I have long somewhat jokingly dubbed the California jurisdiction where I currently reside as the People’s Socialist Politically Correct Police State of West Hollywood. And in his LA Weekly article on the inaccessibility of the city’s three incumbent city council members up for election this year, Patrick Range McDonald shows just why this appellation, while perhaps a tad extreme, is not far off the mark.
Like political officials in an authoritarian state, John Heilman, Abbe Land and Lindsay Horvath have done their utmost to avoid direct contact with the citizens they serve. Heilman, McDonald reports,
. . . refused to be interviewed for this article, although he’s an elected official running for public office and is considered the most powerful member of the City Council. Land and fellow incumbent Lindsey Horvath refused to be interviewed on the phone or in person, demanding that e-mail questions be sent to them, allowing them to prepare responses and choose which questions they are willing to entertain.
So, the guy’s been a public official for 26 years and he won’t stoop to talk to an openly gay reporter for the region’s respected alternative weekly? Indeed, when reporters approach him, he acts like the Wicked Witch of the West when confronted with a bucket of water, shrieking and running away as if her life were in danger::
Heilman, who has now served seven one-year terms as mayor of this city of more than 23,000 registered voters and some 36,000 residents, refuses to respond to e-mailed requests for interviews, and twice shoots down the Weekly’s attempts to speak with him in person. During one tense, face-to-face encounter, Heilman appears to be shaking with anger or fear or both when he is approached inside the West Hollywood Park Auditorium after winning an endorsement from the Stonewall Democratic Club.
“I am not having a conversation with you!” he tells this reporter, then suddenly breaks into a run.
Accessible information about Heilman is hard to come by. In this age of new media, he doesn’t have the obligatory campaign website for reporters and voters to see where he stands on issues or to tout what he considers to be his achievements from 1984 to 2010 — a period of time when Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have all served as presidents of the United States, three of them for two terms.
It’s not just Heilman. Horvath, appointed last year “to an open seat on the City Council to solidify a three-person voting bloc rather than allowing the democratic process — a special election — so WeHo residents could choose their own representative”, also refuses to talk to the Weekly reporter. As does Ms. Land.
The three inaccessible incumbents “are running together as a well-financed, politically connected slate and sharing campaign costs.”
As businesses vacate retail space along Santa Monica Boulevard, with much of the new development coming from projects paid for with our tax dollars, we need a city council responsive to concerns of the citizens, officials who listen to the small businessmen and women struggling to survive, creative individuals with clever ideas for unique establishments, but frustrated by the bureaucratic red tape and excessive administrative fees — not to mention confusing regulations.
It’s not just those businesspeople who have legitimate concerns, it’s also the renters opposed to new development. Normally, I’m not as sympathetic with such folk as I am with the small-scale entrepreneurs as they seem averse to the workings of the free market. But, these folks aren’t as upset with the free market as they area with a city government which subsidizes big business. And on that score, they have common cause with yours truly. I tend to believe development is a good thing, but commercial development funded by the state is anything but.
It’s time for a change in West Hollywood. We need leaders who will listen. And the incumbents just aren’t doing that.