Opinion: WeHo City Council Members Shouldn’t Be Influenced by Big Donors

I recently had the pleasure of attending Gregory Firlotte’s Design District retrospective at the West Hollywood Library, where I learned that our motto, “the Creative City,” has been with us since the city’s inception. Initially we were going with “the Gay Camelot” which doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Matt Ralston
Matt Ralston
Many of our city’s founders were involved in design, as well as film and other artistic media, and it was their goal to foster an atmosphere of creativity and expression.

Our Council is fond of referring to WeHo as the Creative City, yet they don’t do a lot to encourage it. There is the occasional city-sponsored event such as GoGo DanCer Appreciation Day. And that’s great, it’s good they are trying.

But real expression isn’t sponsored by a city, it is permitted and encouraged by the city and allowed to develop organically. As a quick anecdote, the best parties in high school aren’t attended by the principal. People are creative, and a city cannot claim this as our identity unless we encourage it.

That isn’t what we are doing.

My opponents, John Heilman, Lindsey Horvath, and Joe Guardarrama, are endorsed by the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Public Action Committee (PAC.) This PAC formerly endorsed John Duran and the recently departed Jeffrey Prang, which has given them a wide influence on the Council.

The WeHo Chamber of Commerce hosts the Creative City Awards every year, where they “honor businesses for their innovation and creativity.” Among the most recent nominees were Restoration Hardware, the billboard company Ace Outdoor Advertising, and Wells Fargo – the arbiter of all things artistic.

Furthermore, Heilman, Horvath, Guardaramma, and John D’Amico are endorsed by Friends of West Hollywood, a massive PAC funded by real estate developers and investment groups looking to bring formula retail and big box stores to West Hollywood, and to buy your vote.

You really have to wonder what these candidates said behind closed doors to get these endorsements. I would posit it’s different than what they would say to you.

With this sort of corporate influence it’s no surprise West Hollywood is becoming creative in name only. This is what happens when you start nominating Wells Fargo for artistic awards:

Contrary to popular misinformation, we don’t need to be beholden to outside big business to thrive as a city. In fact, as we become more and more homogenized into a corporate landscape, we will thrive less because that which made West Hollywood special will be lost forever.

It is ironic the city places strict controls on small businesses while allowing the blatant influence of those who give them the money to flood your mailbox with pamphlets. A cabaret tax. Combative zoning requirements, and a lengthy and cumbersome application process. The Council has even placed major restrictions on signage even though they’re accepting tens of thousands of dollars from a billboard company to hawk Calvin Klein.

This is the transparency these candidates have been speaking of. It speaks against them, but it’s pretty obvious.

It will be difficult to foster creativity until we stop tolerating this.

I beg you to not let special interests allow these candidates to buy your vote.

Until we reject this precedent we’ll drift further and further from our roots.

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Guillermo
Guillermo
7 years ago

I noticed in this election any candidate who couldn’t fundraise claimed that they were against the influence of donors.

Jim
Jim
7 years ago

Matt – it is quite obvious that you could make a positive change to the city council with your ideas. it is also obvious you wouldn’t sell your soul to get on the council. you got my vote. keep your chin up, they ain’t got the ideas just the big donors. Jim Reed

Don Azars
Don Azars
7 years ago

While I agree that commercial influences have guided our Council, I also have the perception that there have been many attempts over past years to promote “creativity” be it thru sculpture displays, the “new” library, city park events or other means. Can the City Council do more? Sure any governing body can. And I do believe that a better balance of interests between the residents (voters), property developers, business owners and landlords. They need to remember who voted them into office and who signed petitions that created this city. While any tow/city/state needs to grow and attract businesses to do… Read more »

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