Opinion: West Hollywood City Hall, It’s Time to Get Back to Work!

The West Hollywood City Council (Photo by Jon Viscott, courtesy of the City of West Hollywood)

West Hollywood City Council, wake up and smell the COVID, the fear and the pain. And then get to work. We are hurting and we need leadership, not just televised meetings, celebrity endorsements, an occasional Facebook post and more apathy wrapped in a rainbow.

“All Retail Businesses, Including Drive-Ins, Can Reopen So Long As They Observe Proper Protocols,” said a headline yesterday, and I was elated to read this. It is good news and necessary to ease tensions as the temperatures rise.

But, sadly, there is no uniform policy for states, counties and cities to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are no longer a “United” States but a cacophony of municipalities with no cohesive or coordinated governance. We must re-open out of necessity, but unfortunately, there is little governance and no protocols in place to maintain the new rules for the new order. The new normal.

We Need More Leadership in Local Government, Too!

West Hollywood should have a recovery task force in place, especially given that three months have passed and already so much valuable time has been lost without making plans for a recovery and ensuring that we keep our community safe.

For example, while the city “contracts out” to regulate parking restrictions and write parking tickets, we do not have any protocols set up to enforce health and safety measures, like wearing masks, social distancing, sneeze cards at counters and cashier stations, capacity and crowd control, etc.

You are guaranteed to get a parking ticket if you’re parking in a loading zone in the city of WeHo, but there is no penalty or enforcement if you’re standing one foot away from another patron in a crowded retail store.

The city has not hired or trained additional code compliance officers to enforce COVID-19 safety measures, and we don’t have our own health department. So again, like much of everything else when it comes to safety, we pass the buck and kick the can down the road.

We are a city that relies on tourism to fuel our local economy and, as a result of the pandemic, we are going to lose a huge proportion of that revenue for at least a year. How are we planning to control what remains of our economy?

What happens when and if our bars, restaurants and clubs reopen? Do we simply simply write a glib post on Facebook condemning the revelers for “poor judgment,” further widening the divide among us by assigning the label of “Democrat” or “Republican” as the party responsible for bad behavior?

It is absurd to rely on the “honor system” or expect “good judgment” to prevail. Los Angeles County opened beaches, but did not limit or close down half the beach parking lots or deploy resources like the National Guard to ensure safety practices were followed. Good Government doesn’t just mean making the rules, it means enforcing those rules. We need more fire marshals enforcing occupancy regulations, more trained health and code compliance inspectors, and yes, more enforcement officers to issue citations with monetary fines when safety laws are violated.

And are our businesses ready to open? I messaged two prominent and well-respected local business leaders and community activists when I read the news that retail businesses could re-open today. One responded: “I saw this. WeHo is not ready as my counters are not safe. Thumbs up their butts.” The other response: “What’s sad is that the Chamber of Commerce has had weekly meetings, and we did discuss opening procedures but seems like a failure to communicate- with just a little booklet dropped off last week to prepare for today.”

West Hollywood City Council, Where Are You?

We must get back to work, out to restaurants, back to sitting in a Starbucks, back to the gym holding hands on a date, back to looking for the promise of a first kiss and a hook up without fear of death. Back to life. But we cannot do it without leadership, compassion and a call to action in government.

West Hollywood… Wake up and smell the COVID, then get past it and get to work on governing, which means getting our city open as quickly and safely as possible, while there is still something left to open.

The reality is we have a part-time City Council with most members working full-time jobs away from their elected seats and responsibilities. We need full-time leadership and a working city government for West Hollywood to survive and someday thrive again. City Hall must re-open with human beings working and wearing masks, with hand sanitizer and not just recorded messages but with real people answering the phones and offering help, guidance and a plan for getting back to living again.

I miss everything, even the traffic and I want to see my community healthy and optimistic.

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Wake up City
Wake up City
4 months ago

You seem to be asking the “Government” to be Daddy. You also don’t like our form of Government. We have had a part-time City Council since the City’s inception. Now all of a sudden, you speak up against it? It is up to individual business owners to get their businesses up to speed ready to open, not the City Council. It is up to the business owners to limit the number of people allowed inside their businesses to avoid overcrowding. Do the business owners own the business or does the City? See my point? You are blaming the wrong people.… Read more »

Observer
Observer
4 months ago

The Council has decided to err on the side of great caution. We are still in the forest and can’t see the trees, so to speak. We have no idea where this is going to wind up, let alone the probable and devastating impact on our residents and businesses. I’d rather be safe than sorry, so to speak. That said, it has been a challenge as a Senior Citizen to deal with many restrictions, especially for my age group. What disturbs me is that there has been the incessant exhortations for people 65 and over to stay at home, venturing… Read more »

Peterman
Peterman
4 months ago

So let’s have the mayor comment on this right here.

