Opinion: Duke Mason Explains Why He’s Running for WeHo City Council

EDITOR’S NOTE: James “Duke” Mason, one of 12 candidates in the running for three seats on the West Hollywood City Council, has offered the following explanation of his candidacy and addresses criticisms published elsewhere about his age and his family. Coincidentally, Queerty.com has published an interview with his mother, Belinda Carlisle, in which she discusses her son’s candidacy. WEHOville invites other candidates to submit an essay about their candidacy for publication before the March 3 election.

When I announced my candidacy for West Hollywood City Council last August, a lot of people had questions. “Who is this guy” I saw people writing on various different pages online, “and what is he about?”.

James "Duke" Mason
James “Duke” Mason

I think I’ve managed to answer most of the questions out there over the last six months. I think last week’s candidates forum, in which I outlined my vision for our city and why, I think, as a progressive activist who’s not entrenched in the system, I am the right person to lead us forward, was a turning point for our campaign.

The feedback I gathered from prominent members of the community was that I went from being distorted as this caricature of a spoiled rich kid who was running out of ego and ambition to being a serious, legitimate contender who offered innovative ideas and real solutions for the future.

It’s always easy to come up with caricatures and stereotypes. Of course people are going to say I’m a privileged kid who doesn’t know what I’m talking about. The truth, however, is a very different story. While of course I’ve been very lucky, and yes, privileged, throughout my life, I’ve been blessed with parents who taught me early on to care about the world around me and encouraged me to make a difference in any way I can.

From the age of 12 I was incredibly interested and involved with politics, volunteering as a “Kid for [John] Kerry” during the 2004 election. I served on my high school’s student council for five years, including a year as its first openly gay president. In 2007/2008 I worked as a volunteer for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and served as a page in the U.S. Congress during the summer of 2008.

2010 was the year when my advocacy efforts really went into high gear. I started writing actively for Frontiers, The Huffington Post, and The Advocate, about the issues facing our city, our country and our world. In 2012 I worked as a surrogate for President Obama’s re-election campaign and started serving on the Board of Directors for the LGBT organization OutFest, the youngest board member in their 30-year history.

I may not have the typical kind of experience, but do we really need a bureaucrat or career politician on the City Council? I think not. We need someone who’s committed and has a fresh perspective, someone who has a history of passion and a willingness to fight for the progressive values we believe in, someone who has the energy and idealism to make a difference.

I’m running to do some very simple things.

First, to pass small business rent control, something that has never been done but that West Hollywood, which used to be on the cutting edge of progressive politics, should do. It’s currently banned on a statewide level and I will use my platform as a City Council member to change that.

Second, to repeal the Ellis Act on a statewide level, a law which unfairly evicts tenants (rented or not, these are their homes).

Third, to pass Measure R which recently passed in Malibu here in West Hollywood, a law which will establish voter referendums on large scale commercial developments and reserve 70% of new commercial development space for small businesses.

Fourth, to rewrite zoning laws so we can build smaller units that young people, disabled people, seniors, and low income people can actually afford.

Fifth, to expand the parking credits program and accessibility to public transportation to alleviate the parking/traffic crisis

Sixth, to create mid-block stop lights connected to the regional SignalSync system, which improves traffic efficiency and ensures crosswalk safety.

Seventh, to pass an equitable minimum wage.

Eighth, to protect our historic buildings from overrun development.

Ninth, to invest further in social services for seniors, the disabled, the homeless, those living with HIV/AIDS and those grappling with/recovering from addiction.

Tenth, to create more open spaces, including dog parks.

And that’s just the start of it. Not only do I know what I’m talking about, but I have a specific, ambitious agenda for the future that will make our city stronger, prouder and better. I will use my experience as a grassroots fighter, the experience I gained from, for instance, leading the boycotts against Chick Fil-A and the Beverly Hills Hotel for their anti-gay and anti-union policies, to deliver results for the people of our city.

I’m running because West Hollywood is personal for me. My roots run deep here; my family has been here for almost 70 years. I was born here, I came of age as a gay man here, and I want to make sure our city remains a beacon of courage, strength, compassion, idealism and and vitality for future generations. That is what this election is about. And if you agree, I hope you’ll join me in voting on March 3. Our future begins now.


