Analysis: The 2017 Race Is On for WeHo City Council

While most people are distracted by the rambunctious U.S. presidential race, several locals have been quietly preparing for the March 2017 West Hollywood City Council election.

John Duran
John Duran

Those who have quietly announced their candidacies include incumbents John Duran and John Heilman. Heilman confirmed that he’s in the race at a brunch Saturday for his city commission and advisory board appointees. Duran has announced his candidacy in emails to supporters, including one saying he already has raised $100,000 for the race. Neither has responded to a request from WEHOville for confirmation.

Winning one of their seats is important to council members John D’Amico and Lauren Meister, the mayor, who sometimes have found themselves in the minority in votes on issues involving development and who tend to be more openly critical of the City Hall staff than are other council members. Both D’Amico and Meister have the support of some homeowners who object that new housing development increases traffic, harms the “village” feel of the city and has a negative impact on the value of their homes. Homeowners make up roughly 20% of WeHo’s population.

John Heilman, projected compensation $29,242.
John Heilman

Duran’s challenge will be putting behind him the scandal at city hall that emerged when his former council deputy, Ian Owens, sued him and the city, alleged that Duran solicited him for sex. The City of West Hollywood settled that suit with a payment of $500,000 to Owens but denied there was any validity to his claim. Duran has denied Owens’ claim as well. However, residents expressed anger over the payout to Duran, who may have to suffer another surge of anger if the city agrees to settle a pending lawsuit brought by Michelle Rex, the former deputy to Councilmember John D’Amico and a close friend of Owens, who lost her job when the council voted to abolish the contentious deputy system.

Heilman will face opposition from anti-development residents, many of whom successfully pushed through in 2013 proposition that limits council members to three four-year terms. Heilman was elected to the WeHo City Council at the city’s formation in 1984. However, the fact that he lost in the 2016 March general council election and then won the right to fill the remaining two years of the seat vacated by Jeffrey Prang in the June 2016 special election means that Heilman, if he wins next year’s election, can run again in 2021. That would give him 40 years on the West Hollywood City Council. Heilman has been criticized for saying during his March 2015 election campaign that he wouldn’t seek another term on the council if he won and then running again in the June election.

Both Heilman and Duran already have been guaranteed support from several major developers and the backing of influentials on the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce board. In an email to one supporter, Duran said he has already raised $100,000 to fund his campaign.

Exactly who else will be in the race for the two council seats occupied by Duran and Heilman may shift over the next eight months. But according to the political cognoscenti, others likely to be in the race at this point are as follows:

Larry Block, The Block Party, West Hollywood City Council candidate
Larry Block

Larry Block. Block, owner of The Block Party store in WeHo’s Boystown, was an unsuccessful candidate in the 2015 city council elections. He received 15% of the vote in the June election, coming in third after John Heilman and Heidi Shink. Since that election Block has continued to be a vocal presence at city council meetings, arguing for more support for small businesses and for the city to escalate its crosswalk safety efforts. Block would not confirm or deny that he will be a candidate in the 2017 election. But he did say that he does not intend to stop raising important issues, such as crosswalk safety, that he believes the city needs to address.

West Hollywood City Council candidate Steve Martin
Steve Martin

Steve Martin. Martin, a lawyer, served on the city council from 1994 to 2003. His campaign in the 2013 council election was unsuccessful contender. He is widely believed to be running in the March 2017 race. He also has not responded to a request for confirmation. Martin is believed to be likely to target Duran, who he criticizes during public comment periods at city council meetings. Martin also has been a strong opponent of Heilman.

Bill Resnick
Bill Resnick

Bill Resnick. Resnick is a psychiatrist and member of the board Venice Family Clinic. A member of a wealthy family, he donated $40,000 to support Lauren Meister’s successful city council campaign in 2015 and is said to be contemplating a run himself next year. Resnick has been involved in controversy recently when he was named CEO of Beit T’Shuvah, a Jewish addiction treatment center, and decided to fire its chairman and bring lawsuits against the center’s chairman, a board member and its attorney. A T’Shuvah spokesman said that Resnick did not have the authority to fire the staff and that he had been put on leave. Resnick’s parents, Stewart and Lynda Resnick, are are ranked No. 358 on Forbes’ 2015 list of the world’s largest billionaires. Resnick has not responded to a request from WEHOville for confirmation.

