The West Hollywood municipal election has not even congealed yet, but Wehoans are finding themselves, to paraphrase Capt. Renault, “shocked, shocked to find that politicking is going on here.”
With the deadline to file nomination papers for the two seats up for grabs in March, 2013 still more than two weeks off – on December 7 – but with at least six people already jockeying for position, and the issue of term limits having gained enough support to make the ballot, Monday night’s regular city council meeting turned out to be “Pretty explosive,” according to resident and Fur Information Council of America (FICA) head Keith Kaplan.
Perennial candidate Tom Demille led off public comments declaring that “this community [is] being torn apart,” not to mention in increase in crime and decrease in reporting, saying, “everybody in the city puts their life in jeopardy when they walk our streets.”
Yup, it seems to be the silly season already.
Next up was Scott Schmidt, one of the leaders of the Term Limits campaign, who stressed the importance of not personalizing the process.
“We can’t make it personal, we can’t make it about individuals,” Mr. Schmidt said.
“We have to talk about what we love about the city of West Hollywood and not talk about our anger about the transgressions against it.”
The politicking about those alleged transgressions came to the fore when Rob Bergstein urged the council candidates to “…stick to the facts during the election season.”
He implored the candidates to voice their opinions, but first, “make sure it’s [based on] a fact,” he said.
He recalled former city council member Steve Martin’s charges in 2011 that, “if you vote for Abbe [Land] or John [Heilman], they’re going to end rent control and you will lose your apartments… not true.”
Soon after those words, Christopher Landavazo, a one-year resident of the city running for a council seat accused the incumbents standing for re-election, John Duran and Jeff Prang, of contacting “many of my supporters,” making them feel “uneasy” about supporting his bid to oust them.
He noted that one business owner dropped his support “in order to protect his business interest.”
He charged, furthermore, that he heard from a partner of a business owner that Mr. Duran would not speak to him about a business initiative because of suspicions that the pair were working on Mr. Landavazo’s behalf.
He provided no facts to buttress his claims.
Saying, “Mr. Prang and Mr. Duran, let me make this very clear, I am the candidate and if you want to target someone, I am standing right here,” calling their alleged actions “thuggery.”
Mr. Landavazo added, “We are not here to play politics…” but to govern responsibly.
That said, he suggested criminality in the way the political campaigns are being run by the incumbents.
“Given that your campaigns are both being run by [long-time political consultant/lobbyist] Mr. Steve Afriat, as much as I dislike your politics, as your friend,” he threatened, “I would hate to see either of you charged with a violation of the RICO [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations] Act.”
Mr. Afriat is the most sought after and one of the busiest campaign consultants in the county, ranking as one of those consultants that “runs Los Angeles” in a USC Annenberg School of Communications & Journalism special feature.
His past clients include three sitting city councilmembers (Herb Wesson, Paul Koretz and Jan Perry), two sitting L.A. County Supervisors (Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky) and Sheriff Lee Baca, as well as esteemed West Hollywood council member Sal Guarriello.
Mr. Afriat is on vacation this week, so could not be reached for comment.
Messrs. Prang and Duran declined to comment on Mr. Landavazo’s charges.
As residents streamed to take the microphone during an extended comments period, term limits got its share of attention.
WeHo resident and LGBT pioneer Ivy Bottini bemoaned the casualties of term limits, citing the loss of two lesbian lawmakers through the limit on their service to the state, Jackie Goldberg and Sheila Kuehl.
Candidate for council and term limit advocate Steve Martin, however, claimed that neither of those political figures could ever have gotten elected to the Assembly if not for the institution of term limits in 1990.
The term limits measure WeHo voters will decide upon in 2013 would limit City Councilmembers to three four-year terms.
The initiative would not be retroactive, meaning that all the current council members would be allowed to serve another 12 years in office.
William Neisch, another term limits activist charged that a press release issued by the West Hollywood/Beverly Hills Democratic Club in mid-September “demonizing” that the group seeking and receiving help from Orange County Republican Jon Fleischman’s California Term Limits Political Action Committee (PAC) to put paid signature gatherers on the ground in West Hollywood was actually authored by “City council member who won’t be named right now.”
He said the press release “sounded like some 1950s ‘Red Menace Scare On Sunset’ thing about people who want term limits bringing evil into the city.”
Mr. Neisch was referring to Mayor Jeffrey Prang, who has acknowledged consulting with Lillian Raffel, the president of the club on the release’s contents but who denies “authoring” it.