GELFAND’S WORLD - So these are the people who want me to take mandatory training about my implicit bias.
It looks like the bias on the part of City Council members is plenty explicit, particularly when it's Nury Martinez, Kevin de Leon, and Gil Cedillo.
Their behavior goes beyond mere hypocrisy. The city insists that all of its employees and neighborhood council members get training in what it calls implicit bias.
Does that include racism?
I would suppose it does.
Does it include racism against 3 year old boys?
Curiously I'm not aware that anyone currently on my San Pedro neighborhood council has engaged in such overtly racist violations, yet the city and its elected officials want to force us to take anti-bias training in advance, just in case one of us might hold an inappropriate thought.
City Council members and the mayor seem to believe that they can force their fellow Los Angeles residents to take hours of training in political and social indoctrination without pay. Let's repeat: they are the ones who violated the norms against racism and homophobia.
As of the writing of this piece, Nury Martinez has resigned as president of the Los Angeles City Council. This is supposed to sound like a huge sacrifice, but in reality she is still holding onto her $207,000 yearly salary as a City Council member.
And by the way, those heroic City Council members and city bureaucrats supposedly have more in store for us. The next round of imposed training will be about gender bias.
Does it include bias against gay men?
I would suppose it does.
Would that apply to referring to a gay man as "that little bitch?"
It would seem likely.
And of course, it's important that the mayor -- the person who first put out an order that all city employees take training in implicit bias -- not allow sexual harassment of any of his employees, particularly within his own view.
Oh. That accusation.
Let's be clear about the chain of argument here. The mayor and the City Council decided to insist that everybody in city government be trained in something they call implicit bias. That term is an academic construct that argues that we all carry around subconscious feelings, and some of those feelings are racist. A couple of Harvard professors developed the idea of the test for implicit bias. The test, referred to as the Implicit Association Test (IAT) depends, among other things, on how long you take to answer questions, making the assumption that the time you take is partly determined by unconscious feelings. Thus if you take longer to answer some particular part of the test than some other part, the test concludes that this represents an unconscious thought or bias on your part. I reviewed the test once and found it grossly unscientific in the way it was structured.
There is a whole literature that criticizes the test as unscientific and unpredictive. Among other things, it fails to provide consistent answers when the same person is tested repeatedly. It fails to correlate one person's bias score with other psychological testing. At best, it tends to show something about whole populations. The test itself is so bad that the city of Los Angeles apparently does not include it in the "training" that they try to impose on neighborhood council board members.
Nevertheless, the city wants to teach all of its employees and its neighborhood council board members that they are bad and need to learn how to be better, and the way they will learn this is to follow a line of teaching that has been put together by the Ohio State group that still supports use of the IAT.
Let me suggest an alternative approach to what ails us. I firmly believe that there is a lot of bias among our people. I just think that it's mostly quite explicit. Some of it is what people learned from their parents in their early upbringing. Some of it is the shared experience of decades of reading the news and watching television. Some of it is the experience that people get from watching Fox News and listening to the radio.
So let's talk about overt bias and the city government's intention to force training about implicit (i.e.: unconscious) bias. How shall we explain the remarks coming from Nury Martinez and Kevin de Leon, and even more curious, the claim by Gil Cedillo that he did not remember the conversation? (Cedillo seems to have changed his story overnight, but it's still not entirely clear.)
Whatever de Leon may have thought or felt, we have some pretty damning language coming from Martinez. There's more than the description of Bonin's son. We also have the description of councilman Bonin as the "little bitch." That's pretty strong stuff.
Now let's take one brief detour. The City Council recently ordained that the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) can, at its sole discretion, sentence a member of a neighborhood council board to mandatory training if that board member is the subject of a grievance and is found guilty by one of the Department's kangaroo courts, otherwise known as a grievance panel.
End of detour. But now consider what the effect is when three of the most powerful people in city government engage in gross racism and homophobia. Where is the mandatory training for Nury Martinez? Perhaps Kevin de Leon was not so guilty, as he merely criticized Councilman Bonin for treating his son like an expensive handbag -- implying, it would appear, that Bonin was simply showing the kid off, more or less as an accessory. Still, we have the record of a conversation among 20% of the City Council in which racist and homophobic remarks are taken for granted.
And they want me to take antibias training. Where is the mandatory retraining for them?
One other observation that should be of note: In the Sunday L.A. Times story, it was reported that there were already 3 City Council members calling for Nury Martinez to resign. Compare that for a moment with the way that elected officials typically speak about gaffes by other politicians. They only rarely make sounds about forced resignations. I would interpret these resignation calls as suggesting a general dislike for the way Martinez has been serving as President of the City Council. She must have been as bad as she has been described by other CityWatch authors.
The Caruso and Brown Act arguments
I can't say anything definitive about whether Rick Caruso's campaign was the source of the leak. I have no direct evidence whatsoever. But there is a point to be made that Caruso stands to gain the most by a major shakeup in the Los Angeles City Council. With Martinez off the president's bench (and likely to be off the Council too, pretty soon) and with one-third of the old fifteen likely to be replaced, Caruso could step into the chaos and bring his own kind of order to the mess. Again, there's no direct proof, but we get to ask these kinds of questions in the height of the electoral season.
And then there's that other question about the Brown Act and the redistricting. As of Sunday, we have evidence that three influential City Council members met to talk about redistricting. We also know that Martinez led the fight to modify the original redistricting map. We also know that at least two City Council representatives who initially fought the replacement map eventually voted for it. The Brown Act makes it illegal for a quorum of council members to meet secretly, either together at one time or incrementally by first talking to one, and then to another, until a majority has been built. The latter is referred to as a "serial meeting" and would be totally illegal. So did such a meeting happen? If not, then why did the initial meeting occur?
Addendum: What Proposition 30 would do
I've been running a series on what the state ballot initiatives are really designed to do, as opposed to what television commercials claim about them. Let's consider Prop 30.
The TV commercials are all about a proposition that will allow us to fight forest fires and own electric vehicles.
Here's what it really does: It raises marginal income taxes on people with the highest incomes. A lot. It assigns some of that money to fighting fires and some to subsidizing electric vehicles.
Just to show you, here is the summary from Ballotpedia:
"A "yes" vote supports increasing the tax on personal income above $2 million by 1.75% and dedicating the revenue to zero-emission vehicle subsidies; zero-emission vehicle infrastructure, such as electric vehicle charging stations; and wildfire suppression and prevention programs."
As in all the rest of the television advertising, we are not hearing what the proposition is really designed to do (a tax increase), but only about one or two tangential benefits. In this case, money needed to fight the increasing level of fires will now come directly from the assigned tax moneys.
As I've said before, this is a bad way of doing public policy. If we need to raise taxes and we need to assign money to fight fires, the state legislature can go through the proper motions (which may involve putting a tax increase on the ballot) and do things openly and transparently.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected])