ALAN STRASBURG: City should air the Chamber’s candidate forum

Last night the West Hollywood city council refused to allow city staff to air on WEHOTV a serious city council candidate forum to be hosted jointly by the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, a bedrock of the city’s vitality, and by The League of Women Voters, the most respected and established debate sponsor in the nation, and by a coalition of nine established neighborhood groups representing West Hollywood residents. Refusing access to airing that forum on WEHOTV is an unprecedented abuse of the councilmembers’ offices of public trust. I could smell trouble when the item was pulled from the consent calendar. The unanimous vote, with Lauren Meister doing the right thing by recusing herself due to her status as a candidate for reelection, smacks of official censorship of the most important engagement citizens have in our democracy. This government overreach is an intrusion into the democratic and fair process of informing the public that this forum, and I hope others, is designed to do.

An office of public trust is sacred space that should be held by people who truly want to do the people’s business. In the standing orders of the United States Senate, an office of public trust is described as:

“The ideal concept of public office, expressed by the words, “A public office is a public trust”, signifies that the officer has been entrusted with public power by the people; that the officer holds this power in trust to be used only for their benefit and never for the benefit of himself or of a few; and that the officer must never conduct his own affairs so as to infringe on the public interest. All conduct of Members of the Senate should be guided by this paramount concept of public office.” (Editorial note, quoting verbatim using the limited pronouns found in the published text.)

There is no public interest served by censoring an event that has precedent in this city. In fact, all sitting members of this council have previously participated in Chamber-sponsored candidate forums. To censor this year’s forum is a clear infringement on the public interest.

It is wildly offensive and borderline comedic that John D’Amico suggested that he and Lindsey Horvath could serve as impartial arbiters of vetting questions given that their tenure on council will soon end. They have both endorsed candidates and/or donated to candidates in the November city council election. At least Horvath had the decency to back off the obscene suggestion, perhaps realizing that the proposal was ludicrous. There is zero public interest served in having citizen questions vetted (censored!) by anyone, anywhere, at any time. Was this affront to fair play merely a petty attempt to protect the incumbents’ favored, endorsed, and financially supported candidates from facing legitimate public scrutiny? The election process in West Hollywood has devolved into a debate by misinformation spread through slick campaign mailers that offend the environment and pollute our mailboxes?

West Hollywood deserves better than naïve practitioners of provincial politics. We deserve a robust discussion of important matters, and our own vetting of candidates who are subjected

to legitimate community forums. The action last night to block the city’s resources from being used was a naked power grab by sanctimonious hypocrites who clearly failed basic high school civics. I question even the fundamental premise that the council should be micromanaging the use of city resources such as WEHOTV, particularly for raw political misuse; such management is best left in the hands of city professional staff.

John Erickson long ago declared war on the Chamber of Commerce. This latest skirmish is by far the most egregious and likely well-coordinated attack on the Chamber, and by extension all residents of West Hollywood for whom the chamber promotes economic vitality. His is a vindictive vendetta, one that is well-known throughout West Hollywood.

The insinuation communicated by councilmembers that this forum is not fair and impartial is complete bullpucky and an insult to the Chamber of Commerce, to The League of Women Voters, and to the nine grassroots neighborhood groups that formed a city-wide coalition to develop, produce and promote this important public discussion; a coalition that collectively developed the questions to be asked. It is a coalition of residents of West Hollywood made up of our neighbors and friends in all corners of the city.

This abuse of office and the violation of public trust that it represents notwithstanding, the forum will go on and an increasingly engaged (and enraged!) public will tune in to get real-time responses from candidates for office to help inform them and make decisions on who will best represent the interests of the residents and businesses of West Hollywood for the next two years.

We deserve better than a banana republic. We deserve people who honor their offices of public trust and truly support full civic engagement. Shame on John Erickson, Sepi Shyne, Lindsey Horvath and John D’Amico.

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About Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg has been a resident of West Hollywood for 30 years.

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Stuart Foxx
Stuart Foxx
1 month ago

The main thing to remember:

WeHoTV provides access to the City government and also produces and presents programs providing information, cultural presentations, and other programming. This includes programming in support of the diverse population of West Hollywood.

