Opinion: I’m Ready to Serve

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an op-ed written by a candidate in the Nov. 3 election for one of two seats on the West Hollywood City Council. WEHOville has invited each of the nine candidates to submit up to two op-eds to explain to West Hollywood residents his or her stand on local issues .

It was the summer of 2010, our city and the world were crawling out of the financial crisis. The BlockParty WeHo had opened the previous October 2009 at the old Different Light Bookstore. The patch over my left eye had just been removed after six months of surgeries. I was learning how to cope w permanent blindness in my left eye, without a car, low on funds, and a new store that was getting off to a slow start.

A young man introduced himself to me outside the shop. “Hi, I’m John D’Amico and I am running for West Hollywood City Council. Do you have a few minutes to talk?” I shook his hand, let him speak, and then said, “Thanks, but I don’t want to get involved.”

City Councilmember Abbe Land cut the ribbon on our grand opening with my late sister. Lindsey Horvath was the first person to peek inside my shop as we were getting ready to open. “Whats going on here?” she asked. John Heilman was the old master. I recalled meeting John Heilman in 1985 at my shop Oscar’s Wilde, which was at the Bottega Louie location. And John Duran and I shared a friend who found himself in recovery.

So, “I didn’t want to get involved.”

The 2011 campaign began, but it wasn’t until early March when I noticed a “Heilman, Horvath, Land” sign. They had a “slate” ganging up against D’Amico. The power wanted to solidify its power. It bothered me. I ran to Koontz Hardware for neon yellow paint and in big letters painted VOTE D’AMICO on the store windows. That is the point of inflection when “I got involved” to protect the independence of our City Council.

Almost ten years later it’s the same “slate” with protégé John Erickson, who was Land’s Council deputy, who is Heilman’s direct appointee to the Planning Commission and who has described Horvath as his “North Star.” Instead of Heilman, Horvath, Land, its Heilman, Horvath, Erickson. The same “clique.”We really do need a City Council that is independent and not a clique of best friends with the same perspectives.

Fast forward 10 years and: “Hi, I’m Larry Block, and I’m running for West Hollywood City Council.”

I’ve grown up over these past ten years in front of many of you. There was the time when Heilman would not shake D’Amico’s hand during his first two years in office. I took to the public comment podium to ask for “a City Council that works together and reasons with each other,” challenging Heilman to shake D’Amico’s hand. There was the fight for the rainbow flag on City Hall, which was ordered down by John Duran. “Our Pride is Not a Season” on Youtube is the speech of my life. It was a point of inflection to honor the history of the LGBTQ community in West Hollywood. My last testament asks for the West Hollywood City Flag to be placed next to me. How many people can say they helped to create a city flag in their lifetime>.

There was the “Historic Boystown” initiative that grew into the rainbow crosswalks. Then the murders at 939 N Palm and my leading the candlelight vigil calling for new rules for the way police enter our residential buildings. Not much has changed — ask Breonna Taylor.

It was my knock on a neighbor’s door to ask him to write the language for term limits that is bringing a healthy rotation to our local city government. My naïve perspective that residents can serve their community with heart better than politicians. We passed Measure C, the term limits measure, in 2013, and later Heilman lost to Meister and now is serving his term limit in Jeffrey Prang’s seat. I want to finish the job I started and usher in the next generation. Term Limits is a vision, not just a law. There’s more work to do.

There was the incredible long battle to update our crosswalks after multiple deaths. I founded Cross Safe WeHo, and we met and marched until we got on the agenda and the City Council allotted money for new crosswalk updates. Six months later the Council-approved measures were still sitting in a city staffers’ folder, not sent out to bid. I asked and questioned while the Council was sleeping. I sat with staff, and we re-aligned Santa Monica Boulevard and presented these ideas to the Transportation Commission and got the City Council’s approval. Finally the ideas have been implemented. Our traffic flows better and our streets are safer.

There was my “masks for residents” drive when the pandemic hit. The City Council waited for instructions from the county, but I got masks to seniors and disabled folks to protect them from community spread of COVID-19. I will bring a sense of urgency to City Hall. I founded a non-profit WeHo Wish only to help West Hollywood residents in need with things that fall through state and local service providers.

Yes. It has been a packed ten years.

I’ve also had the honor of serving on the Disability Advisory Board in 2013-2014, elected chair after my first year, and we created the Disability Health Fair that brings free flu shots and other health screenings to residents. And after just a year on the Public Facilities Commission I was elected chair by my colleagues. I’ve never been a Vice Chair. Each time I hit the ground running. As the 2019-2020 chair of the Public Facilities Commission I initiated the Green City Awards and it was approved by council in January 2020 and we just presented our first Green City Awards this past month. Together we will build a greener, more sustainable city. Together we will take care of our disabled and senior citizens. I like to offer new ideas and be for things. I was so honored to receive the Chamber of Commerce’s Creative City Business Award in 2019. We need a creative council person. I have survived and navigated a small business in West Hollywood for 11 years. I want to bring that experience to the city council.

