By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Mito Aviles, John D'Amico, Scott Schmidt and three other challenging candidates for West Hollywood City Council are trying to do the nearly impossible on March 8: defeat longtime incumbents John Heilman and Abbe Land, and Councilwoman Lindsey Horvath, appointed to the City Council by the two incumbents.
"We're up against well-financed incumbents with [real estate] developer dollars," says one rival candidate, Steve Martin, "and they're going to hit whoever is a major challenger."
In the 27-year history of WeHo, Heilman, who took office the year after the city's founding, when Ronald Reagan was president, has never been voted out. The city has no term limits. Longtime insiders have such a strong grip on City Hall that only one outsider lacking the endorsement of a sitting City Council member has ever won: Steve Martin, who wants to reprise his minor miracle from 1994.
West Hollywood's highly charged election season this year has taken the comfortable incumbents by surprise. Horvath scurried away from an inquisitive reporter at a public event. After a recent debate, she was accused by her challengers and others in the audience of getting text-messaged help from her campaign manager as she stiffly answered questions.
Heilman, an elected official running for public office, won't answer questions from L.A. Weekly, and when KCRW's "Which Way, L.A.?" invited him onto its news-talk program, Heilman did not respond.
The recent Weekly cover story "Dethroning West Hollywood's Martinets" has given five mostly cash-strapped but serious challengers sudden exposure, in a small but world-famous city whose municipal politics generally is ignored by traditional Los Angeles media.
"I get approached every day by someone who wants to hold a fundraiser for me or people who want to endorse me," says Aviles, who appeared on the cover of the Weekly with two mannequins he had decorated with cutouts of Land's and Heilman's faces. "I used to always have to reach out to people, but now they are reaching out to me."
But whoever wins the three seats up for grabs must get reluctant residents to the polls — and only 18 percent of WeHo's 23,131 registered voters showed up for city elections two years ago.
"It's sometimes hard to be optimistic," says Allegra Allison, a community activist who worked on previous unsuccessful efforts to oust the incumbents, like Land, who has served twice for a total of 18 years. "People say they want change, but they don't go out and vote."
Council members Heilman, Land and Horvath have enough money to send a steady stream of political mailers to the town's few thousand "likely voters." Even D'Amico, an outside challenger who has raised a substantial $105,000, can't begin to match the combined $260,000 raised by the incumbents. And because Heilman, Land and Horvath are running on a single slate, they are pooling costs to some degree, jointly paying for campaign literature and using the same campaign manager, Dante Atkins, and veteran Southern California political consultant Parke Skelton. Heilman is so secure in his belief he'll win that he didn't create a campaign website — almost a requisite in California politics.
Yet because West Hollywood is only 1.9 square miles, four of the challengers, D'Amico and the three who lack his six-figure campaign chest — Aviles, Martin and Schmidt — have managed to mount campaigns that feature precinct-mapping efforts, door-knocking and phone-banking. (A fifth challenger, Lucas John, is passing out literature, debating and attending meet-and-greets, but isn't pursuing a full-on neighborhood precinct campaign. A sixth challenger, renters' rights advocate Mark Gonzaga, has kept a low profile.)
Martin says, "Every time I turn around, I meet a Mito [Aviles] precinct walker, and they're very passionate." But, he notes, "The insurgents are putting a lot of faith in [social media] because they don't have the financial resources. As far as gaining votes, we'll see."
So far, D'Amico, Aviles and Schmidt each have a few hundred friends on their campaign Facebook pages — in an election where 50 extra votes can win the day. But nobody knows if Facebook interest is a measure of votes.
Many see Horvath as the most vulnerable incumbent. She's on the City Council because Heilman and Land maneuvered her into a seat in 2009, after opposing as too "expensive" a special election to let voters fill a rare opening created by the death of a 90-year-old council member.
Heilman, Land and two other council members required 39 West Hollywood residents interested in the empty seat to engage in a contest in which Heilman presented the list of "desirable traits." Land decided how many minutes contestants would get to present those traits. The council then chose a friend of Heilman's and Land's — Horvath.
The process was wildly unpopular with some residents, who demanded a special election, which would have cost $150,000, but were denied it on the basis of cost. Yet it wouldn't have been much more than the $115,000 Heilman and Land voted to splurge on "production-related services" for WeHo's 25th anniversary.
Horvath, who had lived in West Hollywood for just 18 months, has been taking heat for that — and has proved a shaky campaigner.
At a recent debate, "Lindsey, from the beginning of the debate to the end, was looking at her phone," says John, who sat a few feet away from her. Aviles' political adviser, Eric Kroskrity, who sat near Horvath's campaign manager, Atkins, says he saw Atkins texting furiously during the debate.
