Opinion: Maybe Now’s the Time for a Female Majority on the West Hollywood City Council

Last week it was just a whisper, a rustle in the leaves.  Now it is taking form. While it is not yet an organized campaign or even a movement, it is a notion that is starting to quietly echo through the community. It is an idea, a hope, that has yet to find its voice.  It is the thought that maybe West Hollywood needs a feminist majority on the City Council, a majority consisting of three female members.

In an election that is marked by voter ennui, the politics of gender may spark a revolution in West Hollywood politics.

In light of the recent resignation of Mayor John Duran from the board of the Gay Men’s Chorus amid allegations of sexual harassment from three members, it is becoming increasingly clear that West Hollywood’s gay majority, as currently constituted, has lost its credibility and its moral standing.  I do not mean to say that individual council members are not dedicated and hard working or are bad people; it is just that their leadership seems increasingly disconnected and out of touch, perhaps even irrelevant to the changing demographics of West Hollywood and its gay community.

Tainted by connections with Ed Buck, ridiculed for presenting Stormy Daniels the key to the city, nostalgic for the Boys’ Town of their youth, some of the gay council members seem to have forgotten the values upon which this community was founded.  The entire notion of a gay male majority seems increasingly irrelevant to a growing number of voters.

For many, the gay majority was West Hollywood’s crowning achievement.  It certainly was when the city was founded and we elected the nation’s, indeed the galaxy’s, first gay City Council majority, consisting of Valerie Terrigno, Steve Schulte and John Heilman.  It was a historic moment that cast West Hollywood into the international spot light.  But that majority was lost by late 1985, and a gay majority did not re-emerge until the election of Jeff Prang in 1997.  For a few years we even had four gay members of the City Council.  Until very recently, West Hollywood’s gay community has seen this majority as a source of pride, and it remains one of West Hollywood’s defining features.

But West Hollywood’s demographics are changing with the times.  In this election we have two hard working female incumbents, Lauren Meister and Lindsay Horvath, as well as two articulate female candidates in the race.  This is the first time since the election that founded the city in 1984 where voters will have an opportunity to vote for three credible women for City Council.  Thirty five years seems like a long time to wait. 

At the candidates’ forum sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, Sepi Shyne and Marquita Thomas both gave strong performances.  But it was Shyne who captured the applause when she decried the fact that in the year 2019 the City of West Hollywood still did not have gender parity in the appointment of board and commission members. 

Shyne was correct in her criticism.  While I managed to have gender parity in all of my appointments during my two terms on the City Council, none of my colleagues ever attempted to follow my example. I insisted on appointing a female Planning Commissioner simply because for most of the time, my appointment was the only woman on that body.  Shyne is correct to raise the banner of gender parity in a city that is so self-congratulatory when it comes to diversity. Given that Shyne has been endorsed by the Stonewall Democratic Club and by U.S. Representative Katie Hill, she is probably the leading non-incumbent in this race.

Of course the election of three women would not mean the end of the gay majority, we would be blessed with both a gay and lesbian majority as well as a female majority.  That should be enough to make national headlines.

I am not saying that any of the three incumbents don’t deserve re-election.  I am just reporting on what I am hearing.  Given the fact that women voters remain highly galvanized, we may see a historic shift on the City Council in the coming election.  Due to this unique moment in time, gender may become the defining issue in this City Council race.  A female majority on City Council may shake things up in ways we never imagined.  As a gay man I would find the changing of the guard a bittersweet moment but if West Hollywood has any constant it is change and re-invention. 

  1. What a stupid, homophobic argument, seriously. How about we encourage anyone who isn’t a sexual predator to serve on Council?

  2. This is superfluous nonsense. a tempest in a teapot, a solution in search of a problem. I think Martin was grasping at straws for something to say. (Doesn’t he always?) It doesn’t take much to stir the pot in WeHo. And so needlessly at that! A woman won in the very first CC election. Since, 2 more women have been elected. There are now 3 men & 2 women on the CC. Goodness gracious , how egregious & discriminatory. We must hasten to flip those “numbers” & elect another woman ASAP. Unfortunately it’s rants such as this that get people bickering & infighting. This was irresponsible of Martin & I hope in the future he finds more meaningful & significant subjects to write about instead of making them up.

