Our online story about lavish expense account spending by West Hollywood City Council deputies — assistants who are paid more than $100,000 a year — brought a torrent of responses, much of it aimed at Fran Solomon, deputy to Mayor John Heilman.
"Fran Solomon seems to be living high on the hog," writes Woody McBreairty. "So what is going to be done to put the kibosh on this runaway spending by public servants at high-end restaurants on the citizen's dime?"
"Another slap in the face to the people of West Hollywood ... and a big one," writes Sheila Lightfoot. "No wonder [incumbents] Abbe Land, John Heilman and Lindsey Horvath run, duck and dodge when anyone wants to ask them a question."
Plenty of other readers offered similar remarks. Then, thanks to one persistent and anonymous commenter identified only as Guest, the comment section turned into a robust debate of issues in the city election.
Guest's opening: "Once again, extraordinary bias by the L.A. Weekly. You are so eager to slam West Hollywood that you do not bother to get facts right. For example, the Mont Blanc pens were not 'office supplies,' as you bizarrely suggest. They were recognition gifts to long-term employees, which is the same thing private companies and other public agencies do."
Sheila Lightfoot's reply: "Guest, you're a hoot! Your biggest complaint is that they listed the $370 Mont Blanc pens as office supplies ... and you think it sounds better that they were gifts to people probably already getting a $100k+ salary out of taxpayer wallets? You're obviously an insider ... one of the recipients of those expensive pens sooo richly deserved perhaps?"
Then Guest defends the high salaries for City Council deputies: "Because of its location and economy, West Hollywood is more complex than many other cities of 35,000 residents. Council members are part-time officials who are paid $825 per month. All of them have full-time outside jobs. The deputies — which are full-time jobs that involve many nights and weekends — are their eyes and ears within the city government, and the first line of contact with residents."
To which Chris replies: "West Hollywood is a lot more complex than, what, Beverly Hills? You're high. West Hollywood is a contract city that delivers city services through county agencies, and without municipal utilities. In Pasadena, where the City Council oversees the Rose Bowl, a civic auditorium and conference center, a large water and power utility with a share in out-of-state power plants, and large police and fire departments, City Council deputies are part-time. You think our 1.9-square-mile contract city is more complex than that?
"Council members in every comparable city in the county also 'have full-time outside jobs in addition to being a council member,' and don't have full-time deputies."
And so it went, right up to election day — when the Weekly went to press before the polls closed.
Our coverage of street artist JR's Los Angeles project "The Wrinkles of the City" included an arresting image, with the artist walking past. The man on the wall behind him, B.P. Armstrong, wrote to us, on a typewriter (a mechanical device once used to transfer the energy of keystrokes into impressions on a page).
"I'm the coot in the photo/mural pictured on page 5 and 37 in 'Street Artist JR' (Feb. 25-March 3). Coincidental to the other subject featured, I also have a NYC art past — as an artworker in the early days of SoHo and as a habitue of Max's Kansas City.
"SoHo was an effort to move art from the stuffy Uptown venues into white [sic] open spaces. The intention was diluted when it created a commercial real estate boom South of Houston.
"The hip in L.A. now look to Downtown for art with a message at pre-emerging prices. By taking the art outside and removing the price tag, JR's message is clear.
"Last thought. Advertising pressures today can ban old faces from popular media, but they're still here. Denying them, demolishing anything old, can only delay the inevitable: Life is not a private freeway but a footpath traveled by all to the same end."
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