Opinion: What West Hollywood Needs in a Mayor

While the City Council will inevitably abide by the traditional rotation and install John Duran as mayor, someone had suggested to me that West Hollywood might adopt a more exacting process for selection of the nominal leader of the city. It was proposed that we should consider having applicants and an interview process for this august position.

Needless to say, I would love to be part of a citizen’s panel interviewing the mayoral candidates. John Duran would be great fun. I could imagine the interview along the following lines.

“Good afternoon Mr. Duran and thank you for coming to this interview. We have reviewed your resume along with an investigative report by the city’s Human Resources Department in preparation for today’s interview. While the resume you provided is quite impressive, we are required to follow up on some of the concerns raised by the HR report.

John Duran
John Duran

“We have been provided with a copy of your former deputy’s lawsuit for sexual harassment and Mr. Owens certainly makes some inflammatory accusations. According to his complaint, you made inappropriate remarks to him of a sexually suggestive nature two or three times a week. As set forth in paragraph 18 of the complaint Mr. Owens asserts that you regularly stated: “I’ll bottom for you.” I guess my question: Was this promise meant to be in the nature of an additional benefit to his health care plan or was this envisioned to be a request for additional duties? As you are aware, if you are making a request to expand Mr. Owens’ job description then the city manager would have to take that request to the bargaining unit of the city employees’ union.

“Human resources wanted us to clarify some emails that were sent by you regarding female members of the public where you made less than flattering references to their private parts. Do any of your City Hall emails have similar derogatory remarks concerning the genitalia of male members of the community? I also reviewed a YouTube incident where you were screaming and disrupting a Democratic Club meeting, shouting “we are not all lesbians.” Do you have lesbophobic tendencies?

“We were also reading your resume regarding your legal work as a civil rights attorney. Here you claim you represented Bruce Boland, the gay Sheriffs’ deputy who was fired because of sexual orientation. Our HR report seems to indicate that while this is basically true, you seem to have omitted that Boland fired you prior to trial. So how accurate is your resume?

Of course, it probably would not be fair for me to be on an interview panel as I just know too much about the subject. But if our own City Council submitted John Duran to even a minimal review of his long list of past misdeeds it would be clear that he is hardly the sort of person you would want as mayor of a progressive city.

But I fully expect the City Council to respect the traditional rotation. It is probably a bit late to start asking the Council members to start holding John Duran accountable. While I understand the dynamics of needless alienating one of your colleagues, it would be nice if just one Council member raised her or his voice to express reservations about this promotion.

What the people of West Hollywood need is a mayor who represents our community values in both word and deed. Anyone can proclaim support for our community values of respect for diversity, intolerance of bias on the basis of gender, race or orientation. We expect our leader to live by the values they supposedly embrace.

What we need are leaders who are truly dedicated to public service; leaders who put the needs of the public first. Public office often attracts people who are focused on what they believe is the prestige of holding office and who seek office for purposes of validation or ambition. We have had a number of unsung Council members who have labored long hours for the public weal, without the need to seek constant praise for it. These are people who understand the true meaning of service and love of community. We need a mayor who is promoting West Hollywood, not himself.

“Pride” is a word that is often bandied around West Hollywood. This focus on pride arose from the foundation of the city when gay and lesbian people became part of the effort to create a new city where diversity was valued and everyone included. I remember working to create a new city, a place where gays and lesbians could prove that they were worthy of being entrusted with the reins of government; we would create a unique community where we were respected part of the fabric of the city. Pride is important to West Hollywood, and we are justifiably, indeed fiercely, proud of our city.

While pride is a good municipal trait, it is not a good trait in a leader, as pride is often exhibited by self-aggrandizement and narcissistic behaviors. What is needed in a mayor is a certain sense of humility; a recognition that it is an honor to serve, a responsibility as well as an opportunity.

Unfortunately, our once and future mayor lacks these important traits. He is proud, arrogant and full of a sense of entitlement. Indeed his pride is stung by criticisms of his well-documented errors, lack of self-control and moral blind spots. It is hard to imagine how one claims to be a good public servant while entertaining yourself on Grindr, a sex app, during public hearings. If you wanted to serve the people you should at least attempt to listen to them respectfully. After all, you ran for this job and you took an oath of office to “faithfully serve” the public.

Given the recent history, it might be best for John Duran to spend some time in self-examination rather than distracting himself by the supposed glamour of being West Hollywood’s mayor. While I expect that Duran wants to use the mayoral platform to distract the public from his misdeeds and lack of commitment to true public service, that is not in the best interest of the people of West Hollywood. Whatever prestige there still may be in the title of Mayor of West Hollywood, it will be forever tarnished by John Duran’s tenure.

  1. Personally, I have to say I don’t agree.

    For one thing, I think a lot of the argument seems to be centered on John Duran, and frankly, the decision of electing a mayor is bigger than any councilmember, whatever talents or issues they bring to the table. If Duran’s a problem, vote him out, problem gone.