  3. After reading the comment thread I think we can all agree that a majority of these comments are a perfect example of mansplaining and privleage. If you feel defensive then I highly urge you to reflect.

    As a women living in West Hollywood, I question 1. What will these candidates do for women’s rights? 2. What’s their track record?

    We live in a country where women aren’t equal in the constitution. If we don’t have candidates who support women’s rights and act on it, are we truly as progressive as we think? No we’re not.

    I proudly put my name behind: Sepi Shyne and Lindsey Horvath.

    1. Carla, as a woman, what is it you want that you’re not getting?
      What would Sepi and Lindsey do for you?
      Please be specific.

    2. Carla, you might want to ask Lindsey and Lauren about the other three male members of the Council, and their record on women’s rights. John Heilman and Abbe Land are the reason Lindsey was appointed to the Council, the first time. I believe the current male members of our Council have a track record for fighting for, and supporting women’s rights. The idea that you have to be a woman to fight for women’s rights is absurd. As a gay man, I’d never say that straight men or women aren’t qualified to fight for my LGBT rights. Gavin Newsom, for example?

      By the way, you get three votes in this election.

  4. The premise of gender parity on boards and commissions is wrong. It was wrong when Sepi said it, and it’s more wrong that Steve repeats it. There are more women then men on boards and commissions. The whole discussion here is stupid and wrong.

    1. On a quick count of all boards and commissions there are 57 female and 55 men w 4 open slots. One open female position on LGAB is included in this count. On the Russian Advisory Board and Trnagender Advisory Board cannot always tell by name (did my best) – and on Trans Board counted gender they identified with. The Business License, Human Services and Rent are skewed men but Public Safety is 4-3 women. Remmber a commission or board member is selected by the pool of applicants which might be more men than woman or woman than men and also affect results – but the overall is not gender ‘inequality’ it’s pretty even overall despite one commission or the other skewing one way or the other. Sepi was wrong and Steve should have counted and clarified.

      1. Board and Commission members should be selected by the Residents in an informal vote. By allowing the Council Members to select them only provides the appearance that the appointee will further the Council Member’s agenda,

        1. Disagree. We elect Council members to have some expertise about who is qualified to be on these commissions. For lack of a better comparison, these are like cabinet assignments. How would the general public make an informed decision? How much would that cost the city to put on a ballot? How much money would be spent by contributors, citizens and lobbyists to make that happen? You said “informal vote.” I’m not even sure what that means, or how that would be orchestrated.

        2. This continuous “word salad” has wilted and has far exceeded its expiration date. The background presented is extremely sketchy and undisciplined.

    2. In West Hollywood, of all places, where I keep hearing there are no differences in males and females, and one’s gender is whatever one happens to identify, we are having this discussion!

      Which is it?

  5. I will be voting for Lindsey Horvath, not based on her gender, but on her accomplishments and good and hard work. My other two votes will go to the candidates that I believe are worthy of the seats, and gender will not help to make my decision. Voting for someone because of their gender, or sexuality, or nationality, or skin color, or hair color, or eye color, goes against everything that I believe in.

    1. Dear Gay WeHoville Male readers, without naming names or making endorsements:

      Given the highly qualified credentials of the four women (two incumbent with whom we have longstanding, open disagreements/two challenging with whom we have questions) and the incumbent male’s tiresome toleration of Duran’s malfeasance) it’s specious of some WeHo readers and others to pretend voting for any one of the four qualified female candidates is based on fake, politically correct categories. No one is calling for a narrow identity politics, as in some posts, falsely ascribed.

      If it was once important that gay men get a seat on the Council it’s now the same that women take those seats, especially as the gay men have devolved into sexist jerks.

  6. It’s not WHAT a person is, it is WHO a person is.
    All these labels are useless and should not be considered.
    The quality of character, integrity, work ethic and resourcefulness that a person brings are most important.

