[dropcap]W[/dropcap]est Hollywood City Councilmember John Heilman and Mayor Abbe Land have in recent years been the focus of criticism from some activists who see their long tenure (Heilman 30 years, Land 20) as evidence that they are part of an establishment that wants to control the city without listening to its residents.
So it seems ironic that Heilman and Land have emerged as the only members of the City Council working to reform its ethically questionable practice of letting a council member’s campaign manager lobby the Council on behalf of private business interests.
Perhaps more ironic is that John D’Amico, who ran for office in 2011 as a reformer, has emerged as one of the most vociferous opponents of the sort of regulation that progressive cities such as San Francisco have enacted to bar someone from managing a council candidate’s campaign and then lobbying for a business looking for a favor once that candidate is elected.
As pretty much everyone who follows WeHo politics knows, Steve Afriat, one of the most powerful lobbyists in Los Angeles County (and WEHOville’s 2013 Person of the Year), has been involved in the management of campaigns for all of the sitting council members except D’Amico. That adds another ironic twist to the fact that Heilman and Land support campaign reform and D’Amico opposes it.
Given the opposition by D’Amico and Councilmembers John Duran and Jeffrey Prang to enacting campaign reform, there’s little reason to believe Heilman’s proposal to bar a city employee from lobbying the Council after he leaves his West Hollywood job will go anywhere but down at tonight’s Council meeting.
Already some are arguing that Heilman has an ulterior motive, wanting to keep D’Amico from letting his Council deputy leave her office to run his campaign and then return to her city job (something D’Amico says he doesn’t intend to do anyway). If that is one of Heilman’s motives, so much the better. That practice would be quite similar to the “revolving door” of working for the city and then lobbying it that Heilman wants to ban.
The likely explanation for the likely opposition will be John Duran’s declaration that his vote can’t be bought. Mayor Land, explaining her reason for asking the city attorney last month to investigate the possibility of a ban on campaign managers lobbying the Council, seemed to agree with that but offered another reason for supporting a ban on campaign managers as lobbyists.
“I don’t think that my colleagues vote a certain way because their campaign consultant is also a lobbyist… ‘” Land said. “(But) I am more concerned about how it appears to the public.”
Well, it appears downright wrong to this member of the public, who in 40 years in journalism, much of it spent covering local governments, has seen time and again that money buys influence and power. If West Hollywood is one of those rare places in the world where it doesn’t, the real estate developers, billboard owners and city vendors who provide the bulk of the funding for the Council campaigns need to take a college course in how to better manage their investments.