Opinion: In WeHo’s 2017 City Council Election, Experience Counts

I’m not a candidate in this upcoming city council race, but I want to thank so many of your for your pledges of support. It means a lot to me. I’m sorry to let you down. To be honest I did not realize the breadth of the support, but this was not the year for me to give all of myself to all you.

It’s also nice that many of the challengers have called or written to me hoping “we” would win. I’m sorry to disappoint so many other candidates, but experience counts. If I have not seen you at a city council meeting speaking on issues then I can’t support your candidacy.

There are only three people in this race who offer experience. The two incumbents, John Heilman and John Duran, and ex-council member Steve Martin. If you don’t know the ropes you won’t get things done.

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

There is one issue that has made me challenge my support for the incumbents. That issue is the 8899 Beverly Blvd. project, where the developer wants to double the size of a building that’s already three times the size currently allowed. The council voted to accept the premise from the developer’s lobbyist that the project wouldn’t be profitable if it couldn’t be that large. Then, after the city council allowed the expansion, the developer started offering shares in it for sale before construction has even begun. I’d like to see both incumbents support the idea that these type of concessions by the city cannot be sold without the city council’s approval. Or maybe there should be a transfer tax on projects with special entitlements granted by the city that are sold before the building is completed. Both John Heilman and John Duran supported the expansion.

Today I am prepared to support, endorse and fight for the re-election of John Heilman. John has served West Hollywood for over 30 years. He has never run for higher office. If you love West Hollywood then John Heilman deserves some of the credit.

When you have a Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle on your team hitting home runs, you don’t replace him because he is a veteran. Who in his right mind is going to root against the man who is hitting home runs day after day because he has been on the team too long? Only negative people who cannot appreciate his contribution.

John Heilman deserves the honor of serving two more terms, at which point he reaches the term limits set by law. We need John Heilman to help groom new council members. Despite much criticism, John Heilman has been an honorable steward of the public trust. If Heilman were not re-elected, and he came before the City Council chamber to receive an honor for his years of service, the council chamber would erupt in a half-hour standing ovation. Heilman’s service to our community is second to none.

It’s clear to those on the inside that Heilman and new council member Lauren Meister have developed a solid working relationship. The big question is does Lauren have the guts to endorse him, or will she play into her supporters, who are the most vigilant Heilman haters? Will she put community interests first, or be a partisan council member and continue along this split?

There are only two other experienced candidates in the race — John Duran and Steve Martin. I’m friendly with both of them. But to earn my support in this city council election, I need something from both of them.

John Duran should again offer his apology for what has transpired because he hired Ian Owens as a deputy, which resulted in an expensive and embarrassing lawsuit against the city. I want to see him own it again. Hindsight is a tool for learning, so tell us Mr. Duran what you are sorry about. Be humble and take responsibility.

The next thing I want to hear from Duran is that he is running for us, the residents of West Hollywood. The last time he was elected, he decided a few months later that he would run for county supervisor. I want to make sure he is in it for us, and will dedicate the next four years only to West Hollywood and not other political ambitions.

And finally John Duran needs to run a positive campaign, focused on what he has accomplished. Negative ads like those during the last election and the election before by him or his “Friends of Duran” committee should be rejected by voters. If John won’t toot his own horn about what he’s accomplished after all these years, then he does not deserve re-election.

Steve Martin has plenty of passion and experience. He still attends planning commission and city council meetings regularly, weighing in on both development and social issues. Steve understands the way things work and that experience counts. I want to hear Steve’s vision for the future. I do not want to hear from him snarky comments about Duran’s past. Steve offers us a solid alternative if he is positive, works hard and gets organized. Steve needs to act like the council member he wants to be.

There is another candidate that I would rather not name but who I’m glad to work hard to defeat. This woman represents the most negative approach in our city. She walks around the city council chamber ignoring half the people in the room. She has filed bogus appeals against development, wasting city time and resources. She has said that we have enough affordable housing and argued against building more. And then she turned around and argued that the city should seize someone’s property at 1026-8 North Kings Rd., using affordable housing as an argument. As John Duran pointed out at a city council meeting, that’s against the law. The city does not have the authority to randomly take someone’s property for any use.

