State Senator Monique Limón, who has emerged as a Sacramento player of considerable significance, has called for the resignation of Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin De León — with whom she enjoyed a positive working relationship while serving together in state legislature — in response to the racist remarks made on the now-infamous tape recording of a conversation De León had last October with fellow councilmembers Nury Martinez and Gil Cedillo.
“He should resign,” Limón stated. “They all should. You can’t be a leader if you broke the trust. He broke trust. They all did.”
To date, De León has refused to resign, insisting the constituents he represents still need his leadership. De León — who attended UC Santa Barbara briefly in the early 1990s and worked for One Stop Immigration on Milpas Street before becoming a major player in the 1994 campaign to stop Proposition 187, the anti-immigrant initiative then on the ballot — has sought permission from the council’s president to not attend council meetings for the duration of the year and has been rebuffed. Martinez resigned on October 12, and Cedillo’s term expires at the year’s end.
As a member of the legislature’s Latino and Women’s caucuses, Limón said she found the remarks made on that tape “sickening and hurtful.” As a mother with a 2-year-old, Limón said she was especially horrified by the remarks likening the adopted half-Black toddler son of Councilmember Mike Bonin to “a monkey” who needed a “beat-down” because he couldn’t sit still at public events.
“My daughter is 2,” Limón said. “What if I took her to some event and other people described her that way?” Limón added that her daughter, like many 2-year-olds, has limited patience for public events or, for that matter, doing anything for more than 10 minutes.
Limón also bristled at derogatory remarks made by the three L.A. councilmembers about Oaxacan immigrants — “tan feo” or “so ugly,” Martinez said. Limón’s district includes Oxnard — as well as Santa Barbara — where many Mixtec and other Indigenous Oaxacans have settled. The Oxnard School District, she noted, was the first in the state to ban the use of derogatory terms like “Oaxaquito” on school campuses. That ban was passed in 2012.
The remarks in question were made during a redistricting strategy session last October conducted by the three elected officials in the offices of a major Los Angeles labor leader; their goal was to increase the number of Latino districts. Currently, Latinos make up majorities in 10 of Los Angeles’ 15 districts, yet only three are represented by Latino councilmembers.
While many of the remarks were anti-Black, Jews, Armenians, Whites, and Oaxacans were targeted as well. Martinez made most of the remarks. De León has been blasted for likening Bonin’s use of his adopted son to that of a Louis Vuitton handbag. De León, who has apologized profusely for doing nothing to stop the flow of racist remarks, has insisted he was making fun of Martinez — not Bonin’s child — for her taste for high-end accessories.
Limón stated that she and De León had a good “working relationship” while in the legislature, but that they were not personal friends. De León, she said, strongly encouraged her to run for State Senate and, likewise, she had endorsed him in his recent bid for city council. She said she has not spoken with De León — who served in the state legislature from 2006 to 2018 — since the scandal broke three weeks ago.
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While in the state legislature, De León earned a reputation for being both politically progressive and ambitious. In 2014, he became president pro tempore of the State Senate. In 2018, he ran against incumbent Dianne Feinstein for U.S. Senate. Since the tape recordings went public, the ensuing scandal has gone radioactive; every major Democratic figure in the country has weighed in, calling on the three participants to resign, including President Joe Biden.
Not surprisingly, it’s become a satellite issue in the Los Angeles mayoral race between Congressmember Karen Bass and developer Rick Caruso. As owner and developer of the Miramar Hotel in Montecito, Caruso has significant political ties to Santa Barbara. In response to the ongoing public discussion about racism that the recording has sparked, Caruso took pains to describe himself as “Latin” and not White.
This legislative session, Limón got a major bill passed and signed by the governor requiring that major employers disclose what they pay their employees. The bill — SB 1162 — is designed to determine the extent of the pay gap between men and women doing similar jobs and between White employees and people of color doing similar jobs. The Chamber of Commerce lobbied hard against the bill, which it decried as a “job killer,” predicting that many employers would leave the state.
The bill requires that companies with 100 or more employees to file data with the state Civil Rights Department listing median and mean hourly rates it pays based on race and gender. Companies with 15 or more employees would be required to provide pay scales for any jobs posted. This requirement would apply to temporary agencies as well.
In addition, Limón served on the Senate’s six-member negotiating committee to hammer out details of what became California’s $54 billion Climate Action bill. As such, she also helped negotiate terms with the governor’s office that would allow for the extension of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant over the next five years.
“This was never about ‘Do you support nuclear power or not?’” she stated. “It was about whether we could find a deal.”
Initially, she said, the governor’s bill had no end date. Then it morphed to 10 years.
“We got it down to five years,” she said.
She added that the California Coastal Commission was initially iced out of any of its traditional oversight role. Some of that got restored.
“What we ended up with was infinitely better than what we started with,” she said.
But Limón got stuffed in committee with a bill she co-sponsored that would have required early screening for K-2 students who showed possible signs of dyslexia. California is one of only 10 states not to screen for dyslexia, and Limón backed a bill that would have done that. Although it passed the State Senate without a single no vote, it got blocked in the Assembly Education Committee, where no hearings were allowed. Opposing the measure was the California Teachers Association, which objected the measure would have required too much time and money at a time when teachers have not enough of either.
For her efforts, Limón was honored in front of the county supervisors and praised by local dyslexia activists for her courage in taking on the politically influential teachers union. One in five students have some form of dyslexia, stated Limón, who previously served on the Santa Barbara Unified school board.
“That’s a huge number,” she stated.
But ever the pragmatist and dealmaker, Limón shrugged off the defeat.
“It’s not like we got nothing,” she said. “We got $64 million approved to help schools with reading instruction. Some of that will go to students with dyslexia.”