Heidi Shink
Heidi Shink

Heidi Shink. Shink, who came in second in the June 2015 race, has largely disappeared from the local political scene since her defeat. She ran with the support of anti-development activists and was reported by members of the Stonewall Democratic Club endorsement committee to have pledged that she would work with Councilmember John D’Amico and Mayor Lauren Meister to remove City Manager Paul Arevalo if she won. Shink has denied she said that, although her statement was confirmed by members of the committee. Shink also was accused of improprieties in her campaign financing, which she has denied. No action was taken against her. Shink continues to maintain her Heidi Shink for WeHo City Council Facebook page, where she promoted her unsuccessful bid to be chosen in May as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. Shink has not responded to a request for comment from WEHOville.

Nir Zilberman
Nir Zilberman

Nir Zilberman. Zilberman, who owns the ES Collection menswear shop in WeHo’s Boystown, has said at various times that he will run for city council and that he will leave West Hollywood, eventually returning to his native Israel. Zilberman is known for his loud outbursts at city council meetings, where he raises issues such as homelessness and meth addiction. He was handcuffed and removed from the LA Pride parade route earlier this month after he screamed and made obscene gestures at city council and city commission members on their parade float. Zilberman has not responded to a request for confirmation.

Others rumored to run but who have said they won’t, at least not in this election cycle, are as follows:

Sam Borelli. Borelli is a self-employed communications consultant who has served on various city committees including the West Hollywood Sheriff’s LGBT Conference Committee and, during part of his 10 years on the city’s Public Safety Commission, as liaison to the Transgender Task Force (now advisory board). He currently is a member of the city’s Human Services Commission. He has been a public relations consultant to Christopher Street West, which stages the annual LA Pride events and led a campaign for West Hollywood Community Housing Corp. to secure support for its Blue Hibiscus project. Borelli was an unsuccessful candidate in the 2013 council race. He has confirmed to WEHOville that he will not be a candidate in the 2017 race.

Duke Mason. Mason is a local activist and a member of the city’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory board and of the board of the West Hollywood Community Housing Corp. He confirmed with WEHOville that he will not be a candidate. He is known as a supporter of John Heilman

Joe Guardarrama. Guardarrama, a lawyer whose practice focuses on election and campaign law, was an unsuccessful candidate in the 2015 council election. He has confirmed with WEHOville that he will not be a candidate. He took the lead in putting together a task force in 2015 to make campaign finance and ethics reform recommendations to the city council. The council adopted two of five task force recommendations in April 2016 but to date has not followed up on its pledge to reconsider the others.

Tai Sunnanon. Sunnanon, a business consultant who helped manage John D’Amico’s last council campaign, has been encouraged to run by several local activists but has confirmed to WEHOville that he will not.

David Warren. Warren reportedly was encouraged by D’Amico and Meister to run for a council seat. However he has confirmed with WEHOville that he won’t be a candidate in the 2017 election. Warren, a former business consultant, is chair of the city’s Transportation Commission and author of WeHo by the Numbers, a website that reports on economic, transportation, crime and other data about West Hollywood.

  1. Nir Zilberman move to TLV last SEP, He still own his properties in West Hollywood that he bought cash. both are rented. Nir is happy and living is DREAM. NO STRESS LIFE.
    He just bought an amazing apartment in TLV, 5 min walk from the beach.
    This coming TLV, One of the 3 biggest in the world few of his West Hollywood friends will be flying to be with him for 14 days.
    Good Luck, WEHO.
    Love and Peace from the holly land, ISRAEL.

  2. Women!
    Yep, sexist.
    Hillary, the 4 women of the County Supervisor 5.
    And 4 women on the West Hollywood City Council.
    I’m not suggesting the suggestion above.

  3. @Larry Block: Since you’re going there: You stated very clearly to me after you lost the election that you did not want to win. Huh? You had your store front covered with campaign posters, you bought a campaign billboard, you had people waving your campaign posters on street corners, you had yard signs by the multitude all over town, you collected campaign contributions… & you didn’t want to win? Huh? again. Then you owe an apology to your 2015 supporters & a refund of their campaign contributions. You also left those supporters who had gathered to be with you while waiting for the vote counts on election night & went to see John Heilman & his supporters at their campaign headquarters instead. Not very respectful of your supporters, or in your word, “honorable”. This is not meant to be mean spirited Larry, just pointing out the facts & what concerned me about voting for you.The nature of your last campaign was so scattered that even I couldn’t put it in proper perspective, & I pay close attention to our candidates & elections. I happen to feel it is very “dignified”, in fact every voter’s duty, to call out people who seek political office on their missteps. Insulting the character of those who disagree with you by saying they “can’t see what honorable looks like” speaks also to your often vindictive inclinations & your dishonoring of other peoples’ input. Anyone who disagrees with you or who offers a little honest constructive criticism doesn’t “know waht honorable looks like”? Really Larry? I have never known you to admit that you made a mistake or apogize for making bad choices. You remind me of Donald Trump in some ways. Those who place themselves in the public eye asking to be granted positions of potential leadership should be thick skinned, open minded, respectful of others’ points of view & HONORABLE enought to take responsiblity for their own actions, Or, you know that old saying: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”. You can take this an honest assessment by an “honorable” observer or as “snippy, underhanded hateful time”. I think the former would be the more mature choice

