Opinion: Anger and ‘Alternative Facts’ Have No Place in Our City Council Election

It’s not unusual in West Hollywood for City Council elections to get nasty in the final days and hours before the vote. But given what this country has gone through in the last few months on the national level, one would hope that WeHo could stand out as a place where “alternative facts” aren’t acceptable, and where issues such as development, affordable housing, traffic and parking can be debated with respect and not anger and vitriol.

Sadly, that’s not happening.

That was evident at last week’s Rent Stabilization Commission meeting. After rambling on about the development on 8150 Sunset Blvd., which is not in the City of West Hollywood, local resident Kaye McLane declared that Donald Trump is backing the incumbents in our March 7 election. Kellyanne Conway might call that an “alternative fact,” but actually it is a lie.

The most dramatic moment occurred after that when Victor Omelczenko, a member of the city’s Public Facilities Commission and the treasurer of the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance, went off the rails (as shown in the video above). Omelczenko began his comments to the commission by ranting against incumbent candidates John Duran and John Heilman. When the gavel struck and he was told that political speeches were not allowed at the commission meeting, Omelczenko lost it, asking one commissioner if she was a Nazi and yelling so loudly that Commission Chair Richard Maggio turned off Omelczenko’s microphone. Maggio said that in his 20 years on the commission he has never seen such outrageous behavior.

Apparently taking a key from the Trump supporters, West Hollywood’s vitriolic purveyors of “alternative facts” have found homes on social media. The @Heilmantown Twitter account tweets links to news stories containing actual facts, but laces them with nasty images and comments. Then there is the Facebook account of “Hilda Vorceya” (“he’ll divorce ya”), which has republished one of the @Heilmantown nasty images as part of its attacks on the incumbents. The clearly fake account also has posted a distorted and insulting photo of Adam Bass, a member of the city’s Public Facilities Commission. Bass has asked Cynthia Blatt and Steve Martin, widely seen as the most viable challengers to Duran and Heilman, to denounce that.

“I am asking you to intervene and denounce this type of campaigning and behavior by your supporter,” Bass wrote in an email to Blatt and Martin. “I am asking that you demand honorable and civilized debate by people like yourselves – people willing to show up and show his or her face and have a constructive dialogue, not someone who hides behind a fake profile on social media.”

In an email to Bass, Martin did just that. “I have no idea who this might be but I do denounce this sort behavior, which is cruel and totally out of bounds,” he wrote.

There are legitimate reasons to oppose the incumbents, and legitimate reasons to oppose their challengers. That’s why WEHOville asked all of those in the race to respond to questions raised by WeHo residents about more than a dozen local issues. With that information, voters can decide who they will support.

Anger and vitriol and lies and exaggerations do not help us make the right decision. So let’s make it clear again: Donald Trump is not backing the incumbents. And, to address another major exaggeration, WeHo has not lost a massive amount of rent-stabilized housing over the past 30 years. While the affordability of housing is an issue in WeHo (and in most other major metropolitan areas in the country), the truth is that West Hollywood’s rent-stabilized housing inventory has gone down only 5% since 1986.

Each of the 10 candidates in the March 7 election needs to rein in his or her supporters and publicly disavow those who campaign with lies and vitriol. And the creator of @HeilmanTown needs to realize that he runs the risk of branding West Hollywood as @TrumpTown. This city deserves better than that.


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Jim Nasium
Guest
Jim Nasium

The campaign workers are a refection of the candidates.

If you have “nothing against Heilman” then you should vote for him. Don’t get stuck in this tenure thing. If you think “Duran should go” but his competitors as worse, then he ain’t so bad, vote for him.

Use your votes. Don’t let them go to the alternative candidates.

Alison
Guest
Alison

I just had a woman come to my door with Martin/Blatt campaign literature. When I told her to pass me by because I had decided to not vote this time around because I didn’t care for any of the candidates, she got NASTY with me. She was RAILING ON about how we were the same generation and she was against the Viet Nam war, the war in Iraq, etc and how important this election is and how she was/is a teacher and how I should at least vote for ____ in the school board race. (sic) Sorry folks, but that… Read more »

The Truth Hrts
Guest
The Truth Hrts

But its ok For an elected official to act like this?
https://vimeo.com/35677810

Mike
Guest
Mike

Upon your Perspicacious advice Manny, I listened to Commissioner Sanes’ and Maggio’s comments. Also, Peter Noonan gave insight to off topic Public Comments that all Advisory Board appointee’s and Commissioners. This is rampant throughout all Boards and Commissions.

