It’s been two weeks since the nation’s second-largest city was overshadowed by the audio recording that captured openly crude and racist remarks involving former Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez, LA Labor Federation president, Ron Herrera, and councilmembers Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo. It is still unknown who recorded the private conversation that took place last October while discussing the redrawing of districts.
On Oct. 12, three days after the leaked audio, Martinez, the city’s first Latina president of the Council, resigned. “It is with a broken heart that I resign my seat for Council District 6, the community I grew up in and my home,” she said in a press release. “This is the right move. Again, these comments have no place in our state, or in our politics, and we must all model better behavior to live the values that so many of us fight every day to protect,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. President Biden called for resignations. In addition, many other top politicians of the Golden State, like U.S. Senator Alex Padilla and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, have also asked all participants of the conversation to “take responsibility.”
As of today, Cedillo and de León have not resigned from their city council positions, something that has many community leaders and residents angry. Cedillo’s council term is over this December after losing his seat to Eunisses Hernandez, but de León’s term does not end until December 2024.
Mitch O’Farrell said his duty is to help the city heal. He also previously said that, although he was surprised that de León and Cedillo had not yet resigned, the council cannot force them to do so or remove them from their positions, but remains “hopeful” they will, as pressure grows.
In this news recap, CALÓ NEWS has gathered important updates and events that have occurred and been brought to life amidst the content of the audio, which was first published by the LA Times.
NEW LA CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT
Following the derogatory audio recording leaked of Martinez and three additional council members on Oct. 9, a new president, Krekorian, was selected by the council on Tuesday, Oct. 18 in a 10-0 vote. Krekorian, 62, has been both an LA City council member since 2009, and in charge of the Budget and Finance Committee for over a decade. Aware of the uncertain times and lack of public trust in the LA government, the new council president plans to not only restore public trust in City Hall but to also reduce the power that the council president’s role holds. Looking forward to the upcoming Nov. 8 election, as new council members are possibly selected, a fight for the presidency could commence if the additions do not agree with the selection of Krekorian. As of now, in addition to being council president, the San Fernando Valley native is also an active mayor, as mayor, Eric Garcetti is in Argentina, until Sunday. Garcetti said in an Oct. 18 statement that Krekorian has his full support. “Paul is a committed and conscientious leader who can bring a smart, collaborative, and effective approach to a painful moment when Angelenos deserve steady leadership on the City Council,” Garcetti said. “I am confident that he’ll assemble a leadership team of bridge builders, and I’ll work closely with the Council to help heal the wounds caused by the hateful words of a few.”
OAXACANS MARCH FOR JUSTICE
From LA Trade-Tech College all the way to City Hall, on Saturday, Oct. 15, Oaxacans marched in the CIELO (Comunidades Indígenas en Liderazgo, or Indigenous Communities in Leadership), an Indigenous women-led non-profit in LA, organized March for Justice in downtown LA, succeeding the leaked audio where the city leaders, including Martinez, referred to Oaxacans as “little, short dark people” — a racial stereotype often used against Indigenous communities. “I don’t know, which village they came from [from], how they got here, but boy are they ugly,” Martinez said. “Her refusal to apologize for her anti-indigenous and anti-black racism is unacceptable,” CIELO said in their statement on Oct. 13. According to an LA Times article, there are as many as 200,000 Zapotecs — the largest Indigenous group from Oaxaca who currently live in LA County. Oaxacans and allies marched to call an end to racism and discrimination toward Black and Indigenous communities. Additionally, protestors chanted and made signs pushing for the resignation of both councilmen, saying that Martinez stepping down was not nearly enough. “If we as a city wish to move forward, we need more than the resignment of three racist councilmembers – we need real investments in our communities. A strong 1st step is fully funding & implementing a language access plan that allows all residents to access desperately needed services,” CIELO said.
BLM PROTESTERS ORGANIZE A 24 HOUR PROTEST OUTSIDE OF DE LEÓN’S HOUSE, CALLING FOR RESIGNATION
To call for both Cedillos and de León’s resignations, the LA Black Lives Matter chapter and allies camped outside of de León’s home in Eagle Rock for various days, beginning the weekend of Oct. 15. “10 Latinx men were called out by Kevin de León to counter-protest. After about 10 minutes of [the] convo, they were moved to our side … because it’s the right side,” the civil rights group Black Lives Matter (BLM) stated in a tweet. In addition to the end of their roles in the council, the group also wanted redistricting decisions affecting the Black community that the council members worked on to be reviewed, as they were heard planning to gerrymander lines in favor of Latinos. Another group, the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, showed up to the protest in defense of the councilman, claiming it’s fully up to him to resign or not.