I appreciate and respect anyone who runs for public office and who care enough about the city where they live, to put it all out there.That said, the idea of electing Mito Aviles to the city council is a joke. This man who hung a Sarah Palin effigy is not someone I could consider, a serious candidate. Better, a immature fool.If he wishes to be taken seriously, perhaps he and his partner should have considered how people would have reacted, if his neighbors had hung an effigy of then senator, Barak Obama. It would have been an outrage, with the likes of Mr. Aviles whining and crying "bigotry and hate".His debate appearances alone have shown him to be unprepared for dealing with important city business, best handled by the adults.
The other challengers are serious players and should be given a look. D'Amico, Martin and John, all present themselves as intelligent and thoughtful. They'll have my vote.Thank you, Micheal Ewing, West Hollywood, CA
GET OUT & VOTE, PEOPLE! Abbe Land, John Heilman and Lindsey Horvath MUST GO. Candidates, Steve Martin, Scott Schmidt, Mito Aviles, and Lucas John were actually anxious to answer not only the questions from this reporter, but all the questions asked by us… the residents. READ their answers at Meet-the-Candidates-Right-Here-and-Now on scribd, then VOTE next Tuesday, March 8 for 3 non incumbent candidates who will restore integrity and vision to the West Hollywood we love.Sheila Lightfoot, West Hollywood
Sheila, speaking about the candidates' claims that democracy is at stake in this election, did anyone ask Steve Martin why he voted to extend his own term by 11 months the last time he was on Council? Martin voted in 1994 to move the April 1996 regular city election to March 1997, and stay in office in the meantime. With the stroke of a pen, he extended his term from 4 years to almost 5 years, and so did the others.
John D'Amico and Scott Schmidt have walked my block, going door to door. Heilman, Land, and Horvath live in a hermetically sealed bubble. They don't respond to email and letters from residents, don't talk to reporters, don't answer questions, and don't mix with the rabble who have no campaign contributions to offer. This is not a tough choice.
That's not even remotely true. The councilmembers have attended hundreds of community meetings and spent countless hours listening to and talking with residents. If an email or letter is not answered, I'd say it's because they get so many. If you really want to reach them, call the office and ask to speak to their deputy -- they will pass your comment along directly.
@ Guest - LMAO, that's a good one. Fran Solomon (John Heilman's deputy) hasn't answered a phone call from a resident in years.
You're telling me that it's "not remotely true" that Schmidt and D'Amico KNOCKED ON MY DOOR, but Heilman, Land, and Horvath didn't? That takes balls. Clearly, I can't tell who has come to my own house and who has not. Good thing I have you to set me straight.
I have also sent letters and email to the city council -- only Jeff Prang has ever responded. And I can see Lindsey Horvath running away from Ryan Gierach and his single question with my own eyes. And I can read the stories in the LA Weekly and the Weho News that say Heilman wouldn't answer questions, and Land and Horvath would only answer written questions by email. And on and on and on.
I know what I see and experience personally. This story you're trying to tell is going to keep running into an empiricism problem.
No, Chris, I'm saying it's not true that Heilman, Land and Horvath "live in a hermetically sealed bubble," "don't respond to email and letters from residents, don't talk to reporters, don't answer questions," etc. They are not in a bubble. They do respond to contacts. They do answer questions. They do talk to reporters. That is the part of your note that is demonstrably untrue.
They should see John D'Amico as a threat--because he is the most intelligent and down-to-earth of all candidates in this race. Voters would be foolish to not to elect him...and those attack mailings that are going out from Heilman, Land, & Horvath are pure bullshit. They are just the same as Bush, Cheney, & Rumsfeld...narcissistic assholes.
GET OUT & VOTE, PEOPLE! Heilman, Land and Horvath MUST GO. Steve Martin, Mito Aviles, Scott Schmidt and Lucas John were actually anxious to answer ALL residents' questions. READ THEIR ANSWERS HERE, then VOTE next Tuesday, March 8 for 3 candidates who will restore integrity and vision to the West Hollywood we love:http://www.scribd.com/doc/4965...Sheila Lightfoot, West Hollywood
There's been talk for years of election day dirty trick used by certain incumbents - down low walking around money and free food for the east side Russian-speaking voters.
You know, if you have evidence of any such thing, you should give it to the District Attorney, because spreading rumors of fraud, without producing any proof, is just another smear tactic in a dirty election. It's destructive because it degrades public confidence in their own government, on the basis of rumor and innuendo.
Think globally, act locally. If you want to support the drive for democracy in North Africa, go out and vote on March 8th right here in West Hollywood. And vote like your democracy depends on it, because it does. Vote for John D'Amico.
Ed Buck, West Hollywood.