Franki
4 months ago

I don’t usually comment as I’m a professional writer too in various publications and in the midst of producing large virtual event with a non profit and as a part of Weho initially since 1996, I want to thank you Marco and Henry the editor. You truly nailed it in this article. It takes courage to look beyond the fancy celebrity endorsements and trendy cool fame of Weho leaders and you did it. You wrote about the truth of our community and the truth that me and JFS and many others see daily as also donated community Advocate groups. I… Read more »

Robert Bryant
Robert Bryant
4 months ago

Seriously West Hollywood is notorious for leading. We now need to lead. Marco’s article speaks the truth. Where is our leader ship? Where is West Hollywood?

TomSmart
TomSmart
4 months ago

The city needs to open the dog parks too so our little ones can get the exercise and socialization they so desperately need. Los Angeles has opened all of their dog parks already. Laurel Canyon park is the next closest dog park but there are problems with rattlesnakes there and one dog was killed and another one was injured. If the city is concerned with social distance, they can put one of their recreation staffers at the parks to monitor. The dog parks at WEHO park were not built large enough for the local dog population.

Randy
Randy
4 months ago
Reply to  TomSmart

I agree that a monitor is needed. Just like they are doing at Runyon. Poinsettia Park has been open for weeks, the dog park portion, and I run by there, and see dozens of people within less than 6 feet, mostly not wearing masks. And that’s a lot bigger space. It would be nice if people would exercise common sense, and we would not have to have hall monitors.

M Cox
M Cox
4 months ago
Reply to  TomSmart

Just open the parks and the dog parks and let adults decide how they want to interact. We don’t need monitors and there was never a reason to close these facilities in the first place.

Dude Kembro
4 months ago

We definitely do not need more overpolicing and regressive taxes on the underprivileged in the form of ticketing. Initiating confrontations with cops and take money from the relatively poor’ is not the solution to every transgression.

The other ideas here are solid.

Bridget Baker
Bridget Baker
4 months ago

Give ‘em hell, Marco!

Empathy is Good
Empathy is Good
4 months ago

“Wake up and smell the COVID, then get past it.”

Really? 100,000 Americans dead, but hey… I want my Starbucks and hook-ups.

Franki Jacobs
4 months ago

Well said…hook ups and hang outs in the bars are not essential except in Weho

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
4 months ago

Thanks Marco! What we have seen the last several weeks are the limits of Zoom Democracy. It is pretty apparent that a lot is missed when the live interaction between the Council and the public is missing. While it is certainly convenient to simply post your comments on line to be read at City Council meetings, the interpersonal impact is missing and after a while it is difficult to keep the Council’s attention even when they are tying to be engaged. During live meetings when one person makes a public comment that often influences the comments of those who follow,… Read more »

Larry Block
Larry Block
4 months ago

a few years back the council passed new protocols for our city hall reception area. The receptionists would be more experienced and route phone calls and log the resident or other caller needs. This was going to help city staff weigh the needs and demands of the public. For the last few months during this pandemic when residents have the most needs this function has been disabled and residents can only leave a message in a mailbox. I don’t know why the calls could not be forwarded to a live staff member, after all, zero layoffs, everybody at the city… Read more »

Franki Jacobs
4 months ago
Reply to  Larry Block

Thanx Larry, there are so many I personally know very upset how the city communication line and emails are just ignored. Seniors in the community are not even replied to and once they return, this trend will remain. Ignoring communication equals to “it does not matter and out city staff can ignore it as we still get paid.” I like your strength Larry, we are behind your City Council growth as you have always been down to earth, fully approachable, and most importantly you listen and you respect everyone. We need some teamwork in our community that lacks connection in… Read more »

Vigilant
Vigilant
4 months ago

Excellent observations. As a resident adjacent to the border of Los Angeles and the district of Councilman David Ryu, I received a daily email with vital information and guidance to myriad issues. It was always well laid out, easy to access and digest. He was and is clearly in touch with his constituents. Clearly not the case in West Hollywood where we appear to be missing a source skilled in logistics, problem solving and fluent communication. Our lives and livelihood should not be dependent upon part time hobbyists. Do we need an earthquake on top of a pandemic for folks… Read more »

Manny
Manny
4 months ago
Reply to  Vigilant

What about the squalor, filth and inhuman street life conditions in the middle of a pandemic that Councilman Ryu continues to allow to get worse on Sycamore, Romaine and Highland?