UPDATE: This story, as originally published, stated that Standing Rock is one of 72 tribes that have no rules barring same-sex marriage. However Councilmember John Duran has noted that specifying that marriage is between a man and a woman, as the Standing Rock law does, effectively denies marriage between people of the same sex. The story has been updated to include that observation.
The West Hollywood City Council is united in its opposition to Donald Trump. But it split last night in what to do about that and in what stand it wants to take, if any, on Wells Fargo’s investment in the controversial Dakota Pipeline.
After a somewhat contentious debate, the council agreed to ask city staffers to develop a list of businesses that Trump has a connection with and a policy for not doing business with Trump and his affiliated businesses. It also asked that city staff members develop standards of social consciousness for city vendors and business partners and use them to evaluate WeHo’s banking relationship with Wells Fargo.
Mayor Lauren Meister had proposed that the City of West Hollywood not have any dealings with businesses providing financial support or other benefits to Trump. That would include “any financial institution, hotel, real estate company, investor or direct affiliate.” She also asked that the city re-evaluate its relationship with Wells Fargo because of its connections with Trump and the Dakota Pipeline.
The Dakota is a proposed $3.8 billion oil pipeline that would cross under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota. The 1,200-mile pipeline would carry oil from North Dakota to a shipping point in Illinois. It has sparked controversy among environmentalists and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, whose reservation is near it. Cities such as Seattle and Davis and Santa Monica in California already have cut their ties with Wells Fargo because of its investment of $120 million in the pipeline.
In her proposal, Meister noted that the city has created a City Hall working group to keep an eye on Trump Administration policies that might have a negative impact on local residents and visitors. She also cited issues including his advocacy for a border wall with Mexico and cutbacks on consumer financial protection measures.
Meister’s proposal regarding Wells Fargo got pushback from Genevieve Morrill, CEO of the WeHo Chamber of Commerce. She noted that 15 financial institutions have invested in the Dakota Pipeline project. “They didn’t make this decision politically, they made it financially,” Morrill said of Wells Fargo. “This isn’t hurting Trump. This is simply stating our intolerance in a way that has unintended consequences.”
Jonathan Weedman, a former senior vice president of the Wells Fargo Foundation who now is executive director of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA) argued that “there is no company more progressive than Wells Fargo.” He cited the company’s support of LGBT and HIV/AIDS related organizations over the years. His comment, however, drew laughs from some in the audience who had spoken out against the scandal in which the bank was fined $185 million after an investigation that determined its employees opened 1.5 million false accounts for which customers paid a fee.
Councilmember John Duran argued against cutting ties with Wells Fargo, saying its investment is only 5% of the total. Duran also said that the Standing Rock tribe does not permit same sex marriage. While the Supreme Court decided in 2015 that same-sex marriages are legal in the United States, that decision does apply to Indian lands. Nine tribes, not including Standing Rock, do not permit same-sex marriage. Standing Rock is one of 72 tribes that have no rules on the practice. Duran, however, has noted that specifying that marriage is between a man and a woman, as the Standing Rock law does, effectively denies marriage between people of the same sex.
Duran also called out Wells Fargo’s investment in the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation and its foundation’s support for LGBT organizations.
“I know that you’re on the board of the Gay Men’s Chorus, and I know that Wells Fargo gives a lot of money to the Gay Men’s Chorus,” Meister said in response. Duran, who is chair of the chorus, said that donations to his charity had nothing to do with his decision. According to GMCLA’s website, Wells Fargo has donated more than $50,000. GMCLA also is the recipient of donations from city vendors such as Athens Services and real estate developers.
Councilmember John Heilman called out the complexity of deciding which businesses have a relationship with Trump or the companies in his trust. “I’m not sure we are prepared to no longer buy coffee at Starbucks or groceries at Whole Foods because they may have ties to Trump as well,” he said.