Acting City Council President Mitch O’ Farrell announced on Thursday that the scheduled City Council meeting on Friday would be cancelled due to the extraordinary difficulties it poses. Councilmen Kevin de Leon and Gil Cedillo are facing protests and universal calls to resign following their hand in the racist recording scandal, either present at meetings or removed from meetings and destroying a needed quorum.
All week, the recording scandal has rocked Los Angeles, with the story even being covered nationally and internationally. It all started on Sunday after a recording of a 2021 LA City Council district realignment meeting between then-City Council President Nury Martinez, Councilmen de Leon and Cedillo, and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera was released on the website Reddit. In the recording, all four can be heard either making racial or racist comments about others, most notably white gay Councilman Mike Bonin and his young black son, or being complicit in the comments by not saying that the others should stop.
By Sunday night, it was all over local and state media, and calls for the four to resign quickly sprouted up. On Monday, more and more high-profile lawmakers, groups, and citizens began calling for them to go, and Martinez stepped down as Council President in an attempt to assuage the situation. However, that did little to halt it, and on Tuesday Herrera became the first to fully resign.
Some of the most prominent lawmakers, such as President Joe Biden, Governor Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA), also released statements calling for the three to resign, adding significant local, state, and national pressure. Martinez also took a leave of absence before a rambunctious City Council meeting that day, with Councilman Bonin giving a heartfelt speech and hundreds of protestors showing up inside and outside of the City Hall. Finally, Mayoral candidate rivals Rick Caruso and Karen Bass had a rare moment of unity at the third Mayoral debate, with both also calling for resignations.
The growing pressure finally became too much for Martinez on Wednesday, leading to her resignation. While many in the city cheered at her leaving, eyes soon turned towards de Leon and Cedillo. Calls for resignation even grew stronger, with O’Farrell having to shut down the Wednesday City Council meeting after protesters disrupted the meeting for a full hour before Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson left the floor and ended a needed quorum of members to continue. While City Attorney Mike Feuer did announce a proposal to help reform Council boundary realignments on Wednesday as a direct result of the scandal, most focus continued to be on de Leon and Cedillo going into Thursday.
Councilmember Martinez's resignation is the right and necessary first step toward healing, reconciliation, and governing. It's time for Councilmembers Cedillo and de Leon to do the same. That is the only way forward. pic.twitter.com/v2XUOhDOxe
— Mitch O'Farrell (@MitchOFarrell) October 13, 2022
Calls for resignation continue
With de Leon and Cedillo still pariahs, and their absence preventing a needed quorum, Acting Council President O’Farrell decided to not hold a meeting on Friday.
“The people’s business cannot be conducted until we have these next two resignations,” said O’Farrell during the press conference at City Hall. “I am certainly not prepared, nor am I the one, to cancel any meetings indefinitely. But this is a moment-by-moment crisis. The fact that the two councilmembers had yet to resign is a little surprising, quite frankly, because what our jobs are is to put our personal feelings and our personal ambitions and our egos to the side as elected officials and do what’s best for the city.
“Mr. Cedillo and I had a long, very frank conversation yesterday, and he is taking the gravity of the moment into consideration. Many of us are doing our best to get ahold of Mr. De Leon, who I haven’t spoken to since Tuesday.”
Many Councilmembers agreed with O’Farrell’s decision on Thursday, including Councilmen Harris-Dawson and Bonin.
“I think it’s impossible for us to do anything with them still part of the council,” explained Bonin.
With the City now grinding to a standstill in the wake of this scandal, Angelinos have refused to give both the remaining Councilmen any leeway, with resignation demands still being strong.
“Everyone still wants them gone,” said Maria Costa, a Los Angeles pollster who focuses on Latino communities, to the Globe on Thursday. “They simply can’t continue acting like nothing has happened and that a simple apology will do it. It’s just been too much, and it seems like every hour people are getting angrier at them.
“The biggest calls to leave have been from fellow Democrats. They’re disgusted by what they said of course. Everyone is. But they are really afraid of fallout on all the nearby elections. I mean, Martinez backed a lot of candidates, as did the other two. They don’t need that endorsement lingering on them, and everyone is trying to distance themselves right now. And as both continue to refuse to resign, the jagged scar they are putting on the city is only continuing to grow.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, neither Cedillo or de Leon have resigned.
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