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Latino leaders call for resignations over racist remarks while outlining 'principled path' to representation

“While zero-sum competition is inevitable for a fixed number of seats, zero-sum politics are NOT," prominent Los Angeles-based Latino academics and civic leaders said in an open letter.
Los Angeles City Council members Gil Cedillo, left, and Kevin de Leon sit in chamber before a city council meeting on Oct. 11, 2022.
Los Angeles City Council members Gil Cedillo, left, and Kevin de Leon before a council meeting on Oct. 11.Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP file

A group of Latino academics and civic leaders are insisting on the resignations of Latino members of the Los Angeles City Council after a recording of racist remarks was leaked, while outlining the need to ensure that the city's Hispanics are represented politically in a way that still strengthens race relations.

“The next few weeks the council will decide on how to fill the seats vacated resulting from this crisis and how to reform the redistricting process,” nine prominent Latino scholars and organization leaders said in an open letter released on Monday. "It is time to chart a principled path for the role an emerging Latino majority plays in our community."

While the letter again condemned the racist remarks, it noted that Latinos are 40% of the state's population and 50% of Los Angeles County residents, yet they hold only 27% of City Council seats and 20% of county supervisor seats.

“The City of Los Angeles is overdue for institutional reform, especially reform that depoliticizes the redistricting process,” they said.

At the same time, the group stressed the need to build on the city's history of coalition-building among its diverse population.

"While zero-sum competition is inevitable for a fixed number of seats, zero-sum politics are NOT," they said. "Latinos should hold their elected officials — and indeed all elected officials — to a standard of representation that raises up and improves the lives of all constituents."

The city has been reeling from the leak of a conversation among former Council President Nury Martinez, council members Kevin De León and Gil Cedillo and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera.

Martinez had called her colleague Mike Bonin’s then-2-year-old son, who is Black, a “changuito,” which is Spanish for “monkey.” She also referred to Indigenous Mexican Americans from the Oaxaca region as “short, dark people.”

Martinez, the council's first Latina president, and Herrera have resigned from their positions. Cedillo and De León have not. De León defended his stance in several TV interviews with Univision, KCBS and Telemundo affiliate KVEA, among others.

The City Council is up for election on Nov. 8. A special election will be held if De León resigns, as his term ends in two years. If Cedillo resigns now, he would be replaced by Eunisses Hernandez, who defeated him in the June primary and is set to take over his seat in December.

In the letter, the group requested the opportunity to meet with City Council leaders.

The letter was signed by Fernando Guerra, the director of the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University; Antonia Hernández, the president and CEO of the California Community Foundation; Manuel Pastor, the director of the Equity Research Institute at the University of Southern California; Gary Segura, the dean of the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA; Angélica Salas, the executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights; Mónica Lozano, the president and CEO of the College Futures Foundation; Arturo Vargas, the executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials; Miguel Santana, the president of the Weingart Foundation; and Fabian Núñez, a lobbyist and former California Assembly speaker.

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