Returning from a long weekend out of town, I opened my mail box stuffed with card stock and glossy flyers for and against the various candidates running for West Hollywood City Council. One flyer attempted to “smear” appointed incumbent Lindsey Horvath, who have lived in the city for fewer than twenty-four months, as a Republican. Interesting given that the young woman was appointed by two long-serving Democrats on the council, one first elected when the appointed incumbent was still in diapers.
So heated has this race become that even the New York Times has covered it:
But an uncommonly bitter election has exposed a growing divide over what West Hollywood should represent, with prosperity and urban development pitted against the city’s history as a countercultural haven.
The six challengers in Tuesday’s City Council election — all of them gay men — are seeking to oust three incumbents by running on platforms invoking concerns about development and gentrification pushing out younger gay residents and the edgier elements that have long distinguished West Hollywood.
“I believe we’re at risk of being in a situation where West Hollywood is no different than Beverly Hills or Calabasas,” said Scott Schmidt, one of the challengers. “West Hollywood has a special place in the heart of the gay and lesbian community, and people want to make sure we retain what makes us special.”
“We are at a cultural crossroads as we struggle with what the West Hollywood dream is,” he said. He fears that Sunset Strip and Boystown are no longer the entertainment destinations they once were, that dissenting voices that were once honored are being ignored, that affordable housing is becoming unobtainable. “The next City Council will define whether we continue to preserve our legacy as a unique and special place for everyone.”
That said, Scott has not focused just on the city’s gay identity, he has also focused on a key Republican issue, out-of-control spending at City Hall:
He also believes City Hall salaries have gotten out of control, noting that 50 percent of the city’s budget goes to paying employees while only 5 percent of it goes to social services. “The largest social service program is actually the public employees union,” he said. “I’m sorry, but I’d rather serve the seniors and the disabled and the people here in our community who are really the ones that deserve the government to be working for them.”
While I’m optimistic that Scott and Mito Aviles can prevail tomorrow, I fear that given the demographic make-up of this city and the campaign war chests of the Democratic incumbents, we are likely to see little change in tomorrow’s elections despite the growing problems facing the city.