Opinion: Naming Library For John Heilman is Wonderful Tribute to his Contributions to the City

West Hollywood Library

The John Heilman Library? Why not?

Former City Council member Abbe Land has been reaching out to residents asking them to support the renaming of West Hollywood Library to honor a man who was instrumental in the creation of this city and is our longest-serving City Council member.

Of course, that idea already has gotten pushback from some residents, and from one City Council member whose initial run for office was an all-out attack on Heilman. Yes, in his 36 years on the City Council, John Heilman made some decisions (and statements) that upset some people and which some could argue were unwise (that April 2013 statement that the “decrepit” Great Hall / Long Hall in Plummer Park should “be demolished forthwith” comes to mind.) But what politician hasn’t done (or said) things he shouldn’t later regret?

And Heilman comes off as arrogant to some people. But not when you get to know him. It took a push from his then-deputy Fran Solomon to get the reluctant Heilman to sit down over a coffee with me after I launched WEHOville. His initially stiff and formal greeting quickly evolved into a very engaging one (in part because we learned we both had a fascination with things Swedish).

With his loss in the Nov. 3 election, the West Hollywood City Council has lost a living library of institutional knowledge. It also has lost one of the very few Council members who, in my eight years of covering West Hollywood as a journalist, never told a lie and was consistent in what he stood for.

We don’t see that in Councilmember John D’Amico, who is opposing naming the library for Heilman. D’Amico is the Council member whose initial victory in 2011 came from a campaign focused on banning fur sales (with support from Ed Buck) and ousting long-serving incumbents. But then he flipped on his promise to only serve two terms. And despite his declaration that he would fight overdevelopment, one of his last re-election fundraisers was hosted by major developers and their lobbyists.

D’Amico also supported the illegal conversion of the 8500 Sunset apartments into expensive short-term housing. And then there’s the fact that he recently appointed to the Planning Commission Marquita Thomas, whose failed 2019 campaign for City Council got significant financial backing from the family of real estate developer Jason Illoulian and who was part of the trio whose mismanagement of Christopher Street West  put that LA Pride organization deep into a hole of debt.  Inconsistency is the only thing you can expect from that Council member.

councilmember john heilman
John Heilman

It’s not just Heilman’s involvement in the incorporation of the City of West Hollywood, although that is a very important achievement. He has continued to be an advocate for affordable housing and was instrumental in the creation of the West Hollywood Community Housing Corp., an organization whose mission is to “buy, build, rehabilitate, manage and advocate for affordable housing for lower-income people in West Hollywood.”

Heilman also helped develop West Hollywood’s rent stabilization ordinance and its inclusionary housing policy. He helped draft West Hollywood’s domestic partnership ordinance, a law banning discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS and a law banning discrimination against transgendered individuals – all of which had more of an impact on the people of West Hollywood than did the fur ban, whose beneficiaries were mostly minks.

In his first term on the City Council, Heilman was instrumental in the city establishing an array of social services programs that outshine those offered by other cities of a similar size.

There is the argument that we should wait for John Heilman to die before we memorialize him, as was the case with former Council member Sal Guarriello. But given that Heilman is a living library of the city’s history, why not acknowledge that now?

So, let’s rename West Hollywood Library as John Heilman Library, and if the pandemic eases celebrate that with a live ceremony. And let’s hope that Heilman continues to engage in civic life, even if not from the Council dais.

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Don Jones
Don Jones
30 days ago

I see Abbe Land is up to her old tricks.

This article is saying Abbe Land has been reaching out to residents asking them to support the the renaming of the library.

The other article about renaming the library also claims Abbe Land is leading the charge however Abbe Land herself is quoted as saying she’s not.

If the library is to be renamed, it should be the Rita Norton West Hollywood Library.

Jerome Cleary
Jerome Cleary
1 month ago

Let’s name it after West Hollywood resident Rita Norton who worked tirelessly for decades for the library. She passed away several years ago.

