“The Issue Is”: The scandal at LA City Hall
LOS ANGELES - This week, shockwaves through the political world, emanating from Los Angeles City Hall.
A leaked recording, from October 2021, showed Council President Nury Martinez (D-CD6), Councilman Kevin De Leon (D-CD14), Councilman Gil Cedillo (D-CD1), and Labor leader Ron Herrera, engaged in racist, homophobic, and vulgar conversation during, what otherwise should have been, discussions on redistricting.
The outrage was instant.
Within days, Herrera had resigned. Martinez stepped down as Council President, then resigned from the Council altogether as calls to step aside grew louder, from local leaders all the way to President Biden in the White House. As of taping, De Leon and Cedillo have continued to resist those public urges.
To discuss the leak, the fallout, the racial divide the incident revealed, and what’s next, Elex Michaelson is joined on "The Issue Is" by L.A. Times columnists Gustavo Arellano and LZ Granderson.
Also this week, a one-on-one interview with Nathan Hochman, Republican candidate for California Attorney General, and a look at President Biden’s three-day swing through California, where infrastructure, social security, and the midterms were top of mind.
THE ISSUE IS: WHO COULD HAVE LEAKED THE AUDIO?
ARELLANO’S CENTRAL TAKE: "In terms of who leaked it, that is a big mystery. I personally think it is someone that got disillusioned with labor and Los Angeles Magazine actually had this fascinating theory that it was councilmember, running for council, Hugo Soto Martinez, who has had issues with the L.A. labor Fed. Of course, he completely denied it, but that's what I'm hearing, that it was someone within Labor that wanted to embarrass L.A. Labor Fed President Ron Herrera, just started to record conversations here and there. They did not expect something like this, like the target was Ron, it wasn't Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo, and Kevin De Leon, they're just collateral damage. But why now? Once they got the audio, when are we going to release it? When is it going to be the most effective? October surprise…."
THE ISSUE IS: SCANDAL HITS "THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED"
GRANDERSON’S CENTRAL TAKE: "I don't think there are a lot of people left in society, at least not in American society, that's totally shocked that back room deals and some negatively and vulgarness are coming out of back room meetings like this, 'the room where it happens,' right. The language, I think, is what's really shocking us and how people talked about people shocked us, but the purpose, I don't think, necessarily shocked us. And the reason why I chose to use that particular song was, one, to talk about the room where it happens, right? That was a room in which political dealings were trying to unfold. But the other reason why I did it was because of Aaron Burr. What is one of the first things he says to Hamilton is 'talk less, smile more,' don't let them know what you're for or what you're against, right? Is that not Kevin de Leon, who was in this room where it was happening, not saying the awful things, right that Martinez is saying, but appears to be talking less, smiling... I chose that for a very specific reason because I thought he reminded me of Aaron Burr in the sense of he may not even agreed, I mean, you look at all the things that he's done his career, there's a lot of progressiveness there that makes you wonder, does he believe all the things that she was saying? But it doesn't matter because he didn't come out against it…."
THE ISSUE IS: LATINO POWER IN THE WAKE OF THE CITY COUNCIL SCANDAL
ARELLANO’S CENTRAL TAKE: "We have been talking about Latino political power in Southern California for 40 years. You've had some councilmembers, yes, you know, Antonio Villaraigosa, you have now, Alex, for the from the San Fernando Valley, being a US state senator. But still, until this, the L.A. City Council, not even a third of the council members were Latino in the city that's 50% Latino. And it's so easy to hate on, oh, you know, the Republicans are all like Kevin saying, the white liberals are more dangerous to us in Orange County. But no, you have to reflect on yourself. And if you know your Latino political power, there's so many tribes or so many, you know, groups, clans, houses, whatever you want to call them, that they're always fighting at each other... And so there's all these petty grievances that are going to defeat you, and that was even with the, quote unquote, apologies that Gil, Nury, and Kevin did, there's no self-reflection, it's just all self-serving…
"What have we been talking about in California for the past 25 years from the conservative side? 'Mexicans are taking over. Mexicans, when they're in charge, they're going to start quashing other groups. Mexicans, when they're in charge, they're just not only going to do it for themselves.' And here you have three of the most powerful politicians, period, in Southern California talking exactly like that. I'm already hearing from folks saying I can't trust Latinos anymore. Flat out…"
THE ISSUE IS: WHAT’S NEXT?
ARELLANO’S CENTRAL TAKE: "I'm seeing right now more people talking about politics than really ever before - even the Trump era, you look at Trump, whatever, they make him out to be a boogeyman. But when it comes to politics, local politics, even in Orange County, people are talking about it. People are asking me, my cousins are texting me, 'what's going on?' One of the questions they're asking, 'what is redistricting?' So there is that interest now in the process of how to make it. But of course, with this election, will this boost out turnout? That's going to be the interesting thing, because if people really think we need to get rid of the status quo, Caruso wins. If people say we need a unifier, and I think we need both, by the way, then it's going to be Karen Bass. So I don't know who it's going to help or hurt. It doesn't either…"
GRANDERSON’S CENTRAL TAKE: "We talk a lot, but I think people, again, going back to the elected officials' leadership, need to listen to the people a lot more... The purpose of the meeting wasn't to throw slurs around, the purpose of the meeting wasn't to disparage, you know, LGBTQ people or anyone, the purpose of the meeting was about solidifying Latino power in the city... You can have an equitable display of power over the Latino population as area without black erasure, and it's about having the ability to listen to one another to see how we achieve that…"
The Issue Is: with Elex Michaelson is California's only statewide political show. For showtimes and more information, go to TheIssueIsShow.com.