This Part 1 of my op-ed is to share my experiences. Part 2 will follow with ideas to protect our small businesses, rebuild our community village, offer affordable housing opportunities for West Hollywood residents though the creation of co-ops that turns renters into stakeholders, advance our aging in place initiatives and re-invent the promise of West Hollywood as the beacon of hope.

And win or lose I’m not giving up on WeHo. We have a job to do, all of us together, to move this city forward.

My track record and activism is focused on West Hollywood. I’m running a resident-centric campaign with no money from developers and/or union support. I have a history of getting things done. Some candidates will tell you what they will do because they can’t speak of things they have done. I’m ready to serve.

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MICHAELz
MICHAELz
1 month ago

He’s what the council needs…..He’s what West Hollywood
needs….VOTE LARRY BLOCK….VOTE LARRY BLOCK…

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
1 month ago

One might not always agree with Larry’s brash style or his positions on some issues, but it is indisputable fact that he gets things done and clearly cares about the city and its residents. I believe him when his says Think Local. I doubt that he has his sights on Sacramento or Washington as others who are simply on a step and use WeHo as their political playground, and the consent calendar as their personal op-ed page for issues around the globe. It is sad to read the horsepucky in some of the comments which criticize (inaccurately) Larry’s shop as… Read more »

Geoffrey Buck
Geoffrey Buck
1 month ago

Larry has worked hard over the years to make Weho a better place. He is a businessman and has the experience we need to help get West Hollywood back on its feet due to the lockdown and the changing economy. He will make a good council person. He has my vote.

Stephen Warne
Stephen Warne
1 month ago

I read WehoVille and other local sources regularly, and enjoy seeing Mr. Block’s comments on articles, input in stories, and work done in the community. Clearly, this individual participates in his community and does a great job at working towards a better West Hollywood. Local elections may not seem like life or death votes, but when you see the direction the economy has been heading this last few years, this election certainly seems important. I encourage those on the fence to consider the actions and work Larry Block has done for others, and vote for him.

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
1 month ago

Larry seems like a good guy……but not sure an owner of a sex shop is the best person for a City Council seat.

Bradley
Bradley
1 month ago
Reply to  Ham Shipey

While I no longer live in West Hollywood we often go to Santa Monica on weekends with friends or when my mother comes to town. My mom loves the Block Party store. There are no other stores with the variety of products they offer. There is a sex shop Chi Chi LaRue a few doors away. While I hope they survive and wish that I could vote in weho it seems like some want to tear down the only place left that is surviving and represents all of us in the gay community.

Anonymous
1 month ago

“Gay” Clothing store “Sex Shop” Listen to Yourselves, before you speak and ask why there is discrimination at all. Why people cant get together or work together. The Sign in Larrys Picture says it all and In my Residency in This city and involvement at public meetings it was Larry that was and is always there. A kind active heart that would go to the extent of picking people up and taking them home so they can particicpate. You dont personally have to like a man or the his “jingles and rhymes” to know if he will make a difference… Read more »

John Daniel Harrington-Tyrell
John Daniel Harrington-Tyrell
1 month ago

Larry is a business owner and a member of the community that speaks to the truth of the community that he inhabits, I don’t see him pandering to outside interests. I think his tactics may be a little indulgent but he has gotten your attention, and that is the point. I don’t see him as a person paralyzed by complacency he deserves a chance not condemnation

Nate
Nate
1 month ago

Larry Block has my vote. He actually acknowledges the negative impact that the homeless is having on our city because he sees it first hand as a shop owner.

:dpb
:dpb
1 month ago

I’m voting for Larry Block.

Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak
1 month ago

This alliance of Erickson and Horvath is very telling. Horvath was a Republican until she found she could climb the ladder to power better as a Democrat in W. Hollywood, so she switched. Sepi plays the victim when she thinks she can get something out of it and I resent that.

I’m going with Block!

JHS
JHS
1 month ago

Larry Block been involved in citizen participation in the city for a decade
and that participation and it’s results speak to the sincere love for the
city and it’s residents, and a willingness to speak truth to power. He gets things done ! This is what we need to shake up the entrenched power
structure that submits it’s will to big money and huge developements.

Nazanin Shahi
Nazanin Shahi
1 month ago

I’m happy to see Larry Block trying to rise above the fray and appear calm, serious, and stable. Because often when I see him at City Council, he comes off unhinged, with strange little songs, jingles and rhymes, or frantic and frenetic rants. I guess he’s trying to be on his best behavior until Election Day. I would never trust my vote with someone whose behavior I can’t trust day to day or moment to moment. The City Council needs consistent and sober leadership, and I’m sorry, a crazed sex shop owner is just a different version of Duran. Nope,… Read more »

Tom Smart
Tom Smart
1 month ago
Reply to  Nazanin Shahi

EXACTLY, totally concur.

greeneyedboy
greeneyedboy
1 month ago
Reply to  Nazanin Shahi

How does someone owning an apparel shop = sexual abuse/sexual misconduct?

How does that even COME CLOSE to Duran?