy Carrillo.
The primary election is set for March 5, and DTLA be watching each episode to see if de León will be here for the next season of “Come Back Kevin.”
Photos courtesy of Concilmember Kevin de León, CD14. www.councildistrict14.lacity.gov