LA Councilmember Nury Martinez announced today that she’s stepping down as council president after the LA Times and Knock LA released audio of racist remarks she made during an October 2021 meeting. That includes saying her colleague Mike Bonin’s Black son was acting “like a monkey.” Councilmembers Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, plus LA Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera were also part of the conversation.
Other elected officials have called on the involved parties to resign, including Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson. Cedillo and de León have released statements apologizing for what was said in that meeting. No full resignations have taken place however.
Former LA City Councilmember Jan Perry says that while councilmembers don’t always get along with one another, the leaked audio is an example of a personal and vicious attack.
“Rule number one: You never go after somebody's family member,” Perry says. “I'm reminded of a quote from Dr. [Maya] Angelou, which [is], ‘When people show you who they are, believe them.’”
The recorded audio took place during a meeting about redistricting. That process begins with an independent citizen panel, and members suggest how to organize the region and represent residents. The council makes the ultimate decision on redrawing lines, however.
“Even though they had an independent commission, the council still rejected it in the end and tried to change all the hard work of the commission. That was unfortunate. That’s what we experienced in 2012,” Perry says. “It's all about politics and rewarding friends, punishing enemies, and power-brokering. … And the community suffers.”
LA Times Columnist Gustavo Arellano adds, “You have these clans, for lack of a better term, these rivalries, fighting over each other, making alliances with other people.”
He adds, “Remember, these are three of the most powerful politicians in Southern California — period. Nury [Martinez] until today was the president of LA City Council. Kevin de León: former Senate Pro Tem leader. Gil Cedillo: a legend in immigrant rights. [They are] council members, longtime politicos, and they are supposed to be better than the rest of us.”
Arellano says the members are supposed to set an example for the rest of us, and this tape proves they are not doing that. And what is so startling, he says, is the nonchalance of the conversation. “Just the casualness of their classism, their racism, and of course, the comments they’re making about a Black boy — it’s vile.”
Perry says now Angelenos need to decide how they feel about the leaked audio and use their vote to make it clear. That could include holding a special election, which she notes will cost taxpayer money.
“They need to let their feelings be known out there, out loud. Do they want to retain these people? … Let's hear from the people who live in these districts and see what they want,” Perry says.