This woman does not have the temperament to serve on the city council, and her followers do not understand that she is not telling the truth about state mandates for development and affordable housing. She has never won any of her appeals and has not contributed anything positive to this city.

If I were a candidate in this year’s city council election and made such statements people would think I was promoting my self –interest instead of the community interest. This election is so critical, and the community interest is more important than my own personal gain. I can make a difference from the public comment podium and so can you. The checks and balances come from people who share their thoughts before the city council and promote new ideas before experienced council members who know how to implement policy.

While its sounds great to be a city council member I’m also proud to have offered many ideas that council members have adopted. A new city flag promotes our identity. New crosswalk initiatives make us safer. New proposals to allow a senior to move from a second floor to first floor unit have promoted our aging in place initiative. The disability health fair, which offers residents free flu shots and other things, was initially proposed by me. Protecting our affordable housing and integrating affordable units into regular developments has been one of my mantras. I don’t have to win an election to make a difference. And neither do any of the challengers. If you want to serve the city, get involved during the year and not just at election time.

  1. ¶ I confess to being out to lunch these last few years. I wish I had not been because I can’t intelligently comment about politics at the city hall of West Hollywood so, that said, here is my unintelligent comment.

    ¶ It seems as if every election candidates say that they will stand up (or similar phraseology) to developers, yet a massive huge towering hotel is going up at Doheny and Sunset.

    ¶ I first visited West Hollywood in March 1972, then again in July 1972 and I moved here in August 1976, all times when West Hollywood was an unincorporated. It has a “grittiness to it”, a kind of libertarian feel. It seemed there was an excitement. Not every other Tom, Dick, Jane and Harry were writing a screenplay, only every third or so Tom, Dick, Jane and Harry. And, the film industry was experiencing a kind of mini new golden age, that is the films of the 1970s (which I peg from 1967 with “Bonnie and Clyde” to 1981 with “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. Also, parking fines for parking on a side of a street during a day when there was street cleaning was $5. Say inflation since 1976 has quadrupled. That would mean the current fine should be $20 but no! I received a ticket last December for $63.

    ¶ While the film industry was, of course, big at that time but It seems the music industry was bigger. The Whiskey a Go Go and Troubadour were huge. John Lennon, who at the time was living in Los Angeles, above Sunset, did an unplugged concert at the Troubadour circa 1971 (before I arrived).

    ¶ I had to leave West Hollywood again to help raise my sister’s kids after her D-I-V-O-R-C-E but vowed to return one day and I did, in 1988 although I didn’t make it to West Hollywood until 1994.

    ¶ I have watched the insanity grow with the concomitant political correctness. It is as if the inmates have seized control of the asylum. Individuals holding signs or wearing t-shirts for the Republican candidate for President are spat on, assaulted, denied service at a restaurant after retreating there after holding a legal assembly–based entirely on whom they have chosen to support in the November Presidential election.

    ¶ The mayor publicly defends this unconstitutional behavior, saying that the Republican candidate (Donald Trump) doesn’t share the values of the City of West Hollywood. So what? What is it to her? Her job is to help govern the city in an honest fair way, provide for public safety and upholding the laws of the City. Duh! Who does she think she is, a telepath–she can know the “values” of Donald Trump. Pathetic.

    ¶ As I said, I am remiss. I cannot comment why these massive buildings seem to happen but I do know that a number of citizens of the City believe there has been massive corruption, that is, that member of the City Council have been “bought off”. I am not making that accusation but am simply reporting conversations I have had.

    ¶ One of our cars (of my wife and I) has been hit 4 times while parked, in the city. Not once did anyone leave a note. Makes you wonder about the responsible, progressive, citizens of West Hollywood. Of course, I don’t know if any of the persons driving were citizens. The deputy who came out to take the report on the first incident said it was probably someone going the wrong way on our one-way street, who had come from a club on Sunset. Obviously, that could be “anyone” from about “anywhere”. On the 4th incident, I had to wait more than an hour. The deputy apologized but said the Sheriff’s Department was very short-handed. What! This city must have a massive tax base with sales tax and hotel tax and the department can’t hire a few more officers?

