I’d like to start with a few thank you’s:
–City staff, who worked so hard to make tonight possible. I hear from every city and association we work with just how impressive our staff is at getting the job done – and making people feel cared for in the process – and just want you to know how much you’re appreciated. A special word of thanks to our city manager, Paul Arevalo, whose experience and expertise are helping us navigate this crisis better than most. Thank you.
–To my friends who made tonight’s meeting so special:
- Rumi – thank you for reminding us how important it is to let young people lead. Your daddies are so proud of you, and so am I.
- Pete – you have used your voice and your platform to show what a world can look like where there’s room for everyone, and where everyone belongs. Thank you. And you’re always welcome here in West Hollywood.
- Mayor Friedman and Councilmember Gold, thank you for being friends AND neighbors, in that order. I look forward to continuing our work together.
- Supervisor Hahn and Councilmember Buscaino, thank you for your support and friendship, across borders, for all our shared interests. So grateful for you both.
–Thank you to Chely and Jane and V for being part of tonight’s ceremony. Whether it’s topping music charts and leading the way as one of the first openly LGBT country stars; or putting the nation on notice about the urgent need for action on climate change, sexism, racism, and justice reform; or waking up the world to the atrocities perpetrated against women and girls, you have all inspired us to use our voices for change. I treasure your friendships, I’m listening, and I am so proud to walk with you on this journey. Thank you for holding my feet to the fire.
–And to DJ Asha, thank you for filling our world – and tonight’s meeting – with music. I hope everyone will join in the second Zoom meeting tonight, with guest appearances from Barbie’s Addiction, Cake Moss and Allusia. Now, more than ever, we need to feel the love that’s around us, to hold space for each other, and to bring joy to each other. Thanks to you all for helping us stay in touch with that Pride we celebrate as a community, the Pride we hold with us each day of the year.
Stepping into the mayoral role during this time of crisis is both a privilege and a responsibility that I take very seriously. My experience serving as your council member has made me better prepared this time around for the routine responsibilities, but nothing could ever truly prepare us for everything that we’ve been experiencing these past couple of months. Personally, I find myself listening more, asking more questions, and letting experts, data, and science inform the choices I’ve been making. I am grateful to have a close circle for personal support and a broad network of resources to bring to bear for our community. Thank you to everyone in those circles, especially my family and friends who carry me through.
One person in both circles is our outgoing mayor, John D’Amico. Your strong and steady, even and shiny leadership has weathered plenty of crisis in your term, and our community is better for the ways you’ve steered us. And you even made time to join in the Contract Cities Zoom installation meeting this weekend, thank you! I appreciate the ways you’ve reached out and worked with me. Our community expects us to collaborate, and I look forward to following your example.
I consider myself blessed to have as my co-pilot the person who knows our city best. Thank you, John Heilman, for stepping up to serve another term as mayor pro tempore. Together with Councilmembers Lauren Meister and John Duran, we will continue to work hard to support our residents, our workers, our business community, our guests – the people who have made West Hollywood a city we are proud to call our home.
It’s no secret that we will need to create a new normal in response to COVID-19 emergency. Some things we took for granted we now have to take very seriously. We need to be methodical in how we reopen West Hollywood and make sure we aren’t creating more problems than we’re solving. That’s one reason why I’ve been working with LASD and our Strategic Initiatives Division to develop a pilot program that more aggressively addresses the combination of need related to homelessness + COVID-19. The experience of homelessness in LA County has only grown as people have lost work, jeopardizing their housing and way of life, and West Hollywood is feeling the impact. Additionally, the top three areas of need for which residents call into City Hall are transportation; food security and access; and housing issues. We need to put people in need at the center of our work and pass a budget that reflects these priorities. We must do more, and I am grateful that we are trying new strategies, which have been effective in other places, to connect people with the services and support they need. It is simply inhumane to turn our backs on each other.
We must stay true to our core values. The ability to create a new normal is already in our DNA. Respect and support for people; responsiveness to the public; and public safety are lenses through which we are seeing our world in a whole new way today. West Hollywood is the best example of resilience. On the journey to cityhood, every “no” or “that’s not possible” fueled our fight. We dug deep. We were spirited. And we showed L.A. County – and the world – what we are made of. We must know our history – and learn from it. One way to do that is establishing West Hollywood Day on November 29, with formal recognition of the journey people in our community took to define and protect our community and way of life. I had hoped that a reception today would’ve been an opportunity to collect memorabilia, photos, and artifacts – but here we are virtually! While you’re home, if you are able, please take a moment to set aside whatever you think is reflective of the community’s journey to becoming the City of West Hollywood. More to come on that later.
We are artists and inventors. Innovation and creativity in this new era will be essential. How do we improve work environments or build connected community in spite of physical distance? What lessons have we learned about our impact on the environment in our old way of life, and what can we do differently as we’re starting back up? In discussing our State of the City this year, our staff and the Chamber are working together to create a virtual event, making it more accessible to the community while keeping people safe. As we rebuild our economy & promote economic development, we must hold sincere gratitude for our frontline workers who have kept us safe, fed, and cared for. We must support people who are out of work getting back to their jobs in a safe way; ensure that businessowners have the tools to safely reopen; and incentivize people to see West Hollywood as their top choice to safely rest, relax, and return to enjoying time together. Not all ideas are going to come from City Hall – in fact, they shouldn’t. We need you to help us rebuild.
As we tackle this crisis, we cannot forget who we are and where we came from. We must honor the centennial of women’s suffrage and protect our ability to vote, which is so critically important in this election year. We must celebrate our LGBTQ+ community and make visible our seniors and older adults who may be living in isolation because of county orders. We must embrace our Russian- and Spanish-speaking communities to make sure all feel welcome and supported.
YOU have a very important role to play in taking on this crisis. Many of us sit in a place of privilege – because we have employment or housing, because we’re white or speak English, because we have a network of support to turn to – so it is our responsibility to use our power to help those most at risk. I recently read a story about a UK railworker who died from COVID-19 after being spat on by an angry patron. This cannot be who we become. We cannot let our frustrations or fears get the best of us. Respecting people’s space, as well as the guidelines L..A County Health Department has in place, will help us get back to being in person with one another as soon as possible.
People are experiencing struggles we may never know or see. Now more than ever, we have to be gentle, be compassionate, and really consider the needs of one another. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Mayor. I’m sending you lots of love and virtual hugs to get you through to the time where we can be together again in person.