Column: Council chairman Nury Martinez put the office to shame

Will you step down from the presidency?

It is not good enough.

Nury Martinez must clean up his office, turn off the lights and disappear.

She is moral compromisedracially divisive and politically damaged.

“I take responsibility for what I said and there are no excuses for those comments,” Martinez said in a statement about giving up the top post on the Los Angeles City Council.

When I started reading what she had to say, I assumed she was going to tell the city she was going all the way back.

This is what it would mean to take responsibility.

But she didn’t. And so now, a month away from mayoral and council elections in a city that already had a voter confidence problem, against a simmering backdrop of corruption and unmet challenges, we have this new scandal involving nasty remarks from one of the most powerful people in the local government.

Martinez insulted Councilman Mike Bonin and referred to his young black son as a monkey. Isn’t that alone enough to shame her into retiring from public office?

She called Bonin, who is white and gay, a “little bitch” who worked on the side of “the blacks.”

She went after the Oaxacans, calling them short, dark and ugly.

All these redneck remarks became public with the release of a recording made a year ago and she’s not packing her bags?

I reached out Mirihis Antonioa USC graduate and first-year law student at UC Irvine, because I know how determined she is to become a community leader herself, and I know how much she has been inspired by people she thought of as role models.

“As an Angeleno and Oaxacan woman, I am both outraged and saddened by the racist and insensitive comments made by the three LA City Council representatives against the indigenous and black community,” said Antonio, whom I met as she ran a voter registration rally . as a Fairfax High School student.

“These comments are representative of the racism and colorism that black and indigenous people continue to endure in this country,” Antonio said. “These ‘representatives’ are a disgrace to Latinos and Angelenos; they do not deserve to remain in office.”

By “they,” she was referring to the others heard on the tape of the conversation, which focused on redirecting the city with a goal of putting more Latinos in office. That would be council members Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, along with labor leader Ron Herrera.

Their comments were gradually less offensive than Martinez’s. But political consultant Mike Trujillo made a good point about whether residents of Martinez and De León’s districts could pay a price for their transgressions. (Cedillo lost his re-election bid and will soon be out of office.)

“If you’re a constituent of theirs,” Trujillo said, you want your representative to be as effective as possible, whether the issue is homelessness, picking up trash or filling potholes. “So who will be the first person to follow Nury’s move? Do you really want to be the first person?”

Jane Demian, who is on the Neighborhood Council in De León’s district, was disappointed with him but shocked by what Martinez said.

“I’m glad she stepped down as council president, and she may have to step down completely,” said Demian, who has worked hard in his community to address homelessness. “My trust in Martinez has been destroyed.”

The fair representation discussed on the recording is a legitimate concern in a city where Latinos are underrepresented in elective office and leadership positions. But the petty, crude and derogatory language used by the participants may serve to sabotage the cause and further divide the city.

“This is a big story that has many tentacles,” said political consultant Dermot Givens.

It actually does.

Who recorded the conversation and why? Who released the recording and why?

Could it have something to do with a corruption investigation in a building that offers full employment opportunities to federal investigators?

And what effect might it have on the mayoral race between Rep. Karen Bass (who says she’s a consensus builder) and Rick Caruso (who says he’s running to end corruption and mismanagement by career politicians)?

There is already messy maneuvering going on behind the scenes to decide who will slide into the council chair and try to put out the fire in the trash can. But I don’t know if anyone has a big enough fire hose.

Meanwhile, outgoing Mayor Eric Garcetti is awaiting word on whether his nomination to serve as President Biden’s ambassador to India is on hold because of a sexual harassment scandal involving one of his former top deputies.

“There’s no playbook for this,” Trujillo said of the latest failure. “This is pretty unprecedented. I think each of these individuals who want to become a better person — and I think they do — should probably step away from City Hall for a while.”

Martinez should be the first to go.

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