    ¶ Finally, in 2009, Stimulus money re-surfaced Sunset Boulevard. Unfortunately, it was done with asphalt! This totally changed the character of the world-famous Sunset Strip, which runs from a small part of Los Angeles at Fairfax to West Hollywood at Crescent Heights to the Beverly Hills border.

    ¶ Very sad. Those lines in the concrete on Sunset, when I used to drive to my work location at 9200 Sunset Boulevard gave the Strip such a unique experience.

  2. Shawn Thompson, i agree with you 100%.
    You are our city real voice, but the sad part, today the only voice you hear, is $$$ and 2 face people and leaders.

  3. The only winners will be those people who keep changing our city, our Developers.
    We are NOT a “village” any longer. the development is killing us slowly.
    i wish all the ten best of luck, base on what’s going on in the city, MONEY always WIN.
    remember $300.000 buy you a “sit”.
    So, with saying that. the only 2 Leaders I’m voting for are Steve Martin and Cynthia Blatt.
    i trust them to fight for us, the people of WEHO and not only for those with the money.
    Our city manager, is who make most of the decisions anyway.
    and remember our people in needs, they are part of our city…
    Yes, i still own my home in WEHO.

    Love and prayers from the Holy Land, ISRAEL.
    Nir Zilberman
    Love NO Hate / Tel Aviv.

  4. @Shawn: Judgement, experience and a vast personal commitment is not fear mongering. The comment “it is not hard” is subjective, as it depends on what tools one has to implement a specific vision or at least one that is in alignment with all the elements.

    Aside from term limits having been your “raison d’être” can you tell us how have you personally participated in effecting positive change?

  5. The truth has no agenda. Past the spin. 32 years is not democracy. Nor do we need Mr Duran, who has cost the city $500,000 in his HR mess, re-elected in my opinion. It’s time for both to move on. Yes we can all say they did good. But let others now serve the community. It’s in my view the right thing. I could be wrong, but for now I’m going with it. And Larry, so sorry but I see no other agenda in this political commercial for Heilman than the leverage it is to get you on a board or commission. If you go way back, I was the guy that started talking term limits in WeHo before measure c was born. You can read my op/ed in the archives of West Hollywood News. The only way we can change and freshen our democracy in WeHo is to limit the hoarding of power by the same faces on council year after year. And this whole argument that you need all this experience to be on city council is a bunch of fear mongering. It’s a community service position to do the people’s work. That’s actually not hard. As the mega 6-story forced density works its way down Santa Monica Blvd currently at Kings Road, what resident asked for that? I would assert none. And it’s not a nimby thing or “development is bad” concept. It’s that the city council changed the zoning laws to allow it because they are bought by those who build these buildings with political contributions. Do you like traffic in weho? It’s going to get worse, and we didn’t need to build that big and that dense in my opinion. New is good — but new that reflects the community and what it can handle, not the biggest return on a piece of the WeHo Monopoly board

  6. Larry, i grew up in West Hollywood going to first grade through high school and love this city. And I was excited to vote for you. All the people I’ve spoken with were excited to vote for you. To be frank, there is nobody else I’m excited to support and not happy that Heilman or Duran will be sitting on the council again. I hope they do give you a commission post because you deserve it, but your gonna have to talk me into voting for any of those guys.

  7. Lets cut to the chase Larry once and for all in this faux democracy keep Mr Heilman in power your spinning. If Mr Heilman is rel-elected and since you have taken this time to write this long op.ed singing his praises, would you decline the offer to be appointed to a board or commission by him.? Cause from the outside looking in that’s your motivation to write this sell him piece. 32 years is enough. Its a public service job to the community. Not an appointed supreme leader that no one can replace. And yes after 32 years those are hard shoes to fill, but I would think after 32 years some-one else in the community deserves the chance to serve. We can agree to disagree. But I assure you the world in weho will keep spinning if Mr Hellman steps down, just like Abbey Land had the community respect to do and not run again. I could be wrong. But for now I’m going with it.

