I’m trying so hard not to say it. I’ve been biting my tongue for a week — ever since a secret tape of three Los Angeles City Council members was leaked to the public exposing them as racist crooks. But a tongue can only take so much biting, so, so …
I TOLD YOU SO!
There. I feel better now.
For 25 years on the radio, and another 15 in this newspaper, I have been among a tiny band of City Hall critics who have been warning the emperor has no clothes.These warnings were largely ignored. Now, the whole world knows in the starkest terms the city of Los Angeles is run by a gaggle of corrupt hypocrites who built their careers by virtue-signaling on race, diversity and inclusion and free and fair elections while privately practicing the racism and exclusion they so publicly condemned.
And it’s even worse than it seems at first glance.
While the vile and casual racism captured on tape was in and of itself enough to disqualify former council President Nury Martinez from public office, it also confirms what we have long suspected — our top elected officials use redistricting to carve up the city to benefit their own political fortunes while conspiring to either help their allies or damage their council competitors.
“Go after the airport,” Martinez claims she told fellow Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson. “Billions of dollars worth of contracts at the airport … You want to be a baller? Go after that,” she allegedly urged activist Danny Bakewell to pass along to Harris-Dawson.
In October 2021, like the “Five Families” of mob movie fame, Martinez, de Leon and Cedillo went to the offices of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor to kiss their Godfather’s ring.
Who is the Godfather? Ron Herrera, president of the all-powerful Federation of Labor, the umbrella organization for 300 unions representing 800,000 members.
In between trashing their colleagues — even Councilman Mike Bonin’s adopted African American son — in blatantly racist terms, your elected leaders plotted with Herrera to rig City Council districts to guarantee Martinez, de Leon and Cedillo’s reelection and keep valuable assets under their control.
For the uninitiated, “assets” are institutions like colleges, museums, airports, large businesses with lots of employees and even small businesses if they operate on city land under contract. These are ripe plums waiting to be picked. And how do you get ripe plums out of the tree? You shake them down.
Of course, the L.A. County Federation of Labor is furious this tape was leaked. They want the leaker prosecuted. That’s their concern, not the subversion of the democratic process. This textbook backroom meeting represents everything L.A. government claims it isn’t: a special-interest group in the “room where it happens” while the public is kept blissfully ignorant.
Ron Herrera is now out of a job. Nury Martinez is out of a job. Kevin de Leon may or may not be out of a job, possibly before this paper lands on your driveway. Gil Cedillo had already been fired by his constituents in the June primary. His retirement may come a little sooner.
The stampede to the microphones and Twitter to condemn this latest L.A. scandal included mayoral candidates Rick Caruso and Karen Bass (who has her own scandal still brewing) and what’s left of the City Council, along with Sen. Alex Padilla and even President Biden demanding resignations. Shockingly, Mayor Garcetti emerged from the witness protection program he’s been hiding in to wag his finger. Yes, it’s that bad.
With one council member having already gone to prison, two more awaiting trial, and the FBI probe into pay-to-play still open, California’s attorney general is now considering an investigation into L.A.’s redistricting process. Martinez’s boorish and hateful language exposed, in alibi-proof fashion, L.A.’s biggest crime — how our leaders behave when nobody’s watching.
And nobody is watching.
L.A.’s one-party rule — along with the near total ignorance of the public on local government issues — helped create this perfect storm of ugliness. With six of 15 councilors now thoroughly disgraced, it’s fair to ask the remaining eight what they knew and when they knew it.
The racism and backroom dealing captured on tape is not an aberration. This is who Nury Martinez, Kevin de Leon and Gil Cedillo are. Their council colleagues and the mayor have served with them for years. Are we to believe they never heard them speak like this before? That they did not know the Federation of Labor boss can summon elected officials to his office to set district boundaries? Are we to buy that everyone is suddenly shocked to discover there is gambling in Casablanca?
There is blame to go around.
We the People allowed America’s second largest city to be governed by incompetents and criminals. We do this by electing the same people over and over, or skipping local elections entirely. The news media, especially local television, rarely cover City Hall other than ribbon-cutting ceremonies or other image-polishing events orchestrated to mask reality.
We have an election just weeks away. Choices must be made. Will we double down yet again on a broken system or take a new path?
Please don’t make me bite my tongue again.
Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sundays. He can be reached at: Doug@DougMcIntyre.com.