The West Hollywood City Council’s meeting tonight included the formal installation of Councilmember John D’Amico as mayor and Councilmember Lindsey Horvath as mayor pro tem, roles they both have occupied since Councilmember John Duran stepped down as mayor in March. While the role of mayor is largely an honorary one in a city such as West Hollywood, which operates under the council/manager form of government, the person who holds that position essentially is the face of the city. Traditionally, the mayor pro tem moves into the mayoral position when a new installation occurs every May. Tonight Mayor D’Amico addressed those attending the City Council meeting and the residents of West Hollywood, outlining his thoughts and priorities in the speech that follows. Each of those attending got to leave with a t-shirt proclaiming each of them the mayor of West Hollywood.
Thank you all for coming tonight. This regular installation event is something that I think we can all celebrate. It’s time, once again, to turn the crystal, illuminate our commitment to the residents, highlight a new view into the city, resend our strongest messages about what’s best about our West Hollywood – not just to folks on Doheny and Detroit and Dorrington and Dicks street, but to downtown LA, and Sacramento and Washington D.C.
A big thank you to the staff, my colleagues and of course Keith Rand. I believe it was former Councilmember Guariello who famously said about Rita Guariello, his wife, when he proposed putting her on the planning commission and there was some criticism from the community – he said, “we share a bed not a mind.”
I have to say I wish Keith and I did share a mind. He is so smart and caring and kind and even after 27 years of sharing a bed, I am still learning from him. And very much in love. So if you’re willing can you give him a round of applause.
If I get this right, this speech, I will be able to communicate two major themes this evening.
First, I’m here to do the city’s work, and second for the next 12 months everyone is the mayor.
First and foremost, I am here to do the city’s work. I am honored to be doing it, I think it’s important work, it’s valuable and critical to set the bar high and keep it there. Cities are never finished, and ours is no exception. We will continue to expand and contract the way all cities do. More of this and less of that and some of the other.
Here are some examples and trends that have emerged in just the past few years…. There are more kids living in West Hollywood than any time since the 1970’s, and there are half as many Russian speaking people since the 1990’s, and there are the same number of seniors. There are more LGBT people in WEHO than ever before, and more young women too. There’s more traffic and more available parking. There is less market-rate housing that’s affordable and more home ownership. There are fewer people with HIV/AIDS and more people with food insecurities. There are more people visiting our library and fewer people reading books. There are more reasons to be weary of big government in Sacramento and small government in Washington and the overwhelmed LA County government downtown.
In the decades since cityhood in 1984, West Hollywood has not grown in size, nor substantially in population, but it has grown in reasons to exist and ways that make plain just exactly what our usefulness is, not just to the people that live within these 1.9 square miles, but to the region and the world. We do a lot of things really well here. We pay attention to the residents, we write smart legislation, we take wise positions on state and federal legislation, we pursue the new and the exciting while making sure no one is left behind. And still I believe it is “cultural invention” that we do best.
Our legacy as a city is best recorded in the ways in which we citizens have been leaders and invented and narrated the story about people in Los Angeles, people in California, people across America and, most importantly, about people right here in West Hollywood.
People sometimes forget how uniquely influential West Hollywood can be. From inventing the culture that other places consume to the power that comes from being empowered by your government. Now, more than ever, with the leadership vacuum at the national level, West Hollywood leads by showing other communities what they can do to step up and to help guide us all through this troubling time.
Being from West Hollywood means you’re a citizen of the world with an eye on your neighborhood. We’re a city full of regular citizens living regular lives helping each other and the city do extraordinary things.
And so tonight, and for next 12 months. I am sharing my time as mayor with you, I’d like to recognize and celebrate and challenge all of us to occupy our leadership role and our role as the mayor of West Hollywood.
There’s a t-shirt on your chair (and even more at the back of the room.) It says MAYOR OF WEST HOLLYWOOD. Take one. Wear it. Proudly. I am asking you to be the mayor with me. Render yourself and West Hollywood visible. And when someone asks, “are you really the mayor?” You can tell them that you know West Hollywood, and you’re helping to invent it, and you’re responsible for keeping it moving in the right direction. I mean, isn’t that what the mayor is supposed to do?
That’s what this mayor does.
Everyday living presents endless opportunities for us all to lead. Speak up against injustice, congratulate success, join your neighborhood watch group, start a neighborhood watch group, recycle a piece of trash someone else left behind. Visit a new business. Show you care when a neighbor needs some help. Take a position on behalf of the community. Take a stand when others won’t. Be a leader when a leader is needed.
As issues come up, we must think and act collectively to do good for as many people as possible. Sometimes that means thinking and acting against our own self interests. What we may find uncomfortable or inconvenient is offset by being a leader and making sacrifices for the benefit of the community around us and beyond.
I know you’re up for the challenge. I see it every day. Our city leads while other cities and states are flailing, inexplicably falling backwards. In our city, our citizens jump up and start acting often before anyone else has even entered the arena.
There’s a whole world out there that needs us to help show them the way. We all know that together we can help bring more of West Hollywood to life. And that means more living on our terms.
It is a long list, the work that needs doing. And each of us needs to prioritize for ourselves what’s important. And then take action.
Here are my priorities for this year. I think you have already seen some of them roll out and there are more to follow:
1. I am interested in what the correct level of social services funding should be to be sure that we’re keeping people in their homes and healthy and eating; help people to age in place, continue to reduce HIV infections, develop smart strategies for healthy living here in our city, and we do not want to add even one more person to the county’s homeless population. We need to right-size the social services budget, and I look forward to leading on that front.
2. Strategize about how our building and safety policies around seismic retrofit and sustainable building can be maximized to increase and maintain the supply of safe, resilient, rent controlled housing that will last for another generation. It’s clear that new housing construction is not the short or medium term solution to the housing affordability crisis, so keeping our existing housing stock viable needs to be a much bigger priority ,and I am committed to making that happen.
3. Work with my colleagues and the sheriffs and our social services agencies and all of you on understanding and stopping drug overdoses in our community. Working to create programs and policies that promote wellness and safety in the face of this gathering storm. Too many people are caught in a cycle of addiction and destruction. As a community we need to lean into solutions that reduce harm and increase the sense of belonging.
4. And finally you may have noticed that tonight’s event is muted, no party, no big celebration. That is on purpose, I am asking my colleagues to allow the savings from tonight’s event be put into programs that help young people thrive. Investing in the health and wellness of young people, especially young black and latino men reaffirms that their lives are important, that their contributions matter more than ever, and that their quality of life is something to be prioritized.
These are my priorities, I hope you will join me in bringing them to life. And I also hope you will include me in your priorities so that we can work together to bring yours to life too.
So fellow citizen mayors we’re off.
There’s a lot to do. And there are a lot of us, more than 150 in this room and thousands more out in the city. There are almost as many mayors in this room as there are Democratic candidates for President.
We’re all up to the task, we might make some mistakes along the way, but as you all have shown me, focusing on making the world a better place is what mayors do.
Thank you very much.
I’d like to take a short break. And for those willing put on your t-shirt and we’ll head outside and take a picture to let the world know that we are here and we’re ready help make the world a better place.