Opinion: A Warm Goodbye to John Duran and John Heilman and a Welcome to the 21st Century

The West Hollywood City Council 2016 (Photo by Jon Viscott)

The 21st century has officially started in West Hollywood.

I want to send out big congratulations to the two newest City Council members, Sepi Shyne and John Erickson, who have shown that new ideas and hard work turn into votes and wins. Something I experienced in 2011. And I am excited to work with them, and Lauren and Lindsey to bring our city firmly, finally into the 21st century. Tune in on Dec. 7 to celebrate their victories and wish our colleagues John Duran and John Heilman well.

There’s no denying that the foundation of the city is built from work designed and installed by John Heilman. Critical pieces of our identity, our DNA, can be found in those early ideas that were at the heart of the founding of the city, and are at the heart of much of who we are. But we are not in 1984 anymore, and so much about our city never did break free from those early ideas. Now there is a chance that our city can realize and articulate what it means to live in 2020 and beyond.

And big love to John Duran, who may not have invented late 20th century LGBTQ life, but certainly celebrated it like no one else, finding ways and avenues to bring visibility and relevance to our city as we all matured ourselves, and watched the country find ways to incorporate LGBTQ concerns and rights, many of which started here, into everyday life. There also is some of that early DNA of John Duran’s West Hollywood, the HIV and drug abuse epidemics that solidified our commitment to social services and caring for people and required an investment in that caring that both informed and relied on development and billboards to make those services affordable. HIV is almost over, and sobriety is safe here in West Hollywood for decades to come and beyond.

Our deep appreciation to John and John for their combined 55+ years of service to the city. We have all benefitted in many ways from their commitment. BRAVO.

On Nov. 3, 2020, the residents decided that it’s time to pick up anchor and set sail into the 21st century, charting a course that can pick up 21st century concerns about policing, diversity, equity, accessibility, sustainability and services.

And I am here for it. I am relieved that we can look again at our commitment to social services and still believe that they need to be funded fully. In 2018, I pushed us to add $1,000,000 to the social services budget, and I still maintain that we should be spending 10% of our budget on direct social services. It’s something I hope we can finally achieve, but that will require that we understand and support the sources of that revenue.

And solving our housing crisis, perhaps we can now move closer to the solutions for renters and homeowners that are sustainable and affordable and meaningful. And not worry so much about housing for rich people.

So much of West Hollywood leads the way in local government. We keep our parks and streets and infrastructure top notch, we have a critical commitment to the long-term viability of the city finances, we have expanded our public participation and communication efforts over the last 10 years including offering multiple platforms for engagement.

But there’s also been a downside to our overly long attachment and nostalgia for the 20th century. We have also watched our demographics shift without shifting our priorities as much. We never have fully accepted or integrated our understanding of our daytime whiteness and our nighttime diversity. Our commitment to transit and reliance on parking. Our push for smaller affordable units in bigger and bigger buildings. Our relationship with the Sheriff’s department, which manages us more than we manage it. We watched the music business dissolve right before our eyes and never could get it together to help reframe the Sunset Strip beyond new hotels with private clubs and billboards. There has been no meaningful effort to diversify our economic engine beyond hotels and entertainment.

And some of our greatest failures seem to be around who gets to use the public space, the roadways and our public facilities. One bright spot brought upon us from COVID is a complete reimagining and use of the public space that some of us have been pushing for years. All of that and more can be re-addressed.

We have become too reliant on the idea that “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Some things that work in our city only work for some and not for all, and that’s not okay. And so, now we’re moving forward with new ideas, and I am thrilled to watch how new energy, youthful exuberance, will change our city into one that is ready to face the challenges of the 21st century.

I am motivated to help all my colleagues bring real change over the next two years, re-inventing West Hollywood as the city that can continue to show the world who we are now and what can be. Off we go.

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Jason K
Jason K
20 days ago

A cold good riddance to Duran

Ian
Ian
25 days ago

Both of them became house guests that refused to leave. My biggest disappointment was Heilman, He was there from the beginning and became what we formed this city to fight. Duran? I don’t want to waste energy on that pathetic embarrassment.
To them both, don’t let the door knob hit you on the way out!

