Opinion: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

West Hollywood prides itself on the lofty ideals and core values that were intended to define us: inclusion, acceptance, empathy, compassion. Yet within our community there is a sizable segment of haters the likes of which I have rarely seen.

Do you disagree? All you need to do is follow the comments on any day in this very publication. In factlook atthe April 1 story “WeHoChamber of Commerce Lobbies for Financial Support for Local Businesses” and follow down to seeEric Jon Schmidt’sbitter comments about the West Hollywood business community.“Who cares about the businesses who have been overcharging us for years? Come on, $15 bucks for a cocktail, $15 bucks for a hamburger,” he asks. And then he follows with “the chamber of commerce should be ashamed for only caring about businesses making money and not caring about the most vulnerable members of our community.”

Mr. Schmidt clearly fails to realize it is the businesses that provide the tax basis for our vast array of social service programs along with the revenues generated by the parking meters used by the people thatfrequent thesebusinesses(not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars donated by these businesses each year to support local causes). But, as is the case for so many in our community, it is easier just to hate rather than apply reason or insight.

And yet,whileIsee great value inlively discussion and the sharing of different opinions, what happens here in West Hollywood goes far, far beyond that.Not so infrequently these comment threadsdevolve into personal attack or hateful rhetoric that has no basis in fact.Institutions, businesses or even individuals can be the targets of the venomous assaults. And the nastiness can go well beyond the pages ofWEHOville with some of these haters going so far as to write letters or place phone calls directly to their targets, excoriating them in language that deserves censure.

Larry Block

I know firsthand because I have been a subject of these comments, letters and phone calls on several occasions. For example, learning that no vigil had been planned in response to the Pulse Massacre I contacted Lauren Meister and suggested thatwe needed to do somethingfor the many West Hollywood residents that could not get downtown for the vigil presided over by John Duran at Pershing Square. Lauren rolled up her sleeves and got to work and within several hours we had a venue and a plan.

Micky’soffered to host the event at no charge to the city and, in fact, agreed to donate a part of the proceeds from any sales that evening to the victims of the Pulse Massacre. That evening I stood on the platform they provided, a platform that was positioned so that people could see and hear from positions both inside and out on the street, and urged people to continue to support the bars and restaurants, businesses and clubs that were the center of our community. I spoke of how these were our churches, the places where we had gathered in the days of the AIDS epidemic to educate, motivate, activate and commiserate. The very next day I began receiving phone calls, notes and letters accusing me of capitalizing on the tragedy to spur business in our community. Other letters accused me of not recognizing the needs of the sober community by choosingMicky’sas the venue…despite the fact the we consciously placed the speakers platform where we did to allow people to attend without having to step foot in the club. These calls and letters did not stop for several weeks. And what had I really done other thanparticipate in creating a vigil to allow the residents of West Hollywood to come together and remind them of the importance of gathering and our gathering spots to support our strength as a community?

Bags filled with medical masks at the Block Party store.

In the years since I have rarely mentioned this and certainly have not shared this on the pages ofWEHOville. Fortunately I have thick skin and I will continue to do what I can to support our community, hatersbedamned.

ButI can no longer be silent on this issue in light ofthe recent attacks on Larry Block as he has attempted to provide our community with potentially life-saving masks during this coronavirus pandemic. I have worked with Larry for over 30 years and there has never been a time he has turned me down, not one single time, when I asked for support for whatever particular charity event orcause I was working on. Sometimes he gave money, sometimes he provided product, on several occasions he fully sponsored events and, in the case of Labor Day LA he went ontodedicate extraordinary amounts of time and resources to chair the entire weekend program raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for local HIV/AIDS education and services.He has served on countless committeesand even more recentlyset up a foundation,WeHoWish, to bring neighbors together to help West Hollywood residents in need.

Larry Block’s heart and soul are grounded in West Hollywood and, unlike so many others, he doesn’t just give lip service,he walks the walk. His dedication and generosity are proven over and over in his work through the years. And yet,as the coronavirus pandemic unfoldedandLarry rolled out his plan to secure and provide free masksto West Hollywood seniors 60 and over, disabled residents, those in affordable housing units and to our homeless population, he has been attacked by haters.

