WeHo City Council Incumbents Are Pulling in the Dollars for the March 7 Election

The race is on! Many political observers expected candidates for the March 2017 West Hollywood City Council election would lay low until after the Nov. 7 Presidential election.

John Heilman
John Heilman

But Chris and Lisa Bonbright have announced a fundraiser on Wednesday for Councilmember John Heilman’s re-election campaign. Chris Bonbright is a commercial real estate broker at Avison-Young and managing partner at Café Gratitude restaurants in Southern California. He is former chair of the Beverly Hills Architectural Commission and former President of the Hollywood Property Owners Association. He also is a member of the executive committee of Visit West Hollywood.

The fundraiser will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. at Gracias Madre, on Melrose Avenue, which, like Bonbright’s Café Gratitude, is vegan. Those attending are asked to send an email to erin.byrne@avisonyoung.com.

To date only Heilman and Councilmember John Duran have filed papers with the city clerk stating their intention to run for re-election. Duran also has been active in soliciting contributions for his campaign. A statement filed with the city clerk shows that between Jan. 1 and June 30 of this year, Duran raised $115,556.

John Duran
John Duran

As in past elections, the majority of his donations come from individuals and businesses outside of West Hollywood, with major contributions from developers and the lawyers and lobbyists who represent them. One likely to stir some controversy is from Tyler Siegel, an owner of Townscape Partners, the developer of the controversial 8150 Sunset and 8899 Beverly projects. Duran also accepted donations totaling $2,000 from Athen Services and its executive vice president, Gary Clifford, and members of his family. (Each individual donation is limited to $500). Athens is the city’s trash collector. In 2014 Duran voted with other members of the City Council to extend its contract — worth an estimated $150 million to Athens — for 15 years without putting it out to bid. Athens also is a large donor to the Gay Men’s Chorus, however Duran has not filed “behest” statements required by state law revealing such donations to a charity from a company with which he has ties. Duran told WEHOville that that is because the donation was requested by GMCLA staff and not him.

The deadline for filing for the March 7 election is Dec. 12. Duran and Heilman and the only incumbents up for re-election on the five-member council. Other likely candidates are former Councilmember Steve Martin and Larry Block, owner of The Block Party clothing store. Rumored candidates who have no responded to inquiries from WEHOville are Cynthia Blatt, an anti-development activist, and Heidi Shink, an unsuccessful candidate in the 2015 council election.


17 Comments
  1. There are strong reasons for rejecting Duran & Heilman above & beyond their obsession with accommodating huge developments for personal power. I think Duran in particular is opportunistically corrupt & Heilman is so entrenched in his delusion of being indispensable to the city that he can’t begin to imagine it without him. They are both inflicted with interminable disease of egomania which cannot be treated without outside intervention. That’s what elections are for

  2. Steve, thanks for that detail. I’m not trying to unilaterally defend them. My response was really about the assertion that they “should be in jail.” That is an extreme viewpoint, and I’m not going to go along with that unless someone shows me evidence of actual criminal activity. Or can at least tell me what criminal activity they think they were involved in.

    I certainly do not like the influence developers have had on our City Council. And changes need to be made.

  3. Concerned Citizen makes a valid point as good development can provide needed housing and enhance the livability of our community. But we are seeing mega-developments that are destroying the quality of life in our community and turning West Hollywood from a funky and fun place to simply another concrete and steel canyon.

    But is suggest you look at the money spent in the last campaign. John Duran served as bag man for an independent expenditure campaign, (that has no limits on contributions), to help re-elect John Heilman. When the developer of 8899 Beverly Blvd. came before the Planning Commission, City staff recommended against the project and the Planning Commission rejected it. But the pro-development majority of the City Council reversed that decision and approved the project. It might have something to do with the twenty to thirty thousand dollars that the developer gave to the so called “independent expenditure” campaign.

    I would respectfully suggest that you look at the campaign reports and the votes before defending the incumbents. When you connect the dots it is obvious that money has huge influence in this town. Developers don’t drop tens of thousands of dollars in West Hollywood because they like the City’s position on gay marriage.

  4. Tom, that wasn’t a sufficient answer. Until I see actual evidence of criminal activity, I see no reason to agree to the idea of “John Heilman being in jail.” You said “they are in bed with developers which should be illegal.” Is it? If taking campaign contributions from developers constitutes illegal activity to you, then you should be ready to put each council member in jail (along with just about anyone who is going to be newly elected).

    That said, I’m not thrilled with their relationships with developers. It definitely results in a conflict of interest. But not all development has been “crap,” and I think a lot of the opposition to it has been nothing more than NIMBYism. A lot of people that don’t want *anything* new, and don’t like to see any change.

