Scandal in the LA City Council highlights racial tensions and predicts possible upsets in the upcoming midterm election.
After a recording of racist comments by the former LA City Council President Nury Martinez was leaked, racially charged turmoil has been growing. This disturbance has created uncertainty about the fast-approaching midterm elections and about which candidates could possibly remedy the revealed corruption from inside the City Council.
A Quick Timeline:
Oct 9 — The leaked recording was of a meeting between former LA City Council President Nury Martinez, Councilmembers Gil Cedillo, Kevin de León and L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera.
In the meeting, they discussed several issues, and at one point, Martinez commented on another council member’s son, who is Black, as his “accessory” and compared the son’s behavior to a “parece changuito,” or “little monkey.” She also made racist comments toward Oaxacan immigrants in Koreatown, calling them “short little dark people,” according to NPR.
Oct 12 — Nury Martinez stepped down from her position as city council president. However, protests still disrupted the council meeting held later on that day, chanting for her resignation. Later that day, Martinez announced her resignation, saying in a statement, “It is with a broken heart that I resign my seat for Council District 6, the community I grew up in and my home,” according to NPR.
Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León have both continued to stay on the council, despite protests for their resignation also. They each have issued statements; León stating that “the comments were inappropriate” and Cedillo apologizing for not stepping up in the moment to hold the others accountable, according to AP News.
Following Martinez’s resignation, Mitch O’Farrell became the acting council president.
Oct 17 — Mitch O’Farrell, the acting council president, stripped both Cedillo and De León of their regular committees and assignments in an attempt to put pressure on them to resign. He did re-assign them to a different committee; however, it is one that rarely meets and is not involved in any major decision making. Each of them had been on high ranking committees before this, “Cedillo chairing the Housing Committee and De Leon chairing the Homelessness and Poverty Committee,” according to NPR.
Currently, not much in the situation has changed but the fallout has revealed the racial tensions in LA’s population and political power system that have been a problem for longer than this single occurrence.
There is a long history of racial tension in LA; The Watts riots in 1965, the beating of Rodney King by white police officers and recently, the Black Lives Matter protests.
After the recording was released, the executive publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel, Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., commented to AP News, “To discover that these conversations are a part of the dialogue of the very people entrusted to lead the city of Los Angeles and to realize that there is a plot amongst them to minimize the voice and political power of the Black community makes it even more reprehensible.” The Sentinel is a Black-run newspaper.
However, there has also been a large amount of cooperation among the different races represented in LA, which shows up all the way back to the 1930s.
This cooperation can be seen now in the representation of many racial group leaders all speaking out against the words of Martinez and the other council members, calling for their resignations. Talking with AP News, vice president of the Latino Vote Initiative for UnidosUS, Clarissa Martinez said that “our community was deeply offended by the racist and dehumanizing comments made by those four Los Angeles elected and appointed officials.”
Beyond racial tensions, this scandal has also impacted another issue: the upcoming midterm election.
According to the LA Times, the news outlet that broke the story of the leaked recording, residents of LA have long been dissatisfied with its leadership in regards to issues such as homelessness, crime and corruption.
While many of the city council members are already Democrats, a further left wing group has seen an opportunity in this recent scandal to push their movement even further. This means that, according to “close watchers of LA politics … anti-establishment candidates are more likely to benefit. Those insurgents largely occupy the leftmost edge of the political spectrum.”
None of the council members involved in the scandal will be on the ballot in the upcoming election. However, their influence as being more aligned with established candidates will have an influence on voter perspectives.