Despite having sourced the masks during a period when even government agencies and hospitals were having difficulty finding masks, despite having spent countless hours arranging for the logisticsof production and shipping and despite having funded the purchase of these masks out ofhisownpocket, the hatersarehaving their heyday. I stood with Larry recently as he handed out masks for free to seniors who knocked on the door of Block Party. I was there as he asked those who offered to purchase masks to write a check out toWehoWish, not to Larry Block! And I also heard the murmurs of the haters accusing him of profiting off the pandemic, using the masks to promote his business and support sales, buying votes for the upcoming election.

There are people in this town who want to participate in the fabric of our community and are willing to dedicate time, energy and even financial resources for the betterment of our village. But unless we reign in this hate, we will find ourselves without these leaders. Because after all, who wants to continue doing good deeds when no good deed goes unpunished?

  1. Also, if you were referring to me as doing nothing for the Community, you should do your research before making such a comment. Jack and I each volunteer as many hours a week we can which is usually about 20. Plus we have and continue to donate contributions to many organizations in SOCAL and Las Vegas. Not just for the low income and most vulnerable Residents, we also donate to campaigns for Judges and Representatives all over the Country. Just because we don’t grandstand or stand on the street corner for attention doesn’t mean we are not doing anything. We do it out of love and compassion, not recognition. Neither Jack (Cline) nor I have any hate for anyone or any group. We both have been doing volunteer work and making contributions during the 20 years we have been together and individually before.

  2. Keith, you missed my point. The health and safety of the Residents should be paramount. I am not anti-business, but I do think that the City should do everything in their power to take care of its residents first and foremost. You say that the businesses pay the taxes to keep the City running (or something to that effect), but without healthy Residents spending money in the businesses they cant make money to pay taxes. We need to keep our Residents healthy. The Residents are the financial and cultural backbone of the City. Plus, don’t forget about all the major businesses who have tax abatements and don’t pay taxes. I realize the Chamber of Commerce purpose is to promote business, but without healthy customers the businesses wont do well so the Chamber should step in to help such as provide masks, lobby for more testing and other efforts. Many other Cities are getting help for Resident health and wellbeing from the Chamber of Commerce. I applaud Larry Block for helping and now that the City is issuing permits to sell PPE on the sidewalks, I have e mailed Larry and offered my help. I am not running for City Council in this election, so nothing I say is for political reasons. I will say this though, I find it hard to believe businesses, especially the large, popular ones don’t have a reserve. When I owned a business in Las Vegas, I put 10% away for unexpected issues. It’s business 101.

  3. So often I find myself drawn into the hateful dialogue because it’s an easy emotional reaction (hate begets hate, right?). Thank you, Keith, for reminding us we can choose other ways to react that are respectful, civil, promote creativity, and build community— far more beneficial.

  4. “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

  5. Thank you Keith for this truth. I support Larry Block because their is always action behind his idea that is out of love of the city and all residents’.

    Your paragraph shines the light on the leadership of Larry Block.

    “Larry Block’s heart and soul are grounded in West Hollywood and, unlike so many others, he doesn’t just give lip service, he walks the walk. His dedication and generosity are proven over and over in his work through the years. And yet, as the coronavirus pandemic unfolded and Larry rolled out his plan to secure and provide free masks to West Hollywood seniors 60 and over, disabled residents, those in affordable housing units and to our homeless population, he has been attacked by haters.” – Keith Kaplan

  6. Keith, I agree with Eric John Schmidt in respects to recognizing the social inequities and economic inequality in this city. Where will the businesses be if the residents are forced to move out of the city and the neighborhoods near the businesses barely keeping afloat. Once the residents go and “so called locals” so too will the businesses that can’t survive on tourism alone. Yes hotels might make money back with tourism and pay their taxes but that does not speak for renters and small businesses that will be decimated by this crisis known as COVID-19,not to mention increasing rents driving out the last strongholds of renters and businesses alike. It’s apparent that it’s too expensive for businesses to do business in Weho without a corporate name or brand recognition or a well off regular clientele base and for businesses to afford rent. When the renters can’t afford the rent the writing is on the Wall of West Hollywood. We are in crisis mode here! It is not an option and so businesses will suffer the same economic fate as the locals will not have cash to spend on Rent and food over buying and luxuriating-though if you have money there is a place in this city but if you are a resident with depleting funds—well guess we are screwed! Weho is suffering due to its gentrification and the city residents and city hall will be at odds and everyone will suffer for the economic toll it has taken on us for 10 years and here we see another crisis before us that has made weho almost unaffordable to patronize these businesses that will go out of business because we have no more funds for rent, never mind buying things! Furthermore, the majority of businesses along Sunset to Santa Monica seek or expect clientele of financial means of a certain demographic those that frequent the private social clubs by invitation only, by appointment only businesses or by membership only upon referral has become the mantra with elitists abound taping reality shows and those wanting fame.