  8. @Jeffrey Ward: I’ll second that! One thing about Larry is that he does not have an ounce of meanspiritness which is the bane of other candidates candidates given to ripping folks and issues apart at the seams. We could all learn a thing or two from Larry. With Larry, the message and the messenger are in alignment.

  9. Bullet voting and the effects of it, namely helping the entrenched, aside, Term limits are horrible, they make those with government experience leave, and leave only the lobbyist with the experience on how things work in place, would you rather have an experienced surgeon install your new pacemaker or do you want the manufacturers’ rep doing the surgery. Term limits have just giving us Donald Trump!

    Larry, regardless of how you feel about him and his bullet candidacies of the past, has done the city great good, using his advocacy to exact a price for the less fortunate and to bring attention to issues that affect us all, helping to shape the dialogue, not just at City Hall, but across the city in general. We haven’t always seen eye to eye, but we both know we are on the same page, whether it is smart development and inclusive of all, taking care of our old and poor and frail, homeless advocacy, dialogue with our Russian counterparts and safety for all! I think it is safe to say that Larry has done quite a bit for our city without ever being on the Council. It is OK to disagree with him, but I can attest that his motives are selfless, he is doing what he thinks is best for our great City, and for that, I applaud him!

  10. Dear Shawn and Cassandra. Despite the snyde comments about a commission post, to get on a commission one would need to fill out an application. I’ve got no applications pending but maybe in the future. As far as term limits they were not meant to be retroactive so that the community and council would open the doors to new blood and have a chance to ease into those changes.. if you have a question about that ask Steve Martin, he wrote the language. Each election brings a new day of choices and in this election i don’t see a candidate that can fill the shoes of John Heilman. Most all the challengers we have never heard of, one we might have heard of is a one issue person that is wrong on that one issue. As far as backing John Heilman or John Duran for that matter it is clear they both have big shoes to fill and I don’t see a challenger ready to fill those shoes. That’s not selling out, that’s keeping an open mind without prejudice.

  11. It is about term limits and John Heilman is way past the limit. It’s just the way the rule fell. 32 years is enough. Our American democracy is designed so that no one person can spend a lifetime in the same position.

    John Duran’s actions were a costly embarrassment to the city both with his credit card abuse and lawsuits. This experience we don’t need.

    West Hollywood is changing and so must its leadership.

    Obviously from our presidential election experience isn’t always of first importance with voters.

  12. What a sad day for the West Hollywood Democracy when Larry who fought for term limits, protecting plummer park, keeping the gay area gay, removing the tow away traps and on and on decides to endorse the only candidate that’s been on city council since its start? How can Larry be a real activist if he changes he words to meet the day? Larry infact touted his work on term limits. And now he wants a 30 plus council member to get his power for 4 more years. Even after Mr Hellman said he wouldn’t run again when he lost, and he did anyways. Democracy is based in rotation in leadership. The president only gets 8 years. We worked hard in West Hollywood to get new faces on city council in this spirit. And Now Mr Block seems to have sold out so he can get re-appointed on a board or a commission many think. The #weho democracy is broken

  13. Is it time for “Change” on the West Hollywood City Council? Perhaps a “Wexit” (Weho Exit) representing a referendum from the electorate and a general disgust in grandiose excessive spending? Well then, let us ponder the following questions:
    1. Was a $64 million dollar price tag for Phase One of West Hollywood Park a prudent investment for a city of 35,000 residents or an an example of excess and waste fostered by entrenched, pompous and elitist Council members?
    2. Did West Hollywood need to leverage the City’s Credit for bonds to build a 20 million dollar “robo-garage” providing 200 spaces at a cost of more than $100,000 per parking space? I remember the City Construction Manager, Dan Adams boasting that $40,000 per parking space was the industry standard during construction of the West Hollywood Park Parking Structure.
    3. Does a city of 35,000 residents really need to invest another $78 million dollars in a Phase Two of West Hollywood Park?
    The incumbents have voted yes to the above, so if you believe Larry Block, you should vote for the incumbents.
    If you are outraged by the following:
    1. 4 years to implement Crosswalk Safety Measures.
    2. A lack of concern about infrastructure and replacing 100 year old plumbing drain lines taking precedence over development.
    3. A desire for creative, immediate and humane solutions to feeding and housing the ever-growing population of the homeless in our community.
    Then perhaps you will vote for “Change” a “Wexit” and break the stranglehold that longterm incumbents have held on the majority vote of our West Hollywood City Council.
    What does “Experience” really count for?

