LA’s Gangsters

Image: DSA-LA

I got sucked into local politics out of a desire to help make our car-centric city a safer place to walk and ride a bike. After years of effort I came to the realization that the establishment politicians who run Los Angeles can’t be worked with, that they need to be shown the door. I also came to understand the interconnectedness of the problem, that unsafe streets are just a symptom of a crapitalist system that also creates economic and racial inequality.

Working with elected officials here is incredibly frustrating. I found them arrogant, dismissive of activists and only interested in answering the needs of their wealthy campaign contributors. As it turns out they’re also literal gangsters.

As many of you might know by now, since it made international news, a surreptitious recording of a meeting between LA city council president Nury Martinez, councilman Gil Cedillo, councilman Kevin De León and Los Angeles County Federation Of Labor president Ron Herrera surfaced over the weekend. Because the coverage of this recording by local and national media has been not always complete I want to emphasize that, in addition to the truly vile, racist talk on the recording, we should not lose sight of what this meeting was all about: machine Democrats, in a backroom with a corrupt labor leader, gerrymandering their districts to cling to power and disenfranchise African-Americans, renters and progressive voters.

Almost half of the city council is now either in jail, under investigation or caught up in this recent scandal. My own city councilman, Mitch O’Farrell is attempting to distance himself from Nury Martinez, Cedillo and De León but we should not let him do that. On the recording Herrera says, “I want to make sure we protect Mitch.” If you live in Mitch’s district you should vote for his challenger, Hugo Soto-Martinez who is part of a young group of activists challenging LA’s status quo.

If there’s something good that has come out of this weekend it’s that the old order seems to be collapsing much faster than I ever thought it would. There’s a motion to put a measure on the ballot to expand the size of the city council, which has been just 15 representatives for a city of 4 million people since the 1920s. I suspect that progressive challengers like Soto-Martinez and Kenneth Mejia will win on November 8th.

But there’s still a lot of work to do. Now is the time to seize the moment. The old guard relied on us all to be passive and let “the adults” lead. We all will need to pitch in and participate in local government and at our unions to make the changes we need to make. Some resources:

DSA-LA voter guide

Knock LA’s coverage of the leak

LA Podcast Emergency Episode

Mike Bonin’s moving speech at yesterday’s council meeting

Leave a comment


  1. L.A. is just a visible (now) example of what has been going on everywhere in the world for the past decades. (or longer?) Money and corruption have been ruling. We must work for integrity in every aspect of life. I no longer live there, but I wish you all the best of luck!

  2. I’ve long appreciated your efforts in activism for your community, especially since it has seemed an incredibly frustrating process to keep participating in. You nailed it: Understand how interconnected these problems are is going to be key–merging the various constituencies in order to change things from these politicrats. When I heard this news break I immediately thought of you. I hope it ignites people’s outrage into meaningful change.

    (Not really that related, but: you were part of the inspiration for my recent–successful–campaign to nudge my city into finally repainting the (nearly invisible) bike lanes/markings on my commute route.

Comments are closed.