Opinion: It’s Time to Stop the Scandals and Pay-to-Play in West Hollywood

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 .

Vote the Incumbents Out!

Ibsen first said, “A thousand words leave not the same deep impression as does a single deed.” The original quote was plagiarized and paraphrased into what we know now, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” I’ve been running a campaign ad with a picture of a Godfather-esque John Heilman pulling the strings that control West Hollywood politicians. This graphic is not intended to mock or malign but convey what most West Hollywood insiders know about how our city government has been run for nearly 40 years.

Hopefully, voters will “get the picture” and not re-elect John Duran to another term on City Council. The man John Heilman is about to cut loose in the picture in my ad was the cause of a Council deputy sex scandal costing WeHo nearly $1 million and was formally censured as Mayor after sexual harassment allegations that got him thrown off of the board and out of the Gay Men’s Chorus of LA. We don’t need elected officials who consider offering sex, talking sex, and marginalizing people by excusing it as business as usual, in West Hollywood.

John Heilman has maintained a stranglehold on local government with a vice-like grip on the West Hollywood City Council, stacking the deck to control the majority vote and direct the city manager to do his bidding for nearly 40 years.

In 2009, West Hollywood City Council members led by John Heilman decided to stack the Council and eschew the most basic progressive principles: a democratic election. Refusing to let West Hollywood’s voters elect a council member to fill the seat left open by the death of Sal Guarriello, they chose to handpick by “consensus” the then 26-year-old Lindsey Horvath, who had lived in West Hollywood for only 18 months. Horvath was close to Heilman and Land, and votes for the $70 million new library and on the Tara, and Plummer Park issues were coming up. Get the picture?

Scandals, pay-to-play, and coverups became standard operating procedures in our city, which was initially founded on renters’ rights and diversity. Hence, it was almost understandable that the infamous predator and political influencer Ed Buck was able to go free without question after the meth overdose deaths of two Black men in his WeHo apartment. Was it a coincidence that John Duran was the largest single local recipient of Buck’s donations, $12,500 from 2012 to 2016?

With all of the negative Duran press, Heilman seems ready to cut Duran’s strings, and many see John Erickson, a close ally of Horvath as Heilman’s new third and majority vote on the City Council.It was Heilman who appointed Erickson to the city’s Planning Commission.

Perhaps the most offensive thing I’ve heard from the incumbents during this campaign season is that they think we owe them unconditionally and should re-elect them for making this a great city. The people have made this a great city, the renters, homeowners, small business owners, workers, and visitors who have invested, paid rent, and taxes, and support our local economy. We owe the people, not the politicians.

Marco Colantonio

Our current City Council voted to add another $13.5 million to a shuttered $200 million park project at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Council also voted to add Measure E to the ballot, increasingthe sales tax in West Hollywood to 10.25%, a burden that residents will bear, and a move that will discourage visitors from eating and shopping in West Hollywood.

We live in unprecedented times, experiencing a tremendous surge in the homeless population taking over our streets and sidewalks, shuttered businesses that may never come back, and renters racking up incomprehensible debt.

There are no miracles, but I propose real solutions to issues plaguing our community and affecting our residents’ quality of life. We need to find innovative, smart, and safe ways to bring back tourism, create more low-income-affordable housing prioritized for residents, and a Strategic Outreach program for homelessness.

To address the issues of economic survival and recovery, I have proposed a marketing plan to reinvent safe ways for people to experience what is unique to West Hollywood and bring back visitors to our hotels, restaurants, and brick mortar businesses. I am also calling for a broad coalition of business leaders and marketing experts to form an Economic Recovery Task Force.

Fiscal responsibility begins at home, and I am calling for a 10% pay cut for the approximately 115 city employees with annual salaries of $120,000 or more. This one-year deferred pay cut will move more than $2 million towards essential city services.

To focus on solutions for the homeless in our community, I have proposed the creation of a municipally funded Homeless Outreach Street Team, “HOST.” This program would provide intensive services to chronically homeless people who use public services and help get these individuals off the streets while reducing spending on services such as Sheriff’s deputies and emergency medical care.

Public safety requires reviewing our Security Ambassador program and an overview of deployment patterns to create additional north and south presence on our residentialside streets.