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Tom Smart
Guest
Tom Smart

I have to say, I like this guy. He’s farrrrr better than 6-7 others vying for the job. While I don’t think his time is now, I hope he stays engaged in Weho politics and walks the walk in the meantime. I can totally see myself voting for him in the future.

Scott T Imler
Guest
Scott T Imler

While I might renumber some of Mr. Mason’s agenda items, I am encouraged by his candor, self-confidence, and a whisper of humility. I am particularly heartened by his embrace of Malibu Measure “R” for public consent on large developments and small business rent control, without which we get what we’ve got more fast food franchises and superstores. The whole world is already paying the price of letting “market forces” rule. Glad at least one person among the 1% van see the problem.

Rudolf Martin
Guest
Rudolf Martin

I didn’t mean my comment to come across as negative, I like his energy, ideas and idealism.

Rudolf Martin
Guest
Rudolf Martin

He probably won’t get the russian senior vote this time but he might be better suited for state wide office then petty small town politics.

mike dunn
Guest
mike dunn

Attacks because he’s young and comes from a wealthy family. Some liberals just can’t stand success.

Isaiah M
Guest
Isaiah M

You go Duke!! Don’t let the older generations dissuade you! Positive changes can take so long because of this we need fellow youth to start shaping this city into what suits our generation best. So that by the time we become “middle aged” we can enjoy amenities that should’ve been available to us already ex. Pink Line, Spacious Plummer Park, Decent Minimum Wage

Tony Villanueva
Guest
Tony Villanueva

I went to the West Hollywood City Council Candidates Forum last Saturday. James “Duke” Mason was very impressive. He was sincere,informed and engaging. I don’t know about you people but it’s encouraging to see a young person take on the responsibility of a challenge like this. Not to mention his concern for West Hollywood.
I hope he sticks with it.

Guy Privaton (@guyprivaton)
Guest

Duke, don’t take this the wrong way

Keep up your idealism & passion *but* wait for your first chest hair to grow before you run for office. Plant some political roots here before you shake down this city. It’s dog eat dog for a part time weho council seat.

Marco Colantonio
Guest
Marco Colantonio

I think Duke Mason is an intelligent, well-intentioned young man sincere in his political aspirations and affection for our city. As he states in this op-ed, we can presume he graduated from high school less than 7 years ago and I have also heard that he didn’t complete his college education. With this, running for a seat on Council may be a little premature, as the mechanics of our city government are quite complex. My suggestion is that he apply for a position on one of the City Boards and begin serving the city in a meaningful way, then perhaps… Read more »

Rob Bergstein
Guest
Rob Bergstein

Ok, so he wants to take private commercial space & put it under rent control? whatever happened to letting the market determine the businesses that landlords rent to at the rates that make sense to both? Me? I’m looking forward to new businesses moving into the Eastside to give us more local, walking distance options….. as far as social service funding….The City already has an annual budget of $4.2m….we do an amazing job at taking care of our residents…truly amazing. Are there areas that he thinks social services is not covering or is he just making a 30 second sound… Read more »

mike dunn
Guest
mike dunn

Where did this Harris Act come in? I read his bio and he clearly stated Ellis Act. If he did graduate from high school seven years ago he should have received his four year degree already. He sounds like a on the ball young man that just could bring some new thinking and idea’s to the council now ruled by guys in their late forties/early fifties that still dream of the days when the Odyssey was still open.

Joan Henehan
Guest
Joan Henehan

I don’t know Mr. Mason but he seems to have the energy, intellect and Progressive ideas that will appeal to many West Hollywood residents.

The key to a successful campaign in March will hinge on candidates’ ability to energize the voting population to register and to participate in deciding the future makeup of City Council. We’ve yet to see any candidate make serious progress in that regard. What will it take to “get out the vote” in more significant numbers? Let’s hear YOUR ideas!

Ben Coleman
Guest
Ben Coleman

I wonder if when he says he will repeal the Harris Act, if he really means the Ellis Act? I haven’t heard of a Harris Act.