Election 2020 Citizens Agenda: Does It Matter Whether You’ve Been Engaged in Civic Life?

The candidates in the Nov. 2 West Hollywood City Council election (left to right, from the top row): Larry Block, Jerome Cleary, Marco Colantonio, Tom DeMille, John Duran, John Erickson, John Heilman, Christopher McDonald, Noemi Torres, Sepi Shyne, Mark Farhad Yusupov

This is the final of eight questions WEHOville presented on Aug. 18 to the candidates in the Nov. 3 election for two seats on the West Hollywood City Council. The questions are based on suggestions from West Hollywood residents — the citizens of WeHo. Monday’s question and the answers can be found here.  Tuesday’s can be found here.  And Wednesday’s can be found here.  Here’s a link to Thursday’s questionone to Friday’s, one to Saturday’s, and one to Sunday’s.

Question: Does It Matter Whether You Have a History of Engagement with City Issues?

If you haven’t participated in civic life or taken public positions on major city issues in the last few years, why should we believe you’re willing to devote the time required to adequately represent us on the City Council? And why should we believe you have the background and knowledge of local issues necessary to make important city decisions?

Larry Block

My first trip to the City Council at the old auditorium was to ask the Council to do something about the gum on the sidewalks in front of my shop.   I went with Mary, an employee at my shop, and her girlfriend Natalie.   I fretted to speak in public and left without turning in the speaker slip. I left embarrassed and ashamed of myself.   Two weeks later I went back to the next meeting and talked about the history and importance of historic Boystown.   I’ve grown up over the years in front of many of you .

You may recall the time when I donated a rainbow flag to City Hall and asked for it to be flown for Pride.  Prang ordered it up (Duran was out of town) and Mr. Duran did not like that idea.  The flag came down off City Hall at the end of the year, and I led the fight to put the flag back up.    The grand compromise was our new city flag with the rainbow symbol of diversity.    Our city flag means so much to me.

The conversations about historic Boystown led to a suggestion by Lucas Jon Junkin for the rainbow crosswalks.   My goal etched in time was/is to create a City of Pride, not just in words but in deeds, and the gayest store in the middle.   None of these rainbow crosswalks or our new city flag or the Matthew Shepard square was here prior to my speaking up to paint our city with more symbols of our history. 

  • Almost nine years ago I knocked on my neighbor’s door asking Steve to write the language for term limits.   Measure C was passed by the voters in 2013.  
  • I founded Cross Safe WeHo to fight against out deadly crosswalks.   Years of fighting that led to the pedestrian safety zones and the updates to Santa Monica Boulevard. 
  • I was the 2013-2014 chairman of the Disability Advisory Board and my idea for a Disability Health Fair came to life in 2014 to bring free health screenings to West Hollywood residents.
  • I was the 2019-2020  Chair of the Public Facilities Commission and my proposal for the Green City Awards was approved by the City Council in January.   This week we give out our first Green City Awards. 

I wake up every day knowing my vulnerabilities, blind in one eye and partial sight in the other.    One -9.50 lens, and then another day.   Each day I give my all, all of me to WeHo.

Jerome Cleary

I do think it is important to show that you have a history of involvement to be cognizant of issues facing the city and its residents and businesses, and what solutions have been tried and have been successful or not.  On Aug. 17, 2020, I had just appeared before the City Council for a hearing for my appeal of the Chevron development at Holloway and LaCienega.

 I am proud to state that I have been participating in civic life and taking public positions on major city issues on a regular basis since 1986 when I first moved here.  I have a strong social conscience and have always felt it was my duty to participate in my community.  I have been very active in my neighborhood association, including and not limited to working to prevent major developments encroaching into residential streets, and new developments to be reasonably scaled, accessible and have appropriate traffic circulation plans.

If you Google my name together with the “City of West Hollywood,” the many times I have appeared to speak at City Council, Public Safety Commission, Rent Stabilization Commission, Public Facilities Commission, Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board, Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission and many more will appear in the search listings. I served two years on the Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board.