    The problem I have with someone elected with the power of Mayor is that our elections are attended by a pitiful small number of residents. And while the same is true of the city councilmembers, the rotation system keeps some of that abuse of power in check because any abuse can be answered by the next peer to fill the position.

    I think too, that subsequent cycles of Mayors could leave the city lurching with half-fulfilled projects and a draining of the city’s treasury as each Mayor drums up the beat for their favorite projects.

    I don’t really believe a Mayor solves anything, and just causes more problems. In fact, my hometown back in Massachusetts went from a Town Meeting form of government to Mayor and then dissolved the Mayorship and is back to a Town Meeting.

  2. I met West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran at the California Women’s Law Center’s Distinguished Guest Speaker Series event on Saturday 4/21/18 where he introduced the speaker U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California). I did ask him a little something about the local “political” conflict he was having and, he insisted it was some irrelevant right-wing smear campaign NOT worthy of any serious attention in the face of very REAL “political” issues as opposed to personal attacks. Now I’m hardly naïve and, recognize that could easily be an effective dodge for someone with like minded political views but, John Duran has a history of supporting progressive movements when they were NOT a safe political position to assume. This according to Adam Schiff in his acknowledgment to John Duran.

    Put simply if Steve Martin sought to distinguish himself as a better choice for “mayor of a progressive city” he would completely abandon any and all personal attacks on John Duran, instead assert himself a the better progressive choice. A few ideas how this could be done:

    Join the National Lawyers Guild to defend the rights of the most oppressed elements of society.

    Reaffirm your commitment to LGBT and Women’s Rights in the face of the Trump Administration’s offensive against them. YES Transgender people should have the right to serve in the military, especially when bellicose republicans have a well established history of evading military service. Chelsea Manning should be considered a great American hero!

    Support #BlackLivesMatter with the courage to oppose the republican resurgent racism. NO “very good people” do NOT rally in support of white supremacist confederate monuments with tiki torches in the middle of the night as was historically done in the lynchings of Black People yelling “Jews will not replace us, blood and soil” the very slogans of Kristallnacht!

    Oppose the ever increasing corporate power at the expense of the rights and protections of working people! Support Single Payer Universal Healthcare as opposed to the insurance industry scams being the only option. Support a $15 dollar an hour minimum wage, giving low income people more money is a proven economic stimulus as opposed to tax breaks to the rich. OPPOSE the corporate assault on the people’s access to due process via “mandatory binding arbitration,” today corporations can force you into “mandatory binding arbitration” as a condition of employment or even in many cases even as a customer. You basically lose your right to have the courts to setter any disputes, instead you face a bias arbitration board that almost always sides with the interests of big business!

    Reaffirm the commitment of the Great City of West Hollywood as a Sanctuary City! NO Human being is an illegal especially undocumented refugees whose circumstance is the direct result of a bellicose imperialist American foreign policy that routinely overthrows democratically elected governments, replacing them with dictators backed by multinational corporations running death squads. Remember that the people referred to as Mexicans today are genetically Native Americans whose land was stolen from them. They did not cross the border, the border crossed them, the land we are on is occupied Aztlán!

    Support FREE Public Higher Education as opposed to the expensive for profit scams like Trump University! Also stand by Science and Environmental Protections as opposed to antiscience corporate misinformation campaigns.

    Establish Municipal Broadband in the Great City of West Hollywood to guarantee internet access to all and net neutrality!

    Seek “term limits” for corporate CEOs and the board of directors as opposed to “elected” politicians! In most successful Western Democracies they mandate that half the corporate board of directors are made up of workers!

    Work to deliver affordable housing to low income and homeless people, not an impossible task considering that Empty homes outnumber the homeless 6 to 1!

    Have the “Drug Problem” dealt with as a Medical Problem as opposed to a law enforcement problem! See the work of Dr. Gabor Maté

    If you have any doubts this can work just look at my friend Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant!

    1. You met him once at a function and you are confident to publicaly give your certification to John Duran and dismiss his actual misconduct, and the years of contributing nothing but personal stories irrelevant to the issue on calendar at any given time on the record at formal public hearings.
      Have you ever spent any time in WeHo? I am a far left liberal, and even I think the City goes way too far , exceeding any authority, to make absurd anti Right Declarations that if actually a real policy, often violates the Constitution.
      His Law School is (in the legal Community, from such a poorly rated Law School, people with that kind of Law Degree avoid the topic.

  3. Steve, I haven’t had the privilege to know you personally therefore cannot make any assessment as to your intelligence, integrity, and the validity of your opinions. In fact I’d like such an opportunity. On the other hand, I do know John Duran and have only good things to say about the man. He’s not a perfect person, but at least his opinions, personality and flaws are all out in the open. I have elaborated my opinions with regard to Mr. Duran ad nausium in other comments so I won’t elaborate here. But, I do want to comment as to the history of the relationship between these two men.

