In Los Angeles, a Carnival of Grievance Politics


It was a spectacular, over-the-top, and outrageous display of grievance politics that we witnessed in Los Angeles this week. The Los Angeles Times published a secret conversation between Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo, and Kevin de Leon, which was recorded almost a year ago. Ron Herrera, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, was also present.

Martinez was a bit crude about Mike Bonin’s son, saying “Parece Chango” (which in Spanish means “He’s like a monkey”) during the conversation. Bonin is also gay and Bonin adopted Bonin’s son. The circus we witnessed this week is a result of adding the gay element to an already volatile racial situation. Howard Cosell discovered almost 40 years ago that you shouldn’t refer to black people in this way, at least not publicly.

Martinez, Cedillo, and de Leon didn’t think their conversation would be public. This is why they spoke casually about Bonin’s son. The leaked recording was not only offensive to blacks. Armenians, Jews, and Oaxacan Mexicans were also discussed. Although neither Cedillo nor Herrera agreed with Martinez’s comments in any way, Herrera’s blathering can be considered tacit acceptance.

This recording gives a fascinating insight into the inner workings and activities of L.A.’s city council. One suspects it is similar to any other similar body. It is made up of mediocrities, people who create coalitions to maximize their power, regardless of whether the exercise of that power serves the best interests of their constituents. The bigger topic was the redrawing of the district map of the council, which happens every ten years.

The current district map shows what appear to be absurd boundaries for certain districts. These are pinched in some places and extended in others to include a prized business, school, or transportation facility. For example, the First District is constrained so that it extends from South L.A. through a portion of downtown to Highland Park, which is approximately ten miles away. It is miles wide at times, but only two or three blocks wide at others. This district encompasses neighborhoods with little in common with the political power of the incumbent Gil Cedillo, who is currently in the minority.

Kevin de Leon, a similarly compromised person, holds the 14th District Council District seat. The boundaries of this district make no more demographic or geographic sense than the First. The boundaries of Nury Martinez’s Sixth Council District seem to have been drawn by someone who was on a three-day booze binge. This is a reflection of the horse trading that saw the border weave through Van Nuys and other San Fernando Valley neighborhoods.

The aftermath of the recording, which saw hand-wringing and ripping clothes, was more entertaining than the recording itself. Martinez was the most vocal of the three council members. Herrera has already resigned. Martinez, the city council president, resigned on Monday. On Tuesday, she announced that she would be taking a leave from her seat. She also issued a carefully written apology. It won’t. It won’t. Even President Biden, or whoever makes such decisions in his honor, has asked Martinez and her two involved colleagues to resign. Update: Nury Martinez has resigned as a member of the city council.

The regularly scheduled meeting of the city council was, as expected, a farce. Council meetings are not always the most dignified affairs, but this meeting brought in all the oddballs that don’t usually make it to public comment throughout the year. Tuesday’s meeting felt like a game of gadflies and kooks. You don’t have to believe me. You can see it here. But be aware that the exclamations are sometimes creatively used and lavishly used.

Martinez skipped the meeting in favor of hiding in her bunker. Cedillo, and de Leon, however, took their places in the council chamber, blithely denying the inevitable downfall. The crowd yelled at them and made it clear that the meeting couldn’t continue until they were gone. Mike Bonin, who spoke with tears about the possibility of healing and reconciliation, said that this would only happen if his three inflicting colleagues had resigned.

Bonin will be leaving the council next year. He was term-limited out and although he may bask in the light of victimhood for the moment, many of his constituents will celebrate his departure, especially those whose neighborhoods are blighted with the homeless. I too was once one of his constituents. His condescending, haughty response to well-founded complaints about homeless problems was a major factor in my decision not to relocate my family from the city where I was raised, where my father was, and where I have lived and worked almost my entire life. I’ve been living in a suburb for ten years and would not move back to L.A. if you offered me a home. Bonin and his like-minded council colleagues have made the homeless problem worse since I left. The city is also badly managed.

As a former LAPD officer, I admit to feeling a bit of schadenfreude when seeing Martinez’s public disgrace. Martinez’s arrogant hypocrisy is not her first. Remember that she was one of the loudest advocates in Los Angeles for the defunding LAPD in the summer of 2020. However, it was revealed that she had requested that her local LAPD station put a 24-hour detail outside of her home. As they say, what comes around will come around.

In the days ahead, a lucrative business will be looking for hidden microphones at places where L.A.’s politicians gather to engage in what they believe are private conversations. If Martinez’s private beliefs aren’t being mirrored by her coworkers, then they haven’t been paying enough attention. L.A.’s city government has been a swarm of venal grifters for years. Two former council members are currently under investigation and another is already in jail, just to name a few. Martinez, Cedillo, and de Leon will all be just as hateful as those who rise from the swamp to take their place. It’s possible to count on it.