Opinion: WeHo City Council Meetings Not the Place for Campaign Speeches

At last night’s West Hollywood City Council meeting three of the four candidates in the current race for Jeffrey Prang’s seat for stepped up to the podium, ostensibly to add their voice to public comments, and promoted their campaigns.

Keith Kaplan. (Photo by Rebecca Dru Photography)
Keith Kaplan. (Photo by Rebecca Dru Photography)

Cole Ettman announced he was running for City Council as a key point in his comments on the 826 N. Kings Rd. project. Exactly how is this relevant to the discussion of the size, scope or environmental impact of this new building? Heidi Shink was, perhaps, a bit more obtuse, pandering to the crowd as she riled them up with discussion of her opposition to the 826 Kings Rd. , a project she voted to support in her service as a Planning Commissioner. She then took it one step further, attempting to blast her opponent, John Heilman, for not appearing at the meeting to speak on the issue. Can Mr. Heilman really be faulted for having the decency and respect to choose not to use City Council meetings to campaign?

Larry Block seemed to take every possible opportunity to speak. He spoke on several issues, tying his presentations to his candidacy in each instance. But it was his rantings about the Chamber PAC and the candidates forum at the end of the long evening during the “new business” section of the agenda that reflected the most significant abuse of the Council. Mr. Block’s discussion of Chamber PAC endorsements and the Chamber’s choice not to conduct a candidate’s forum have no place in a City Council meeting. These are discussions between Mr. Block and the Chamber. If Mr. Block would like a further outlet for his frustrations he should (and does) take his issues to the media. Speaking on this issue at a televised City Council meeting is inappropriate. These were not substantive comments related to City Council matters but merely an opportunity for one candidate to grab more on-camera time to support his campaign.

Then there was John D’Amico’s outburst after Genevieve Morrill’s presentation on the 826 N. Kings Rd. project. What was his purpose in challenging Ms. Morrill with his antagonistic questioning about who the Chamber supported in the last election? Where was the relevance? Was he attempting to push her to reiterate the Chamber’s support of John Heilman, thereby providing an open door for him to take public pot shots at his nemesis? Mr. D’Amico’s repeated public disrespect for Mr. Heilman is no secret after all, so it should not surprise anyone that he might engage in such a tactic.

The public engagement and transparency provided by the open public discussion at our City Council meetings is an integral part of the democratic process. But when discussion shifts from the issues at hand or relevant City Council business and turns to announcements of candidacy, commentary on candidates or allegations and complaints about Chamber PAC endorsements have we crossed the line?

A televised City Council meeting is not the place for this kind of blatant campaign rhetoric. It is simply not appropriate to allow City Council meetings and the issues at hand to be politicized in such an outrageous manner. It allows for unbalanced and unfair allotments of time to the various candidates on our public television station.
Why is this activity not being censored? Why are sitting council members and candidates not being held to standards of behavior? We deserve better.

Keith Kaplan is chair of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.


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skywatcher888
Guest
skywatcher888

What’s the beef??? City Council comments are for anything and anyone. Unfortunately, too few people pay much attention to the forums and debates, but do (somewhat) pay attention to city council meetings. Since the candidates are among the FEW who are willing to actually pay attention to what’s happening in the city, I don’t understand what the problem is. I hope the city can find a viable alternative to Heilman in the upcoming election (since this piece has become more about him than the issue raised by Mr. Kaplan.) I used to consider John a good friend, but with his… Read more »

Rudolf Martin
Guest
Rudolf Martin

I get the point Mr. Kaplan is trying to make in this op-ed but if we try to expedite council meetings I would rather keep the uncensored public comment feature than the cavalcade of meaningless resolutions and adjournments we often have to endure. Can’t they do those in a closed session on their own time?

On a side note I just saw Cole Ettman’s comments that were mentioned in this op-ed. In spite of also serving as a campaign speech, they were inspiring, on topic and generally dead on.

Shawn Thompson
Guest
Shawn Thompson

@larry block out..Nice mud slinging. Do you have a real name? Do you live in West Hollywood or are you a consultant for John Heilman?