James Francis
James Francis
28 days ago

So John, Does it take 20 years for The City of West Hollywood to catch up and be in the 21st century, when the rate of rent inflation in this area grows exponentially when the city’s outdated housing protections are of all the way from the last 42-36 or the last 22 years of the 20th century for (1978) and 20 years into the 21st. Furthermore, how the luxury rental and AirBnB market has boomed in last 10 years you have been in office as a council-member and twice as Mayor of West Hollywood who almost lost election if not… Read more »

hifi5000
hifi5000
28 days ago

This opinion piece sounds nice and great,but it doesn’t take into account the current COVID-19 pandemic.Tax revenues for the city will be on the downward spiral because of this virus.

To do all the good things mentioned in this column,you need money.Closed or stifled businesses will not provide the needed revenue this column talks about.

As for John Duran,he cost the city money,money that could have gone to the social services and new ideas Mr. D’Amico mentions.Thank goodness Duran will be out of office.

Jim Nasium
Jim Nasium
28 days ago
Reply to  hifi5000

The money came from insurance not the city budget. FYI

Derek Michael Louden
Derek Michael Louden
28 days ago

Seems totally unnecessary John

AJ Mulhall
AJ Mulhall
29 days ago

LOL – How much $$ did Duran’s escapades cost the city again? He needed to go years ago!

Marco Colantonio
1 month ago

I concur Steve Martin, a simple congratulations by email or Facebook would have been enough. Hopeful this John isn’t planning to run again. Touting his accomplishments the day after a national election and while his colleagues still have months to serve is in poor taste. D’Amico turned out to be a huge disappointment and time for the last vestige of Ed Buck’s influence to either step up to his promises of a decade ago or please fade away when his term is up. I am thrilled to see a new wave of energy and commitment coming on our City Council.… Read more »

Joshua88
Joshua88
1 month ago

Great tribute and even greater forward-looking realism.
Thank you, Mayor D’Amico.

Observer
Observer
29 days ago
Reply to  Joshua88

John D’Amico is not currently the Mayor. That would be Lindsey Horvath.

Larry Block
Larry Block
1 month ago

Your the veteran on the council and provide much needed leadership. Beautifully written . Thank you.

Jay
Jay
27 days ago
Reply to  Larry Block

That was classy of you to say, Larry!

10%+ of the vote is nothing to sneeze at- obviously your accomplishments to date and vision for West Hollywood resonated with a lot of voters.

I’m sure you will keep making Jeanne Dobrin proud, wherever you are perched!

SeeMe
SeeMe
1 month ago

55 years! Thank you for reminding us all about the importance of term limits. These men certainly brought wonderful ideas to the city, but at some point their personal agendas seemed to “trump” what might truly benefit their community. The vote tally clearly reflects this. Welcome to the new faces who can allow us to evolve in a way that feels more inclusive.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago

The normal protocol is to wait for the bodies to be cold.

Joshua88
Joshua88
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Why bother?

Jerome Cleary
Jerome Cleary
29 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

lol

David Reid
David Reid
29 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

In the 20th Century

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
29 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Normal protocol is reserved for people with good manners. Such a station in life is rarely found in politics where blood is thirst-quenching, and ego trumps good behavior. D’Amico’s hasty dance on the grave was in poor taste, but poor taste has never been in his short supply. Duran and Heilman have served their communities well, overall, and I realize that cancel culture will diminish any good to near zero. I have been highly critical of both, and will be equally so of Shyne and the other one. That’s politics.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
29 days ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

Let’s hope that history will be balanced; the City has a great progressive legacy and these guys helped to create and build upon it. It is off set by paternalist style of government by insiders and a corrupting influence of money in our elections. But we can draw upon the good and the less than positive sides of their contributions to forge ahead. After all we learn through our collective mistakes. My experience is that the people of West Hollywood are generally kind once politics is out of the equation.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
29 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

You warm my heart with the use of the word kind. Thank you, Steve, for your own years of service and dedication to West Hollywood. I always hone in on your comments on these pages, and I zoom in on your comments at council meetings. Duran and Heilman deserve our gratitude for engaging in the rough and tumble of local politics, regardless of whether we agree with them on one issue or another, or whatever personal failings might have temporarily clouded their image. Godspeed, Messrs. Duran and Heilman. Thank you for your service and dedication. Same to you, Steve! I… Read more »

Jay
Jay
27 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Hi Steve and Alan-

I just automatically took a good, deep, breath after reading your interactions. Thank you both for that!

And yes, let’s all hope and work for more “You’re kind” and less “Your kind”!

Your shades of gray perspective on the legacies of the two John’s struck me as spot on too, Steve.