Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez resigned after leaked audio revealed Martinez and council members Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo making racist remarks. The council members’ conversation also brought into question the issue of gerrymandering and prompted state Attorney General Rob Bonta to open an investigation into LA’s redistricting process.
The Standard reached out to all eleven members of the Board of Supervisors for their reflections on LA’s scandal and to see whether there were parallels to San Francisco’s own contentious redistricting process that saw allegations of racial groups being pitted against one another.
For as long as Supervisor Aaron Peskin has served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, he said he’s never seen the kind of behavior that came to light in LA.
“As much as I was saddened to see that in LA, it kind of reminded me that I live in a pretty special place,” Peskin said. “I’ve always been pleased that members of the Board of Supervisors really have not played that divisive, us-against-them, community-against-community kind of politics.”
Supervisor Myrna Melgar, who is the only Latina supervisor, similarly denounced Martinez’s actions in a Tweet, but said she had a very different experience than Peskin on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
“I think you will get a very different perspective when you talk to the white men,” she said. “I’ve had my share of people being condescending, patronizing me, thinking this immigrant woman didn’t know what she’s talking about.
“There is, of course, anti-Blackness, antisemitism, anti-Indigenous sentiments in our communities,” she added.
Beyond their racist comments, the council members can be heard strategizing for redistricting. When the leaked audio was recorded, LA City Council was in the middle of its redistricting process.
“They were having a secret meeting with the head of the labor council to see how they could get labor folks involved in basically gerrymandering the redistricting so that they could keep power,” Melgar said.
Meanwhile, San Francisco has seen its own tensions over a lack of transparency in its redistricting process.
San Francisco redistricting task force members Rev. Arnold Townsend, Ditka Reiner, Lily Ho, and Matthew Castillon failed to disclose in a timely manner complete records in response to public records requests. Questions around the task force’s independence arose after it was revealed that Townsend, the task force’s chair, confided to others that he faced external pressure from the Mayor’s Office about redistricting and several task force members accused some colleagues of taking orders from city officials after walking out of a late-night redistricting meeting.
“People were angry, and it was messy,” Melgar said. “I think that there was nothing illegal, whereas what happened in LA was clearly illegal.”
While some say the LA City Council members violated the Brown Act in meeting secretly to discuss and make decisions that impact their constituents, the meeting was likely still legal.
No other supervisors responded by press time.
“I’m keenly aware of how few [Latinos] there are in positions of power, despite making up 30% of the population of California,” Melgar said. “So when those of us who made it this far behave like assholes like these folks did, it just makes me really, really sad.”