The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to censure former Council President Nury Martinez and Councilmen Gil Cedillo and Kevin de Leon for their part in the LA City Council racist remark scandal.
Earlier this month, a recording with Martinez, de Leon, Cedillo and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera making multiple racist and racial comments during a district realignment meeting last year was leaked While many things were said, the most controversial part was when they began discussing a fellow Councilman who is white and openly gay, Mike Bonin. Specifically they talked about his black child and a picture with Bonin and his family in a Martin Luther King Jr. parade.
“Bonin thinks he’s f—ing black,” said Martinez in the audio, pointing out the picture. “He handled his young Black son as though he were an accessory. They’re raising him like a little White kid. I was like, this kid needs a beatdown. Let me take him around the corner and then I’ll bring him back.”
Martinez then proceeded to use slurs against the eight-year-old child, saying in Spanish “Parece changuito” or in English, “He’s like a monkey.” Councilman de Leon then added, “Bonin handles the toddler like when Nury brings her little yard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag. Su negrito, like on the side.”
In addition to the racist words, the four were also heard plotting to reorganize Council lines to decrease the power of black Councilmembers and others in the city.
In the ensuing weeks, all four made multiple apologies, both Martinez and Herrera resigned, and calls for both de Leon and Cedillo to resign have come from the majority of Angelinos, as well as Mayor Eric Garcetti, Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA), Governor Gavin Newsom, and President Joe Biden. Protests have also been constant against both de Leon and Cedillo, with protestors even appearing outside de Leon’s house non-stop for the past several weeks.
Censure against Martinez, de Leon, and Cedillo
The rest of the Councilmembers have also been adamant that de Leon and Cedillo need to resign, saying that they should do so in every meeting since the scandal first came out earlier this month. But with Cedillo insisting that he stay in until his term ends later this year and de Leon grandstanding that he needs to serve the people and would only go out via a recall election, the City Council has had little recourse.
Compounding matters is a still angry public, who have demanded that no more City Council meetings should be held until the two are off the Council. With few other options, the Council decided to employ one of their last remaining recourses on Wednesday, announcing an official censure, a formal statement of severe disapproval, against Martinez, de Leon, and Cedillo.
Before the vote, the Council had to wait half an hour before protesters calling for the two to resign were finally removed by police. After that, Council members discussed if censure, an option that had not been placed on Council members since last century, was warranted.
“Unfortunately, this is a reflection on all of us, whether we want it to be or not,” said Councilman Paul Koretz on Wednesday. “We need to dispel the notion that everyone is manipulating things behind the scenes, and everyone is making comments about the residents of Los Angeles and each other and their families. This is not true. This is not who the city is. This is not who the City Council is. I think it’s important for this committee and all of us to get this message out to the public: Just because you’re elected to the City Council, it doesn’t automatically paint you with the same terrible brush.”
While the voting Council members noted that the censure would put more pressure on the two to resign, they also noted that the censure had no direct power on them. Neither Cedillo or de Leon attended the meeting on Wednesday, so no rebuke was given.
“I hope this message gets through to them,” added Councilman John Lee. “I hope they both understand that they are creating the situation that we are having to deal with today, not by our choice.”
Council members ultimately voted unanimously 12-0 on Wednesday and noted that they had already taken every legal option to get rid of the Councilmen available. It was also noted that, according t the city charter, a seat on the Council would become vacant if a Councilmember is absent without consent for more than 60 days or hasn’t fulfilled their duties for 90 days, both of which hinge on attending City Council meetings, meaning that if they don’t attend they could be out by rules by early next year.
“Censure carries more weight than our individual calls for resignation,” said Councilman Bob Blumenfield. “Censure is our collective voice, and this vote puts the council formally on record.”
“Marco,” a City Hall staffer, told the Globe on Wednesday, “They’re trying everything they can to remove them. The censure has no power behind it, but it still hurts them because this sort of thing is rarely done. All those protesters want them gone, every City Councilmember wants them gone, and we keep getting constituent calls asking for when they will be gone. We’re doing all we can, but if they don’t resign themselves, there’s few other avenues outside of a full-on recall.”
In addition to the censure, it was announced Wednesday that a special election for Martinez’s now open seat will occur this coming spring.
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