OpEd: Why I voted Villanueva

If you are not familiar with our WEHOville voter guide and our piece supporting the sheriff, many of you called with your support, many others had questions.

Choosing to support Villanueva was not the popular choice. Alex finished third in West Hollywood behind both Eric Strong and Robert Luna. We endorsed Alex Villanueva even if he was the unpopular choice in WeHo, or despite the fact that West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce went the other way.

To be totally honest, I am pretty oblivious to County government. My interactions with the Sheriff are mostly based on the daily problems facing my employees on the street and the slow response times. I had no ponies in the race at the beginning.

At the end of the State of the City event, this past June I had the opportunity to meet Robert Luna. Aaron Greene, of Afriat Consulting introduced us after the event. Robert agreed to do an interview and we exchanged cell numbers.

WEHOville had just interviewed Eric Strong in the primary race. Strong one only one city out of the 88 cities that voted. He came in first in West Hollywood.

Our interview with Luna was scheduled for late June, so we postponed it until later in the cycle. Then the Public Safety Commission went on a rampage against the Sheriff and the council was voted on defunding.

I reached out to a contact downtown, “How come zero PRA requests ever get a response? Is it possible to get an interview with Alex?” Later that day I got a response, “I’ll run it up the flagpole”. A couple of days later I received another text, “Still working on it”, and then got a message back from Command Captain Ed Ramirez, the former Captain of the West Hollywood Sheriff. It was 9:58 am on Saturday July 23rd. “The Sheriff wants to do it. How about early next week? “Who should his folks contact? ”

‘Me”, I answered, jumped off my chair and called Brandon. We got an interview with Villanueva!! The next thing I knew Captain Lorena Rodriguez texted me. Rodriguez is a former Lieutenant at the West Hollywood Sheriff Station. We were welcomed right in.

Ramirez was on the Patrol Division, 8th floor, close to Villanueva. We met at his office and he walked us in media room We had no preconditions, or no barriers.

Inside the Hall of Justice it was clear to see that West Hollywood had a seat next to Villanueva. I thought back to the riots and fear in my heart each night that my store would be burned down. One night a crowbar broke the way into the door but we survived that night. Nights I stayed up wondering if the riots were going to burn down our gay village. BlockParty never took down our flags. The Pride of West Hollywood never stopped waving.

Across the street teams of officers lined up. It was the scariest moment of my life. Sitting with Alex I asked about the command post set to protect West Hollywood. He explained that it was County forces and not part of West Hollywood’s Sheriff budget. Villanueva created a home base in WeHo, – and as those riots and fires crept closer to West Hollywood’s borders an army moved in to protect us all. That army was under the command of Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

If you missed the Villanueva interview here’s a copy.

We tried to give equal time to Robert Luna. We both kept missing eachother. Luna’s schedule seemed tight. We offered to meet at his office in Long Beach and was told that he does not have a campaign office. I invited him to my house, but he could not get to WeHo. The only way to give Luna equal time was to submit the questions to his campaign in writing. And they responded promptly.

If you missed a copy of the Robert Luna interview, here it is.

We did not set off to take sides. But as we learned more about each candidate the sands on the balance beam were leaning Villanueva. Four years ago we elected the first Democrat in 138 years to run the Sheriff Dept. Everybody was behind the change; it seems like the Board of Supervisors wants a puppy dog instead of a guard dog. The Board of Supervisors trying to take away the power of the people to elect their own Sheriff. The politics of all this didn’t make much sense to me.

It was great to see Villanueva at the Abbey two weeks ago meeting with residents and business owners. It’s great to know that West Hollywood has two ‘wing-men’ close to Villanueva every day.

VIllanueva was just elected in 2018. Covid hit in 2019. The years were not easy. Criminals were let out of prisons, our streets are crowded with homeless. The Sheriff lost almost 1300 personnel since pre-Covid. The Board of Supervisors cut the budget and put in a hiring freeze. It’s not an easy job. And the rank-and-file that I’ve spoken with support Villanueva. What can Luna do better?

Yes there is lots of controversy and screaming loud voices for change. Those voices were screaming Villanueva just four years ago. Maybe they can’t admit they were wrong. But I’m sticking with Alex. He is paying attention to West Hollywood and we are paying attention to him. I’m glad we can build a relationship with the Sheriff – not one of our City Council members have sat face to face to discuss solutions. If re-elected maybe we can do a better job of working with the Sheriff.

But no matter who wins Villanueva, or Luna, we are on the same team. And WEHOville will tell the story or ask the questions that will bring the Sheriff closer to our community.