  14. Ray, take the clue from Chris Sanger above. For people who are involved day to day it’s pretty obvious.

  15. @Manny: You are correct to an extent…and my message conflated several different thoughts. Part of the problem is that Santa Monica Blvd. simply cannot handle the traffic, be it thru or local. The multiple traffic lights and pedestrian crossings create bumper-to-bumper crawls, and should someone actually try to park, the right lane gets blocked by the parallel parking maneuvers.
    That said, every new development that is built means there WILL be more cars in the city, which can only worsen an already untenable situation. I believe there should be at least some sort of moratorium on new multi-story housing and business until we can find ways to improve the flow of traffic. I would love to see better use made of the pretty scraggly median between La Cienega and Doheny, but adding lanes isn’t the answer, as the road would still narrow to two lanes on either end. East of La Cienega, traffic flow could improve if left turns were only allowed at intersections with left turn pockets (yes, some new ones would have to be added), and to the west, perhaps southbound left turns onto Westbourne could be permissive instead of only protected (meaning you wouldn’t necessarily have to wait two minutes for the arrow but could turn when traffic is at a standstill).
    The recent spate of Santa Monica Blvd. lane closures don’t help, and the signage is too close to the actual diversion to allow drivers to consider alternate routes. The incessant parade of pedestrians at the unsignalized intersections (esp. in the evening) is another cause of backups.
    Yes, many people are driving through WeHo to get somewhere else, but that’s unavoidable in any urban area, especially when things like the Canyon roads are few and far between.

    I don’t claim to have all the answers; I just think the city has become too dense for its own good.

  16. Having an interest on one issue mainly like Cynthia Blatt seems to be doing is not a qualification for office. If anything it should be a warning sign. West Hollywood needs council members with wide expertise, not single issue NIMBYites who want to turn the city into Beverly Hills West with only the interests of the wealthiest who deny the reality of urban life. I’d be wary of activists who are likely to get support from D’Amico and Meister but somehow haven’t been found qualified enough to be appointed by them to committees.
    People of West Hollywood need to listen to Larry who gets the importance of experience and constancy to keep what is good about the city around. It can be easily lost.

  17. I’m having a hard time coming around to Heilman but don’t see anybody else in the race worthy of my vote. Duran doesn’t bother me as much as the rest of the field. I agree with above these guys are lucky your not running.

  18. I am only commenting to show that I am not “One of Cassandra’s snakes”…as Larry has decided I am.
    One can only comment using one ID & I use my own name. I simply no longer comment.
    I am also not “Allison”, even though that is my last name.
    If anyone paid attention to the content, they’d know that. Happy Holidays everyone〰

  19. @Ron Harris…..Next time you’re stuck in traffic between Doheny and LaCienega take a look and see if any of those cars are turning into one of those “huge condo, apartment, shopping and office buildings” that you describe. They’re NOT, they’re traveling through our city to get across Laurel Canyon or headed towards Hollywood and beyond……In other words, almost ALL of those cars you’re in traffic with are not making West Hollywood their final destination.

    I do agree with you about the bicycles careening down the sidewalk and no enforcement in place to prevent that bad and unsafe behavior. (Motorcycles careening in the bike lanes ain’t good either)

  20. I hope the concept/issue of a building moratorium, 6 months to a year, would be discussed until we see the full impact on the east side of the increased traffic from Movietown Plaza (The Avalon) and the other multi unit projects under construction throughout town. The impact on already heavy traffic is unknown.
    And the $100 million already approved revamp of West Hollywood Pride Park drops jaws.
    Imagine the perks the city could provide to all residents throughout the city wit that kind of loose change. Change. The city has certainly changed since 1984. I’ve watched it all.
    And the folly of the robogarage will not be swept under the rug. The excitement of being cutting edge got this monster approved. History will show it an elephant. But then politically elephants won the last go round.
    (Still not accepting the rigging of Amerikkka).
    Shame the citizens of WeHo have never turned out for a municipal election in the numbers they do for national votes. Even though their vote is massively more ‘powerful’ one of 5000 rather than one of 18 million in California. Or 120,000,000 in the US.
    Sadly 14% turn out to pick the leaders of the city with the largest per capita budget of any California city. I guess everyone is happy the way the city is running.
    source: https://www.wehoville.com/2016/07/21/low-turnouts-local-elections-wehos-voters/

