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City Council endorsements 2013
Op-ed by Ryan Gierach, founding editor and publisher of WeHo News, West Hollywood, California
This year we are not taking an anti-incumbent POV, but a pro-incumbent one. First the context…
Fitch Ratings has WeHo at an AA , its highest bond rating.
West Hollywood’s city council is like all others in that it is charged with determining the city’s budget and allocating funding to enhance the city’s prospects - which are based on economic activity that the council’s decisions on land use and taxation directly affect.
Still, WeHo is different from most cities from a few standpoints. It is very small; at 1.9 square miles with 34,500 people residing in it and no room for expansion, it ranks as one of the most densely cities west of the Mississippi river. That makes every land use decision, every decision on what type of business is allowed to operate and how, of vital importance to the city’s coffers and to the residents, none of whom live more than 500 feet away from a commercial district.
Mayor Jeffrey Prang told me many years ago that being a council member boiled done to one thing, deciding how much elbow-rubbing between commercial interests and neighbors could be tolerated by both. WeHo has been a remarkable success story on that count, as it is seen as one of the most desirable cities in which to live and our city is one of only a few in California with a budget running in the black, is the most cursory observation well-off and provides the largest amount of social services per capita in the state (and perhaps nation) to its citizens.
John Duran has been raising money for LGBT cause for decades.
Mr. Martin runs again this year as a populist; he is no leader on any issue or to any group other than the inconsolably resentful hoi polloi, ramping up and leveraging disgruntlement in neighbors who fear increased traffic and more difficulty parking due to development so that he may regain power – using a populist stance in a craven return to overtly developer-friendly positions. He has no status as a civil rights leader, no good government credentials, no Democratic Party associations left unrent and no discernable record at all on HIV or senior issues.
Sam Borelli is a fine man, a passionate public servant and earnest in his desire to do right by the city. In any other year and against any other, weaker incumbents, I would gladly vote for him.
None of the others in the race have the experience, gravitas or knowledge about a city's operations to qualify for my vote - not this year.
My choices are John Duran and Jeffrey Prang, and here's why.
John Duran, on the other hand, is a world-renowned leader on civil rights and HIV matters. His support from activists from across the state and country attest to his 30-year leadership on HIV/AIDS matters. His leadership of EQCA and ability to raise millions of dollars to fight anti-gay laws in California have made him, like the city, an outsized character on the national stage.
Never one to shy from a good conflict (“I’m a trial lawyer – that’s what we do, engage in the conflict of ideas. I’m not afraid to hear your ideas or to express mine,” he says), he provides his detractors with a large and easily discernable target. The LA County District Attorney’s now quiescent (and weakening) investigation into his expenditure of city funds on working lunches and dinners (the DA said last year that if he were to file charges it would be as a “test case” indicating that he was aware of the tenuous nature of the accusations) has been the basis of many people’s (and one publication’s) charges of unethical conduct by Mr. Duran. Further investigation, however, shows him to be an ethics stalwart and recovery superstar, a public face of the good stemming from adherence to a program that emphasizes absolute honesty, integrity and of leaving behind self-serving actions to better be of service to others.
Since making a public split from the Heilman/Land machine on these pages and in the two years since John D’Amico’s ascension to council (in which he played an important role), he has become the “swing vote” on a council that can now be characterized on development questions as “considered” or “slow-growth.” He takes seriously such under-the-radar issues as long-deferred maintenance of the city’s older apartment housing stock while also keeping in mind that economic growth must be encouraged, not discouraged.
Jeffrey Prang represents, for many constituents, all that is good in municipal politics.
Mr. Duran keeps the creative fire on the Creative City burning brightly by maintaining active involvement as a member of the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Choir (the only council member with a creative or artistic avocational pursuit) and his efforts to nurture artistic and cultural endeavors, particularly success such as the Sunset Strip Music Festival. He expressed disappointment to me after the council forum that he was unable to talk about these issues, given the format and the need to defend against the questions’ and challengers’ focus on the nuts and bolts of running a city, not how splendid the ride after building the convertible luxury roadster that is WeHo.
Jeffrey Prang has come in for little direct negative campaigning, with complaints about him that carry credence only if one is predisposed to think ill of incumbents. The chief complaint he faces, that he is “wishy-washy” and fails to take courageous stands early on issues, awaiting the windsock’s clues before taking a position, makes sense if you don’t like incumbents or politicians. If however, you ascribe to the tenets of representational democracy, his “waffling” looks like the exercise of strong listening skills, adherence to the idea of heeding constituents’ input and wishes and reserving judgment until he has a sense of the public’s desires, which he then weighs against the greater good and his specialist’s knowledge of the workings of civic government before making a decision.
He is derided as being a Democratic Party functionary, yet those detractors fail to grasp how important it is to the functioning of the city to have a direct line to people in power, such as California State Assembly Speaker John Perez (whom he has known since Mr. Perez’s time as a labor organizer) or Eric Bauman, the openly-gay chairman of the powerful and influential LA County Democratic Party – the largest in the nation.
If you want Governor Jerry Brown to take your phone call, yet have never raised a dime for him or for your fellow Dems nor have supported them with endorsements in their election bids, you may as well talk to your sofa for it will respond more loquaciously than the Governor (for whom Mr. Bauman acts as a chief advisor).
Mr. Prang stood virtually alone against Mr. Heilman and Ms. Land and with Allegra Allison and WEHONA on the efforts to save Tara. He has been a solid voice of reason on development issues, calling for more green space, answers to parking, more and better used community input and advocating for more attention to residents’ concerns. If a resident asks for constituent services of the council offices, their requests in John Heilman’s and Abbe Land’s office’s – more often than not – get filed in the circular file under the desk. Not so with Mr. Prang – he is known as Mr. Pothole for good reason. He sees himself as residents’ conduit to city services, the means by which the residents can gain access to the right department head to get help with whatever they need.
For those reasons I will be voting for Mr. Prang and Mr. Duran.
All that said, regardless of how you vote, DO VOTE. I will.