EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an op-ed written by a candidate in the Nov. 3 election for one of two seats on the West Hollywood City Council. WEHOville has invited each of the nine candidates to submit up to two op-eds to explain to West Hollywood residents his or her stand on local issues .
It was the summer of 2010, our city and the world were crawling out of the financial crisis. The BlockParty WeHo had opened the previous October 2009 at the old Different Light Bookstore. The patch over my left eye had just been removed after six months of surgeries. I was learning how to cope w permanent blindness in my left eye, without a car, low on funds, and a new store that was getting off to a slow start.
A young man introduced himself to me outside the shop. “Hi, I’m John D’Amico and I am running for West Hollywood City Council. Do you have a few minutes to talk?” I shook his hand, let him speak, and then said, “Thanks, but I don’t want to get involved.”
City Councilmember Abbe Land cut the ribbon on our grand opening with my late sister. Lindsey Horvath was the first person to peek inside my shop as we were getting ready to open. “Whats going on here?” she asked. John Heilman was the old master. I recalled meeting John Heilman in 1985 at my shop Oscar’s Wilde, which was at the Bottega Louie location. And John Duran and I shared a friend who found himself in recovery.
So, “I didn’t want to get involved.”
The 2011 campaign began, but it wasn’t until early March when I noticed a “Heilman, Horvath, Land” sign. They had a “slate” ganging up against D’Amico. The power wanted to solidify its power. It bothered me. I ran to Koontz Hardware for neon yellow paint and in big letters painted VOTE D’AMICO on the store windows. That is the point of inflection when “I got involved” to protect the independence of our City Council.
Almost ten years later it’s the same “slate” with protégé John Erickson, who was Land’s Council deputy, who is Heilman’s direct appointee to the Planning Commission and who has described Horvath as his “North Star.” Instead of Heilman, Horvath, Land, its Heilman, Horvath, Erickson. The same “clique.”We really do need a City Council that is independent and not a clique of best friends with the same perspectives.
Fast forward 10 years and: “Hi, I’m Larry Block, and I’m running for West Hollywood City Council.”
I’ve grown up over these past ten years in front of many of you. There was the time when Heilman would not shake D’Amico’s hand during his first two years in office. I took to the public comment podium to ask for “a City Council that works together and reasons with each other,” challenging Heilman to shake D’Amico’s hand. There was the fight for the rainbow flag on City Hall, which was ordered down by John Duran. “Our Pride is Not a Season” on Youtube is the speech of my life. It was a point of inflection to honor the history of the LGBTQ community in West Hollywood. My last testament asks for the West Hollywood City Flag to be placed next to me. How many people can say they helped to create a city flag in their lifetime>.
There was the “Historic Boystown” initiative that grew into the rainbow crosswalks. Then the murders at 939 N Palm and my leading the candlelight vigil calling for new rules for the way police enter our residential buildings. Not much has changed — ask Breonna Taylor.
It was my knock on a neighbor’s door to ask him to write the language for term limits that is bringing a healthy rotation to our local city government. My naïve perspective that residents can serve their community with heart better than politicians. We passed Measure C, the term limits measure, in 2013, and later Heilman lost to Meister and now is serving his term limit in Jeffrey Prang’s seat. I want to finish the job I started and usher in the next generation. Term Limits is a vision, not just a law. There’s more work to do.
There was the incredible long battle to update our crosswalks after multiple deaths. I founded Cross Safe WeHo, and we met and marched until we got on the agenda and the City Council allotted money for new crosswalk updates. Six months later the Council-approved measures were still sitting in a city staffers’ folder, not sent out to bid. I asked and questioned while the Council was sleeping. I sat with staff, and we re-aligned Santa Monica Boulevard and presented these ideas to the Transportation Commission and got the City Council’s approval. Finally the ideas have been implemented. Our traffic flows better and our streets are safer.
There was my “masks for residents” drive when the pandemic hit. The City Council waited for instructions from the county, but I got masks to seniors and disabled folks to protect them from community spread of COVID-19. I will bring a sense of urgency to City Hall. I founded a non-profit WeHo Wish only to help West Hollywood residents in need with things that fall through state and local service providers.
Yes. It has been a packed ten years.
I’ve also had the honor of serving on the Disability Advisory Board in 2013-2014, elected chair after my first year, and we created the Disability Health Fair that brings free flu shots and other health screenings to residents. And after just a year on the Public Facilities Commission I was elected chair by my colleagues. I’ve never been a Vice Chair. Each time I hit the ground running. As the 2019-2020 chair of the Public Facilities Commission I initiated the Green City Awards and it was approved by council in January 2020 and we just presented our first Green City Awards this past month. Together we will build a greener, more sustainable city. Together we will take care of our disabled and senior citizens. I like to offer new ideas and be for things. I was so honored to receive the Chamber of Commerce’s Creative City Business Award in 2019. We need a creative council person. I have survived and navigated a small business in West Hollywood for 11 years. I want to bring that experience to the city council.
This Part 1 of my op-ed is to share my experiences. Part 2 will follow with ideas to protect our small businesses, rebuild our community village, offer affordable housing opportunities for West Hollywood residents though the creation of co-ops that turns renters into stakeholders, advance our aging in place initiatives and re-invent the promise of West Hollywood as the beacon of hope.
And win or lose I’m not giving up on WeHo. We have a job to do, all of us together, to move this city forward.
My track record and activism is focused on West Hollywood. I’m running a resident-centric campaign with no money from developers and/or union support. I have a history of getting things done. Some candidates will tell you what they will do because they can’t speak of things they have done. I’m ready to serve.