The issue of systemic racism within our city and specifically within law enforcement needs to be acknowledged. My plan calls for a proactive Racial Intelligence and Sensitivity Training Program to reduce the use of force and provide better communication skills for those in law enforcement.

We need to bring back West Hollywood and give our residents and small business owners a say in how they see their city and what they want their city to be. Our City Council members need to lead by example with respect, compassion, and empathy, free of scandals and obligations to special interests.

I’m a renter, and I was appointed to the West Hollywood Disabilities Advisory Board and served as its vice-chair. As a founding committee member of the Resist March and the founder and publisher emeritus of WeHo Times, I am no stranger to speaking truth to power. I was the first to report the story of Gemmel Moore’s death in Ed Buck’s apartment and honored to have received the endorsement of LaTisha Nixon, Gemmel’smom.

Incumbent fatigue is real, and we have been tired for too long. In our national election, it’s time to vote out Donald Trump, and in our local election, it’s time to vote out John Heilman and John Duran.

This is your city, and our City Council has to remember they work for you, the people. It’s time to stop the scandals and pay-to-play. Vote for independent leadership with “No Strings Attached,” and together, we can bring back West Hollywood on Nov. 3.

I humbly ask for your vote and promise to work for the people, for a change.

Marco Colantonio. Marco4weho.com

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phyl
phyl
1 month ago

the guys who run city hall don’t live in weho. they make their obscene salaries here during the day then go home to suburbia at night. they don’t understand or really care about residents’ problems.

Marco Colantonio
1 month ago
Reply to  phyl

There are currently over 115 City employees in administrative positions with annual base salaries ranging from $120,000 to $400,000. for a total exceeding $20 million dollars. A minimum 10% pay cut, deferred for at least one year will move more than $2 Million towards essential City services and social programs.

West
West
1 month ago

Thank you Marco for pressing for justice in the Buck case. So I’m confused by your plans to increase visible police presence— it’s an uninformed strategy that will further marginalize the very people that Buck exploited.

I’m more compelled to support a confidante who demonstrates a solid familiarity of and commitment to harm reduction strategies, decriminalizing homelessness, and deprioritizing nuisance crimes like drug possession and sex work.

Marco Colantonio
1 month ago
Reply to  West

Hi West, Clearly my Homeless Street Team proposal takes the Sheriffs out of the equation. Being homeless is not a crime and we need outreach and solutions. We spend far too much money on Sheriff’s overtime and bringing Deputies in from other areas on overtime is counterintuitive for sensitivity to our community. The WeHo Sheriffs need intense sensitivity training, much more frequent reviews and accountability. The Sheriffs see the unchecked behavior of Councilmembers like Duran and feel immune from accountability. We need to lead by example, “notorious” belongs to RBG not Duran, and he should be ashamed using it to… Read more »

Vigilant
Vigilant
1 month ago

On another article about the protests of September on Sunset I remarked about comparing the characteristics of the Fire Department to that of the Sheriff Department. Markedly different yet the Sheriff is here to maintain peace and order in WeHo. Wrong training these folks have or the selection process of personality types may also be flawed.

WeHo Mary
WeHo Mary
1 month ago

As adorable as it is that he wants this job, there are better candidates. This city has had enough histrionic and narcissistic personalities in control. I also noticed that this guy didn’t seem to understand all of the questions in the latest forum. One should have their ducks in a row before attacking others.

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
1 month ago

what a circus. the drama is this city is unmatched.

Tom
Tom
1 month ago

Okay, we get it. Everybody in the race who is not one of the Johns hates the Johns. Noted. Now could someone give us an idea where they stand on things like the propositions before us and why? Those stances and the reasoning behind them will at this point be more informative than statements about how we need to come up with great new ideas on how to fix things. Larry Block made masks available in he early stages of the pandemic when people laughed at him. John Duran put out daily bulletins with information on how renters could get… Read more »

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom

A “yes” vote on WeHo measure E, the 3/4 cent increase in the sales tax will insure we can maintain social services and it will help defray the future costs of the WeHo subway extension. We will need the money when Measure J passes as the Sheriff will have to raise its’ rates for all of the contract cities. West Hollywood’s pension liabilities will increase at a dramatic rate thanks to a City Hall that is top heavy with management whose compensation is “generous” to use the least explosive language. In short, Measure E will generate $11 million annually that… Read more »

