We’ve all heard the ugly, racist things three of my colleagues said on the infamous leaked tapes.
It is also important to remember what they did. The legislation they killed, stalled or weakened. The laws and programs they stopped that would’ve helped people. The bad policies they passed.
As president of the council, and as chairs of the committees handling housing policy, COVID recovery, and all issues impacting homelessness and poverty, Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo, and Kevin de León wielded enormous power, and often used it to the detriment of people in Los Angeles
They often worked to prop up the status quo, consolidate power, and undermine truly progressive reforms. They did so while insisting to be progressives themselves, and vilifying anyone (activists, community leaders, candidates, other elected officials) pushing progressive policy.
As we heard on the tapes, they were motivated by a powerful anti-Black bias, set out to weaken the voices of renters, and were focused on fighting LAs growing progressive movement. Those dynamics played out in City Hall all the time, and roadblocked legislation.
Just a few examples:
In March, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Nithya Raman and I proposed a package of fair housing legislation to outlaw discriminatory barriers to rental housing. Gil Cedillo refused to discuss the items in the Housing Committee, because I endorsed Eunisses Hernandez for City Council.
In 2020, Marqueece and I proposed an “Anti-Displacement Fund,” which would’ve helped small landlords keep their properties, and stop neighborhoods from being gobbled up by speculators who evict people and gentrify communities. Nury Martinez wouldn’t hear it in the Covid Recovery committee.
In 2021, Nithya Raman and I proposed seven requirements for homeless outreach, to make sure city funds and programs were focused on helping people off the streets, and not pushing them from one block to the next. Kevin de León refused to schedule it in Homelessness & Poverty Committee.
This year, Marqueece, Nithya and I proposed making it easier to open shelters or interim housing on property owned by churches or nonprofits. It made it through Kevin’s committee, but Nury wouldn’t put it on the agenda for a council vote.
Last year, I proposed allowing residents of public housing to have a voice in how our housing authority spent federal dollars allocated for services to residents of public housing. Gil refused to schedule it in the Housing Committee.
For years, I have wanted the real experts on homelessness — unhoused people — to help shape homelessness policy. Kevin adamantly refused to schedule my motion to create a Commission on Lived Experience with Homelessness. He said he didn’t see the need.
Nury repeatedly slowed or tried to deny me access to city funds to combat homelessness on the Westside. But she jammed through Council with no analysis and little deliberation laws to massively expand the criminalization of homelessness.
These tactics were routine for them.
If legislation benefited renters, or pushed approaches to homelessness that focused on housing and services, it was in trouble. If legislation was proposed by me or Nithya or Marqueece as well, it was doomed.
It’s how Nury rolled. It was her way, or no way. When she was afraid of a challenge to her leadership from Marqueece, who was in to be president pro tempore, she quickly rammed through a vote to give the post to her closest ally, Mitch O’Farrell. For any piece of progressive legislation, there was usually a less ambitious alternative, co-sponsored by Nury and Mitch.
Now that Nury is out, and the others are on the way out, every major piece of legislation about housing, homelessness and renters over the past few years has to be viewed with fresh eyes. Like redistricting, the legislative process that created those policies was poisoned.
The LA Alliance settlement — which Nithya, Marqueece and I opposed — steers the City’s response to homelessness. It was crafted largely by Nury and Kevin. The recent weakening of tenant protections — fought by me, Nithya and Marqueece — was pushed by Gil and Nury.
So much of what happened in City Hall over the past few years hasn’t been focused on doing right by people. It’s about power and ego and turf. The leaked recordings really exposed that.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can fix it.
On the tapes, the enmity toward Marqueece, Nithya and me extended to Hugo Soto-Martinez and Eunisses Hernandez. Advocates for renters and opponents of criminalizing homelessness, Eunisses and Hugo are progressives they feared.
With good reason. Eunisses won. Hugo is about to. Change is coming to City Hall.
We won’t allow this to begin and end as a horrible scandal. We can make this a moment of transformation, the start of something better.