Welcome John. Let’s just go at it. Why the [….] are you running for City Council ?
West Hollywood is seriously on the wrong track. When John Heilman and I lost our seats two years ago we left the city in pretty good shape. The city had $140 million in reserves. We had a triple AAA bond rating, we had a great relationship with the Sheriff. We had a great relationship with the Chamber of Commerce and our local small business community. That’s how we turned the reins over to the new council. They have pretty much inflamed and destroyed all of that and I’m seriously worried about the future of the city.
We’re still coming out of Covid. We’ve got huge economic challenges ahead, not only for the city but the country, and in the world; I feel like these council members are playing student body government – like it’s a school project of theirs.
So you’ve got some fight left in you?
Oh God yes. I’ve always had fight left in me. Of course.
What’s your platform?
I’m going to campaign on a return to common sense. I think for many years I was the swing vote on the council. It was always John Heilman and Abbe Land or John Heilman and Lindsey Horvath, and it was always John D’Amico and Lauren Meister or Sal Guarriello and Jeff Prang on the other side. I always had the position of being the guy right in the center to kind of decide which way we’re going. It’s a great place to be but it’s tough too because I don’t have any friends. People don’t see me as part of the Heilman camp or the D’Amico – Meister camp. I don’t have a camp. And that’s how I’ve always been. Independent. Common sense. I may be a registered Democrat but I am not a subscriber to every idea coming out of the left or the right. I don’t think either party has all the answers and so I’ve kind of been right in the center. I think that’s what’s needed right now. We’ve got to have some common sense stability back at city hall.
So your platform. Top Three Things.
The first thing is economic development. I’m watching them squander away the prudent reserves. They’re digging into it for the past few years. There’s no plan to replenish it. Finally I heard the City Manager David Wilson talk about starting to put some money back into the reserves but at the same time talk about cutting the sheriffs. Economic development means primarily government stays out of the way of business.
Government itself, whether a local city hall or the United States Congress, doesn’t produce any profits. Government survives in a very parasitic way feeding off others’ profitability. In order to keep your taxes up business has to be successful. The best way West Hollywood City Hall can help business is to stay out of the way of the entrepreneurs and the business people who are trying to run their businesses — whether it’s a small retail shop or a large hotel. There’s got to be some regulation but a one size fits all policy will constrain economic productivity — which in the end hurts your taxes, which in the end hurts your citizens — because you don’t have that money for services.
So 1) economic development, and 2) I’ve got some unfinished projects that I was working on before I lost my seat. I’m really concerned about the ongoing crystal meth and homelessness issue and they’re tied together. There’s talk about possibly taking down the Log Cabin on Robertson and creating some new development. Both the Log Cabin and the West Hollywood Recovery Center are entities that I help create. That corner of sobriety. If the city is dedicated to stopping and eradicating crystal meth abuse and homelessness we need to have both facilities. There’s talk about trying to combine them all into one and it’s as if the current city government doesn’t see the connection between all those 10,000 to 15,000 addicts and alcoholics who go to the log cabin and the recovery center staying sober. So they don’t end up homeless. So they don’t end up as meth addicts. That’s one of my unfinished businesses that I’ve got to finish doing.
The other is public safety. We need to re-fund the Sheriff. I was the only candidate to get the endorsement of the l.A County Sheriff’s Department two years ago. They didn’t endorse Heilman. They only endorsed me. I have historically always had the endorsement of the sheriff but ironically, if the history of West Hollywood were told, I was the one of the co-authors of the West Hollywood police department in 1991. Why? Back then the sheriffs were doing a terrible job, discrimination against gay people, denying people with HIV their meds. I sued the sheriff twice. We had a serious problem with the Sheriff’s Department. But I joined with Ruth Williams and Save our Sheriffs. Many many other people worked really hard at reforming the Sheriff’s Department and we did that so this whole talk about defunding the police or getting rid of the sheriff and starting your own police department is insane talk.
