I was proud to be a candidate for City Council in the election we held here in West Hollywood on March 3rd. Although I didn’t win, it was incredibly rewarding to meet the voters across West Hollywood, to listen their stories, to hear about their needs and concerns. From the Russian seniors to the LGBT youth I met along the campaign trail, the residents of West Hollywood are an incredible people, and my passion and desire to fight for their interests remains stronger than ever.
The first step in ensuring that those communities, the people who make us who we are, are protected for the future is to make sure we make the right choice on June 2nd, the upcoming special election taking place to fill the remainder of L.A. County Assessor Jeff Prang’s City Council seat for the next two years. It has become abundantly clear to me that the right person to fill that seat and lead our city forward is our longtime Councilmember, the great John Heilman.
I’d met John several times in the last few years, but I got to know him well as we both ran our respective campaigns for City Council. Not only was he kind and gracious, but, unlike many in politics these days, was incredibly inclusive (despite my young age, something some tried to hold against me) and treated me with respect and dignity. This from a man who created our city, who is responsible for the beautiful, amazing West Hollywood we have today, who had absolutely nothing to gain from taking me seriously and giving me the benefit of his time, advice and wisdom.
I think that speaks to his integrity, as a man and as a Council member. Do we agree on every single issue? Of course not. In fact I anticipate we’ll have some pretty big disagreements on various fronts in the future. But if you vote for someone expecting that you’ll be in agreement with them 100 percent of the time, you’re bound to be very disappointed. Do I think new leadership and change are healthy things for a city? Absolutely. But change for the sake of change is reckless and irresponsible, and John, with his institutional knowledge and proven commitment to the progressive values we believe in, is far and away the best choice of the field of candidates.
John, in addition to Cleve Jones, Ivy Bottini and others like them, is an icon of the gay movement. There wouldn’t be the West Hollywood, the gay mecca as we know it today, if it weren’t for him. One of the longest serving openly gay elected officials in U.S. history, John led the fight to create domestic partnerships in our city (among the first cities in the world to do so) and to fight HIV/AIDS at a critical time for our community.
John is responsible for creating the diverse urban village feel that makes West Hollywood so unique and special. He was initially elected, in addition to the cause of gay rights, on the issue of tenants rights, affordable housing and rent control; he created our city’s rent stabilization ordinance to protect disadvantaged people from the big landlords and developers. From the beginning of his political career, John has always been about protecting the people’s interests vs. the special interests.
When it comes to transparency and accountability in government, John Heilman has been a leader. John, along with our great former Councilmember Abbe Land, fought hard on several occasions to pass a law banning former city employees, former members of the city advisory boards and/or commissions and former campaign managers from lobbying the Council. You may not always agree with him, but you know exactly where he stands, and you know he’s doing it for the right reasons, as he always has.
At a recent endorsement meeting for the West Hollywood/Beverly Hills Democratic Club, I was shocked by some of the words said by our outgoing Mayor, John D’Amico, who was aggressively advocating against giving the club’s endorsement to John Heilman (an endorsement Heilman won soon after, despite D’Amico’s words, with 60 percent support). D’Amico talked about “West Hollywood 2.0,” about how it was time for our city to change and move forward without Heilman’s leadership. After all, D’Amico said, “it’s not like we’re going to bury the man. He’s going to be fine!” Quite frankly, I felt the Mayor’s words to be unnecessarily rude and condescending, and unbecoming of an elected government official. This, by the way, was in addition to the comments the Mayor made to me directly back in January that he thought Heilman would lose in the March race as 250 of his Russian voters/supporters die between each election.
D’Amico went on to say that it was a new century and that it’s time for the new generation to have their say in the process. Well, with all due respect Mr. Mayor, my generation can speak for ourselves. And there are many, and I mean many, of us who are stridently in support of Councilmember Heilman’s candidacy- we believe in the leadership and progressive vision he has fought for over the last 30 years and want to have him representing our interests on the Council once again. And that’s because John Heilman cares about us, the people of West Hollywood, and our future.
Editor’s Note: WEHOville will publish endorsements such as this for the June 2 City Council race from unsuccessful candidates in the March 3 race such as James Duke Mason.