Opinion: Our Voice, Our Choice for Filling a Vacant City Council Seat

Last week’s elections had some big ramifications for our city, West Hollywood. It looks like congratulations are in order for long-time City Councilmember Jeffrey Prang, my dear friend and generous mentor, who will likely be elected LA’s new county Assessor. Because his race is still too close to officially call, Councilmember Prang is unable to resign with enough time to allow the city to mount a special election to fill his seat concurrent with the general elections this coming March.

West Hollywood City Council candidate, Heidi Shink
Heidi Shink

As a result, the Council is left with two choices, and there is talk that either can happen:

1) That Council members empower themselves to select a replacement to fill Jeff Prang’s seat for the two-year remainder of his term.

2) That the Council lets the democratic process unfold by allowing the people of the city to freely elect their next representative in a special election to be held next June.

I am amazed that there is even a question as to what the right thing to do is! Democracy is defined by the freedom to have our voices heard through the voting process. Without that right, our local government delegitimizes what it means to have a government by and for the people. And nowhere in the country is that principle more relevant than right here in West Hollywood.

WeHo residents understand more than most what it means to be delegitimized. Fighting against widespread marginalization is what brought us together as a city in the first place. It’s what we as LGBTQ people, women, Russians fleeing Soviet repression, and countless others who came to West Hollywood seeking refuge from second-class citizenship status have fought for our whole lives. WEHO represents freedom for all. But without the basic right to self-determine our own City Council members, that ideal of freedom loses much of its meaning.

Every issue we face, from public safety and human service programs to sensible development and neighborhood planning, will be impacted by the outcome of the next election – and it is the people of this great city who should decide who their new representative should be. A “selection” rather than an “election” takes the choice out of the hands of the many and puts it into the hands of the few.

I’ve heard some argue that a special election will cost the city a lot of money. What better way to spend our money than on ensuring our right to vote? The ethical cost of NOT holding one would be devastating.

No matter whom you choose to support in the upcoming elections, the most important thing is that you have a choice. I ask that you stand with me in urging our City Council members – through calls, e-mails, Facebook posts, and tweets – to make the right choice and hold a special election to fill the vacant two-year seat this June. There is nothing that matters more than determining our own future through the right to vote. #OurVoiceOurChoice

Heidi Shink, a candidate for a seat on the West Hollywood City Council, is a community leader and political advocate with more than who has worked for more than 25 years to advance the causes of women’s, LGBT, environmental and union rights. Currently a Planning Commissioner for the City of West Hollywood, Shink also has served on the city’s Human Services Commission, as vice president of communications for the Stonewall Democratic Club, as an advocacy board member for the National Council of Jewish Women, as secretary for the West Hollywood/Beverly Hills Democratic Club and on the California Democratic Party’s State Central Committee, among other positions. She also is a writer.

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nir zilberman
nir zilberman
8 years ago

it’s our city, we will vote for our leaders, it’s time to stop all the B.S. and start taking care of the people of WEHO. it’s sad we become a city of money, cement and glass, people with no soul and hearts, fake people. rainbow? yes in the weekend …we are not a T.V SHOW, this is our lives. we lost too many great people all genders to other cities already,
NO MORE!
WE ARE THE PEOPLE OF WEHO.
Love NO Hate.
WEHO / HOME

Brian Holt
Brian Holt
8 years ago

@Dolan: just because some (ok, most) folks opt out of their opportunity to participate in our democracy that my right to opt in should be passed over? And over 150K at that what with BS robo-garages and new parks and signage and drunken street parties. Think again.
I have the right to choose my elective representatives. Not have them chosen for me – whenever possible. 2 years is plenty of time to get it right or worse, get it wrong. I’ll take the right to vote over some back room back scratching any ole day.

Jeez
Jeez
8 years ago

I think Rob would win if we were voting for the most smug person in the TMZ, hands down.

