Wednesday was another big day of news in the Los Angeles City Council racism scandal. On Tuesday, Councilmember Mike Bonin announced he'd tested positive for COVID only hours after delivering an emotional speech in front of crowds of people. The former Council President Nury Martinez formally removed herself from the council after trying to ease the outcry by resigning from her council presidency before taking a leave of absence. Further audio recording was found where Martinez spoke in a negative way about Jews and Armenians. The scheduled council meeting was cancelled due to loud protests.
Another Wednesday afternoon in LA.
While the racist comments have attracted the most attention, the possibly more sinister aspect discovered from the audio recordings is that Latino leaders were heard attempting to wrest authority from other areas by segregating council districts into racially beneficial regions. This isn't just an act of corruption, it might also be illegal.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Wednesday that his office would be investigating:
“CADOJ will investigate Los Angeles' redistricting process. The leaked audio has cast doubt on a cornerstone of our political processes. We will endeavor to bring the truth to light to help restore confidence in the process for the people of our state.”
The website of the Attorney General has stated precisely what they will be investigating.
At this stage, the investigation will be conducted by the California Department of Justice’s Racial Justice Bureau within the Civil Rights Enforcement Section. During the course of the investigation, state attorneys will work diligently to consider all relevant information related to the city’s 2021 redistricting process and adopted map.
Therefore council members could face legal consequences for their actions in rigging the system. Bonta stated, “It could lead to criminality if that’s where the facts and the law dictate. There’s certainly the potential for civil liability based on civil rights and voting rights laws here in the state of California.”
It's not clear what happens to the new map should he find some or all of the people guilty of a crime. City Prosecutor Mike Feuer is calling for an independent redistricting committee which would draw a new map.
The Associated Press reported on what happened behind closed doors and why it's crucial:
The [leaked] discussion — which also included a powerful Latino labor leader, who has since resigned — centered on protecting Latino political power during the redrawing of council district boundaries, known as redistricting. The once-a-decade process can pit one group against another to gain political advantage in elections.
Black and Latino constituents often build alliances in politics. But tensions and rivalries among groups separated by race, geography, partisanship or religion have a long history in Los Angeles and, indeed, the country. The friction can cross into housing, education and jobs — even prisons — as well as the spoils of political power.
Here's an example of conversations they had concerning the idea of dividing the city:
At another point [in the meeting], Martinez recalls a conversation with businessman Danny Bakewell about possibly transferring Los Angeles International Airport out of [Mike] Bonin’s council district and into that of Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson.
The council president says she told Bakewell to “go get the airport from his little brother — that little bitch Bonin.”
There are a lot of questions to be answered. For example, who leaked the audio? There is speculation that it was an extreme partisan looking to have Democrats in the Council that are more progressive than current ones. Another possible reason is that many believe Bonta to be partisan. Will Bonta be honest or will we get more shady business from him?
The City of Angels has a long-running history of corruption, with a variety of recent cases of misconduct. This act of misconduct could possibly be the most serious in a long time.