Opinion: Navid Afkari? Dear Mayor, What About Alex Villanueva?

Mayor Lindsey Horvath and Sheriff Alex Villanueva

It would be laughable, if it weren’t so disturbing.

On the West Hollywood City Council’s Monday agenda is an item brought forth by Mayor Lindsey Horvath that asks that the city condemn the execution by the Iranian government of Navid Afkari, a popular wrestler convicted of murdering another man who worked for Iran’s government water and sewage department. (Horvath’s request that the Council condemn Lithuania’s government over its shaping of the story about its role in the Holocaust was passed by the Council on Aug. 3).

On that very same day that Afkari was executed 7,809 miles away in the Iranian city of Shiraz, five Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies were videoed 21 miles away as they pushed to the ground and handcuffed a reporter for KPCC who was covering a protest outside St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood. Criticism of that incident by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and State Sen. Holly J. Mitchell led to Sheriff Alex Villanueva spewing out a series of lies about the incident, lies that have been called out by LAist.com and the Los Angeles Times.

But no statement yet from the Mayor of West Hollywood.

Josie Huang of KPCC being pushed to the ground and handcuffed while covering a demonstration.

Then on Tuesday, two members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors — Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas — joined Civilian Oversight Commission member Robert Bonner in demanding that Villanueva resign. (Kuehl’s district includes West Hollywood). It was the latest condemnation of a Sheriff who, since taking office in 2018, has worked to dismantle reforms put in place by his predecessor, Jim McDonnell, who has re-instated deputies fired for violent and other bad behavior, who has refused to comply with subpoenas from the Civilian Oversight Commission, who has been less than transparent about the killing by deputies in June of 18-year-old Andres Guardado, or the killing by deputies earlier this month of a Black man who was stopped for riding his bike in the wrong direction. He is the Sheriff with whose department the City of West Hollywood has a $20 million a year contract for public safety services.

But no statement yet from the Mayor of West Hollywood.

Readers of WEHOville’s earlier editorial — “Opinion: Lithuania. Yuhan, China. Donald Trump. But What About Alex Villanueva?” — may wonder why I am bringing this issue up again. (And yes, I’m certain it will lead some elected officials to demand that the City of West Hollywood stop advertising with WEHOville. No worries, we’re doing fine.) But I think the more appropriate question is: Why is the Mayor of West Hollywood still not addressing the issue?

Horvath says she is working with the Contract Cities Association of California, where she serves as president, to address law enforcement reform issues. I’m hopeful that that quiet, behind-the-scenes series of discussions has an impact a few years from now. But what about today? What about speaking up and out now about the man who now symbolizes the issues that have led to an increase in public distrust of law enforcement? A man who in so many ways makes one think of Donald Trump.

Association of Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff’s endorsement of Lindsey Horvath

We know that Mayor Horvath has bigger political aspirations. And in Los Angeles County, taking a stand against Villanueva will upset the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, the powerful union that helped Villanueva defeat McDonnell and whose support is considered important by ambitious politicians (Councilmember John Duran is bragging that he got its endorsement for the upcoming election. Horvath got its support in the 2019 election). I’m also sure there are members of the affluent Persian community in Southern California who will appreciate Horvath’s stand on the execution of Navid Afkari.

But at the moment, Lindsey Horvath is the Mayor of West Hollywood. Her rumored plan to run for Sheila Kuehl’s seat as L.A. County Supervisor for the 3rd District in 2022 is still a few years away.

Let me be clear. I am not arguing that members of the West Hollywood City Council should vote against Horvath’s proposal to condemn Iran over the execution of that popular wrestler (after all, I don’t know whether he really killed that water and sewage worker or not).

But I would suggest that City Council members who really believe they should focus on our community and its issues abstain from voting on Item 2Q.  And I’d also recommend that anyone with the guts to do it actually ask that a resolution condemning Villanueva’s behavior be put on the next City Council agenda.

But I am not holding my breath.

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West
West
1 month ago

As other posters have rightfully pointed out, a declaration in opposition to the deadly sanctions and travel restrictions against the Iranian people would have meaning. Typical for the war mongering political class to weaponize high profile human rights violations while the mass death toll of US sanctions is ignored.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago

Afkari was subjected to a kangaroo court and his death is tragic and a travesty of justice. But as much as we want our local leaders to act globally we also want them to have the courage to act locally, in this case to demand the resignation of Sheriff Alex Villanueva. The Sheriff was elected by a coalition of immigrant rights activists and “woke” progressives who unseated Jim McDonnell, who was actually making progress in reforming the Sheriff’s Department. We now see that Villanueva is a reactionary rather than a reformer and we need our local leaders to have the… Read more »

Pedro Baptista
Pedro Baptista
1 month ago

Well at least she must have brass b..ls to take all these comments!

David Lee
David Lee
1 month ago

(page 2 of 2) We should be so lucky for the leadership and foresight of Mayor Horvath calling attention to a country that ignored the IOC, nevermind the athlete who was coerced to confess & killed to be silenced. Martin Niemoller’s poem, “First They Came” which ends with, “Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” Yes, ask the City Council to condemn local area acts of violence, but let’s not conflate the message and impact that Mayor Horvath has brought forth about an international miscarriage of justice that we privileged Americans take for… Read more »

Jay
Jay
1 month ago
Reply to  David Lee

David-

You know not of what you speak when you insinuate that ‘Americans being shot by police’ is a new, expedient, concern of Hank’s and other commenters, of which I am one.

The most cursory review of Hank’s columns dating back years, as well as previous comments by others including myself, will reveal a longstanding concern regarding unjustified law enforcement shootings.