  7. I have not always agreed with Larry Block’s positions, but I have never doubted for one moment that he cares about the entire city of West Hollywood – which means its residents, visitors, and businesses. It’s easy to sit and blame others, it’s a lot harder to step up to the plate.

  8. Any city’s “Chamber of Commerce” is misunderstood.

    THEY are not for the Residents, the City or any interests OF THE PRIVATE FOR PROFIT BUSINESSES (business for profit is not a bad thing.. It is what the US was created under a free open market where prices and thus profits are based on Supply and Demand.

    The Residents of any city with organizations supporting the interests of all businesses, or all types (pharmacies, bars, grocery, pot.. I mean legal cannibus, professional service providers.

    A small collective bargaining can be a needed adjustment to make supply, demand and resulting sales a higher profit.

    BUT, WHEN THERE IS AN OPEN MARKET, THE FUNDEMENTAL UNCHANGEABLE BASIS FOR ECONOMICS… Attempting to alter the mater price is always where supply meets demand IS THE PRICE local businesses will always balence out to that point.

    Wanting the American Dream, means making more profit.

    Banding together in a Chamber of Commerce can use political influences (meaning money to elected officials) to unnaturally alter the open free market and artificially move supply and demand (like the current cannabis stores trying to get licensed and opened in weho) by making unfair licensing, zoning or odd rules…

    Gives a devistating blow to the long existing medical Marijuana Shops not getting Licence to keep their now all legal sales of cannibus in favor of fewer shops, stratigicly placed (from wealthy new owners, or collectives of out of city and out of state unknown big operators to WORK FOR CITY BUSINESSES

    But only the increase of profits, higher prices for buyers with fewer and farther away options can alter the fixed Economics.

    I think that example with cannibus in weho was and is an ongoing unfair process.

    Thanks Chambers of Commerce or any such group concerned about a healthy business operation for weho (in our case)

  9. I concur with the support of Larry Block. I have known him personally for about 12 years and have only seen a man that is generous, well-meaning, fearless, and righteous. I understand that these strange times are scary and can make us all act in ways that we otherwise would not. But now more than ever we all need to go out of our ways to take deep breaths and support each other. We’re all in it together.

  10. Everybody is stressed out and this call for civility is needed. Taylor Swift said it best.. haters gonna hate hate hate.

  11. Thanks Keith for reminding us that democracy is supposed to be a market place of ideas. If you can’t be critical, then the market won’t work. While civic discourse should be kept civil, passions often run deep in a close knit community like West Hollywood. If you put yourself in the public eye then you need to expect there will be folks who won’t always agree with you and will often express their disagreement in ways you may find hurtful. We have seen with several long sitting City Council members who find any criticism to be hurtful which has often resulted in closing down or outright manipulation of meaningful discussions of civic issues. The City establishment often comes to the defense of the status quo. We saw this after the City paid $500,0000 to Ian Owens yet the critics of John Duran were treated dismissively. It was not until Duran went on radio and started critiquing his fellow Council member’s sex lives that there was a sudden surge of outrage among the City establishment and its minions. But Keith Kaplan makes an important point: if we want open discussion of civic issues then we can’t be so critical that we are chasing people away from engaging in public debate.

  12. I would like to thank Mr. Kaplan for this op-ed and calling out Mr. Schmidt specifically. Day after day I read his comments and he never has anything positive to add to a topic. He plans to run for the City Council again and take a few votes away from people who really LIKE this City. About Mr. Larry Block, he doesn’t just like West Hollywood, he LOVES this City. He is one of a few people that are extremely civic-minded. He has done more for the people of this town than all of the City Council members combined in my opinion.

  13. Stronger Together: Caring for Citizens, Workers & Community
    That is always Larry’s theme … I regularly chat with Larry on the street and he “always” has the best interest of others. I am glad Larry spoke out … now is the time to appreciate each other and be thankful we have such great contributors to our WeHo community. Wishing everyone good health.

  14. Anyone that stands up for Justice is criticized, even if it is their own version of Justice. Most people are not willing to step out of the shadows and be criticized. Larry Block does do that, and sometimes his message is controversial. The Intent has a deeper message to wake people up from the long slumber of complacency . You do not have to agree with the message or the messenger to understand the validity of the underlying concern. If we want Change we have to be advocates for change and show up in the Community we live.

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