Opinion: West Hollywood’s Fight Against COVID-19 Shows Real Leadership

I have tremendous respect for my friend James Duke Mason.  He’s smart and a dedicated public servant, but his opinion, “Our City Leaders Need to Scale Back Some COVID-19 Orders” misses the mark.

COVID-19 is something we’ve never experienced before. Some leaders in our community compare it to the HIV/AIDS crisis, and we are wise to draw important lessons and strength from the resilience and fortitude our community displayed through the worst days of that epidemic.

Others, particularly in other regions of the country, go so far as to claim COVID-19 is a hoax, or no worse than the common flu.

What we don’t know about COVID-19 far surpasses what we do know. Yet, we already know that COVID-19 is serious, it’s highly contagious, and it is deadly.

As residents of West Hollywood, we also should take great comfort in knowing that we have a mayor (past and present), City Council, city manager and the entire city staff who are doing an exceptional job at keeping our community safe. The hours and efforts put in by our dedicated public servants go far beyond what many of us can imagine.

When the worst days of this crisis are in our rear-view mirror, I’m confident we’ll look back and decide there were steps we didn’t take that we should have, others that we took that we didn’t need to. Yet, in West Hollywood, I suspect we’ll come to realize that our leaders took measured, educated and thoughtful steps that kept our community safe. I believe Paul Arevalo, our city manager, along with the City Council have used the best science available to them to take the most measured approaches to keep our community safe. When we look back at this moment in time, we’ll know we took smart steps with the best information we had at the time.

After Monday night’s City Council meeting, the city implemented a few new measures that have raised the ire of some in the community, as evidenced in Mr. Mason’s WEHOville opinion piece.

The main point of contention appears to be the requirement that all folks must wear masks in public, not just inside of buildings. I don’t like wearing masks, but it has become a reality due to COVID-19. Personally, I enjoyed being crafty and making a few masks at home early on in this crisis – and I like having a few with my own personal touch. I’ve loved seeing some of the wonderfully creative masks our community has created. Leave it to the people of West Hollywood to hear, “Wear a mask” and automatically tack on, “but make it fashion!”

Regardless, I hate wearing them as much as anyone.

Yet, I wear one. Because, during these uncertain times – if all a mask will do is bring my neighbors some peace of mind, then as a courteous and conscientious neighbor, it’s the least I can do. I live on the city’s Eastside, and many of my neighbors are elderly. I can honestly say I’ve seen serious fear in some of their eyes over the past few months – and if my mask brings them comfort, whether it’s effective or not, I’ll wear it.

Our city has listened to community requests and shortened construction hours, found funds to provide cooling options for our seniors, relaxed parking restrictions, provided resources to our small businesses, etc. West Hollywood is doing the best that any community our size could possibly be expected to do.

I don’t agree with everything they’re doing – the idea of closing some community streets to vehicular traffic just seems silly to me. I don’t have any idea how that will help. Yet, this approach has worked in other communities, and West Hollywood isn’t afraid to borrow good ideas from other places. I hope it works here too, despite my own doubts.

At the end of the day, West Hollywood is a leader in every regard, and that is only more evident during the COVID-19 crisis. When this crisis hit, our then-Mayor John D’Amico and his husband were hit with the virus. Frankly, it was a very scary time, and as a community we held them in our thoughts – it was a beautiful thing to witness – the outpouring of love for our mayor and his family. And I was proud that despite his own battle with the disease within his own family, he never failed to show up and lead our community, along with now-Mayor Lindsey Horvath and the rest of the City Council.

West Hollywood leaders won’t always get it all right. But, I think they’re doing a hell of a job with a world that got turned upside down over night. I have full confidence they’re on the side of West Hollywood residents first, and will always fight for us, our local businesses and the many visitors who consider West Hollywood a second home.

Our elected leaders are asking us to wear masks outdoors. It’s the least we can do to keep our community safe. So, I look forward to seeing my West Hollywood neighbors out and about with their best face mask fashion as we enter the beautiful Southern California summer – and I’ll make sure to wave from 6 feet away.

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