  4. @Larry Block: “I can tell all of you openly that Ive been contacted by developers, lobbyists and some big money interests to stay out of the race…”

    Honorable! Larry, you are wearing some hip-high boots. State your facts and names. Be transparent! What developer(s)… would offer you 1 cent to not run and why? If factual, then state your case. Prove it! Why would successful business people state and offer Larry Block money not-to-run in 2017? What exactly did they say to you? To whom and how did you respond?

    If this event(s) happened, tell it like it was told to you. Back-it-up. Let the voter’s fact-check.
    Which councilperson (?) offered the so-called “a top commission post?” to you in 2015? Larry, what is the so-called “a top commission post.”??? This is something the people should know. Larry, at best this is pure nonsense (now really), come to YOU and offer, “a top commission post?”

    Stop putting out stories and making fallacious accusation’s without the specifics. Your credibility is already suspect. Now is the time to come clean with names, offers… The truth will set you free. You wrote of honor, dignity and coming together. Show us you really can do this. You quit the DAB yet profess you “love” the person you told everyone was the reason you were quitting? This looks like a flip-flop!

  5. @woody – brother I did not spend 25k of my own money to support Heilman. If i wanted to support him I would have dropped out of the race and accepted the offer for a ‘top commission post’ . After an election it’s time to show some dignity and come together. I am truly sorry that you and some others can’t see what being honorable looks like. Some prefer the snippy underhanded hateful time but that’s not me. I love John D’Amico and I respect John Heilman a great deal.

  6. If a good strong candidate or two with a background of community leadership don’t emerge soon to enter the 2017 race, we’ll be stuck with the developers’ aides Heilman & Duran until they are carried out feet-first. Term limits, shmirm limits, they didn’t get the message even though the two of them were largely the reason terms limits passed. They are both too self absorbed to get it. It is no mystery why the 3 newest candidates now in office got the largest number of votes & Heilman was booted out of office, because people want change & when the new candidates run a strong & viable campaign, such as Lauren Meister & John D’Amico did, they too would be a shoo in. Heilman was given Prang’s vacated seat because there was no Meister or D’Amico in the race. Lindsey Horvath gave Heilman a royal thrashing as well. Those election results speak for themselves. Heilman & Duran are both still very vulnerable & could be easily replaced with the right candidates. There must be someone from the city commissioners or the pool of community activists who could follow in Meister’s & D’Amico’s footsteps. It’s obvious that new blood means new courses of action, as evidenced by the changes we have already seen made in the new makeup of the Council. I’d encourage Steve Martin to run as he is definitely a leader with a mindset of his own & that is why Heilman resisted Steve’s leadership. I could think about supporting Larry Block should he run, as long as he keeps his campaign separate from Heilman’s, which he failed to do last time, each one advising voters to vote for the other. Very, very strange. Larry even wrote an article in WeHoVille after the election, titled “The Best Man Won”, or something like that, in praise of Heilman & his campaign.. Duh? I guess Larry was implying that those who voted for him shouldn’t have. I could only support a candidate who stands firm & strong on his own platform without trying to ride the coattails of an incumbent & trying to play both sides & the middle at the same time. I definitely don’t think voters are interested in a suck up appraisal of one candidate by another. Differences are very important & voters have minds of their own. I hope Larry considers the foregoing constructive criticism. I know that Larry he a good man & over all means well. If he decides to run we’ll talk. In the meantime…..,

  7. @ Woody: I think we’ve actually had three Council members removed from office by the voters — historically ordered as Steve Martin, Lindsey Horvath, and John Heilman. Two of them were returned to office in the next election — Lindsey Horvath and John Heilman. Only one of those, Lindsey Horvath, was voted out for actions of others rather than actions of their own (the City Council’s decision to replace Sal Guarriello after his death by appointment rather than through a special election). Voters resented the Council’s decision, knew little about Lindsey at the time of her appointment to fill Sal’s seat, and punished her in a nasty fit of we’ll show her (read:THEM) retribution. It’s easy to get mad at the folks who undertake the largest burdens of democratic governance and sustaining community values. Large books seem to fly almost effortless in their directions. It feels good for a minute or so before “the mourning after” sets in. Whatever mistakes any of them may have made, West Hollywood residents and businesses are truly blessed to have received the dedication and commitment that Council and Staff have shown for the last 32 years. As my grandma (God bless her) used to mumbled into her high-ball — “just because someone’s an a-hole don’t mean we all have to run around farting like one.”

