Those residents of West Hollywood who missed last night’s City Council meeting honestly didn’t miss much. The meeting was less well attended than usual. And of course “the regulars,” that small band of people who show up at every council meeting (and those of many other city boards and commissions), took their regular turns to approach the dais to offer their opinions on whatever was on that night’s agenda (or not).
What caught the attention of those few watching the meeting in the Council Chambers and at home on TV (other than Councilmember John D’Amico’s use of the term “chicken shit” to object to a stand taken by Mayor Lindsey Horvath) was a statement by Horvath on the need to improve the quality of our public discourse.
Horvath prefaced her statement by reading an email message she had received from a constituent that illustrated how sadly vitriolic and insulting some of our residents (and council members) can be when dealing with subjects that really require reasoned and polite public discussion or debate. Horvath followed that by calling on her fellow council members and local residents to respect one another while debating civic issues. The text of both is posted below. (The 8899 reference is to a controversial development project at 8899 Beverly Blvd. that was approved by the council.)
Horvath: And finally, I wanted to share with you an email that I received this weekend from a resident in our community:
“Hello Leslie, (sic)
“Just wanted to drop you a note.
“I’m not sure you remember, but we met when you were running for office. You stood with me and my neighbors and promised, if you were ever elected, you would vote against the expansion of 8899. Wow.
“I’m hoping you remember the 14 children who live on the street..Babies..I’m sure you remember the conversation regarding them (Townscape) using Rosewood as a back door entry into their building..you promised us you knew, understood and believed as we do that alone … endangering our children with an overflow of trucks, cars and strangers was a tragedy waiting to happen.
“You said you knew of the issue and believed as we did that our home values would suffer and our children would be put at risk of being run over.
“Obviously someone got to you somehow. I suspect in a few years we will see you driving a much nicer car or even living in a nicer home. Enjoy them.
“I liken your behavior to the Nazi’s who stole from less fortunate and weaker people, enjoyed their wares and eventually could not walk down any path without being recognized as evil wrongdoers.
I’m sure you are ‘comfortable’ with your position now. However, one last question..
“How do you sleep at night knowing you are, in spirit, an awful person?
“I’ve waited this long to reach out because I am so totally shocked that you voted for this project knowing that previously the principals promised the homeowners on Rosewood they would buy their properties if the plan was unacceptable to them; and when asked at a city council/neighborhood meeting they flustered and backed out of their statement by saying to all of us that saying that was a joke. Jokes on the Rosewood neighbors now. They also promised there would be no opening on to Rosewood..another joke on us, correct Leslie? You went so far as to allow Rosewood, behind the building to be zoned commercially. How much did you garner from this?
“Hope I get to mention this to you in person. I want you to look you in the eyes and see if there is anything human or decent…”
Horvath: For the record, I disclosed all contributions that I received from the developers prior to my vote as part of our hearing, and I haven’t received any payments from them since that time.
But far more troubling to me than these false allegations is the trend I have seen of increased hostility and vitriol in our public discourse. In our community, in Council Chambers, and even up here on this dais.
I believe it’s most effective to lead by example, but some things are worth saying out loud. At our recent Congress of Boards and Commissions, I asked our appointed officials to keep respect at the core of our communications on behalf of the city. And tonight I’m asking my colleagues and our entire community to do the same.
It goes without saying that while the Council’s decision on 8899 Beverly may have left some residents quite upset, it will not result in the systematic extermination of members of our community. Especially in a community such as ours, this kind of charged rhetoric discourages public engagement and an open exchange of ideas – and THAT is unacceptable. Accusing members of our Boards, Commissions, or this Council of illegal activity without any evidence of such wrongdoing is beyond the pale. I fully support everyone’s first amendment rights to say whatever is in your heart, and I am now asking that we consider the impact of our words upon how we’re building this community of West Hollywood.
I firmly believe we are a better community when more and different voices speak up and speak out, which is one of the reasons why I recently circulated a survey to gather feedback on my service as your Mayor. I absolutely want to hear and learn from ALL members of our community, and I genuinely believe everyone in our city government benefits when we hear from you.
So to Mary who wrote this letter, and to every single member of our community, I welcome your invitation to meet and have a conversation in person. I simply ask in the course of our discussions to remember that we – ALL OF US – care about the City of West Hollywood, and we’re doing our best to make sure it continues to be the City we’ve come to know and love so well.