Mike Dolan
Mike Dolan
1 month ago

The most fitting and appropriate renaming of our recognized library is John Heilman West Hollywood Library. Compassionate, selfless and devoted to all of the residents of West Hollywood. He committed his time and service for the love of all residents and without question has always been for the betterment, advancement and recognition of the city. No one else in West Hollywood deserves the distinction of the honor of renaming our library for all he gave and the recognized policy’s that have West Hollywood recognized in equality, social and human services. You may love him or have issues, but one thing… Read more »

Rod Sprott
Rod Sprott
1 month ago

Why not simply name it West Hollywood Library. That building has been there for years and still there’s no signage on it anywhere that identifies it. (Well there is a small plaque on the driveway to the parking garage It’s almost the same color as the wall so I guess that counts) Every library in Los Angeles has signage which clearly and easily identifies it. From the moment it was completed my friends and I thought it didn’t have signage so that someday someone would try to name it for John Heilman. And here we are..

Observer
Observer
1 month ago

NO !! The library should not be named for Heilman, even considering his contributions to WeHo. Leave the naming of the building as it is.

Jerome Cleary
Jerome Cleary
1 month ago

A friend called me yesterday to say he thought the library should be named after one of the biggest developers that donated the most amount of campaign money that steered the planning commissioners and the city council members to vote yes on all of their projects and developments. LOL!

Woody McBreairty
Woody McBreairty
1 month ago

Hank, why use a personal attack on D’Amico to try to make your case about naming the library? If your reasons were good enough, you wouldn’t have to attack anyone else in the process. Your attack on D’Amico seems to be a case of putting someone else down to prop someone else up, who you’re not really sure of. I think your article is an ad homonym personal attack, something that you never allowed on WeHoVille, Surprised & disappointed to see you do it here. I’ve always thought you were the consummate professional.

Libbie Chase
Libbie Chase
1 month ago

I’m 💯 % for the library to be named after John Heilman. He was instrumental in it’s development and instrumental in ensuring it served the needs of all the populations in West Hollywood, from the tiniest tots to the seniors.
Development can be good. It created a world-class library that serves as a meeting place for the community.
John helped to found this city. He certainly deserves recognition.

Vigilant
Vigilant
1 month ago
Reply to  Libbie Chase

World class library? Have you spent time at the NY Public Library or the Los Angeles Library downtown? Fortunately Beverly Hills has a useful and well equipped library and it’s only a five minute drive.

On the other hand WH Library appears to reflect the absence of educated minds in the sense of a consciousness beyond the perimeters of WH and it’s often narrow, self indulgent band width . So in that sense, perhaps it would be appropriate to name it after an individual in line with those myopic attributes.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
1 month ago

Wow, I thought I was going to read an article all about why the library should be named for one of the most pro-mega-development members of the council, but what I actually read was an all-out attack on John D’Amico.

Jerome Cleary
Jerome Cleary
1 month ago

This story about naming the library after John Heilman is so odd since over a decade ago I was at a city council meeting where John Heilman repeatedly insisted that no building should ever be name for anyone living. So…?

James Fuhrman
James Fuhrman
1 month ago

It is very rare for a public library building to be named after someone. If someone has an example of one being named after someone still living, let us know.

Woody McBreairty
Woody McBreairty
1 month ago
Reply to  James Fuhrman

There is only one in the whole county. All other libraries bear the name of the city in which they are built.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago

If Jeanne Dorbrin were around she would remind you that John Heilman played a leading role in allowing five condo buildings owned by developer Severn Askenazy be converted to hotels, Le Rive, the Montrose, Le Park and the Chamberlain. All of these buildings were occupied primarily by renters who where evicted when the City, under Heilman’s “leadership” approved to conversion to hotels. So much for protecting housing and protecting tenants. But that is just a small part of the record. This is a divisive move and will simply stir up old passions about old injustices and past mistakes when the… Read more »

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