DE LEÓN AND CEDILLO HAVE LOST THEIR COMMITTEE POSITIONS OVER RACE SCANDAL
With the lack of response to calls to resign from de León and Cedillo, two LA City Councilmembers who were heard chiming into racist remarks made in the incendiary leaked audio recording on Oct. 9, both were stripped of their committee positions. On Oct. 17, because the council doesn’t have the power to remove fellow officials unless charged with a crime and all council members must be assigned one committee, acting Council President, O’Farrell, removed the councilmen from committee chairmanships.” These members have lost all credibility, all standing,” O’Farrell said in a City Hall conference. Cedillo chaired the Housing Committee and de León chaired the Homelessness and Poverty Committee. The two are now on the Board of Referred Powers, a committee rarely used and only looked to when other committees can’t come to an agreement. In their current positions, their council influence has lessened and they can no longer participate in daily work.
REDISTRICTING PROCESS AND REMOVING LAND-USE AUTHORITY FOR COUNCIL MEMBERS
On Oct. 18, the city council voted to begin the process of placing a measure on the 2024 ballot that would create an independent redistricting commission. More than racial and homophobic sentiments, the leaked audio also revealed the unethical and corrupted side of politics. In the leaked conversation, Martinez, Cedillo, de León and Herrera discussed how they could manipulate the district borders to help their reflections and dilute the strength of Black voters, renters and other marginalized communities, as stated by an LA Times article. The process of redistricting consists of the city drawing new council district maps every 10 years to reflect the updated census data. City council members have the final vote on maps and can redraw lines for their own political advantage and self-interest as reflected in the leaked audio. In the recording, Cedillo is heard talking about certain areas that he was afraid would be drawn into his district and requested that his district move more to the south and the west. He said he didn’t want to represent Elysian Valley, Eagle Rock, Highland Park, and Lincoln Heights. “I don’t need those areas,” Cedillo said. “I have poor people.”
EXPAND THE SIZE OF CITY COUNCIL
New York City has a total of 51 council members that represent the 51 council districts throughout the five boroughs of the city. LA only has 15 council members, each representing approximately 255 thousand Angelenos, according to the LA 101 Guide. On Tuesday, Oct. 8, O’Farrell introduced a motion that would increase the number of council districts in LA in 2024, to reflect the number of people living in LA, a number that continues to grow. “The Council should reflect the city residents that they serve; a charter amendment to increase the number of seats with methodology that ties council membership to population will help meet that goal,” O’Farrell stated in the motion. Councilmembers Nithya Raman, Paul Krekorian, Curren Price, and Paul Koretz signed the motion.
PRESIDENT BIDEN ASKS FOR RESIGNATION OF ALL MEMBERS OF LA CITY COUNCIL CAUGHT ON RECORDING
The highest governmental leader in the country, President Joe Biden, also had strong opinions on the controversial audio. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden believes all members of the LA City Council caught on tape making racist remarks should resign. “The president is glad to see that one of the participants in that conversation has resigned, but he believes they all should resign,” Jean-Pierre said. “The language that was used and tolerated during that conversation was unacceptable and appalling. He believes they should all step down.”
CD-14 SOCIAL JUSTICE AND COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION OPEN LETTER
The non-profit and social justice community of LA City Council District 14 published and released an open letter addressed to de León asking for his immediate resignation. CD-14 includes the neighborhoods of Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, and parts of Northeast Los Angeles. De León has represented the district since 2020. The letter was signed by 10 organizations and community representatives, including Inner City Struggle, Community Power Coalition, Eastside LEADS, Self Help Graphics and Art, Coyotl Macehualli, the Wellness Center, Brothers Sons Selves, and East LA Community Corporation. The letter addressed the redistricting and land-use authority that was heard in the leaked audio. “Your complicity in efforts to weaken the democratic representative power of Black residents and tenants through gerrymandering council districts is evidence that you never intended to lead towards unity,” states the letter. Henry Perez, the associate director of Inner City Struggle, said the open letter began when they reached out to their fellow East side partners and organizations, “We needed to stand united against anti-indigenous and anti-Black racism.” Perez told CALÓ NEWS last week that the message for both de León and Cedillo is to “do the right thing, show your responsibility and accountability and resign, the community has spoken, our voices are getting louder each day,” he said. “We really want to begin healing and begin addressing the structural racism that exist in our community but we can’t do that until those council members resign. Even after they resign there’s a lot of work to do.”
DE LEÓN SAID HE WILL NOT RESIGN
De León said he will not resign following the closed-door conversation that leaked. In an Oct. 19 interview with Noticiero Univision anchor León Krauze, de León apologized for his role in the 2021 discussion. “No, I will not resign, because there is a lot of work ahead,” de León said. As reported by LA Times, de León appears to want to fight to save his job, which pays $229,000 annually and also salvages his reputation. The same day, in a separate interview on KCAL-TV Channel 9, the politician said he wants to be part of the healing that the city needs from the hurt caused by the racist remarks. “I am extremely sorry, and that is why I apologize to all my people, to my entire community, for the damage caused by the painful words that were carried out that day last year,” de León said in the interview with Krauze.