The City Council narrowly voted to remove four sheriff’s deputies from our contract with the sheriff, without serious discussion as to how that will impact public safety. It was an ideologically motivated vote meant to pander to a woke-audience of activists who largely live outside of West Hollywood.
This will bring our staffing to about 56 deputies, which is down by approximately 64 that patrolled our streets a few years ago. These cuts are being made during a historic rise in crime in West Hollywood, a rise that has been blatant and particularly vicious.
But it does not have to happen and as far as I am concerned, it is not going to happen. The budget has to come back for another vote in July.
While I don’t expect the council to reconsider Monday’s vote, the first two deputies will not be cut until January, 2023, six months from the budget’s approval. The remaining cuts will take place in June, just as we enter the high tourist season.
In November I expect Mayor Lauren Meister will be overwhelmingly re-elected. John Erickson, who expressed his opposition to defunding, is not up for election. There are two open seats and if a single “re-fund the sheriff” candidate gets elected, the cuts can be stopped.
If I am fortunate enough to get elected in November, the first act I will do upon taking office in January will be to introduce an emergency measure to “re-fund” the sheriff, repealing the cuts made this week. At Monday’s meeting, two other City Council candidates voiced their opposition to defunding the sheriff.
Marquita Thomas spoke in favor of the city manager’s prudent proposal, while I spoke in favor of restoring funding to 2019 pre-COVID levels.
Public Safety Commissioner Robert Oliver repudiated his vote on this issue and supported the city manager’s proposal. Oliver is instructive. He has been vigorously campaigning for the last couple of months, talking to scores of residents. Obviously, Oliver has concluded that “de-funding” is not only bad policy, but also bad politics.
While other candidates have not found their voices in regard to this issue, it is clear that the residents have an opportunity to elect common sense leaders who will restore the sheriff’s budget and work with the department to find innovative policing policies to better protect our residents and the people who visit our city.
I am sure that Thomas or Oliver would join Lauren Meister, John Erickson and myself to immediately restore the cuts to law enforcement. The city’s budget is not chiseled in stone; I know this as I served eight years on the city’s budget subcommittee. If a new City Council contains people who are seriously committed to putting the public’s safety before political agendas and ambitions, we can repeal these cuts immediately.
This entire “de-funding” process has been corrosive to City Hall’s relationship with the residents. The council’s pandering to outside activists and willingness to let politics interfere with common sense has left the city angry and divided. The perception that an endorsement from the Los Angeles Times was the thirty pieces of silver resulting in a betrayal of the city will scar the public psyche for a long time.
If a poll was taken today, the city’s 39 percent “disapproval rating” which was reported in May, would skyrocket. I have never seen such a politically toxic atmosphere in West Hollywood. I say this with a sense of sadness as I know people have invested a great deal of faith in our elected officials and that the election of 2020 seemed like a the end of one era and a fresh new start of a new one.
The next City Council will have its work cut out for it simply restoring a sense of integrity and responsiveness to City Hall. Re-funding the Sheriff is just the first step toward restoring faith in City Hall. It will not be an easy process. It is really time to take stock of where the City Council is taking the city and there is a need to reflect how to restore faith in our local democracy.