West Hollywood City Council’s push to re-name the West Hollywood Library after Ruth Bader Ginsburg ended Monday night after several months of often heated debate in the community.
The effort began back in December 2020, when Council approved Mayor Lauren Meister’s proposal to re-christen the library after the late Supreme Court Justice.
In the months since, the idea was presented to various city commissions and advisory boards, many of which refused to weigh in. Meanwhile, word of the name change drew vocal detractors in the community. Some felt Ginsburg had no tangible connection to West Hollywood; others felt a local figure would be a more appropriate namesake.
“She never lived in the city of West Hollywood, she never lived in the state of California,” said public commenter Jamie Francis. “So it makes no sense for us to honor her as a jurist on a city library when there are so many people who contributed in the local society and the community of West Hollywood all the last century.”
The Council did not expect the idea of re-naming the library to generate the controversy that it did, and they were eager to put the proposal to rest.
“I think people understood that Justice Ginsburg was someone who valued the things that we value and protected people that we want to protect,” Meister said. “I think we followed the process as best we could and I’m ready to move on.”
Councilmember Sepi Shyne came up with a compromise that satisfied most of her colleagues.
“There were two sides — for and against — and anytime anything is going to be renamed, this happens,” she said. “I think if we had picked an LGBTQ person — if we had picked Ivy Bottini — there would still be anger and divisiveness. That was not the intent of this. I think the intent of bringing this forward was good.”
“My suggestion, and what I’d like to propose a motion, is that we keep the West Hollywood library named as it is and we direct staff to work with the library to have a room inside of the West Hollywood library named after Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” Shyne said.
She noted the fallibility of a survey used to poll residents about the proposal and suggested only professional surveys be conducted in the future, which her fellow councilmembers also felt was prudent.
Councilmember John Erickson hoped the public would treat Council with a “little bit more kindness and grace” in their conversations online and in future proceedings.
“I don’t hold any malintent with my colleagues on this,” he said.
“We love West Hollywood,” said Councilmember Lindsey Horvath. “Everybody’s passionate about it and so I’m grateful that we were able to keep the library name in a way that brings people together and creates a really important space in the library.”
Councilmember John D’Amico, however, could not support the motion.
“I guess I have a slightly different point of view,” he said, attributing it to “the sort of misogyny that went through the community and the suggestion that her amazing work is not alive in each one of us.”
“I think naming local landmarks after local politicians is not worth the stone it’s carved in,” he said. “We (City Councilmembers) make big moves. Sometimes we get them wrong but mostly we get them right. In my mind this was a big move that we were going to get right. So I’m sorry we’re not doing it.”
The motion passed 4-1. The measure to re-name a room within the library will return to Council at a future date.