HUNTINGTON PARK — Vice Mayor Graciela Ortiz moved up to the mayor’s chair and Councilwoman Marilyn Sanabria was elected vice mayor as the City Council reorganized March 1. In both cases the vote was 4-1 with Councilman Valentin Amezquita dissenting.
Ortiz and Sanabria, along with outgoing Mayor Karina Macias and Councilman Jhonny Pineda were served Feb. 16 with intent to recall papers but City Attorney Arnold Alvarez Glasman said the city needs more documentation from the recall proponents.
Ortiz was sworn in as mayor by Planning Commissioner Efren Martinez.
After quietly listening to critical remarks from people opposed to the new council leaders, Macias struck back in comments as she stepped down as mayor, calling the protesters “racists” even though the critics include some African Americans and a number of Latinos.
Macias thanked her parents and supporters saying “we have done nothing wrong except be proactive to improve the life of the community.”
“People who come to these meetings to abuse council members and staff are degrading the community,” said Macias to loud applause from supporters.
“We are beholden to our community and not to outsiders. I stand by my beliefs,” she added.
As outgoing mayor she was thanked for her service by members of the community, representatives of County Supervisor Hilda Solis and State Sen. Ricardo Lara, and a number of local organizations.
“I have been challenged all my life. Challenges bring out the best in me,” Macias added.
Pineda defended his three colleagues, saying “I appointed the two and it would be my decision to let them go. I have researched the action and done nothing wrong.”
Amezquita defended the protesters’ right to freedom of speech, saying “all should be allowed to speak. People are not racists because they disagree with you.”
Elected with Macias in 2013, Amezquita said she lived in adjoining Walnut Park with her parents at the time.
“The negative comments do not overshadow the good we have done in the community,” Sanabria said. “We are moving forward and will continue.”
In accepting the mayor’s chair, Ortiz thanked her mother for instilling in her a strong sense of community, saying, “I have lived in Huntington Park all my life. I love Huntington Park.”