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Mark T
Mark T
21 days ago

The Sheriff is a man who runs the department like he’s a mob boss. Regardless of how you think he helped WEHO, he can not stay in power so I disagree with this logic.
There are so many investigations out on him, he’ll be busy for the next several years anyway.
I am by no means a “defund the police” person and do feel we need more officers in our neighborhood, but we need a leader who can be trusted to protect the people and not just his deputies.

KoWeho
KoWeho
27 days ago

Villanueva never thought he would win in 2018 so was woefully prepared to be Sheriff of such a large force. His inability to lead was very evident from the start as well as his need to pay back supporters by some of his questionable re-appointments. Time to send him packing for the sake of the department, its officers as well as the citizens.
Larry surprised by your endorsement, but it is yours to give, but if Luna had met with you would your endorsement have changed ?

Koweho
Koweho
27 days ago
Reply to  Larry Block

Thanks for the reply. I wish you you had looked deeper into Luna. He was a strong leader in Long Beach and has the chops to run a department the size of the LCSD. Villanueva was and is over his his skis leading the LCSD.

Edie
Edie
26 days ago
Reply to  KoWeho

I’m sorry…. if he’s incapable of leading, then why do the people who work under him love him and want to keep him? I’ve spoken to members of the Sheriff’s department. They think he’s a really good guy and they’re very concerned about losing him.

Koweho
Koweho
26 days ago
Reply to  Edie

I did not say he is incapable of leading, I said he was not prepared to lead. I also have spoken to many on the LCSD who feel he is not who they want to be their leader. I just think Luna is a better choice. You disagree I guess, and that’s ok. .

ed wood
ed wood
28 days ago

Villanueva is a thug and a crook – You will eat your words when he is indicted by the feds.

Scott W
Scott W
27 days ago
Reply to  ed wood

Amen. It’s like voting for 45 because “there is no difference between the candidates” except for one candidate being a slime I wouldn’t trust walk my dog. You either in Villanuevas gang or you are not. Let’s all pray most voters are not.

Edie
Edie
26 days ago
Reply to  Scott W

Villanueva is awesome. But sad to know that you would trust anyone to walk your dog. Because the bar for dog walking is so low to you.

No Neck Monster
No Neck Monster
28 days ago

There is a scene in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof where Elizabeth Taylor refers to brother in law Gooper’s children as “no neck monsters”. LOL!

Stephen
Stephen
28 days ago

Oh God no, are you high? Villanueva lost me and most people over his utter unwillingness to investigate gang corruption within his own ranks. Then the fact that he was a vocal anti-masker/Covid denier during a lethal pandemic absolutely sealed the deal. Goodbye slimeball!

Edie
Edie
26 days ago
Reply to  Stephen

O geeze…. the paranoid still live among us. Yes, covid existed. Yes, it still does. Yes people who have been vaccinated and boosted twice are still getting it, and transferring it. As they did when mask mandates were in place. But geeze if the state and local government didn’t completely go overboard with control. We lost more young people to suicide and fentinyl than covid deaths even came close to.

David
David
28 days ago

I’m guessing the LACSD is the largest sheriff’s department in the country since LA County is the largest county. It’s size itself sets the stage for abuse and Villanueva is no exception toward this tendency. He’s done some good things, and he’s done some bad things in his four years. I don’t know if another candidate will be better or worse, the office itself is a rat hole.

Tom
Tom
29 days ago

Okay, so he met with WEHOville and set up a command post during the unrest at the Sherriff’s station. Nice of him I guess on the former but the latter seems hardly praiseworthy- it’s their home, where their units, armament and heliport live. I’ll be impressed when I can get a Sherriff to respond in under 20 minutes to the report of violent homeless person attacking people and damaging property in front of my building.

Eric
Eric
29 days ago

He has my vote

JF1
JF1
29 days ago

I am voting for him too! He’s tough and he doesn’t let government officials control him. We need that. We don’t need Luna who is backed by the -already too powerful – Unite Here 11. VOTE VILLANUEVA!

Edie
Edie
26 days ago
Reply to  JF1

agreed.

John Arnold
John Arnold
29 days ago

”Wing men”? Great article!

Way Too Critical
Way Too Critical
29 days ago

Good for you, LB. It takes COJONES to support Law and Order in today’s world!

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
29 days ago

Very good piece, Larry. I would add to it a thoughtful op-ed that appeared in The New York Times today about the structural realities of elected sheriff’s offices; this is not an Alex Villanueva problem. Villanueva is doing what the office demands of him. The Times piece clearly lays some blame on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Too many people with lazy minds reduce it all to debate by hashtag, meme, soundbite and tweet. Sadly, that’s where what once passed as serious discourse is happening. People (and candidates!!!) who want to participate in serious conversation about any issue… Read more »

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