  7. A problem here in WeHo is the continued mentality of many gay men who mistake sexual predation for sexual liberation. Thus, Duran’s popularity despite the Ian Owens and now the Gay Men’s Chorus scandals. Add to those issues Duran’s sponsoring of Stormy Daniels (who deserves no disrespect for her profession) with a Key to the City while comparing Ms. Daniels to civil rights activist Rosa Parks, and you have a picture of twisted, imagined gay male privilege run amok. February is Black History Month and March is Women’s History Month. We need three accomplished, feminist women on the Council. And we have a choice among four.

  8. I don’t believe in gender parity UNLESS everyone involved is equally qualified, THEN it would be a good idea to choose evenly by gender. But, really, when are you going to find all equally qualified candidates? It’s highly unlikely to happen. And isn’t the new thing to not see differences in gender? Are you going to consider biological gender or gender identity? That could be a sticky wicket!

    So choose the most qualified without regard to gender.

  9. Mr. Martin is right about the current atmosphere in West Hollywood.The male population and current and past city councils have gotten lazy and complacent with stuff going on around them. Witness the various controversies pointed out this article. Maybe it’s time for new members, some of them women, to step in and help run the city.The House of Representatives just had a big change,so why not West Hollywood.

  10. How about we just vote for the best people?

    For me right now, that’s two women and one man. Two incumbents and one newbie.

  11. That’s all fine and good Steve, but any candidate running for office, no matter who they are, must first have an understanding of the city and its past and present successes and failures. They must also know what the people who actually live here need and want and they must be a fair and objective thinker with a previous visible and accomplished record of public service in our community. The new candidates you speak of don’t meet that criteria, at least not yet…….But I have seen those attributes in Lindsey Horvath, Lauren Meister and John D’Amico even before they were elected to public office.

    1. Citizen’s of West Hollywood are smart enough to vote for candidates that they believe will serve all of West Hollywood. Your political spin is bent and non-persuasive.

      I too have seen the performance from all the incumbents and of the three you spotlight, Lauren Meister, has shown her vision to be regressive. The councilmember 1984 focus and goals are stuck in the past.

      Even in 1984 the organic trajectory was and continues to be forward, progressive, and adaptable to changing demographics’ and density requirements. Lauren Meister’s vision remains in the past.

      Fresh new idea’s and new Councilmember’s are a 21st century can lead West Hollywood to creatively meet todays issues. Councilmember Meister, in a Trumpian way, mission is to make ‘West Hollywood Great Again???’

  12. I agree that 35 years is a long time for change. Even farmers know they have to rotate the crops every few years to get optimal growth. But, I don’t think that by having one Gay Council Member and Mayor who conducts himself inappropriately on the job and who can’t separate his personal life from his professional life should influence Residents to assume the City’s problems are a gender issue. This is a “one bad apple” situation. I would love to see a more Diverse Council, but I don’t think it is wise to make the leap that a majority of either gender would help solve the issues the City is facing. There are many Candidates with a great deal of life experience. Each one should be considered objectively and not based solely on gender.

  13. I think Steve makes some very valid observations about past and present, but creates expectations about the future and what demographics on council would best represent those future needs. I think we should focus on those best qualified and best able to represent the community at large, without regard to identity politics. I believe those best able to do so in the coming election happen to be one woman incumbent (Lauren Meister), and one woman challenger (Sepi Shyne). The third remains up for debate, but presently does not include the other two incumbents.

    We will get the best representation when we get maximum voter turnout. Historically, that turnout has averaged approximately 25%, meaning it takes approximately 10% to win office–what incumbent in those circumstances feels accountable to the electorate? It should surprise no one that the imperious attitude at City Hall starts with the council and works its way down.

    With those historical election numbers, none of the incumbents has the mandate they might proclaim to have, but it’s the voters’ fault. When West Hollywood elections are aligned with statewide elections, it will be an entirely new game. VOTE!

  14. How about just worrying about electing the most qualified individuals to sit on the council rather than a certain sex, sexual orientation, race, etc. We’re beyond all of that. We just need the most qualified humans to run our government!

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