Two members of the West Hollywood City Council have put on its Monday agenda a proposal that would ban city co-sponsorship of events with organizations that have formally or publicly endorsed or opposed a candidate running for City Council.
The measure, brought forward by Councilmembers John D’Amico and Lauren Meister, was prompted by another proposal on the agenda that would have the city allocate $60,000 to the Coalition for Economic Survival, a housing rights group, that on Sept. 21 endorsed Councilmember John Heilman and John Erickson for election on Nov. 3. That proposal initially was brought forward by Heilman and Mayor Lindsey Horvath, however Heilman dropped his name from the proposal once questions were raised about it.
Heilman is running for a tenth term on the City Council. Erickson is running for the first time and is closely associated with Heilman and with Horvath, who donated $500 to each of their campaigns. There are seven other candidates in the race for two seats, including John Duran, the other incumbent.
City Councilmember John D’Amico said he was concerned about the ethics of a Council member bringing forward a measure to fund an organization that had just endorsed him for re-election. WEHOville reached out to Heilman and Horvath. Heilman said he didn’t see an ethical issue but removed his name from the proposal so as not to create a conflict.
Horvath said the item was something she had been working on with Larry Gross, the executive director, and hadn’t been initiated by Heilman.
“If my colleagues don’t want to support the item because of the organization’s political endorsements, that’s their prerogative,” she said. “But it’s our residents who lose out on the resources and services at a time when they’re most needed.
“We have partnered with Hollywood NOW, EQCA, Victory Fund, CES, Sierra Club, and other organizations over the years that have provided services to our community and hosted events – despite the fact that they endorsed Council candidates including each of the sitting Council members. It’s a shame to think that, when renters are suffering in a global pandemic and economic recession, the city wouldn’t again partner with an organization, with which we have had a long standing relationship, to provide much-needed services because CES decided to endorse someone other than the incumbents.”
Given that CES’s 2018 federal tax return (the most recent one available online) shows it had revenue that year of only $207,921, a $60,000 grant from the City of West Hollywood would be substantial.
A memo accompanying the proposed grant document, which is on the Council’s consent agenda, says it is to provide ” proactive outreach to help tenants know their rights and to provide one-on-one advice and assistance during the COVID-19 emergency and in the recovery period.”
The city already has contracts with several non-profit organizations to provide services to those unable to pay their rent because of the financial impact of COVID-19. They include the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women, which provides rental assistance of up to $3,000 over three months, and the Alliance for Housing & Healing, whose rental assistance program is focused on those ages 55 or older. Also, Bet Tzedek Legal Services has a contract with the city under which it provides legal representation to tenants facing eviction. It hosts virtual clinics three days a week where tenants can talk to attorneys.
The proposed contract with CES would have it make telephone calls or text tenants, make door-to-door visits, send out mailers, and hold meetings at apartment buildings to inform renters of their rights. The agenda memo says that CES would refer tenants with legal issues to Bet Tzedek.
CES’s Larry Gross was a leader in the campaign to put on the ballot a successful proposal for West Hollywood to be incorporated as its own city in 1984. Heilman and former City Councilmember Abbe Land, who Erickson served as a deputy, were former members of the CES steering committee. In a story mentioning its endorsements published in 1992, the Los Angeles Times noted that since the city was formed in 1984, only one person had been elected to the West Hollywood City Council without CES’s endorsement.
CES is an organization that advocates for tenants’ rights and has been especially active in trying overturn state laws that make it possible for landlords to evict tenants from rent-controlled or stabilized buildings. While it is a non-profit organization, it is organized as a 501 (c) 4, which allows it to endorse candidates.
A memo accompanying the proposal from Meister and D’Amico says the proposed policy would “prohibit the city from co-sponsoring events with organizations if the organization, or its political PAC, or any of its board members has formally or publicly endorsed or opposed a Council candidate. This prohibition applies to event co-sponsorships that include monetary funding and/or in-kind support, which may include, but is not limited to, donation of city goods or supplies, City staff support, permission to use the city’s logo on marketing materials, or waiver of city fees. This applies to PACs or their board members, nonprofit organizations or their board members, and nonprofit organizations (or their board members) that are affiliated with PACs.
“Once in effect, this ordinance will prohibit the city from partnering with organizations that play an active role in supporting or opposing a candidate for West Hollywood City Council. This means that organizations that choose to endorse or oppose a candidate in the local elections would not be eligible for co-sponsorships with the city on events and programs. The limitation on co-sponsorships would be in place from the time of the endorsement until nine months after the election date.
“The purpose of this code amendment is to protect against the making or receiving of an endorsement as a quid pro quo for the approval of an event co-sponsorship or financial contribution, or the appearance of such an arrangement. This step will help alleviate the appearance of impropriety.”
Viewing the City Council Meeting
The City Council will have its meeting online at 5:30 p.m. on Monday. Much of its agenda is a carryover from the Oct. 5 meeting, which was cancelled because of issues with the cities digital network, Those wishing to view the meeting can do so beginning at 5:30 p.m. on the city’s website , which is the only official viewing platform for the city’s public meetings. Broadcasts of public meetings can be found on Spectrum Cable Television’s Channel 10 within West Hollywood’s borders. Digital streaming platform viewers can easily find programming by searching for “WeHoTV” within the search functions of the following services. Android TV, Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku and YouTube.
Those who want to comment on matters before the City Council can do so via email by using the form located at www.weho.org/councilagendas by no later than 4 p.m. on Monday. Comments received by then will be forwarded to the City Council and posted on the city’s website as part of the official meeting record.
People also can call in to make a comment over the phone. Those who want to do that are asked to email City Clerk Yvonne Quarker at email@example.com no later than 4 p.m. on Monday to be added to the public speaker list for the meeting. Include your name, the phone number from which you will be calling, and which item you would like to speak on. Then on Monday, dial in ten minutes before the meeting starts. You will be placed on hold until it is your turn to speak. The dial in number is (669) 900-6833. The meeting ID number is 920 1578 8486, then #
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said that the measure being brought forward by City Council members John D’Amico and Lauren Meister would ban the city from funding organizations that have formally or publicly endorsed or opposed a candidate running for City Council. In fact, the measure would bar the city from co-sponsorship of events with organizations that have formally or publicly endorsed or opposed a candidate running for City Council. The story has been updated with that correction.