OPEN LETTER - We are writing to you to express our deep dismay and anger over the reports of a recorded conversation between Council President Nury Martinez, Councilmember Kevin de León, Councilmember Gil Cedillo and LA Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera.
The specifics of the conversation have been disclosed and discussed by numerous groups and individuals, and we do not need to repeat all the details here.
Instead, we would like to look at how this leaked discussion fits into the larger picture of the city’s history, where it stands now, and where it’s going. We’re all aware of LA’s troubled past with regard to race, whether it be the transgressions of the LAPD, the shame of discriminatory housing practices, or the glaring inequalities in our educational system. And we have been repeatedly told by the Mayor and the City Council that our elected officials acknowledge these injustices and are taking decisive action to correct them.
The leaked conversation involving three councilmembers appears to show that our elected officials’ promises to root out systemic racism were nothing more than words. A look at the current landscape with regard to law enforcement, housing and education shows that we have made little progress. While our elected officials talk about justice and equality in the council chambers, the recording has shown that behind closed doors at least some of those officials are more concerned with maintaining their hold on power and they have no qualms about rigging the system to achieve that end.
Nor is this the first time in recent memory that the LA City Council’s dishonesty, hypocrisy and disregard for the law has been exposed. One former Councilmember finished serving time in jail earlier this year. Two others have been accused of egregious violations of the public trust and are awaiting trial. In addition, the former general manager of the DWP and a senior official at the City Attorney’s office have pled guilty to shockingly unlawful acts.
To put it bluntly, the citizens of Los Angeles have seen that racism and corruption are rampant at City Hall. It will take years for city officials to regain the trust of the people of Los Angeles, which they have repeatedly abused. But if City Hall is to regain our trust, elected officials must take responsibility for their actions and build a true culture of honesty, multiracial solidarity, and transparency.
To begin this process, we urge the members of the City Council to take the following actions:
- Councilmember Nury Martinez must step down from her seat on the Council. Resigning from her post as Council President is not enough. She has insulted and betrayed the people of LA and must leave.
- The Council must call a special election in CD 10. Unfortunately, recorded comments regarding Heather Hutt show that the councilmembers involved were motivated to support her because of their personal interests. This should not in any way be seen as a reflection on the integrity or abilities of Councilmember Hutt. A special election will give her the opportunity to prove that she is the people’s choice and to dispel any suspicion of political interference.
- The Council must approve an investigation of the redistricting process by an independent body. The recorded comments make it clear that the participants intended to use their power to carve up council districts to favor their own interests. This is both a shocking violation of US law and a deeply disturbing violation of the public trust. If the investigation reveals that any councilmember was guilty of illegally influencing the redistricting process, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
- The City of LA must create an independent redistricting commission to ensure true equity in representation. The recording makes clear that Councilmembers sought to influence the outcome of last year's redistricting process. A measure to create such a commission should be placed on the 2024 ballot.
- Assign the City’s new Office of Racial Equity the task of preparing a report that identifies the policies, programs and informal practices of the City’s departments and elected officials that promote racial and ethnic inequality.
This is the bare minimum that the members of the LA City Council must do to start rebuilding the public trust. We urge you to take these actions immediately.
Casey Maddren, President
United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles
Casey Maddren, President
Cherilyn Smith, Treasurer
Richard Platkin, Secretary
Gina K. Thornburg