This segment, not in the Public Facilities Commissioner’s comments and his reactions, are excellent. Bringing to light the urgency, in this current political climate, of urgency to speak to purview.

Gail Sanes’ and Richard Maggio were exemplary. Informational for all Boards and Commissions to be aware of and adhered too.

Shawn Thompson
Guest
Shawn Thompson

Ok so I watched this video finally and it seems to be that Victor is talking about saving rent controlled Units. Isnt that why our city was formed? For Rent Control. And all the Pivots away from this by some individuals in this thread are disturbing. Why wasnt this property seen as value to the residents, versus what the school wanted? Second this article that keeps getting linked to by some on this thread and other threads. Where is the scandal? Where is the meat in this? Blatt still works for HUD. A Federal Job. But Mr Duran can not… Read more »

Vigilant
Guest
Vigilant

It was interesting to see Kay (Kate) McLain’s comments at the first Public Comment period and Victor Olmeczenko’s at the last. Was this accidental? It seems Ms. McLane was a chief fire stoker for V.O. on the failed Norton Avenue appeal against the Empire Project. Was it accidental that they are both supporters of Steve Martin and Cynthia Blatt’s misinformation campaigns? Now when Steve Martin voices his comments here please ask yourself if they are fair minded or impartial. With how much integrity does he view the privilege of public comment or reasonable and acceptable behavior.

Jimmy Palmieri
Guest

There is but ONE conversation going on here, no matter who tries to deflect it to whatever topic they choose. IT IS THIS MAN’S DISGRACEFUL BEHAVIOR TOWARDS HIS COLLEAGUES. If he had ANY integrity, he would see that himself. This behavior does not display activism…..it displays hair trigger lunacy. Steve, I like you. I always have. STOP deflecting this. It isnt about anything but this mans abhorrent behavior.

Vigilant
Guest
Vigilant

It took approximately 25 seconds for Victor Omelczenko to make the leap from being a happy rent stabilized resident to launching the “Nazi” claim. I ask, who was on edge as Mr. Martin claimed? This was not censorship — unacceptable behavior is unacceptable. VO again chose to go off topic because he was drafting around his failed appeal to be relitigated under the guise of making the commission aware of whatever it was. VO has the opportunity to find a constructive channel but chose this path. Of course Mr. Martin apparently has no vision of less out of control but… Read more »

Manny
Guest
Manny

Everyone should listen to Commissioner Sanes’ astute comments.

Her comments start at 16:25 and last about 3.5 minutes.
http://weho.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=23&clip_id=3023

Steve Martin
Guest
Steve Martin

So we’ve only lost 900 units since 1986… not too bad unless one of the units was yours. Of course the City has no idea how many units subject to rent control are currently off the market for Air BnB but it is probably in the hundreds. I also don’t believe that 5% number includes the housing lost when the City allowed the owners of the buildings that are now Le Park, Le Hermitage, Le Rive, the Champion and Le Montrose, were allowed to convert to hotels. Having watched the video it is clear the Commission was trying to censor… Read more »

Steve Martin
Guest
Steve Martin

I had a wonderfully constructive conversation with Adam Bass; while I have no idea why he would be subject to harassment, he was very respectful of me and engaged me in a manner that was a positive example of how we should deal with each other as neighbors. I appreciated Adam’s candor and willingness to engage in a positive manner; Adam was clearly trying to raise the standard of public discourse. In regard to Victor’s remarks, if they were done during citizen’s comments then it would be wrong to deny him his opportunity to speak; it is not up to… Read more »

Jimmy Palmieri
Guest

i do not applaud such disgraceful behavior aimed at colleagues. the meister appointee owes that commission and the city an apology for acting like a crazed lunatic at a public meeting.