From the Left



The LA City Council Scandal Reveals Ethnic Politics at its Worst

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Never say anything important to anybody, I once heard a Chicago politician say, without presuming that they’re wearing a wire.

I know some Los Angeles City Council members who should have followed that advice before talking trash about some of their fellow Democrats.

Our best ideas often come out of freewheeling discussions. Unfortunately, so do some of our worst inclinations.

In an uproar that reached all the way to President Joe Biden’s White House, the City Council members who can be heard in an audio recording reported in the Los Angeles Times probably wish their private conversation had stayed private.

The central figures in this October 2021 conversation were City Council President Nury Martinez — who has since resigned from the council — and two fellow council members, as well as a labor ally.

They talked about a range of subjects, including the city’s once-in-10-years redistricting process. But much of what they said was grounded in a couple of faulty although widely held ideas.


I’m talking about the assumption that politics, the art of managing power relationships, is mostly about tribes — which, if you’re not careful, can lead you down the road to deeply held prejudices and outright racism.

This is hardly a new hazard. Rather, it is well grounded in decades of navigations and manipulations by a multitude of racial, religious, ethnic and other demographic groups jockeying for power in U.S.cities.

You can hear it in Martinez’s voice as she denigrates a colleague because “he’s with the Blacks.”

Right. My memory flashed back to Harold Washington’s ultimately successful campaign in 1983 to become Chicago’s first Black mayor.


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