We have a functional Police Department under Captain Moulder, who’s an openly gay captain in the LA County Sheriff’s Department. I mean you couldn’t ask for more in terms of reform. A lot of these political ideologues from the left think it’s just knee-jerk of them to attack law enforcement and attack the police. We are so dependent on their skills. There is a very delicate balance between business, the thousands of people who come here every weekend, the people who live here. and the sheriffs are right in the middle of that.
So I’m a huge supporter of the sheriff. I’m watching the Public Safety commissioners and the current council members attacking our deputies as if they’re taking out all the ills of all law enforcement on our deputies here at West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department. Which is silly. We depend on them. We need them. We need to defend them. There’s is there room for reform always it’s true of anything right? But don’t toss them out.
Have you got a lot of brushback from your choice to run again?
Most of the people I’ve been talking to was just feeling out. Hey I’m thinking of running again. It’s been overwhelmingly supportive. Most people I talk to are like the old guard of West Hollywood. By old guard I mean people who’ve lived here 15, 20, 30 years. The old guard is very protective. We created something really special. The chamber of commerce has been very supportive, the sheriff deputies union has been very supportive. A lot of the key allies that I had in the past.
I’ve talked to some of the city hall labor union leaders they’re also supportive. I think they would welcome back some stability. The problem with the current council is is they’re trying to be everything to everyone and they’re ending up being nothing to anyone/. It’s so frustrating to watch them. It’s as if they took courses in government in high school or college and now they’re playing laboratory and trying to experiment with the 35,000 of us who live here and not using any common sense.
What may work well in Berkeley or in Boston or in other parts of the country doesn’t work well here we’re a very unique place small town of 35,000 people and 100,000 people coming every weekend. That’s a very unusual model.
Lets get to couple of tough questions. You had a few ‘scandals’ in the past.
Do you want to say anything with regards to that previous history?
Yeah I have no problem talking about them. Ed Buck was at the heart of a lot of this right. People don’t remember all the Dump Duran campaigns here in the city, Ed Buck filed the complaint. The DA credit card use that was initiated against John Heilman. That came down upon me. I cooperated with the D.A. They didn’t find any evidence of any crime. The Ian Owens issue is probably my biggest mistake. I hired a friend to come work at city hall that was my error, that was my mistake, I apologized publicly to the people of West Hollywood. Sadly what it’s become now is people have created so much more in their head than it ever was. Ian and I had sex the first night we met and I didn’t even know his name. It happened. Never had sex again. We became friends like a lot of gay men. Sometimes a trick ends up becoming a friend and he was a friend for well over a year before he ever worked at city hall. It was just unfortunate the way that it ended up.
The chorus stuff was crazy. I mean the chorus got one complaint from one person named Jason Tong. WEHOville under the former publisher Henry Scott made it three chorus members. There were never three complaints. Then all of a sudden it became this huge hullabaloo. Everybody got involved. My colleagues wanted to censure. I didn’t even get to go through the investigation and people already became judge jury executioner and made decisions. By the time I went through the investigation and the investigation turned up nothing after interviewing dozens of witnesses that it didn’t occur it was too late. It already made WEHOville, It made the LA Times and made the gay publications. By the time I was proven innocent it was too late.
I spent every single day at that trial and watched you on the stand, the Roddig report proved you to be not guilty of but there was inappropriate language and you could have done a little bit better.
Yeah probably could be said for any current city council member too. Let’s think about this. I came up through gay subculture in the ’70s. I have been part of creating and developing gay subculture for four decades. Somebody referred to me this past week as a strange cross between Oscar Wilde and Mae West. I love Oscar Wilde and I love Mae West both because they’re kind of a similar thing.- a little bit outrageous. a little bit flamboyant. a little bit inappropriate. but with biting humor. That is the gay subculture whether it’s Queer as Folk, whether it’s any of our romantic comedies, it is part of our gates of culture to be sexualized and be comfortable with it and to be funny and have humor about it. So much of the current stuff people are have lost their sense of humor or have lost their outrageousness, have lost any sense of gay culture. They want us to look like our heterosexual counterparts. God forbid should that ever happen. I hope the LGBT community continues to be non-conforming on the edge flamboyant outrageous pushing the envelope, pushing gender norms, pushing all of these issues because that’s who we are.