Shawn Thompson
Guest
Shawn Thompson

@oliver Maybee you missed that D”Amico not only beat Heilman in last elctionection but got the most votes? And as Far as Heilman goes 30YEARS in office is ENOUGH. The rest of it all is spin spin spin. And your mistaken to say Heilman isnt on the DEVELOPERS lap. The IEC named after him has 90K plus now all from developers. WHAT KIND OF DEMOCRACY IS THAT? Big money real estate interests that want to keep the ZONING greed show Mr Heilman started by changing the general plan of weho that’s a run away train now. Did you watch council… Read more »

Oliver Francis
Guest
Oliver Francis

The pitchforks were out during that City Counci Meeting and the “Honorable” John D’Amico was leading the angry mob. How can a city that stands against bullying and professes tolerance and NoH8 allow such behavior in its Council Chambers? John D’Amico claims he wants to boost voter turnout, but his intense hatred of all things John Heilman is the ugly politics that keeps people from participating. No candidate is perfect, but we know what we are getting with Heilman. A brilliant mind with loads of experience who can rub some people the wrong way because he’s not going to sugarcoat… Read more »

Don Zuidema
Guest
Don Zuidema

As chairman of the PAC I would like to clarify that interviews were conducted in advance of the March election with all candidates and John Heilman received the PAC endorsement. The PAC made the decision to stand by its’ endorsement of John Heilman for the June election as the issues and factors facing the City have not changed and the PAC believes that John has the skill set, the experience and the vision to do the job.

FromWHCC
Guest
FromWHCC

For the record ….. The Chamber has a PAC which endorsed Heilman in the previous election. The PAC therefore decided to continue its efforts to support its #1 candidate and forego any further interviews feeling this would be disingenuous to the other candidates. The Chamber wanted to host a forum for the June 2 election however Councilmember D’Amico had an item in the agenda last month for a Candidate Forum for the neighbor groups hosted by the Women’s League and the Greater LA/BH Realty Assoc for a televised forum. The Chamber respectfully asked if the City would be amiable to… Read more »

Larry Block Out!
Guest
Larry Block Out!

Thank you Keith for in depth detailed op-ed on what is going on in this town. Heidi Shink is disgrace to West Hollywood and LGBT Community. She voted for this project, as you mentioned. Shink is all over the place. She can’t keep track of her own lies and stories. I did like Larry Block until this council meeting. Block has reached new lows in attacking people and using the city council meetings as a platform for their campaigns. How can anybody seriously vote Heidi Shink and now Larry Block after their performances at the city council meetings? Neither Block… Read more »

Steve Martin
Guest
Steve Martin

Chris, isn’t it better for potential candidates to speak out at city council meetings so you can determine if they are misinformed, ignorant or simply delusional, than waiting to find out after they get elected? Some of the folks up on the dais regularly demonstrate they are misinformed and delusional, as well as arrogant.

Brad
Guest
Brad

If what Larry Block stated about no endorsement interviews and no debates then he not only wins my support but I will never trust the chamber of commerce again, or anyway, Per this article Keith Kaplan does a tremendous disservice to his chanber ranting about the candidates in addition to his unfair decisions and positions and bias towards the election. Kudos to anyone who holds up a solution – I think he called it good faith campaign reform – to only be censored by a person or persons (the chanber) who often use the public comment period to promote their… Read more »

Chris Sanger
Guest
Chris Sanger

The value of the public comments, if one watches regularly, is two fold:

— one sees that every week the same tiny group of malcontents who really need to find a new hobby say the same things over and over again, usually delusional and contradicted by reality and law

— they are usually incredibly misinformed and ignorant, and would be unhappy wherever they live

Unfortunately the council has two members now who either pander to them and/or are the same as them. One more and this city is in a lot of trouble.

Steve Martin
Guest
Steve Martin

Our Council members are often less than subtle in their own self promotion when discussing agenda items during the meetings. During a recent discussion of law enforcement issues we were subjected to a long and often inaccurate description of John Duran’s history with the Sheriff’s Department that was hardly relevant to the issues at hand. Given the constant drumbeat from City Hall that promotes the incumbents you can hardly fault city council candidates from using public comment to draw attention to their campaigns. While you don’t have to agree with Larry Block, at least give him credit for showing up… Read more »