  5. The energy & enthusiasm over the term limits measure was overwhelming. I don’t think I talked to a single person while volunteering during the “C” campaign who wasn’t all for it. It continues to amaze me that people keep voting for Heilman & Duran since the 2 of them seemed to me to be the two 2 main reasons people wanted term limits. Personally, when circulating the petition on the streets, all I had to do was tell people it was for term limits for the West Hollywood City Council & they all said yes, yes, yes, & signed without asking for details, & guess whose names came up the most. I don’t think many people realized the limits didn’t go into effect immediately & didn’t turn out for or pay attention to, the special election in June on that basis. I don’t know who is the most vulnerable, Heilman or Duran, but I do believe Heilman can be given the old heave ho once again with the same enthusiasm we had for the Measure C campaign & with the same caliber of competition he had in the the March election. It’s obvious that neither Heiman nor Duran are going out the door without an escort Particularly Heiman who vehemently opposed Measure C while declaring that elections are term limits but refusing to honor his own words when he lost.

    1. Again, the power is in the vote, end of story. And as much as people complain, there is way too much apathy. Whether you like them or not, our city is financially solid.

  6. You see it as helping to build the city whilst I see it as destroying the city. For decades these clowns did nothing and now our village (and history) is coming down at warp speed. Why? Because they are in bed with developers which should be illegal. The developers are building crap and our council can walk away from it one day and leave the mess for future generations to deal with. I’m sure they are getting other perks in addition to their shady campaign contributions. What’s happening here in WEHO should be investigated by the California Attorney General. There you have it. You asked.

  7. Tom, why, exactly, should John Heilman be jailed? Yes, he’s received campaign donations from developers, as all sitting council members have. Has he immersed the city in scandal? Embarrassed and cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars?

    I certainly don’t always agree with his positions, but he did help build this city, and has been a public servant since its inception.

  8. Judging from the tenor of the above comments, and recalling one particular comment on an OP-ED I wrote recently here about the small number of actual voters in Council elections, perhaps the natives are becoming restless and we might have a much better turnout in March. As the war chests build, I am reminded of election days in my youth, always an exciting day, especially for those who received beer chits (to be used the next day as bars were closed for the event) and free food baskets for the needy from the ward boss. Will Heilman and Duran be offering beer chits? Food baskets? Free handshakes?

  9. Stop whining, if they are voted in by the people, then so be it. How about you whiners get out there and get people to vote. The turn out is abysmal!

  10. I think the highest priority this election should be to unseat Duran. Yes, Heilman has been on the Council since its inception, but he has done some good things. Name one thing Duran has done except embarrass the City, cost the City money, etc. The conflict of interest with accepting donations from Athens and the developers is glaring and it happens every election. His time has gone.

  11. Does the drama ever end? I just pray that our small electorate remembers the antics and burden that the entire ‘Deputygate’ fiasco put on our city and its populace. It doesn’t surprise me that our two longest serving council members are the first to begin fundraising. I hope that Wehoville is able to keep tab on the funds raised vs the funds spent on the election. I know that it is not required by law, but during his brief run for County Supervisor, I only received one piece of mail asking me to vote for Mr.Duran, and never saw a television commercial for him, despite his having raised >$300,000.00 for his campaign. I can’t help be curious about what candidates spend and what they keep for the gift of their running for office.

    I know that we have term limits now, but in some cases they seem like too little too late. For instance, John Heilman, whom I tend to like, has been on the council for so long, I have a hard time conjuring up what he might still want to accomplish by sitting on the Council to the very end of his eligibility. He is a grad school professor, and as such, you’d think he would want to give new people a chance to participate in City Government. I guess time will tell on all fronts

  12. The $150 million, 15 year, no bid contract just hit me. At that price each individual home and apartment/condo resident should enjoy “concierge level” trash pickup.

    It also speaks to the question. that while this city proclaims itself and is proclaimed to be such a highly desirable place to live and do business, why is the city so often in the weak bargaining position on development issues? Why, if the accolades are believable, does the city not experience a higher quality of architecture? Why do we get so many C projects, few B’s and once in a blue moon an A? While they may receive green points many are entirely forgettable and have become a new, bright and shiny type of architectural blight.

    HIGH STANDARDS!………one can never go wrong with high standards.

  13. Off to a great start, a trash collector and a trash talking developer. Volume 2 of the Trump School of Political Campaign Deal Making. Autograph signing is the line to the left potential litigation to the right.

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