Opinion: Kevin de León’s defenders emerge, but they’re still a minority
Since a leaked recording of a racist conversation involving three Los Angeles City Council members and a labor leader was first reported about two weeks ago, the overwhelming majority of the roughly 500 letters written to The Times on this topic have been from readers expressing disgust and calling for resignations. One of those council members, Nury Martinez, resigned last week; two of her former colleagues, Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, remain in office.
Over the last few days, our letter writers have shifted their focus to those two holdouts, especially De León, who has two years left on his term and said he will not resign (Cedillo lost his reelection bid last June and will leave office in December, if he doesn’t step down sooner). And more of those letters — though they are still a minority — are coming to De León’s defense.
This isn’t uncommon for letter writers, as the initial burst of reaction to scandals and controversy tends to be from readers expressing disapproval. Later, the “yeah, but” letters become more common, which is happening now with De León.
To the editor: I do not think De León should be shamed out of office.
I am a resident of Little Tokyo, where De León helped clear the homeless encampment at 1st and San Pedro streets and upgrade the crosswalks nearby. We have a large police presence that has helped keep the neighborhood, which is adjacent to skid row, fairly safe.
Being prejudiced is not a crime. He shouldn’t be treated as a criminal. He should be allowed to redeem himself. He should be allowed to complete his term of office.
Robert Yoshio Nakagawa, Los Angeles
To the editor: I am a resident of De León’s Council District 14. I voted for him. The following is from what I wrote to his office recently:
Hello Mr. De León:
I am one of your constituents. I was born in Los Angeles and have lived here all my life. I very much value the great diversity of this city and am wholly aware of the need for our leadership to have an inclusive vision. I voted for you, and I am now calling for you to step down now.
It is time to take responsibility for your actions, show some integrity and stop clinging to power with the same arrogance you displayed on that recording, and that you are displaying in your indifference to the calls from all corners of the city, the country and the Democratic Party for you to step down.
From where I stand, your personal ambition is irrelevant. Your refusal to give up your position does not in any way help the city or those in our district to heal. We need a leader with an inclusive vision and the tenacity to work for everyone in this city while addressing the specific needs of our district. That person is clearly not you.
The time has come for you to do the right thing and resign.
Virginia O’Connor, Los Angeles
To the editor: All of us are products of our environment, of a culture that divides us, that has racism and sexism at its roots. Who among us has not made a racist or sexist remark, even as we try to be better people? How often do we make a bad joke that misses the mark and is hurtful?
Moreover, if I confronted my friends and colleagues every time they said something I found offensive, I wouldn’t have any friends or anyone to talk to or who would listen to me. When the right complains about cancel culture, it is not entirely wrong.
Judge people by their actions, not by what they say or don’t say. And when someone offends and then apologizes, wouldn’t it be a good idea to give him the chance to prove his apology is sincere?
Maybe we should just give De León a break and see what he does with it.
Ron Rouda, Venice
To the editor: De León is doing the same thing criminals do — proclaim how sorry they are. And, they are all sorry — sorry they got caught.
De León waited around for a week and a half and when no suitable alternative job offer came along he decided to dig in and try to salvage his political career the wrong way. His apologies and excuses ring hollow.
No, Councilman De León, it just won’t do. You must go. Now. Or, perhaps you could pull a Rick Caruso and switch parties. Republicans will not only forgive you, they might make you special envoy to Oaxaca.
Liz White, Los Angeles
To the editor: How sad that the legacies of Cedillo and De León will be their refusal to do the right thing for the city and resign. All the good things that they did over their years in public service will be forgotten.
David Eichman, Los Angeles
To the editor: De León’s refusal to resign brought to mind an ad back in 1992, when then-Los Angeles Police Department Chief Daryl Gates was still resisting calls for him to step down.
Wok Fast, a Chinese restaurant chain, hilariously used the following slogan on a billboard for its delivery service: “When you can’t leave the office. Or won’t.”
Kendall Wolf, Encino
To the editor: De León says he is refusing to resign so he can represent his district. Could the real reason he won’t quit be that he needs the money he is paid as a member of the City Council?
Where else can he get a job the pays him more than $200,000 per year?
Francis Knipe, Torrance
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