Almost exactly a year ago, four of the most powerful Latino political leaders in Los Angeles met at a labor office to strategize about how to boost Latino representation on the City Council — and secure their own futures — during the city’s contentious redistricting process.
It was something of a bitter irony, then, that on Tuesday, no Latino representatives were present as the City Council selected a new leader to replace Nury Martinez, the former Council president, who resigned last week after her racist remarks during that year-old meeting emerged on a recording.
The vote for Paul Krekorian — described as a “steady hand,” who will be termed out in 2024 — was the latest in a still-rippling wave of fallout from the leaked recording of that October 2021 conversation.
“Those of us who have been here before during times of transition will recall that it is typically a time for celebration,” Krekorian said after the vote, speaking via Zoom. “But this is not one of those times. The city is not celebrating now — the city is still grieving.”
By now, you’ve probably heard about the recording. Martinez can be heard making disparaging and racist remarks, including about the Black son of Mike Bonin, a fellow council member, as well as about Oaxacan immigrants living in Los Angeles’s Koreatown and other ethnic groups. Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, two other council members, didn’t confront her and at times made derogatory remarks of their own.
After the recording was first reported by The Los Angeles Times this month, demands began for everyone involved in the conversation to resign.
Ron Herrera, the president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, was the first to resign. Martinez stepped down last week under mounting pressure from fellow Democrats, including President Biden.
But Cedillo and de León have resisted calls to resign, prompting sustained outrage from activists who say that city business should not continue until they do.
Protesters effectively shut down a City Council meeting on Wednesday. Then, after canceling a meeting on Friday, Mitch O’Farrell, the council president pro tem, announced that Tuesday’s regular meeting would be held virtually because of potential Covid exposure.
At least two council members, including Krekorian, have tested positive in the past week. But a virtual meeting also ensured that protesters could not drown out city business with chants and shouting.
That brings us to the meeting, which was an unusual spectacle, even by the standards of a city where local politics are often raucous.
O’Farrell, masked, presided in person over an almost empty chamber. The sound of protesters outside who had been shut out of City Hall thudded faintly in the background.
Over more than three hours, dozens of callers voiced their opinions about the Council. One tried to enforce a minute of silence. Another simply played circus music.
A vast majority echoed hundreds of residents who had shown up to meetings last week and said Cedillo and de León had to resign for the city to move forward. But a few people said that one or both of the men had done nothing wrong, and shouldn’t resign. (Neither Cedillo nor de León was present at the meeting. On Monday, O’Farrell stripped them of committee assignments.)
Midway through public comments, Monica Rodriguez, the only Latino council member present, left to deal with a family emergency, according to a statement from her office. Curren Price, a Black council member who represents the district with the city’s highest share of Latino voters and had sought to become council president, also declined to attend.
“I made a conscious decision to not attend this morning’s Council meeting because as a city leader, I could not support a virtual hearing that silenced the public outcry and shut out Angelenos who continue to reel from this breach of trust,” he said in a statement.
That left just 10 council members, the minimum number necessary to keep going under the city charter. The five districts without representation have some of the highest shares of Latino residents in the city, beyond 60 percent.
The remaining group eventually got to its agenda. They voted unanimously to move forward a proposal to ask voters to change the city charter to create an independent redistricting process.
The idea was put forth by Nithya Raman and Krekorian last year, after their districts were drastically changed.
“The moment for change was here long before those tapes leaked,” Raman said from the virtual dais.
And when they voted for their next Council president, support for Krekorian was unanimous, too.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Rod Williams, who lives in Walnut Creek:
“My favorite place to visit here in Walnut Creek is the Ruth Bancroft Garden, a 12-acre paradise focused on succulents and cacti, set among trees and shrubs from dry places all over the world. Ruth started her garden in the 1970s, and worked on it the rest of her life … and she died in 2017, aged 109!”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
What are your favorite places to visit in California?
Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. Please include your name and the city in which you live. We’ll be sharing more travel tips in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
And before you go, some good news
Priti Krishtel, a health justice lawyer from Oakland, was one of 25 people named a 2022 MacArthur Fellow, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.
“The 2022 MacArthur Fellows are architects of new modes of activism, artistic practice and citizen science,” Marlies Carruth, director of MacArthur Fellows, said. The award comes with an $800,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation of Chicago, paid quarterly over five years.
Krishtel, a U.C. Berkeley alum, is the co-founder of the Initiative for Medicines, Access and Knowledge, which promotes public advocacy in the pharmaceutical patent system. Her work highlights the technical aspects of the patent system in the health care industry to show “how monopolies often reduced the availability of life-saving medications in lower income countries.”
“The challenge right now is that we are living in the age of the bully,” Krishtel said. “A time when a small minority of the historically powerful are trying to own the un-ownable. We are saying no and creating a new, more compassionate and inclusive future in its place.”
Thanks for reading. We’ll be back tomorrow.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.
Soumya Karlamangla, Briana Scalia and Maia Coleman contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.
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