With Cultural War Brewing in West Hollywood, Will Mayor John Duran Shake Up Status Quo?

Will John Duran, who was installed last night as the new mayor of West Hollywood, shake up the status quo with the help of recently elected City Councilman John D'Amico?

That's the big question in West Hollywood political circles these days -- in 2010 and early 2011, Duran clashed with longtime City Council members John Heilman and Abbe Land over the direction of the small, world famous city.

A kind of cultural war, as a result, has been brewing in West Hollywood for many months.

There are "two sets of values that are starting to rub up against one another," Duran said in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Independent, "and that's going to be our challenge in the upcoming years, is how we reconcile those two very distinct sets of values that I think are both progressive."

In March, Duran gained a strong political ally when newcomer John D'Amico was elected to the West Hollywood City Council. D'Amico was endorsed by Duran and ousted incumbent Lindsey Horvath, a key Heilman and Land ally.

In the past, D'Amico has charged that Heilman and Land have put into motion the "radical suburbanization" of West Hollywood, which includes approving inappropriate development projects and pushing family-friendly policies that trump the concerns and interests of the city's large gay population.

Duran, who will serve as mayor for one year, has also expressed deep misgivings about Heilman and Land's policies, saying there's a "cultural battle" for the city's "soul."

In remarks last night, Duran said, "I look forward to the new ideas of my colleague John D'Amico," and offered that "vigorous debates" about the future of West Hollywood "are healthy."

In a sign that some kind of change is coming to West Hollywood, D'Amico appointed longtime community activist Lauren Meister to the city's Planning Commission last night.

Meister, who twice ran for City Council and lost, has a reputation for being a vocal and tenacious city government watchdog. She's also been a frequent critic of Heilman and Land.

The "cultural battle," though, is not a fight between liberals and conservatives -- council members D'Amico, Duran, Heilman, Land and Jeff Prang all consider themselves to be progressive Democrats, and all of the male politicians are gay.

With Duran and D'Amico lined up on one side and Heilman and Land on the other, there's a behind-the-scenes struggle to capture the swing vote of Prang.

The divide gained national media attention after L.A. Weekly published the February cover story "Dethroning West Hollywood's Martinets."

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at

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