Newsletter: Racism. Rage. Resignations. The week that shook L.A. to its core
Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. Let’s look back at the week in Opinion.
Los Angeles’ elected leadership is chronically beset by scandal and overmatched by the challenges facing the city. That was true before this past week. Now, we have a recording of the racist, anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, anti-Armenian, homophobic exclamations of three City Council members and a powerful labor leader to grapple with, and it may show us why City Hall is always weighed down by elected officials who run their districts like personal fiefdoms. It’s hard to know where to start with a City Council president who refers to a colleague’s toddler son with a racist slur or articulates the kind of zero-sum racially balkanized view of L.A. you’d expect from a white supremacist; or with two fellow council members and a powerful labor leader scheming to fill a vacant seat based on their own preferences without a whiff of concern for voters. What a grim, self-serving, hateful view of governance in a city badly in need of capable, compassionate leadership.
Here, we’ll go over the wide-ranging responses we’ve published this week on our Opinion pages, starting with columnist Jean Guerrero, who calls for a new generation of Latino leadership in Los Angeles:
“The councilmembers’ anti-Black and anti-Indigenous comments reflect an antiquated notion of American identity: a restrictive one that saw a resurgence under Trump but which diverse Angelenos reject in favor of a more inclusive and imaginative vision.
“‘There’s always been this contradiction in Los Angeles between the elites who wanted to claim it as a white city and yet couldn’t or wouldn’t mow their own lawns and grow their own food,’ Scott Kurashige, an L.A. historian and the author of ‘The Shifting Grounds of Race,’ told me. As white anxiety grew, elites pitted groups of color against one another to try to preserve their power. It was no longer white versus Black. It was all against all.
“But it doesn’t have to stay that way. We can reinvent this city.”
The Times Editorial Board was quick to call for the resignations of Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León. With Martinez off the council but Cedillo and De León refusing to go, the editorial board followed up with an admonition to hurry up and follow Martinez out the door:
“It’s time for them to stop stalling. There is no path forward. The huge number and diversity of people calling for their resignations is proof that they cannot effectively govern. Among them are two former L.A. City Council presidents — Mayor Eric Garcetti and U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla — and both mayoral candidates, Karen Bass and Rick Caruso. Leaders of the state Legislature’s Black, LGBTQ, Jewish, AAPI, Latino and women’s caucuses have also announced solidarity in seeking resignations. And groups that rarely agree on anything, including business associations, labor unions and grassroots activists groups, are now unified in calling for the resignations.
“Every day that they delay is another mark against their character, as well as a sign of deep denial. They need to make the only right choice and leave now so that the city can start healing.”
Columnist LZ Granderson warns this crisis is a long-term one for Democrats and Latino political leaders:
“Even if all three councilmembers resigned — as they should — the issue that inspired their meeting won’t go away. They were pushing for more political power for Latinos — and that’s understandable.
“As reported by The Times, ‘Latino residents make up roughly half of L.A.’s population but represent less than a third of the council’s 15 districts.’ The disparity in representation is even wider in Washington. The nation is about 19% Latino, but only about 7% of representatives are members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Only six senators are Latino.
“What are some Latino leaders willing to do about it? In the case of Martinez and company, whatever they feel is necessary, including gerrymander. Just like every voting bloc and all other politicians.
“That’s what that leaked audio represents. In the room where it happens, motives are discussed, alliances are formed, deals made. Backroom dealings are not always as vulgar and offensive as the meeting Martinez led, but they are always about getting needs met.
“That’s the most important takeaway for the city, and for the Democratic Party.
“Not just the words but the issues behind them.”
