The West Hollywood City Council installed Lindsey Horvath as the city’s mayor and Lauren Meister as its mayor pro tem last night at a standing-room-only event attended dozens of local and state politicians or their representatives.
Among those in attendance were former Council members Abbe Land, Valerie Terrigno, Jeffrey Prang (now L.A. County Assessor) and Paul Koretz (now an L.A. City Council member). Others at the event, which took place at the City Council Chambers at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., were Steve Zimmer, a member of the L.A. School Board; Wendy Gruel, former controller of the City of Los Angeles, and John Mirisch, a member of the Beverly Hills City Council.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti swore in Horvath as mayor. Meister’s oath of office was administered by Dustin Lance Black, the film writer and gay rights activist. Both Horvath and Meister were elected to the Council in March. John D’Amico, who held the title of mayor until last night, won re-election and remains a City Council member.
The mayor and mayor pro tempore positions are largely symbolic, with the mayor’s primary responsibility being to manage City Council meetings and put his or her signature on certain city documents. The position rotates each year among the elected Council members, with the mayor pro tem typically assuming the mayor’s role each Spring. This year the process was changed because of Council members’ concerns about the controversy surrounding John Duran, the only incumbent Council member other than outgoing Mayor D’Amico, who was accused by a lawyer for his Council deputy of soliciting sex from that employee. Duran has denied that accusation although he has admitted having sex with his deputy before hiring him.
While the evening largely was devoted to the installation, the Council took action on several matters designed to appeal to various interest groups. For example, it approved a proposal by newly elected Councilmember Lauren Meister to declare May 22, the birthday of noted gay activist Harvey Milk, as a holiday during which parking meter regulations won’t be enforced. Earlier Meister had won Council approval of a similar proposal to recognize the birthday of Cesar Chavez, the Latino activist.
The Council also agreed to a proposal by John Duran and Meister to bar those with records of criminal animal abuse from adopting animals as pets. It is unclear how such an ordinance would be enforced given that there currently is not an official registry of animal abusers. An effort in 2010 to have the state legislature establish a California registry failed when state officials estimated it would cost from $750,000 to $2 million to establish and the concept drew opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Humane Society of America.
The Council also adopted a resolution put forth by Horvath commemorating the 100th anniversary on Thursday of the Armenian Genocide, the murder of over a million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks in the early 1900s, and condemning mass atrocities around the world.
More substantive matters included the Council’s adoption of a proposal by Horvath and Councilmember John D’Amico to establish an ethics task force that would develop recommendations for ethics reform. The task force would be composed of Joe Guardarrama, an attorney whose practice focuses on legal and ethical matters for political office holders; Bob Stern of the Center for Governmental Studies, and Elizabeth Ralston, president of the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles. The Council agreed to a proposal by Meister that the task force hold at least three community meetings. But it rejected her proposal that each Council member name his or her own appointee to the task force. Council members John Duran and John D’Amico argued that that would inject politics into the ethics review process.
The Council also agreed to appropriate $5,000 to fund a campaign proposed by Duran to educate gay men about the risks of anal cancer. Duran’s proposal cites data that men who have sex with men are 20 times more likely to have anal cancer if they are HIV negative and 40 times more likely if they are HIV positive. About 40 percent of West Hollywood’s population consists of gay men.