Opinion: The West Hollywood Mayor’s Bark Is Worse Than His Bite

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As a long time planning commissioner and a parent, I have witnessed a considerable amount of barking from different members of the community. In response, I have learned to work hard at placing proposals, circumstances and remarks in their proper context before acting or responding. That is why comments made by the Mayor of West Hollywood during a recent Council meeting related to the Phase II of the West Hollywood Park Master Plan were little more than business as usual.

Marc yeber, west hollywood planning commissioner
Marc Yeber

This is not to excuse the Mayor for such unfortunate remarks, nor is this to make little of the hurt many parents felt in the perceived betrayal that a civic leader displayed. The truth of the matter is that this kind of exchange is fairly ordinary when the city is considering the merits and impacts of any policy or significant project. Each of us tends to get so caught up in his or her own priorities and agendas that we forget that they may compete with others’ needs and concerns. As a result, we say and do things with unnecessary hyperbole and engage in a discourse that is neither constructive nor productive.

The specifics of the remarks about children in the West Hollywood do not bear repeating, but some background on the discussion might provide a better understanding into planning, politics and civic engagement. Not only did the Mayor poorly frame his comments in describing a segment of our population, but he based such remarks on incorrect data. Further he chose to pit those with children against those without (especially those that are “pet guardians”) instead of playing mediator between two constituent groups that were not obviously at odds.

That said, his point of view should not be entirely dismissed. Does this mean I agree with his view? Well of course not. I view situations through the lens of a parent whereas he cannot. Does the fact that he doesn’t have children absolve the Mayor for his point of view? Perhaps. The Mayor (as with any politician) cannot act in an informed manner on what he does not fully understand or experience firsthand.

Another point to take into consideration is that a headline or pull quote (or even the article itself for that matter) as published in the Los Angeles Times does not tell the whole story. If you were at the meeting or viewed the streaming video, the rest of the City Council did not subscribe to the Mayor’s comments. Even the Mayor had a sort of mea culpa moment as he attempted to take the sting out of his word choice by repeating them later in a different context and in a sarcastic manner. In the end, no decision was made that would alter our children’s continued enjoyment of the park. It is also worth mentioning that at least two parents (with school-aged kids) serve on the West Hollywood Park Steering Committee.

Of course parents have been deservedly outraged by a civic leader who is supposed to represent ALL in the community. But the onus is ultimately on all of us parents. It is not enough to simply use these amenities or services. Each of us needs to make an effort to be at the table to better inform and shape the discussion about them. All too often, time constraints and schedule conflicts are used as excuses. Yet I have noticed that many parents don’t think twice about getting highly involved (and sometimes too much so) in our children’s school while rarely concerning themselves when a policy or proposal has an impact on our neighborhood and potentially our children. Case in point is the recent West Hollywood Park Steering Committee meeting where I urged attendance by a particular group of parents. You probably can guess how many of those parents attended. That’s right — not one. It was practically the same for a recent discussion and decision concerning the installation of a cell tower in proximity to an elementary school or a bar’s proposal for a patio that would open out onto West Hollywood Park.

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While I have been a member for nearly 12 years sitting on two different city commissions and a member of several standing civic committees, I am certainly not suggesting such involvement is necessary to be civically aware and involved. However, I do advocate that anyone concerned about a particular community issue at least make an effort to raise his or her voice at a public meeting on the matter. Otherwise, someone else’s expressed priorities or concerns will easily take the spotlight. Remember that many different constituencies are staking out their territory on any given issue, so it is incumbent that you are one of them. It should be further noted that the city typically offers numerous opportunities to “speak out” on any given public process.

In order for your community leaders to render sound and equitable decisions, it is essential that ALL perspectives be heard and considered. So instead of barking back, may I suggest approaching the Mayor or any civic leader to enlighten him or her and make sure your priorities and concerns are considered. This is what real civic engagement is all about.

Marc Yeber, design and planning principal at CONT-X Studio, is a member of the City of West Hollywood’s Planning Commission and the father of seven-year-old Tyler.

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Harold
Harold
9 years ago

I think there’s room enough for both. I agree with Darren. Everybody should just calm down.

Manny
Manny
9 years ago

Darren, I think we agree….yes we can and should, for all, have both.