David Lee
David Lee
1 month ago
Reply to  Jay

Jay & Hank, Respect that Hank’s columns & other commentees have addressed a longstanding concern regarding unjustified law enforcement shootings. Hank would you ever consider acting for any of the suggestions below: 1) Creating a panel of all Black journalists to discuss how news is reported through a Black focused lens vs other journalistic lens. Hank, perhaps you could moderate? 2) Would you consider doing an article to recognize any of your Black staff writers? 3) Amongst your journalist & literary friends in WeHo, are you able to identify & recommend a future WeHo Laureate who is Black? 4) How… Read more »

Jay
Jay
1 month ago
Reply to  David Lee

David and Hank-

May your constructive dialogue provide a template and inspiration for others.

Thank you both.

Mosadeg
Mosadeg
1 month ago
Reply to  David Lee

It’s appreciated that you and our Mayor are concerned about someone that was executed in a country that is oceans away and on the news for 42 years of bloodshed by a radical religious government that the amazing cultured Iranian people have had to deal with as they feel the pain caused by the sanctions in their daily lives and are banned to travel here to visit their love ones even for a few days or as they face end of life situations that require family members to see each other for the last good-bye. Wouldn’t it be better if… Read more »

Mosadeg
Mosadeg
1 month ago
Reply to  David Lee

Let’s ask our city council how this topic became a priority and if the tax payers and residents of West Hollywood wanted this as a focus at a time when our ciry needs attention with people here getting killed daily. I just looked at the link in your post and it appears a committee spent hours on the process and the form. I happen to get alerts on citizen app and hear helicopters flying over. Is that on the agenda I wonder? Our residents are given two minutes to dial in and voice their concerns. Shouldn’t we expand that to… Read more »

Jay
Jay
1 month ago
Reply to  Mosadeg

Hi Mosadeg-

Compliments on the thoughtfulness of your reply and well said!

David Lee
David Lee
1 month ago

West Hollywood is a city that is visited by multiple races and ethnicities. The City is also internationally known for its LGBTQ affirming community. Please re-read the Staff Report again: https://weho.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=&event_id=1211&meta_id=193263 . The individual who was killed began receiving support from numerous international communities & organizations, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Since 2010 the WeHo Sports Festival (WSF) is an event that has grown and gained momentum especially in the advent of the Olympics being announced for 2028. WSF’s mission is: “To create a premier sports festival that unites athletes and spectators and promotes fair play. To encourage and… Read more »

Vigilant
Vigilant
1 month ago

Unfortunately we have a Mayor of limited scope. Whatever diligence she has is limited to the upwardly mobile path she has perfected by superficially connecting with others outside her immediate sphere. Mayor Horvath became the show pony of Councilmember’s Land and Heilman giving her a political vault bypassing the train wheels phase whereby she proceeded to collect endorsements of others who presumed she would parrot their cause. So busy parroting, she never learned the essentials of her own community. Now the Mayor has chosen her own show pony in John Erickson who likewise is oblivious to the essentials of his… Read more »

Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris
1 month ago
Reply to  Vigilant

Hear, hear!

:dpb
:dpb
1 month ago

Once again, completely out of touch.

Peter Buckley
Peter Buckley
1 month ago

Not sure what her agenda is, but let’s focus on getting our WeHo back up and running.

Last edited 1 month ago by Peter Buckley
A disappointed resident/ victim of a recent crime
A disappointed resident/ victim of a recent crime
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Buckley

Seriously. If she cares about an execution in Iran it’s obvious she is clueless and must not realize the young talented kids there are being limited by Trump’s sanctions and travel ban that limits their dream of wanting to reach the stars and contribute to the society by science and education but then again it is clear that she has been ignoring her own city as a leader and does not connect with residents or return calls to address transparency concerns since it may affect her own interests in a negative way as she self promotes full time and works… Read more »

A disappointed resident/ victim of a recent crime
A disappointed resident/ victim of a recent crime
1 month ago

Very disappointing to see this post and face the reality of what is happening in our beautiful city Why is our mayor focused on Iran when I can’t even get her attention to help me with transparency in the city and the Sheriff Station ???? Where is my tax dollar going? She is quick to point out that the Mayor role is a halftime responsibility and that she has a full time job. Now I see her full-tine job is to put a man that was executed in Iran over 7000 miles away on the agenda For Monday???? To get… Read more »

Tom Smart
Tom Smart
1 month ago

Oh SNAP. Yes Ms Horvath, awaiting a response. Nice piece Henry!

Kris Hough
Kris Hough
1 month ago

Like Trump, Villanueva has no moral compunction whatsoever for his lack of ethics. Trump gets away with it because of complicit Republicans in Congress who provide no checks and balances. Villanueva gets away with it because of people like Horvath and other West Hollywood city council members who remain silent while overseeing a department that their taxpaying constituents are funding to the tune of $20 million a year. Horvath isn’t up for re-election this fall .. but two other incumbents are. Voters should remember the dysfunction when it’s time to fill out the ballot.

Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris
1 month ago

“Mayor” Lindsey Horvath has no shame. She puts her own political ambitions and branding before her service to this city. Thank you, Hank Scott, for writing this timely piece and asking these questions that others are not or are too afraid to ask! Horvath has remained dead silent on issues with our inept and arrogant Sheriff and the acts of the department he oversees. Her silence speaks volumes. Yet she condones and even oversees illegal activity on Santa Monica Blvd. with the painting of a flag during protests? And remember, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party pushed this guy over… Read more »