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Sun, Dec

Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez Benches Errant Field Deputy

(L) Hugo Soto-Martinez (R) David Mai

LOS ANGELES

DEEGAN ON LA—It’s happened again…a staffer publicly embarrassed their LA City Councilmember boss. This time, it’s an automobile incident that’s causing a collision between the anti-LAPD sentiments of Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez (CD13) and what looks like a sense of entitlement by a Soto-Martinez deputy expecting special service from the LAPD. 

There’s a pattern here: newcomers to City Hall, holding high staff positions, running amok. 

Two years ago, the field deputy to newly elected Councilmember Nithya Raman (CD4) tussled with the Park Rangers that were trying to lawfully restrict a homeless encampment in Griffith Park. 

This time, a field deputy to newly elected Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez (CD13) was apparently concerned for the safety of his luxury Lexus that had broken down at the CD13 field office and allegedly requested to LAPD that they increase their overnight patrols of the parked car, possibly fearing theft or vandalism. 

The connective tissue that weaves together the two incidents is the warp of a new councilperson and the weft of an unseasoned field deputy, an important position on a council member’s staff. In the field, they are the face and voice of the elected council member. The pay is good and the power is commensurate to the title. It’s not a job to be taken lightly or frivolously, like Raman’s deputy, and as Hugo’s deputy seems to have done. 

Raman and Soto-Martinez both ran as radicals, and winning, has got to be intoxicating. Unexperienced staffers, placed in power positions, can easily get drunk on seeing how their new titles can suddenly open doors for them. They’ve made a jump to a big job, but bypassed the learner’s permit stage and are unprepared for politics as bumper cars. 

David Mai, identified as the owner of the car that was involved in the special service request to the LAPD, told CityWatch that he was a “CD13 Field Deputy” and would be “out of the office until further notice”. The Raman field deputy was similarly taken out of field duty and eventually faded away. 

The CD13 Communications Deputy, Nick Barnes-Batista, told CityWatchLA that “David will not be commenting at this time” but sidestepped a request to offer a statement from Councilmember Soto-Martinez.

(Tim Deegan is a civic activist whose Deegan on LA weekly column about city planning, new urbanism, the environment, and the homeless appear in CityWatch. Tim can be reached at [email protected].)