    Mr. Martin is a former city councilman who effectively lost his seat to Mr. Duran. In many ways, their political opinions are in direct opposition to one another. Duran is far more liberal, while Mr. Martin has the reputation of being the most conservative elected official in our cities history. This isn’t to say that Martin is a right-wing politician, but he is conservative for our city. Martin and Duran also stand in opposition with regard to their opinions on development and increased density within our city with Duran being generally in favor of increased density and development. There are a lot more issues here, but the two men are generally on opposite sides with regard to issues of contention within our city. All of the controversy with regard to Mr. Duran’s Grindr habits (something which is often misunderstood) as well as his recent sexual harassment allegations have stoked the flames of and provided ammunition for Mr. Martin’s ongoing beef with Duran.

  4. One does have to consider that this is politics. Other members of the Council aren’t going to ruffle feathers with Duran if they don’t need to. I think some of them view the voters as being his employer, and the people re-elected him, after every incident Steve listed above. The mayor position comes with bragging rights, but also comes with more work, and a larger time commitment. We all know it is a ceremonial position. If people don’t want Duran as mayor, or on the Council, they should vote for someone else, because it is widely-known that every elected member of the Council will serve as mayor, at some point. Or support someone who has a chance at beating him in the next election. You cannot expect the other members of the Council to be held accountable for cutting him down, after the voters re-elected him, just a little over a year ago. My point is, this was all public knowledge in March of 2017, and yet the voters elected him again.

    Steve, you are welcome to run again. It might also give some of the newer readers of this publication some context, if you’d remind people that you lost to Duran in the last election. This is your fourth hit job on Duran in 2018, always around the middle of the month. Last time was just a few days after he lost his mother, which many of us thought was really tacky.


  5. Steve Martin’s mildly impassioned comment tonight about the mayoral rotation was accurate. The silence following John Heilman”s request for nominations was deafening. I read it as a matter of abstention but had not allowed for John Heilman’s ability to make a nomination. While generally a supporter of many things Heilman, I
    believe he made a colossal error in good judgement thereby diminishing his own integrity.

    Having just watched the appeal of the JMC Formosa LLC project, it was apparent that Duran could not help himself in making the discussion all about himself including opportunities to inject sexual innuendo in the “windows debate ” rather than requesting clarification of the facts and discussing the facts. I don’t believe any judge in a court of law would have tolerated that type of behavior and may have made an admonition from the bench in the absence of an objection from opposing council.

    Unfortunately the residents will now be subjected to more lengthy tales of the way John Duran sees issues and the world through his own antics and evaluations of every issue as it relates to him. Enough John Duran! Focus on the facts and don’t wander into the editorial comments, you are now merely a place holder whose judgement has become irrelevant.

  6. As long as West Hollywood’s City Council is not organized according to electoral districts in which distinct geographical representatives are held accountable by their resident neighbors, and as long as the mayor’s position is a kind of honorific shuffled among a vanity club winning election with minimal votes, Duran and his ilk will prevail, whatever their vices or not. The current system resembles a country club, including non-resident managers/administrators for whom the WeHo brand (supported by parking fines and alcohol consumption) prevails over any real sense of “progressive” community. And as long as gay men falsely see arrival in WeHo as deliverance from the places they have fled — as if this little burg were Oz within a moat — the likes of Duran et al. will prevail.

  7. I would not have added or deleted a word. Well said and well shared.

    We need a Mayor who is indeed a “mayor”. Make it simply a political race just as the other small towns and cities in the county and beyond do. Ships without real captains usually sink and asking the CC members to “play mayor” every few months is juvenile and asks more of whomever it may be to take on additional responsibilities and time. How does that serve anyone? The system is something that seems silly in the 21st century. Doesn’t our unique and inclusionary image need to stop being “The Little Rascals” having a show?

    “Our revolving door” mayoral process is at odds with a position that is serious in other real cities. Ours is often used by some “hizzhonors” as a grandstand for future agendas. Real cities – creative or not – have real mayors. While I am certain other little hamlets do have “musical mayors”, but as West Hollywood wants to be seen as a global metropolis and a serious contender; then elect a mayor or hire one and allow a committee to vet them. West Hollywood needs a person to guide them and lead them to greater creativity and a firm road to consistency, real progress and a brighter smarter direction for every resident. Paul Arevalo is City Manager. He has fans and detractors, but he does not live in the city and this is a disadvantage for us. Not him. We need to hire from our residents first. Just as we only allow voters from our demographic. We need a city attorney who represents West Hollywood on a full-time basis; one who isn’t dedicated to having the longest “city” client list. We can afford it. No matter who whines or pewls about money. We can afford it.

    And I question any adult who sees being the “Mayor of West Hollywood” as a stepping stone to fame and adulation. Sounds Trumpish to me.

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