Bill
Bill
1 month ago

Agree with you Alan and clearly, this mostly failed city council is running scared. There is no legitimate reason in existence for them to refuse to air this forum other than plain old fear.

Kasey Dickerson
Kasey Dickerson
1 month ago

Y’know, I have never and will never have children (the idea), but I feel that dealing with most of the WeHo city council is like dealing with a stereotypical teenager. A big “KEEP OUT” sign on their door. Always telling us it’s none of our business or that we couldn’t possibly understand. And especially thinking they can get away with just about anything. As any competent parent will attest, playing disciplinarian is the harder road than turning a blind eye, but it’s the road one must take for the greater good. Time to tell the unruly kids on the student… Read more »

Gay Maga
Gay Maga
1 month ago

Of course there is a great story here to pitch. Since we know that national and local news media likes covering West Hollywood. The lead would be….Defunding the Police Woke Left Wing Weho Politicians Stop Free Speech! A few calls will be made. 🧐🧐🧐

Last edited 1 month ago by Gay Maga
Eastside Straight Girl
Eastside Straight Girl
1 month ago
Reply to  Gay Maga

HaHa, you are so “right on!” They simply cannot have it BOTH ways, but then again…..they have been ramping this up for a while now. We are just now seeing them for what they truly are!

Leslie K
Leslie K
1 month ago

Brilliantly said, Alan. It’s a stunning show of hypocrisy and runs counter to the democratic values these council members purport to embrace.

Ron Thomas
Ron Thomas
1 month ago

Yes Shame …the biggest Shame is the low income project on Wetherly with almost NO parking…

Arbitrary Decisions
Arbitrary Decisions
1 month ago
Reply to  Ron Thomas

Yes, yet the Robertson Lane project was nearly defeated due to parking revisions as per reconfiguring their project but in this case Mayor Meister held the hatchet along with CM D’Amico. Consistencies what the city needs not arbitrary decisions.

Jamie Francis
Jamie Francis
1 month ago

So Well Said Alan and Tom. We must state the reality of public sentiment and public consensus as most of us city residents are not liking the optics of city council and 5 elected officials. What audacity the council had by wanting to see the questions asked in advance. Where is the integrity and transparency of Town Hall Meetings and not having questions omitted or stricken down?! That is uncalled for and can be perceived as unethical influence and biased motivations and unfair advantage for people endorsed or supported for office by current sitting city council members! The antics of… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Jamie Francis
Susie Q
Susie Q
1 month ago

At lunch today, one of my friends who is a former WeHo resident now living in the valley, asked me what was life like in West Hollywood? I said… We have fewer sheriffs and more unarmed security ambassadors even though crime is way up. Bars now can have 4 AM liquor licenses. Scooters, outzones, bicycles, and delivery robots are cluttering our sidewalks and making our “most walkable city” difficult to traverse.. The candidates forum which would help us decide who the 3 new city council members who will govern will be, has been denied permission by 4 of our City… Read more »

Jordan Cockeram
1 month ago

I was very disappointed about the decision not to air the forum. While I disagree with them, I can sympathize with the sentiment that some candidates may think that the forum is biased, since it’s hosted by the Chamber. However, the League of Women Voters, and all of the neighborhood associations are co-hosting it, and other organizations are certainly allowed to host their own forums. If they did, I would expect the city to air those forums on WEHOTV, and offer them the same platform(s) that they would to any other group. I hope the fact that the forum is… Read more »

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago

We will have to see if other City Council candidates are willing to weigh in on this issue. If the majority of candidates spoke out in favor of airing the forum it would be hard for the City Council to refuse.

Randy
Randy
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Maybe with all of this push-back, they will reverse their decision.

Randy
Randy
1 month ago

Agreed, Alan. In that this should be televised. It was, back in 2020:

https://www.weho.org/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/22631/15

:dpb
:dpb
1 month ago

The neighborhood organizations should group together and file a suit against the West Hollywood City Council.

Randy Siegel
Randy Siegel
1 month ago

I agree with Mr. Strasburg. The city also should telecast a candidate forum by Unite Here, the hotel and restaurant workers union. Like the Chamber of Commerce, it funds campaigns of council candidates. And like the Chamber, most of its members don’t live in West Hollywood

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