West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran will assume his favorite position Thursday — facing TV cameras — while he pours water from a Stoli vodka bottle down a WeHo gutter in front of Micky’s. At his side will be Councilmember John D’Amico, elected as a reformer but increasingly acting as a Duran acolyte. (The D Team is pouring water instead of vodka, by the way, because it is illegal to pour alcoholic beverages into the gutter.)
Duran’s appetite for publicity apparently wasn’t satiated by the international coverage he got for erroneously proclaiming last Spring that West Hollywood faced a meningitis plague among gay men. (WeHo had to worry about meningitis spreading, you’ll recall Duran saying, because of the “gay orgies” we have here and what he described as drug-fueled dancing at our gay clubs). But this time Duran is facing an opponent arguably bigger than Neisseria Meningitidis or one of the other little organisms that cause meningitis. This time he’s going chest to chest with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Putin is an undeniably despicable homophobe. He has signed a law that bans gay couples from adopting Russian children. He also has signed a law authorizing the arrest of tourists or other foreigners suspected of being gay. And he has approved legislation that labels materials advocating same-sex rights as pornography.
But we don’t think having the D Team pouring water out of a Stoli bottle on a West Hollywood sidewalk is going to get Putin’s attention, no matter how many bored local TV producers send a camera crew. For one thing, in this increasingly global economy, hundreds of U.S. companies sell products made in Russia or use Russian companies to provide essential services. Among them are Cisco, Sun Microsystems, Intel, Boeing, Siemens, Motorola and Lucent Technologies (by the way, it’s also illegal to junk your Motorola TV in the street). Outsourcing companies such as EPAM provide valuable technology or customer relationship management services to U.S. banks, hotel companies, retailers and media companies.
There also are a host of U.S. companies that operate franchises in Russia. They include Baskin Robbins, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Century 21, Domino’s Pizza, Dunkin’ Donuts, Gold’s Gym, Hard Rock Café, KFC, Kwik Kopy, Mail Boxes Etc., McDonald’s, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, Pizza di Roma, Sbarro, Starbucks, Subway, Wendy’s and Western Union. (So maybe the D Team could pour a Starbucks vente latte with that Stoli water?)
We’d prefer to see our elected leaders give their attention to issues where they can make a difference – like cleaning West Hollywood’s soiled reputation for campaign finance and council ethics. Enacting a local ordinance to bar their election campaign managers from lobbying them on behalf of outside-WeHo commercial clients? Or an ordinance that would require a council member to recuse himself from a vote on an issue involving one of his largest financial backers? Or maybe an ordinance that would require City Hall to make campaign finance reports available to local residents through a digital download to make it easier to analyze who is giving what to whom? The need for that work will be more evident Wednesday — the deadline for candidates to file their final campaign donation statements for the March 2013 City Council election. If history repeats itself, we’ll see that thousands of additional dollars from outside business interests will have flowed into the coffers of incumbent winners Duran and Prang.
We know enacting such legislation isn’t going to get the boys at Micky’s all excited. And it probably won’t have KTLA, KTTV and KCBS trucks lined up outside City Hall. But it will be an important step toward cleaning up WeHo’s reputation as the Chicago of Southern California.