Chris, you are wrong. She opposed the size of the 8899 building all along. That building did not change. The condos did. And shame on Lindsay for not fact checking the email sent to her. It was from a former resident who moved almost 2 years ago and lives in Tennesse now and certanly does not reflect the opinions of the current residents. For Lindsay to say, “I received this weekend from a resident in our community…” is a false statement. The writer of the letter is no longer a resident and has not been for some time. What is… Read more »
Joe – the project changed. She was not in favor of the project as proposed. She agreed with the compromise. The anti-8899 NIMBYites are absolutists, like their more conservative soul mate the Tea Partiers. They reject any compromise. And they react, like this woman did, with vitriol and hate. Horvath again deserves high praise for exposing her.
Horvath called out the writer for being aggressive without actually addressing how or why she changed her mind about the development at 8899 Beverly Blvd. Not sure if we are supposed to take her seriously.
Where is the proof she changed her mind. She was accused of it in the letter but as far as I know it’s untrue. Besides, what is better? A remodel into a attractive building or letting stand as it is now, ugly past it’s prime office building.
You are wrong Ferragosta1. I am happy to live in a society where a public official releases (without the specific name) an offensive, over the top email from a constituent. So have several other people here. So your statement that you doubt that any of us would want this is incorrect. I personally would have zero problem if I sent a letter or any email to a public official under my own name having it being made public as long as the information isn’t specifically stated as confidential.
I’d have respect for her if she didn’t vote for EVERYTHG Heilman wants. It’s time to start thinking for yourself.
Dear Friends, I doubt any of us would really want to live in a society where private communications, no matter how ill informed or distasteful, from a citizen to a public official — short of letters threatening violence — were posted for the purposes of “public shaming.” Such a practice would inhibit honest conversation — imperfect as it may be — imposing a climate of fear into the public realm. As an historian of Modern Europe and the United States I can point to many ugly examples where public officials engaged in such tactics of intimidation against legitimate critics. In… Read more »
The Mayor Horvath was attempting to make a point that we must be civil to one another. The letter she read was over the top comparing the Mayor to offensive groups . The letter is protected under the First Amendment and Mayor Horvath reading of it as well as commenting on it is also protected by the First Amendment. If one cannot be civil perhaps its time that the person involved be revealed. It’s one thing to complain about the actions of a council member or others but to make nasty remarks such as those in the letter read is… Read more »
Ferrago – people who write letters to public officials describing their actions as comparable to the Holocaust should, if they attach their names, have their letters with names posted on the WeHo.org web site. Public shaming is a reasonable response to that sort of outrage. I applaud Horvath’s more limited action. On her promise – I don’t believe it, at least in terms of absolute. She may have indicated an opposition to the project as then on the board. The proposal came back to the council and was amended, with Horvath as part of the solution. These NIMBYites, brought to… Read more »
Mayor Horvath read a constituent letter which was sent in private. The Mayor, unnecessarily reading the entire text of the letter instead of denouncing “the content and tone of a letter I have received” announced the street and first name of the letter writer. The letter was ill advised and historically ignorant. As noted in my previous comment the letter was absurd on its face and did a disservice to the victims of the Shoah in making a ridiculous comparison of WeHo politics to Nazism. But the Mayor had no reasonable justification to “out” her constituent except in wanting to… Read more »
Mr. Rosen. Are you kidding? First, all correspondence between residents and public officials is public. Always has been, always will be, in any city in this democratic country. Second, the mayor didn’t give the full name of the writer. So how was she violating her privacy? Third, the letter is a really powerful and very sad example of the vitriol and stupidity that dominates so much of the public discussion in West Hollywood. The writer of that letter needs to see a shrink.
No one seems to care about the ethical issue of an abuse of power by reading a constituents letter in a public forum no matter how egregious the letter was. This was a grotesque attempt to gain sympathy in the guise of claiming one wants a more civil discourse. These actions tell us what kind of politician the Mayor really is where her aspirations and morality lie.
I suppose if Mayor Horvath did promise to oppose the expansion of 8899 Beverly, then perhaps Mary’s tirade was deserved. But serving the public does not mean the public is going to be grateful. At times the public has every right to be angry even outraged about what goes on at City Hall. The hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by developers in the 2015 election should be a concern to anyone who cares about representative democracy. It is hard to believe that after receiving the benefits of all that developer cash, Council members would not be swayed. Still the… Read more »
Any law to prohibit members from voting on items from contributors is unconstitutional. Not saying it should or shouldn’t be, but that’s reality.
Also, if it were enacted, then developers could contribute to candidates who would vote against them thus making sure their anti-vote didn’t count.