Manny
Manny
9 years ago

@Darren Gold….The non-resident point is valid. The city (a municipality, not a business) should not cater to non-residents at the expense of it’s own.

Yes I do go to council meetings and not just to tout my own interests….There are many things I don’t agree with, but those other things have nothing to do with the exclusion of a city funded public amenity (not a business) that would be of great use to it’s local residents.

That’s not complicated.

darren
darren
9 years ago
Reply to  Manny

Manny, here is where YOU complicate things. This doesn’t have to be at anyone’s expense. It is possible to have BOTH children’s play areas and a dog park. It is exactly that kind of language that caused this problem in the first place, which is really just a semantics problem and not a real one. If everyone would just realize that both are possible, then there would be no issue. Furthermore, if you go to council meetings, you will know that this isn’t even about what it seems. It is a fight between the council members that has manifested in… Read more »

darren
darren
9 years ago

No one said we shouldn’t have a doggie park. No one said we shouldn’t serve the local community. I have a dog in fact, and not children…But when it is brought up that people using the park don’t even live in West Hollywood, I just must point out that yes, there is hypocrisy involved. I’m not the one who made that point about non-residents; that door was opened by the council. And Woody, people who use the park also go to Yogurt Stop, and Pavillions, and other businesses, so no, by using the park, they are not contributing tax dollars,… Read more »

Woody McBreairty
9 years ago

I am reminded of the occasion in 2010 when Heilman & Land were determined to destroy a Drug & Alcohol Rehabilitation Center in WeHo to make room for a “Tiny Tot Playground” to be built in it’s place. Council Member John Duran called it a “cultural battle for the city’s soul”, (LA WEEKLY, 10-2-1010), stating that West Hollywood had never been a destination for young families & kids, lesbians & gays make up at least 41% of the population, & a large percentage are seniors & singles. Seems the City Council, influenced by Heilman & Land, was considering bulldozing the… Read more »

luca d
luca d
9 years ago

when will it be legal to marry our dogs?
bigotry is wrong.
west hollywood should be at the forefront of ending this outrageous discrimination.
john d’amico, where are you in this fight?

Manny
Manny
9 years ago

@Darren Gold….There’s nothing “hypocritical” about wanting something that serves the local community. Any town must primarily look at their resident’s needs first….all else is bonus. Our local politicians are voted into office to represent US, not people from “outside LA County”.

Your attempt at complicating and corrupting a simple and legitimate request from West Hollywood dog companions is unfair and, like Mr. Yeber’s opinion piece, nonsensical.

That’s right Woody…..”how about we just have a doggie park”.

Woof.

Woody McBreairty
9 years ago

Bar/night club & restaurant & hotel patrons pay the bills 100 fold & over. Park “patrons” do not. Let’s just have an off leash doggie park!

woodymcbreairty
9 years ago

How about if we just have a doggie park?

Darren Gold
Darren Gold
9 years ago

The thing I find the most troublesome about this whole discussion is the idea that the park is visited by children and parents who reside outside West Hollywood. Well, have you been to any of our precious bars on a weekend? 75% of those patrons are visiting from outside West Hollywood and more likely outside of La County. Due to the size and location of our city all of our amenities, whether a park, a bar, or a reoccur center serve people from all over. We are a beacon and magnet to people from other communities. It is hypocritical to… Read more »

Larry Block
Larry Block
9 years ago

PS, let me update my above comment. Hart Park is leased by the City of West Hollywood from either the county or city of Los Angeles. The pet license or permit.. is already required by the city. My suggestion is that all dogs using the dog park need to have the proper license. Part of getting a pet license includes proof from a vet that the animal has had all its shots and/or vaccinations. Dog owners outside of West Hollywood would be required to register those pets and get a proper license in order to use the West Hollywood dog… Read more »

Mike Dolan
Mike Dolan
9 years ago

This is Weho’s 30 year anniversary and I am amazed we have no off-leash dog park. There should have been dog parks decades ago. I applaud the Mayor for looking at the demographics and stating the obvious, “where’s the dog park.” Yes, I support an off-leash dog park in West Hollywood Park but let’s plan now for our city’s largest park, Plummer Park to have this amenity. There are many, many more dogs in our City than what the Times investigation states. Our residents can register their dog with L.A. City, L.A. County and With Weho City. The Times investigation… Read more »

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