LA Councilman’s Sloppy Take on Transgender Murder

@THE GUSS REPORT-Last week marked 20 years since Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo was first elected to public office, yet he made a rookie error when he winged it during an adjourning motion, when members of the public who have died are memorialized by what are supposed to be a few thoughtful words. 

It quickly became clear that Cedillo had no idea what he was talking about, by naming the wrong person as the deceased, before chuckling as he was corrected by staffers and Councilmember Nury Martinez. From there, it got worse. 

In attempting to right the ship, Cedillo suggested that the murder was probably influenced by hostile immigration rhetoric coming from the White House, as opposed to the far more likely and tragic reality that the victim was repeatedly stabbed and had her home set on fire because she was transgender.  In doing so, Cedillo diminished the very real and present violence risk all transgender people face on a continuous basis. 

In fact, Cedillo failed to point out that the victim, whose surname was Gutierrez, was murdered by a man named Ramirez, and according to the LAPD, they met online. The murderer’s name was published the day before Cedillo’s comments, which can be viewed here in their entirety. 

I asked Cedillo’s office whether he could identify any statement or program from the White House as influencing this murder. 

No response from Cedillo. 

Had Cedillo mentioned the largely off-the-radar debate of whether transgender people could serve in the military, I would have asked whether he laid the same level of blame for pre-Trump transgender murders on President Bill Clinton for his now-repealed anti-LGBTQ “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” program, in which military personnel were supposed to keep their sexual and gender circumstances to themselves. Or, if Cedillo lays blame on Clinton’s also-defunct, equally biased “Defense of Marriage Act.” 

Both of Clinton’s anti-LGBTQ programs were repealed during the Obama administration. 

Cedillo was also silent on whether he would blame pre-Trump transgender murders on President Obama’s gelatinous views on gay rights, as recently documented on CNN by his former aide David Axelrod. 

Again, silence from Cedillo. 

Jasmyne Cannick, the LA political commentator and sometimes CityWatch contributor, had no problem clarifying the issue, stating, “You can’t blame everything on the president. There were racists, homophobes and homicidal maniacs in this country long before he assumed office. Some of them just became a bit more emboldened after President Trump took office. Others haven’t skipped a beat in their madness.” 

Well-stated, Jasmyne. 

Cedillo in recent weeks has repeatedly found himself behind the curve on an array of other issues harming his community. 

Last week, he erroneously blamed his District’s “food desert,” the circumstance in which locals have few if any healthy food shopping and dining options, on corporate titan Wal-Mart’s “voluntarily” leaving the area a few years earlier. But the truth is that LA City Hall created a hostile business environment for Wal-Mart which eventually pulled up stakes to move elsewhere in LA. Voluntarily, yes. But with a big City Hall asterisk. 

Cedillo has also incessantly supported more liquor licenses (for “convenience”) and not-so-healthy eating options by approving more 7-11 locations. Cedillo’s office provided no information on whether he has any plans to get even one full-scale supermarket to open in his District. 

More alarmingly, Cedillo also recently told LA Downtown News that he found out too late about the closure of Pacific Alliance Medical Center, and the loss of jobs suffered by its entire 638-person staff, to try to intervene and keep it open. But isn’t the crux of his job to know these things in advance? In the LA Times article on the subject, Cedillo isn’t even mentioned. 

So, some friendly advice for Cedillo the next time he thinks about speaking without preparation (especially about a murder victim): when you try to wing it, it shows. Don’t politicize it where it doesn’t apply. The murder victim you hoped to memorialize would have been better honored with facts about her life and death…or simple, sincere silence.

 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. Verifiable tips and story ideas can be sent to him at TheGussReport@gmail.com. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.