West Hollywood residents are fans of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but they don’t really want their library named after her.
That was the impression of the Public Facilities Commission on Wednesday night as they unanimously voted to halt the re-naming process “due to lack of consensus and support.”
In the months leading up to this decision, few in West Hollywood were gung ho on the plan to christen the library after the late Supreme Court justice, who died in 2020. A poll the city conducted showed more or less an even split among the public, but of 13 public speakers who came to share their opinions on the matter, 11 spoke against the proposal.
Their reasons were myriad.
“People in West Hollywood want our library to be named after somebody local,” said Adam Bass.
Many others were praiseworthy of Ginsburg but didn’t feel the name fit.
“I’m an ardent supporter of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and I know that her laws and rulings have had an enormous impact on our community,” said former West Hollywood Councilmember Abbe Land, “but I think as we look to this library if we are going to name it, it should be named after someone who has deep roots in the community.”
Virginia Gillick was one of the few to write in support of the measure.
“I believe that this is a terrific idea for West Hollywood as Justice Ginsburg with someone that most of our residents benefited in one way or many ways by her work while on the Supreme Court,” she wrote.
Others did not have kind words for the justice.
“Although it’s hard for some to hear, possibly unsavory for others to swallow, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s refusal to relinquish her position, to step away from her power in a timely manner, in order to pass the torch on to someone actually deserving of United States Supreme Court appointment, must be acknowledged,” said Michael W. “So yes, rename the library after Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but do it in memory of her in glorious, big ego, which ultimately paved the way for permanent damage to fall upon the American people.”
Many of the public speakers (and others in the community) had thoughtful suggestions of who might be more appropriate to honor with the name of the library — but Vice Chairperson Jake Mason reminded the crowd that the Commission was only authorized to discuss Ginsburg’s name.
Despite his foreword, many potential names were mentioned, including:
● John Heilmann, former WeHo Councilmember and a founding father of the city
● Rita Norton, described as “the de facto senior librarian for our one-room schoolhouse type library. Over the years, she served as president of the Library Association.”
● Ivy Bottini, respected lesbian activist
● Nobody. “Why do we have to name it after people?” asked Jamie Francis Wendell. “There have been so many people who have contributed in this community who have passed on, who didn’t recommend that, “Hey, I want to be remembered!’ It should be named after the city itself.”
In their motion, the Commission recommended that Council keep the name “West Hollywood Library” for now, while undertaking a larger re-naming process that better involves the community in the future.
On a side note, the Commission had staff members clear up a longstanding local mystery — municipal code does in fact allow for buildings to be re-named in honor of persons who are living, as well as those who are deceased.