Rob Bergstein
Rob Bergstein
8 years ago

Oh Heidi, Heidi, Heidi……does anyone in their right mind think that Council will consider for a second appointing someone to fill the remained of Prang’s term? Because that went over SO well when Sal died & Lindsey was appointed. Really….I think you can cross that one off of your list. And honestly, given the sentiment that was generated last time…..with all the incredible work that Lindsey Horvath did while she was on Council, she is still remembered as being that person that was appointed. All her hard work for the residents of West Hollywood are shadowed by the way in… Read more »

Mary Miller
Mary Miller
8 years ago
Reply to  Rob Bergstein

Really? What you believe about Heidi, Lindsay and anyone else has nothing to do with the issue of an election vs. appointment.
Please don’t make this personal.

Bernadette Parinello
Bernadette Parinello
8 years ago

The question I have for Heidi is: ARE YOU TAKING CAMPAIGN DONATIONS FROM LOBBYISTS, DEVELOPERS AND OTHERS WITH BUSINESS IN FRONT OF THE CITY? Even though “everyone does it” and always claim that “money doesn’t influence the votes,” this incestual relationship must be stopped!! The money and where it comes from ALWAYS has strings attached. So I challenge Heidi to draw a line in the sand and NOT take these types of questionable and ethically-challenged donations. If she lays down the gauntlet on this, her competition will have no choice but to do the same. Otherwise, it’s just business as… Read more »

Mike Dolan
Mike Dolan
8 years ago

Let’s see. We just had our National Mid-term Election. Four months later, in March 2015 we will hold our General Election. In our last, highly volatile General Election we had a whopping 20% turnout or 5303 votes cast out of 26,394 registered voters with three highly challenged seats at stake. Currently, West Hollywood’s population is 34,399+. As mentioned, 2013 had 26,394 registered voters. On average, about 20% of registered voters will turn out for West Hollywood’s General Election. After the Mid-term election and the forth coming General election, three seats are up for vote. Three months later, it is suggest… Read more »

M Miller
M Miller
8 years ago
Reply to  Mike Dolan

How about resolving the issue by using mail in ballots. Print and send to all legal residents with postage paid for return to polling place for count.

Shawn Thompson
Shawn Thompson
8 years ago

Although Hedi is running for council and may have a political agenda in writing this, I agree that If and when Prang resigns his seat, there should be an election. The appointment in the past of a council member, with no community democracy, was not well received by the residents. History does not need to repeat itself in this matter, Im for an election no matter what

Chris Sanger
Chris Sanger
8 years ago

WeHoMikey – term limits (a terrible idea which WeHo will come to regret) aren’t retroactive. They won’t apply to the members until 2023. Miley – I’m not a lawyer, but I’d like you to explain how my suggestion – which would be voluntary – is illegal. It wouldn’t be legally enforceable. How is it illegal for the council member chosen by the council to agree to voluntarily resign after the March election? How is it illegal for the new council to appoint the 4th place finisher? I know something about the political law (was a poli sci major back in… Read more »

WeHoMikey
WeHoMikey
8 years ago

Two years ago, the citizens of West Hollywood approved a term limits initiative. Since Mr. Prang has been on the council for 3 1/2 terms already, what harm would there have been in his announcing his belief in the will of the voters and stepped aside early-enough to allow his seat to be placed on the March ballot? The issue of pay was mentioned earlier by Todd Bianco – council members are paid only a stipend, the real work is done by their mostly-well-paid deputies. What isn’t often mentioned is that council members get city-paid health care coverage, and after… Read more »

Brian Holt
Brian Holt
8 years ago

@chloe. Ah-men!
@Mary here here

Woody McBreairty
Woody McBreairty
8 years ago

Yes Chloe I think it’s o.k. Most people are tired of The Gang of Five (& even some of the current candidates) That’s why we hoped some of them wouldn’t wait to be termed out, but go out gracefully. This is the first inkling I’ve had of Heidi Shink’s position on any issue. I hope she will continue to use this & other easily accessible internet media to deliver her message to the voters without waiting too much longer. Other candidates have been long using this & other sites to get to the voters & their names are already familiar… Read more »

J. T. Anderson
J. T. Anderson
8 years ago

Appoint! A waste of money to hold an election. Build a dog park with that money!

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