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.
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.