Marco Colantonio
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Totally disagree with Steve on this. Increasing sales tax is Bad , Bad, Bad for the residents, workers and will discourage needed commerce in our small struggling city, especially during a pandemic. We can find the money elsewhere and need to. Cut city managers bloated salaries as I have outlined and dip into our $135 Million in reserves. They are for a rainy day and it is pouring. People cannot pay rent and business are closing one after another. Good Lord, the last thing we need is to raise sales tax. And let’s not increase the budget on the $200… Read more »

Shawn
Shawn
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

I disagree Steve. It seems your solution to a city council that wastes money is to give them more money to spend foolishly. Maybe they’ll spend this money more wisely is not a good plan to me

Jay
Jay
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Hi Steve- Generally I find myself in agreement with your take on things. In this instance, I must concur with Marco and Shawn below that it’s a poor time to increase the City sales tax and sends the wrong message to the Council re fiscal responsibility. In addition, I find the thought of breaking the 10% total sales tax barrier to have an outsize negative impact on my future purchasing intentions, so I too question the ultimate benefit of an increase and see a downside. There is fat and risk to be cut, Council. Things like oh, I don’t know,… Read more »

Una
Una
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Enough with the sales tax already. It’s regressive and will also further hurt businesses already hobbled by the pandemic. Why don’t you lower the exorbitant salaries in City Hall instead. They’re way out of line with those in the private sector.

Weho Truth Talk
Weho Truth Talk
1 month ago

Duran needs to leave ASAP and we need to support Shyne, Erickson and/or Heilman. They’re the only candidates with a realistic chance of beating Duran. I know some folks have issues with some of the three (and I do as well) but they’re the only candidates who have big fanbases and enough resources to win who are also not alleged sexual predators. Plus, these are the only three candidates with substantial endorsements from progressive and Democratic groups. I’m not throwing away my vote to a candidate who is likely not going to win when there’s an alleged sexual predator who… Read more »

Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak
1 month ago

Lindsey Horvath’s ascension has been offensive at the least because she must think we’re stupid. She was an active Republican until it became clear she could rise in political power much faster if she abandoned her principles and rode the Democrat train in WeHo. I’d like her to explain that. It appears the same blueprint has been laid out for John Erickson. I can’t tell you how much I resent being played like that.

Vigilant
Vigilant
1 month ago
Reply to  Gimmeabreak

No one needs to explain. Actions speak louder than words. With Erickson’s claim of wanting to “bring integrity to city hall” one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. An opportunist in the best Trumpian tradition.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago
Reply to  Vigilant

He is supported by the same clique of developers who have brought John Heilman style “integrity” to the City for the last 36 years. We have ready seen he is a phony phemnist.

Vigilant
Vigilant
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Should be a clean sweep of all the Johns and those that cling to faux city making and policy producing by folks that are not critical thinkers and lack aa sense of efficiency and immediacy. This small city has overworked the concept and failed to evolve in a meaningful high quality way. There is seemingly no respect for the pure concept of respect, ethics and true selfless service. Rather than having become a model city, which it clearly thinks it is in their myopic sensibility it seems more like an extended 5th grade production that has gone on way too… Read more »

Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak
1 month ago

What you subsidize, you get more of.

What you tax, you get less of.

Weho Observer
Weho Observer
1 month ago

A gadfly at best. What have you done?

Marco Colantonio
1 month ago
Reply to  Weho Observer

I respect all opinions and unlike many other candidates, I won’t boast or tout my contributions or efforts. I’ve been an active and passionate member of our community and hope I have made a positive impact on the lives of my neighbors and friends. My campaign website offers a brief biography and I will let voters decide who best to serve on City Council. I define myself by my community and sincere desire to serve. Before we were a city, we were a community and together we can bring back West Hollywood, better than ever.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
1 month ago

The appointment of a successor remains to this day the single most offensive and shameful acting of flipping the middle finger to democracy that I have seen in my lifetime. Those who orchestrated this affront will forever have a blackmarked footnote to their biographies, and the one who benefitted from it will forever have an asterisk of illegitimacy next to her name.