  21. Its s lucky thing for the other candidates you decided not to run because everyone i talked to said they would have voted for you because we need your honest fresh approach about WeHo business to get the stale self serving fuddy duddy council back on track.

  22. I’ve lived in WeHo for 38 years. The one thing that drives me up the wall is the HORRENDOUS traffic. I DREAD having to drive on Santa Monica Blvd, It takes longer to drive from Doheny to La Cienega than it does to drive from UCLA to Doheny, which NEVER used to be the case. There have been so many huge condo, apartment, shopping and office buildings built without the capacity to handle the increased traffic. Parking is non-existent on the main streets, many pedestrian crossings are badly lit at night and signal synchronization (if it even exists) is pointless when cars are literally backed up for blocks.
    Pedestrians in non-signalized crosswalks or intersections can and do walk anytime they please, one after the other, rather than being “grouped” by appropriate WALK signal timing. And having the sidewalks “bulge out” at each corner makes parking even tougher. Traffic on Melrose between San Vicente and La Cienega is usually at a standstill as well.
    We need better zoning controls and less big construction projects that the infrastructure simply cannot support. I would love to be able to shop at local stores like Larry’s Block Party, but traffic and parking is a nightmare I simply can’t deal with. Do we need so much new development if no one can patronize it? And we supposedly have a bike rental program, yet the only bikes I see are those illegally careening down the sidewalks forcing pedestrians to move aside, with no visible enforcement, and traffic is still unbearable and only getting worse. I love what this city stands for, but the City Council needs to be working for the residents, not the developers. Sorry for the rant…but this commentary really hit a big sore spot!

  23. Larry, many of us have respected and delighted in you from afar. You are an adorable sweet man. My friends agree with you that experience is important. The lady who has opposed housing is wrong-headed, we need more housing both market rate and affordable! We need a beautiful city, better than Bev. Hills or Santa Monica. The current council is good and knows the law. Mr. Martin has interesting positions; albeit he offers mostly criticism without solutions. I see you and Mr. Martin as candidates in 2019 with Lindsey!

  24. Thanks, Larry. It feels good to know someone is watching out for all of us and that, yes, we can all make a difference, big or small.

  25. We all sure what both John’s are most experienced Council members. But we need “fresh blood” in city government. Like Larry Block, Heilman and Duran can help us with some advises as members of city commissions.

  26. Larry, Larry, Larry! You, my friend, are a supermensch of the highest order! I echo your comments regarding a rejection of negativity. Though it’s a long shot, ignoring negativity in campaign ads will allow us to focus on the issues and choose the right candidate to lead us forward. I support continued development in this city, but at a measured, responsible rate that upholds the values and traditions on which this city was founded. I want to hear how the candidates will move that goal forward. I look forward to tuning into your public comments, which I believe will push candidates toward that end.

  27. Dear good buddy, I supported you before and will support you again. Sorry that being in the hospital caused you to hesitate this race but there will be another time. Negative Cassandra can’t see the difference between a funny light poem and an honest portrayal of the Election ahead. And you said it beautifully and I will back Heilman and whomever your second choice is.

  28. Interesting flip-flop by Larry Block. At the City Council meeting on Dec. 5, 2016 Public Comments Larry boldly asked “32 years, John ? Isn’t that a bit too long?” And we could go back and look at all the things Larry said about Heilman when he ran against him last election. As per usual, Mr. Block speaks out of both sides of his mouth. Still hoping for that direct appointment, I guess.

  29. If there ever was a sixth council member it would be you. Your love for the City of West Hollywood is clear to many of us. Hope that you will consider running again. Heilman was not my first choice but I’m going to trust your instincts.

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