West Hollywood Councilman John Duran wrote a whopper of an op-ed piece in the WeHo News on Thursday, describing himself as the “lone dissenting voice” on a City Council that's engaged in a “cultural battle” for the city's “soul.”
Duran didn't name names in the column, but he's almost certainly talking about battles he's been fighting with John Heilman and Abbe Land, longtime council members who are up for re-election in 2011. Duran seems beside himself about the direction of West Hollywood, citing, among other things, that a drug and alcohol recovery center may be demolished so a “Tiny Tot playground” can be built in its place.
As Duran points out, West Hollywood has never been a prime destination for young families and kids, with a large gay and lesbian community that makes up around 40 percent of the population. The West Hollywood Recovery Center serves, according to Duran, “approximately 6,000 to 7,000” people every month.
But the City Council, on which Heilman and Land are extremely influential and powerful, is seriously considering getting rid of the building that houses the recovery center just so West Hollywood's image can appear more “family friendly” with a playground for kids.
With people's lives on the line, Duran rightly thinks it doesn't make sense, and notes that he's “beginning to sense a struggle at the core of West Hollywood between our past and our future.”
L.A. Weekly, in fact, wrote all about that struggle in an April cover story titled “West Follywood,” in which critics of the City Council charge that local politicians are turning West Hollywood — always a popular place for nightlife and creative folks — into some kind of bland, suburban outpost.
As further evidence of a “cultural battle,” Duran writes that a proposal to install work by world famous artist Shepard Fairey in the new West Hollywood Library, which is still under construction and one of Heilman's pet projects, was shot down by a majority of the City Council.
Why? Duran writes that his colleagues considered Fairey to be “too controversial.”
“In a city that has historically displayed Tom of Finland erotic art and Robert Mapplethorpe — suddenly Shepard Fairey is too controversial?” Duran asks rhetorically.
Indeed. Many of the political moves happening in West Hollywood these days have a lot of people scratching their heads, and speaking out. Former city planning commissioner John D'Amico, who has called Land and Heilman “entrenched elites,” is now gearing up a 2011 run for City Council.
Mito Aviles, a West Hollywood artist, has also announced his candidacy for a City Council seat and has been actively courting younger voters.
Both D'Amico and Aviles will be diving into a difficult race that features three incumbents: Heilman, Land and newcomer Lindsey Horvath. Heilman has been in office since West Hollywood became a city in 1984. He won't go without a fight.
But with Duran's scorching op-ed, public dissatisfaction with the way West Hollywood has been doing business under the leadership of Heilman and Land has hit a new high. Can D'Amico and Aviles turn that anger into victory?
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.