Opinion: White. Male. Privilege. It Was on Display at WeHo’s Planning Commission

John Erickson

White. Male. Privilege.  Unabashed, unapologetic and ugly.  It was on clear display at last Thursday’s Planning Commission election for chair and vice chair of the commission.

Other than presiding over the meeting, the chair of the Commission has no real power. The position of vice chair clearly has less. So, it would seem odd that the Commission would overturn its traditional rotation that was meant to avoid ugly competition over these positions and allow each Commissioner to have a chance at presiding over the meetings.

So it did not make a whole lot of sense when the most recently appointed Planning Commissioner, John Erickson, nominated himself for the position of vice-chair in opposition to Lynn Hoopingarner, who was next in line for that position under the normal rotation.

Commissioner Erickson is a candidate for City Council who seems to have an obsession with collecting titles. He recently joined the board of the local chapter of the ACLU and was until recently president of the Hollywood chapter of the National Organization of Women. Professionally he is director of public affairs at Planned Parenthood, Los Angeles. Apparently he believed that by adding the title of vice chair of the Planning Commission to his collection, that he would be burnishing his political resume.

But for every woman, every person of color, who has been subject to the sharp elbows of entitled white males, whether at the office or the political field, Erickson’s actions smacked of white male privilege.

The fact is that Erickson’s victory was based solely on the votes of his male colleagues; the gender split in the election was glaring and embarrassing. All the men voted for Erickson and all the women voted to preserve the normal rotation by voting for Hoopingarner.

Commissioner and respected neighborhood leader, Hoopingarner is also a highly successful investment advisor in the private sector. Indeed, her professional credentials and experience would appear to be superior to Erickson’s.

This can only lead an objective observer to conclude that sexism and Council politics were the basis of the Planning Commission vote.

The public’s negative reaction to this election is not just based upon a political power play by Erickson and his male cohorts, but the fact that he was so willing to throw his supposed feminist credentials under the bus along with Lynn Hoopingarner in his pursuit of a relatively minor title.

Apparently Erickson’s sense of entitlement justified him knocking a woman out of the normal rotation His complete lack of scruples reflected that it never occurred to him that others might view his actions as sexist and privileged. But then white guys are often oblivious to issues of sexism and privilege, even if they happen to be gay and live in progressive West Hollywood. Apparently working for Planned Parenthood does not immunize you from being completely clueless.

It is unfortunate that Erickson’s immaturity and ambition have so clouded his purported feminist values. Hopefully he will see that this move was impulsive and ill conceived and resign his newly acquired title to make amends. The last thing West Hollywood needs is more Fhony Feminism.


18 Comments
  1. I have not found anything good coming out of the POWERLESS FAUX CITY PLANNING COMMISSION.

    I don’t know the details. Rules are rules and should be followed.

    Aside from “white privilege” we know a taste of power (however powerless and pawns) makes people who never had a titled political position grow to like it the way taking some drugs makes people feel important and powerful.

    I wish I could think of a current political leader as an example of NOT WANTING TO GIVE UP THE POSITION BECAUSE OF THE FEELING OF LEGITIMACY THEY FEEL FOR THE FIRST TIME.

    There must be a current example.. A current inadequate intellectually and faking it his whole life, not wanting to give up his elected position??!

    Give me a sec.. Oh that man baby in the White House. That’s one that is doing it.

  2. Let’s not leave Adam Bass out of this conversation. Only nine months ago, on the very same Planning Commission, it was Adam Bass who nominated and voted FOR, Lynn Hoopingarner for Vice Chair. Then Adam Bass was also nominated and won 4-3 skipping over Lynn in the rotation. Now here we are 9 months later and Lynn was nominated AGAIN for Vice Chair taking 3 votes while Erickson nominated HIMSELF even though he is the most junior member of the commission, with apparently the least amount of knowledge about planning. So, what changed for now, Chair Bass, who voted against his own candidate of last September and yet cast the deciding vote AGAINST Commissioner Hoopingarner this year? Sounds a little like a plan was carried out, doesn’t it? Question: IF the last two votes WERE perhaps planned, WHO was involved and what were they promised? Inquiring minds want to know.

    1. And outgoing Chair Carvalheiro who chose Lynn Hoopingarner for Design Review voted for Erickson. What a troubled, tangled web but that’s how things work in the 5th grade. Time to graduate.

      The real winner? Lynn Hoopingarner who doesn’t need all the additional work while doing a conscientious job.

    2. @Inquiring Mind:

      As I’ve said in previous comments on Wehoville, I’m always happy to chat with anyone about the work of the West Hollywood Planning Commission. If you’d like to chat, my personal email address is adamgbass@yahoo.com – I’m happy to chat. People may not always agree, but it’s always preferable to share ideas directly. If you’re really inquiring, I look forward to hearing from you, or anyone else who is genuinely interested in dialogue.

      1. Here’s a thought Commissioner Bass, why don’t you explain your actions in an open letter directly to the community. I am sure Hank Scott would print it. Or better yet, during next month’s Planning Commission meeting, during Commissioner Comments, you could explain your actions as to why you were the deciding vote for John Erickson. That way you won’t have to have so many “chats”.

        1. Adam Bass all too frequently requests “side bar chats” with folks that actually amount to nothing helpful for the person seeking assistance.

      2. No, Adam Bass, do not denigrate the noble role of citizen participation in debate in the pages of a free press by suggesting that commentary be taken offline in sidebar discussions. Open, honest, sunshine. That’s the beauty of the Fourth Estate. Deal with it. I await your response to the legitimate requests made in these comments.

    3. Erickson got Bass endorsement for his city council race. Adam hopes to run one day himself. Bass so wants to be part of. ‘ the clique’

  3. I see Female Privilege all the time. Aggressive women more often get what they want because “you can’t hit a girl”, so men back off. Yes, Erickson has a big sense of entitlement but people seem to give him what he wants. Who’s fault is that?

  4. White Male Privilege most stop. Thank you very much Mr. Steve Martin for addressing the ongoing issue. They make excuses to continue the abusive behavior, they Blame the Victims, etc.
    They must be held accountable for their deceit and manipulation.

  5. This is not White. Male. Privilege. He simply arrogantly outsmarted everyone who passively let him do it. I’ve seen women do it many times with a bravado that is intimidating.

    I know that “white male privilege” is all the rage right now, but let’s not throw the term around so loosely when it doesn’t necessarily apply.

    1. Outsmarted or bullied?
      Covid-45 ‘outsmarted’ everyone and took the GOP nomination and then the electoral college. Never ever with a majority vote. [except the slam dunk at the convention].
      I think it was a misstep for John. It does smack of resume building. I know when I was collecting Scout badges I’d try and rack up as many as I could. There will be a presidential turn out for this election, not the 27% norm.
      Steve Martin, not totally neutral in this campaign, but who is?, makes some very valid points. End of the day I hope there is a majority of women on the council come 2021. 80% wouldn’t be bad. This is the election to change the old horses. There are no rookies on the council This is the election.

  6. Hopefully the women surrounding John Erickson will realize that they have been used as his rather insidious vehicle to advance his own agenda.

    Women can advance themselves on their own if they learn the ethics of excellence and finesse and apply it to whatever career they choose. Having gangs of women confrontationally assert themselves in the face of what they may perceive as obstacle men is not a pretty picture. Women don’t need to be contrived, used or manipulated by the men they perceive as some type of mentors.

    Be on top of your game, be graceful and be gracious. Lynn Hoopingarner is our immediate example.

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