Saturday, April 20, 2024

Leaked Audio Scandal in LA Could Push City Council Even Farther Left

For many years, the Los Angeles City Council has proved to be nothing less than a bastion of progressive liberal governance amid one of the bluest states in the country.

But now, observers say the leak of highly racist and inflammatory audio recorded during an October 2021 meeting between then-Council President Nury Martinez, two other councilmembers and the president of a powerful labor union, Latinos all, could very likely benefit anti-establishment candidates representing the leftmost edge — in other words, extreme liberal factions — of the political spectrum.

The four leaders heard on the audio recording, particularly Martinez, were discussing the the city’s redistricting process in starkly political, derogatory terms that demonstrated biases against an array of the city’s racial, ethnic and marginalized minority groups — and included insulting comments about the Black toddler son of a White fellow councilmember.

Martinez stepped down from her post as council president a day after the audio was leaked and then fully resigned from the 15-member council a few days after that. Ron Herrera also resigned as president of the L.A. County Federation of Labor. However, the two other involved councilmembers, Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, have so far rejected calls for them to leave.

De Leon explained to the Los Angeles Times that his reluctance to resign from the council, it would hurt his constituents: “If I were to step down, then they’d have no voice in City Hall.”

All three councilmembers in the audio had commanded tremendous influence over homelessness and housing policies, as well as the business of the council itself.

Frustration with the city has long been festering, with residents demonstrating their growing discontent over the seemingly never-ending homeless crisis, escalating crime and a litany of corruption indictments targeting a variety of city leaders.

In that collective anger, left-wing political organizers see a potential tipping point heading into the Nov. 8 election.

Community activists are reporting a boost of public support for their campaigns, which already had significant momentum after many of the candidates they support claimed leading positions in the June primary election.

And if those fringe candidates win, they could reshape the city’s approaches to the most pressing contemporary issues, by authorizing greater cuts in spending for police, adopting more aggressive protections for renters and reworking  the city’s stance on homelessness. At least some of these new more activist generation of council candidates have said they plan to repeal city law barring encampments outside schools, day care centers and other facilities.

In addition to the four seats on the city council, there are three other city contests, including city attorney, city controller and what has proved the most followed local race to succeed Mayor Eric Garcetti — which, though between two Democrats, also displays the fight between leftist and more conventional politics.

Real estate developer Rick Caruso, considered the contest’s outsider, identifies himself as a centrist, while his more progressive opponent, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, is tied to the deeply entrenched network of city hall, labor and left-wing politicos.

Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson told the Los Angeles Times that, “to the extent that it breaks favorably for anyone, it breaks for Caruso…who says we have to clean up City Hall, we can’t continue the status quo.”

Bass, Levinson continued in the Times story, “represents more of a continuation of current policies than a sea change.”

On the other hand, supporters argue Bass, a Black woman who spent her career positioning herself as a builder and leader of multiracial coalitions, is the best candidate to find community consensus within the fallout of the leaked audio.

On the council, where nearly all members are Democrats, the term “progressive” assumes different meanings, depending on who’s talking. That said, several of the so-called establishment candidates assert they are as well solid progressives, focused on addressing economic inequality, climate change and other hot-button liberal issues.

Ultimately, the audio recording  “lays bare what we’ve been saying for years,” Josh Androsky, a consultant for left-wing candidates in two of the city council races, said to the Times. “It completely validates the premise for why these progressive candidates are running in the first place.

“These folks believe that the city is broken,” he said, and “…the incumbents and the insiders can’t fix it because they’re the reason why it’s broken.”

Los Angeles police have reportedly launched a criminal investigation into the audio recoding that was was posted anonymously on Reddit and obtained by The Los Angeles Times in earlier this month.

Last week Martinez, de León, Cedillo and Herrera filed a complaint at a police station, alleging their private conversation was recorded illegally, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said during a news briefing Tuesday. 

“The department has initiated a criminal investigation into an allegation of eavesdropping,” Moore said.