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Mon, Dec

Redistricting:  The Behind the Scenes Battle for Council District 10

GUEST COMMENTARY - As caustic and hurtful as the racially motivated comments on the Martinez-DeLeon-Cedillo tape from October 2021 were, they pale in comparison to the political manipulation that the three elected officials pursued regarding the City Council’s ethnic makeup.

While they attempt to “carve up” the City to boost Latino representation, statements about Council District 10 (CD10) and the appointment of a “temporary” replacement should set off warning bells.  

To provide context, on September 22, 2022, Heather Hutt (photo above) was approved by the City Council to temporarily serve in the CD10 seat. Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas had been suspended by the City Council in October 2021, interestingly enough, after the meeting that is captured on the leaked tape occurred. 

In listening to the full one hour, 19-minute recording of an October 2021 private meeting, discussion of CD10 occurs. Aside from the fact that Council President Martinez states that City Controller Ron Galperin is likely to suspend Mark Ridley-Thomas’ salary and benefits – an action she subsequently denied knowing – a brief but important discussion also occurs about a “temporary” CD10 replacement.  

Ron Herrera, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and the only non-elected official present, is heard on the tape saying, “Whomever that person [the temporary replacement] is, that person has to support the three of you [Martinez, De Leon and Cedillo].”  

Councilman Gill Cedillo says, “The one who will support us is Heather Hutt.” 

Council President Martinez adds, “Oh, I like Heather Hutt.” 

As the conversation continues, the three then scheme about a Latina replacement for Council District 10 in 2024 – they even get specific about a potential candidate and mention her by name. 

Herrera then concludes, “That seat has to be anti-CoCo [Community Coalition]…I can’t say that publicly.” 

Fast forward almost a year later and the three council members plus the labor leader successfully implemented their plan. Herrera, speaking in favor of Ms. Hutt’s appointment to the City Council, said, “This woman is the voice of CD10, whether we like it or not. She leads the community now.”  

The tape outlines how the three schemed to “temporarily” put Heather Hutt in the CD10 seat and then run a Latina candidate in 2024.  

Inquiring minds want to know what Heather Hutt knew about the above conversation and, if so, when she knew it? 

On behalf of CD10 constituents, ministers and community leaders, we have been vocal for the better part of a year that Mark Ridley-Thomas is the only duly elected representative for Council District 10. The District had a caretaker, the councilman’s former chief of staff, who reflected the District’s priorities but, apparently because of back-room deals, was summarily dismissed.  

If a “temporary” replacement were to be named, fairness and transparency necessitated real community involvement. Clearly, that did not occur – which we said prior to, during and following Ms. Hutt’s appointment. 

It’s been said that “redistricting is like an election in reverse…usually the voters get to pick the politicians. In redistricting, the politicians get to pick the voters.”  

What was heard on the ill-fated tape goes beyond politicking. The three council members make politics a “zero-sum” game – for them to win (i.e., Latinos), every other ethnicity must lose. That’s not how politics in Los Angeles, California or America should be played in 2022. 

The 10th District is a proud city council district. Our diversity is our strength. While we need to heal the racial wound that’s been opened, such healing can only occur once all the facts are made known.  

The CD10 replacement scandal must be laid bare. Until that happens, no moving forward and no healing can occur.

(Eddie Anderson, is pastor of McCarthy Memorial Christian Church in South Los Angeles and a CD10 resident. He also represented CD10 on the City of Los Angeles’ Redistricting Commission. Dr. Denise Fairchild is a long-time CD10 resident and community activist.)