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.


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skywatcher888
Guest
skywatcher888

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… Read more »

Cy Husain
Guest

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… Read more »

J Simmons
Guest
J Simmons

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. “RIGHT WING SMEAR CAMPAIGN” ?????? 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… Read more »

TheRealZam
Guest

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… Read more »

Randy
Guest
Randy

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… Read more »

Lacking Integrity
Guest
Lacking Integrity

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… Read more »

Ty Geltmaker/James Rosen
Guest
Ty Geltmaker/James Rosen

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… Read more »

chloe ross
Guest

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… Read more »