By: April Carson
In a conversation they mistakenly thought was private, some of the most influential people in LA politics gathered to discuss the city's once-a-decade redistricting process. Council President Nury Martinez, Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, as well as Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera were all present. However, Martinez is now facing calls for her resignation following the meeting.
Racist remarks, crude comments about colleagues, and discussion of how to consolidate power: these were all things that came up during the far-ranging conversation focused heavily on council members' frustration with maps proposed by the city's 21-member redistricting commission.
The commission's proposed maps would have shifted several council districts in a way that would have made them majority Latino. This infuriated some members of the council, who saw it as an effort to undermine their power.
Unknowing they were being recorded, Martinez and other Latino leaders had a conversation in which Martinez said a white councilmember handled his young Black son as though he were an “accessory” and Councilmember Mike Bonin’s son is “parece changuito,” or is “like a monkey.”
Martinez belittled Oaxacans and said "F— that guy ... He's with the Blacks" while speaking about Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón.
Gascón, who is Latino, was elected in November 2020 with the support of Black Lives Matter and other progressive groups.
The meeting, which took place in mid-October 2021, was kept secret for almost a year until an audio leak came to light on Sunday.
In a meeting last year, when the councilmembers were discussing who would represent USC and Exposition Park following the new maps' release, Bonin's son came up in relation to a conflict between Councilmembers Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson. Both are Black and serve areas of South Los Angeles.
Martinez told the group that she spoke with businessman Danny Bakewell about the situation. Martinez said that if Harris-Dawson sought an economic asset for his district, he should advocate to move Los Angeles International Airport out of Bonin's Westside district and into Harris-Dawson's district.
“Go get the airport from his little brother — that little b**** Bonin,” Martinez recalled advising Bakewell. “I said, ‘This is a different world.’”
Martinez said Bonin, with his son, was on a float in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade amongst other politicians. According to Martinez, Bonin used his child as “an accessory.”
De León compared Bonin's treatment of the child to how "Nury brings her Goyard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag."
"It's all about, 'Look at me, I have power,'" said Martinez.
“Su negrito, like on the side,” Martinez said, using a Spanish diminutive term for a Black person that can be considered hurtful.
According to Martinez, the child was being unruly on the float and might have capsized it if she and the other women hadn't intervened.
"I was thinking, 'This is a disaster. The float is going to fall and the kid is going to go into the water,'" Martinez said.
After the parade, Martinez spoke with Bonin about her concerns.
"I said, 'You're a public figure. You have to be careful how you're perceived in the community. People look up to you,'" Martinez said.
"I didn't want to hurt him, but I wanted him to be aware."
Martinez said she was surprised that Bonin would use such language, given his work on behalf of the Latino community.
Martinez stated that “they’re raising him like a little white kid,” and felt as if the child needed to be disciplined. Martinez continued by saying that he would take the child around the corner for a brief moment then return.
The conversation then touches on how Koreatown should be approached in the redistricting process. Martinez expresses candidly that she does not want to hand over the area to Councilmember Nithya Raman, or give her a district with more renters which might be advantageous for other progressive councilmembers politically.
Racially insensitive comments from a sitting councilmember about a child and other members of the community have no place in Los Angeles. We must continue to push for accountability and healing in our city.
Martinez said that it would be best if they does not give her all of Koreatown, because doing so would establish a district for renters which is bad for everyone. He then asked the group whether Shatto Place and Lafayette Park are in Koreatown.
Martinez used stereotypes commonly against Oaxacans when referring to the people in Koreatown, "I see a lot of little short dark people."
Martinez said, "I don't know where these people are from or what village they came from. They're ugly." Martinez was speaking about Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón when she said, "F— that guy … He's with the Blacks."
If Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas were to be suspended from the council due to corruption charges, City Controller Ron Galperin would have the final say on whether or not he still receives a paycheck, Martinez explained to another councilmember.
"That's why we need to get rid of these f—ing Koreans," Martinez said. "They are a bunch of motherf—ers, man."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other civil rights groups have called for Martinez to be removed from her position.
After being indicted on bribery and other corruption charges, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was suspended by the council and had his pay and benefits cut off by Controller Ron Galperin.
Cedillo explains that Raman is not an "ally" and doesn't deserve their help. "So you're saying we should put him in the blender and chop him up," De León says of Raman's district, before Martinez tells him, "that's what they did."
The city's redistricting commission has put forth a plan that would have dramatically altered Raman's Hollywood Hills district. One option would have resulted in her losing more than 70% of her current constituency, while another would relocate her into a new one.
When C.J Herrera - the leader of Los Angeles's top union organization - mentions City Council candidate and labor organizer Hugo Soto-Martinez, who is running against incumbent Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell, he points out that “we need to defend him.”
This is the kind of thing that happens when you have the most progressive city council in the country, as Los Angeles does. It's also a sign of how, even as demographic changes have given rise to more candidates of color and more progressive policies, the old guard can still exert its power.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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