EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a series of five essays by Carleton Cronin, a long-term resident of West Hollywood and an astute observer of local politics, that offers guidance on how to decide (and why to decide) who to elect to the City Council on Nov. 3.
At last count, six challengers have set their courses to be candidates for the two Council seats now occupied by John Heilman and John Duran. It’s not merely two seats on the Council, it most certainly is what the people in those seats bring to the table. How seriously will they approach the job – even if it is a part-time endeavor? It is a job with more than a simple description of duties. One must bring the most fervent desire to be of service to the community without a long coattail of unspecified promises to the individuals (remember that *SCOTUS tells us that corporations are individuals, too) who may have funded the campaign. If I were once again the moderator at a candidates forum, I’d bring some much more specific questions to ask the candidates.
All of the good intentions of the candidates must somehow be translated into action, or at least earnest discussion, if they are elected. Those good intentions must be grounded in knowledge of the city’s needs and its residents’ and businesses’ requirements for orderly administration. For instance, a starting place might be a firm understanding of the city’s core values as recently stated on the monthly calendar I receive. They are:
- Respect and Support for People. We recognize and celebrate the diversity of our community by treating all individuals with respect for their personal dignity and provide a wide array of specialized services. We promote mutual respect, courtesy and thoughtfulness in all interactions.
- Responsiveness to the Public. We hold ourselves accountable to the members of our community and are committed to seeking actively participation. We promote a public process whereby we can respond to the community’s needs while balancing competing interests and diverse opinions.
- Idealism, Creativity and Innovation. We value our artistic richness and support idealism and creativity. We are dedicated to consistently finding innovative and better solutions to provide the best public service possible.
- Quality of Residential Life. We maintain a balanced sense of community by protecting quality of life, conserving our historic neighborhoods, safeguarding housing affordability and proactively governing growth with care and thought.
- Promote Economic Development- We recognize that economic development is essential to maintaining quality of life for the total community. We support an environment where our diverse and eclectic businesses can flourish, and seek mutual beneficial relationships with the business community.
- Public Safety – We protect the personal safety of our constituents and safeguard the community from the threats of natural, technological and other man-made hazards. Through preparation and planning, we minimize the effects of tese disasters.
- Responsibility for the Environment – We make it our responsibility to protect and improve our natural and built environments, pursuing opportunities to preserve and create open and green space in our urban setting. We initiate partnerships with other cities and agencies to address regional and global environmental challenges.
Do you receive update emails from anyone on the Council? How often do you hear from any one on the Council with requests for feedback on important items? In our little city it is not uncommon to run into one of the Council members at a store or on the street. Opportunity to chat. Aside from Council meetings every two weeks, how do you keep up with events in the city? I have often found interesting items in WEHOville.com, the La Brea Press (free driveway paper) and the limping LA Times with more information than available at the meetings or on the city’s website. I receive messages and updates regularly from Councilmember Meister, but no others. Paul Arevalo once issued a December City Manager’s “state of the city” article on the printed version of the monthly calendar, which I still receive. His message was very helpful in understanding certain Council actions and city expenditures, City Hall plans. Haven’t seen one in a couple of years. Paul – where is it available this past year?
We could use the above points of our city’s core values as a score card for any City Council member. They could also be the framework of a questionnaire for anyone running for Council office. Running for office on charm and lofty ideas alone should not be a winning formula these days. Even though emotional arguments often win seats, we still need more specific plans. We’re supposed to be far more politically savvy than our parents, even more suspicious of those who would desire to govern us. Those aspects of our modern life should be the basis for intense inquiry into the heart and soul of every candidate for a Council seat. Too dramatic, you say? That hardly counts for drama on the political stage. The real drama takes place in Council Chambers, that stage next to the library on San Vicente Boulevard. It’s no place for understudies, only the principal actors. There, they should know on their lines and be aware of cues from their constituents, who must be unrelenting critics. It has been said that voters get the administration they deserve – and that they deserve the administration they get. Care and caution in choosing is requisite.
One of my favorite cartoons strips is Shoe, who is the editor of Treetops Tattler in a mythical place populated entirely by birds. Shoe is the cranky, demanding editor and his foil is Cosmo, his decidedly more intellectual principal writer/reporter/columnist. The strip also features Senator Belfry who is, when sober, often at Roz’s diner. In the strip’s last two-panel online appearance, Roz tells Belfry: “Six years ago my nephew ran for mayor in his hometown.” “What’s he doing now?” inquires Belfry. “Nothing” says Roz. “He got elected.”
That could not happen here, in West Hollywood, could it? There’s too much to do. Keep our Council on its toes and busy with the citizens’ business.
If you are not registered to vote, there’s still time to do so. (You can do it online by clicking here). If you are registered, it’s time to learn about the candidates – before it’s too late.
Tomorrow: Why bother to vote? (if you really don’t know)