  8. Hello – I appreciate the comments from supporters above but it is clear that this list is quite disappointing. Laughing out loud, this is a pretty sorry list. As a founder of term limits we need more public engagement. If we the people do not step up to the plate to have an honest debate about city issues then the incumbents, the developers and the big money interests will continue to run the show. With nobody willing to fight for the city I’m second guessing whether the term limits initiative was a good idea. Perhaps Heilman was right, we have term limits, they are called elections.. but oops.. that didn’t work last time too, Heilman lost and the money poured in to get him Prang’s seat.

    With all due respect to John Heilman’s legacy, two yeas ago he lost, John Duran called me and asked me not to run in June and to support Heilman to finish out his career on a high note and he would not run again. I’m gonna bet that Heilman will run again.
    With respect to John Duran, 4 years ago he was re-elected, a few months later he announced his race for county supervisor and he has piled up millions in donations that will surely be paid back with votes on developments. He owes lots of favors. Instead of running for city council to serve us he ran for city council to position himself for the supervisor race. I can tell all of you openly that Ive been contacted by developers, lobbyists and some big money interests to stay out of the race and get behind the Heilman and Duran ticket. How sad we are as a city that few have the guts or the finances to compete. Its up to you to have your voice and vote count. The future of West Hollywood is community leaders. It’s time to rally around a good candidate or we are going to watch Duran debate Heilman.

  9. @Rudlolf: I am full on for immigrants. Have you applied to become an American Citizen? You must become and American and have the ability to vote to fully express your concerns. Power to vote!

  10. I hope we can dare to treat ourselves to a representative not picked and financed by developers and lobbyists.

  11. I choose Martin for 1 from this lineup. He got a bum rap before but stayed involved as an activist & leader & is dependable to take the side of the people first, developers 2nd, as everyone should but does not.

  12. I don’t know Guardarrama but I hope those who do can talk him in to running again. From what I do know, he seems like the strongest potential contender. He has been an active community member in the most positive ways & seems very capable, has good judgement, class & common sense. I think he would run a very credible, clean & strong campaign such as Lauren Meister did & could easily win. Obviously good strong candidates can oust the most entrenched incumbents, as evidenced in the March 2015 election. I’ve always said (& I was always right) that the candidates should get their names out as early on as possible, like now, & as much as possible, so when the campaign begins in earnest, more people will already know who they are. Late comers never win. I also hope that there will be minimal “also-rans” to convolute the election & diminish the chances of getting some more much needed new blood on the Council. Unfortunately this is a list of who will not run rather than who will. I would also like to know more about David Warren

  13. without naming names because some of you already did – there is only one candidate mentioned above that has stood up to the council and made a difference in the community on a host of issues. the real question is how will he compete against the big money flowing into the incumbent campaigns.

  14. I’m stunned that Heilman is running again. He is one of only 2 incumbents who was voted out of office in the history of the city, other Lindsey Horvath, who was at the time an appointee of the Council. Heilman also fought the term limits Measure C, declaring that “elections are term limits” & he would make his exit when the voters decided it was time. Although he publicly announced that he would not seek reelection. he once again dishonored his own words – just couldn’t bear the thought of tearing himself away from his Iittle seat of power. I was told Heilman was seeking to complete the term left from Prang’s vacated seat because he wanted to “wrap up a few things” & would make a graceful exit in 2017. But like the ghosts in Poltergeist, “He’s baaaaack!” It’s no coincidence that new entries into the political races at all levels, new people & outsiders are winning. People are tired of the same old faces & same old ideas, or lack thereof, & want new blood & new directions. That is also evidenced by fact that Heilman came in dead last in one election, then lost the next one & the 3 newest candidates all won overwhelmingly. That speaks for itself. It is also no surprise that Heilman & Duran are being so heavily supported by developers & the Chamber of Commerce. The are all part of the “developments first & residents last” MO that is causing so much turmoil in the city. We gave Heilman the boot once & there is no reason we can’t do it again with some strong candidates who run strong campaigns, same as Lindsey Horvath & Lauren Meister did in the March 2015 election. And Duran along with him. That is not to say they don’t both still have a place in community leadership, but they have both long outlived their usefulness on the City Council. Their time is up

  15. Been waiting to stir this pot…
    So if Hillary Clinton is hopefully elected President what are the chances of the very vocal and supportive Lindsey Horvath getting an appointment to the administration? She could keep her part time city council office or resign the seat. If she did would it come prior to the 2017 deadline for adding another seat to the ballot or would it be pulling a Prang and waiting to force a special election?
    Just wanting to make the discussion worth discussing…

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