The sound rocked California’s political sphere over the weekend, spurred disgust and calls for Martinez to relinquish power, along with council members Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera.
Several sitting members of the 15-person city council have said the people on the tape should leave office. Leaders of a powerful union, SEIU California, called on all of them to step aside on Monday, as did the California Federation of Teachers.
Martinez and de León can be heard on the tape belittling the young black son of another white council member. De León compares the child to an accessory, and Martinez suggests he deserves a “beatdown” and refers to him in Spanish as a “little monkey.” The audio appeared to have been secretly recorded more than a year ago.
The tape also illuminates the raw exercise of power, as Martinez and others discuss the use of the redistricting process to punish political rivals and strengthen allies. They talk about diluting the power of tenants in a district, making it harder for the incumbent to win re-election, and about allocating economic “assets” like an airport.
As ballots hit voters’ mailboxes ahead of the November election, the tape quickly rippled through a hotly contested mayoral race, the winner of which will have to work with the council. Businessman Rick Caruso said all three council members should resign. Rep. Karen Bass on Sunday called the remarks “appalling, anti-black racism.”
“All those in the room must be held accountable, and I’ve spent the day talking with black and Latino leaders about how to make sure this doesn’t divide our city,” Bass said in a statement.