The 21st century has officially started in West Hollywood.
I want to send out big congratulations to the two newest City Council members, Sepi Shyne and John Erickson, who have shown that new ideas and hard work turn into votes and wins. Something I experienced in 2011. And I am excited to work with them, and Lauren and Lindsey to bring our city firmly, finally into the 21st century. Tune in on Dec. 7 to celebrate their victories and wish our colleagues John Duran and John Heilman well.
There’s no denying that the foundation of the city is built from work designed and installed by John Heilman. Critical pieces of our identity, our DNA, can be found in those early ideas that were at the heart of the founding of the city, and are at the heart of much of who we are. But we are not in 1984 anymore, and so much about our city never did break free from those early ideas. Now there is a chance that our city can realize and articulate what it means to live in 2020 and beyond.
And big love to John Duran, who may not have invented late 20th century LGBTQ life, but certainly celebrated it like no one else, finding ways and avenues to bring visibility and relevance to our city as we all matured ourselves, and watched the country find ways to incorporate LGBTQ concerns and rights, many of which started here, into everyday life. There also is some of that early DNA of John Duran’s West Hollywood, the HIV and drug abuse epidemics that solidified our commitment to social services and caring for people and required an investment in that caring that both informed and relied on development and billboards to make those services affordable. HIV is almost over, and sobriety is safe here in West Hollywood for decades to come and beyond.
Our deep appreciation to John and John for their combined 55+ years of service to the city. We have all benefitted in many ways from their commitment. BRAVO.
On Nov. 3, 2020, the residents decided that it’s time to pick up anchor and set sail into the 21st century, charting a course that can pick up 21st century concerns about policing, diversity, equity, accessibility, sustainability and services.
And I am here for it. I am relieved that we can look again at our commitment to social services and still believe that they need to be funded fully. In 2018, I pushed us to add $1,000,000 to the social services budget, and I still maintain that we should be spending 10% of our budget on direct social services. It’s something I hope we can finally achieve, but that will require that we understand and support the sources of that revenue.
And solving our housing crisis, perhaps we can now move closer to the solutions for renters and homeowners that are sustainable and affordable and meaningful. And not worry so much about housing for rich people.
So much of West Hollywood leads the way in local government. We keep our parks and streets and infrastructure top notch, we have a critical commitment to the long-term viability of the city finances, we have expanded our public participation and communication efforts over the last 10 years including offering multiple platforms for engagement.
But there’s also been a downside to our overly long attachment and nostalgia for the 20th century. We have also watched our demographics shift without shifting our priorities as much. We never have fully accepted or integrated our understanding of our daytime whiteness and our nighttime diversity. Our commitment to transit and reliance on parking. Our push for smaller affordable units in bigger and bigger buildings. Our relationship with the Sheriff’s department, which manages us more than we manage it. We watched the music business dissolve right before our eyes and never could get it together to help reframe the Sunset Strip beyond new hotels with private clubs and billboards. There has been no meaningful effort to diversify our economic engine beyond hotels and entertainment.
And some of our greatest failures seem to be around who gets to use the public space, the roadways and our public facilities. One bright spot brought upon us from COVID is a complete reimagining and use of the public space that some of us have been pushing for years. All of that and more can be re-addressed.
We have become too reliant on the idea that “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Some things that work in our city only work for some and not for all, and that’s not okay. And so, now we’re moving forward with new ideas, and I am thrilled to watch how new energy, youthful exuberance, will change our city into one that is ready to face the challenges of the 21st century.
I am motivated to help all my colleagues bring real change over the next two years, re-inventing West Hollywood as the city that can continue to show the world who we are now and what can be. Off we go.