You only have one potential term available to you-
I do, so here’s what I’d like to do if I get back in. I need to help reboot the city. A lot of terrible mistakes have been made in the past two years. What they did the hotels was a disaster as the hotels were trying to come out of Covid. It’s no surprise to me that when the hotel revenue tax was down half of what it used to be. What they are doing with the minimum wage and small businesses in the city. Wrong time. These may be great ideas but not coming out of a pandemic that has put business owners hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. They’re trying to recover and trying to figure out this new economy and trying to figure out how to pay back old debt to saddle them with minimum wage increases or new hotel regulations. It’s just disastrous thinking. It may look good on paper but in practice it’s harming everybody. Watching our business owners and our chamber members and our big hotels come out and tell the council you’re killing us you’re hurting us and to be completely ignored. I think it was a terrible tragic mistake. It’s almost like the council is more concerned about the frills and the bells and the whistles and they’re forgetting the basics of government – public safety – economic development – social services -traffic -transportation and parking.
It’s not Republicans versus Democrats. It’s not about politics. It’s about providing basic services to the people who live here. So I’m hoping in this one term I want to finish a few things I started. I’ve referenced some of them here and I want to make sure that we get set for the next level of council members that they come in with that same sense of being of service to the community and not just here to play politics with ideology.
Here’s the thing I have with the current crop people that I’ve heard are running. Most of the current crop of people who are running have lived here five years or less. And I’m sorry before I turn over the history of West Hollywood, the history of a community that fought discrimination, fought HIV and AIDS, fought gays in the military, fought for marriage equality, fought for a reinvigorated Sunset Strip, fought for Melrose, Fought for all the things the battles that we waged. I want to make sure they’re qualified. If there had popped up somebody in this community been here 15, 20 years and said ‘hey john, I want to run for council will you back me?’ I would have said absolutely yes.
Let’s go I even talked to you Larry about it when you were thinking about it. I was right behind you Larry, happy to be there, but turning over this city with $140 million budget to — I don’t want to call them kids but to young people who’ve not even lived in the city for five years and watching them experiment with our lives and our livelihoods and our businesses and our homes and our public safety — I think is a disaster. When I saw the current crop I’m like yeah not so comfortable turning over four decades of work to people who’ve lived here for two years.
Have you have you informed Mayor Meister or your former colleagues about your run?
I’ve talked to Mayor Lauren Meister and we ironically have become friends. When we were on the council together we were polar opposites on a lot of issues around development but at the end of the day I know she loves West Hollywood. She knows I love West Hollywood. I can say the same thing about John Heilman. I didn’t always agree with him but I know he loves West Hollywood. Same with Steve Martin.
A lot of old West Hollywood love this city. I don’t have any relationship with Sepi Shyne, or John Erickson or Lindsey Horvath. I haven’t spoken to any of them in two years.
You were best friends with Horvath after your 2017 win. I saw you on Disneyland with her and Estevan Montemayor. So you there was a great friendship there you celebrated your last win with her.
I would not say we were best friends. That would not be accurate. I did go to Disneyland with Lindsey Horvath, Estevan Montemayor, Jordan Cockerum and Amanda Smash Hyde. Of those people, Amanda Smash Hyde I still chat with every now and then, Jordan Cockerum and I are still good friends. But what the games that Lindsay Horvath and Estevan Montemayor were playing around Gay Pride and CSW leaving the city. And Robert Oliver being part of all that. These guys want to play politics. They want to play games with politics. Municipal government — we’re just here to do the basics- you want to play politics go to Sacramento or go to Washington DC. West Hollywood City Hall should be kept small and in service to the people who live and work here