This would have been a much bigger deal in a normal week: The editorial board took the rare step of rescinding an endorsement for a City Council candidate (and for some history on this, check out Deputy Editorial Page Editor Mariel Garza’s Twitter thread on the topic). The day after Danielle Sandoval garnered the board’s endorsement for Council District 15, The Times reported on unpaid wage-theft judgments against her defunct San Pedro business. Says the editorial board: “Those revelations, and Sandoval’s shifting and unsatisfying responses in the weeks since, have raised serious questions about how she might perform the job of a City Council member. The editorial board no longer recommends that voters support her to represent this district.” L.A. Times
There’s one really compelling reason to vote against Rick Caruso for mayor, and it has almost nothing to do with his character or policies. The billionaire developer is funding his campaign almost entirely by dipping into his personal fortune. He is, in effect, attempting to buy an election by outspending his opponent 10 to 1. Op-ed columnist Nicholas Goldberg says he’ll use his vote to protest against that: “For the record, I don’t think that being rich makes Caruso a bad man. Nor am I convinced he’d be a bad mayor. And I acknowledge that he’s got the legal right to spend his entire fortune on his campaign if he chooses to. That’s how our country works, unfortunately. But I’m not going to help him win.” L.A. Times
I moderated a talk this week on the recent spate of fentanyl overdoses among students in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and if you’re looking for information on how parents might talk to their children about this, I recommend you give the discussion a listen. Topics covered included how to use the overdose reversal drug naloxone, ways for parents and other adults to talk about the danger posed by fentanyl with children, efforts in LAUSD to prevent future overdoses, and resources available to anyone wanting to get help with a substance use disorder. L.A. Times on Twitter Spaces
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Ballots have been sent out in L.A. County. Here is a list of the editorial board’s endorsements; more will be posted as they are published. Visit latimes.com/endorsements for updates.
Proposition 1: Yes
Propositions 26 and 27: No
Proposition 28: Yes
Proposition 29: No
Proposition 30: No
Proposition 31: Yes
L.A. mayor: Karen Bass
L.A. city attorney: Hydee Feldstein Soto
L.A. city controller: Kenneth Mejia
L.A. City Council District 5: Katy Young Yaroslavsky
L.A. City Council District 11: Erin Darling
L.A. City Council District 15: Tim McOsker
Proposition LH (city of Los Angeles): Yes
Proposition SP (city of Los Angeles): No
Proposition ULA (city of Los Angeles): Yes
Los Angeles County sheriff: Robert Luna
L.A. County Measure A: Yes
L.A. County Board of Supervisors, District 3: Lindsey Horvath
LAUSD Board District 2: María Brenes
LAUSD Board District 6: Kelly Gonez
L.A. Superior Court Office No. 60: Abby Baron
L.A. Superior Court Office No. 67: Fernanda Maria Barreto
L.A. Superior Court Office No. 70: Holly Hancock
L.A. Superior Court Office No. 90: Melissa Lyons
L.A. Superior Court Office No. 118: Melissa Hammond
L.A. Superior Court Office No. 151: Patrick Hare
California Supreme Court chief justice: Yes on Patricia Guerrero
California Supreme Court associate justices: Yes on retaining Goodwin Liu, Joshua P. Groban and Martin J. Jenkins
2nd District Court of Appeals: Yes on retaining all justices
Lieutenant governor: Eleni Kounalakis
Secretary of state: Shirley Weber
State attorney general: Rob Bonta
State controller: Lanhee Chen
State treasurer: Fiona Ma
State insurance commissioner: Ricardo Lara
State superintendent of public instruction: Tony Thurmond
State Senate District 20: Caroline Menjivar
State Senate District 28: Lola Smallwood-Cuevas
State Assembly District 39: Juan Carrillo
State Assembly District 40: Pilar Schiavo
State Assembly District 51: Rick Chavez Zbur
State Assembly District 61: Tina McKinnor
State Assembly District 69: Josh Lowenthal
U.S. Senate: Alex Padilla
U.S. Congressional District 27: Christy Smith
U.S. Congressional District 37: Sydney Kamlager
U.S. Congressional District 40: Asif Mahmood
U.S. Congressional District 41: Will Rollins
U.S. Congressional District 42: Robert Garcia
U.S. Congressional District 45: Jay Chen
U.S. Congressional District 47: Katie Porter
U.S. Congressional District 49: Mike Levin
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