I also have produced two local TV cable shows on our city’s public access TV channels for the past 22 years. I was chosen and featured by LA Weekly as one of the “Eight Local Heroes of West Hollywood” for my activism and TV interviews. I have interviewed over 400 people about issues involving our city. I have been quoted and featured frequently over many decades in the local press including the West Hollywood Independent, the Beverly Press, WEHOville.com, Frontiers magazine, and the Los Angeles Times. I have also been interviewed many times over three decades on local Los Angeles TV news on specific issues about West Hollywood.

I was also a newspaper columnist for the West Hollywood Independent newspaper for three years and published over 150 weekly columns. I was also a blogger for AOL’s Patch for West Hollywood for three years and had published over 165 articles. I was also published in the Los Angeles Times. Wherever I go in West Hollywood residents frequently recognize me, complimenting me on my work as a community advocate and my TV show interviews. And when my articles were being published on an ongoing basis, I got a lot of recognition by phone calls, emails and by people on the street.

Marco Colantonio

No response

Tom DeMille

No response

John Duran

Yes.   This is not a run for Congress or State Representative where people have partisan battles over policy.   This is about a non-partisan office to deal with filling potholes, repairing sidewalks, public safety, housing, transportation, human services, parks and recreation, cultural and artistic affairs and civic life.   If you haven’t been active in any of these areas – why would you run?

John Erickson

It absolutely matters if a candidate has a history of engagement with city issues. Being an active member of the community is how one can truly understand the policy possibilities and concerns and needs of residents. One can’t be a good representative in a vacuum. Since I moved to the city ten years ago, I have been a regular both attending and speaking at West Hollywood City Council meetings and a regular participant at city events. My activism in the community demonstrates my commitment to my community and is evidence that I will invest the time to the job.

There are many reasons to believe I have the background and knowledge on local issues to make the right decisions for our community. First of all, I have a lifetime of activism behind me: on women’s issues, on senior issues and on renters’ issues. My work as a president of the ACLU of Southern California, as a board member of the Stonewall Democratic Club, and former president of Hollywood NOW demonstrates my commitment to issues impacting our city and has prepared me to tackle these issues on a local level. This also goes to my work with Planned Parenthood and former job at LAX. My advocacy as an activist for renters’ issues – to repeal Costa-Hawkins, to speak out on renters’ issues before the City Council, further demonstrates my commitment to renters’ rights and far beyond the lip service candidates give at election time.

I have firsthand experience of how our city operates from my time as a City Council intern and as Councilmember Abbe Land’s deputy and through my job as a community event technician. During my time at City Hall I learned how to shape policy, I got to know stakeholders, and I developed a deeper understanding of how our city functions. This is invaluable experience. I feel that I have already “trained” to be a Council member and during these uncertain times, we can’t afford a Council member who learns on the job.

Since I left City Hall, I have continued to work on issues that impact our city. As a Planning Commissioner and a non-profit healthcare director, I will bring a focus to the Council that other candidates do not have. Through my professional experience and activism in social and economic justice, I have proven my unrelenting knowledge of the city and support for workers, renters, and the underserved. My regional and national relationships that I have through my work with LAX, NOW and Planned Parenthood will help forge partnerships to help my city get the resources and tools it needs to keep residents safe at home and in the workplace.

As the only progressive young Democrat, I will represent the concerns of a new generation of West Hollywood residents who are under 40 years old. I’m running to work on behalf of West Hollywood residents every day – not just when there is fanfare involved. I am running to keep West Hollywood a beacon of social and economic justice as these are the foundations of the city and must be protected.

I suggest that anyone interested in finding out more about my knowledge of the issues or whether I have the right background to serve read my website at erickson4weho.com. If you have questions, contact me. I know it is hard to read between the lines of what a candidate writes, but I am happy to speak to anyone who contacts me. My number is (323) 925-5004.

John Heilman

Having a history of engagement with city issues is important because it shows a candidate’s commitment to the residents of the city. As someone who has attended almost every single City Council meeting in the city’s history, I know the amount of time it takes to prepare for and attend public meetings. I also know the amount of time it takes to meet with residents, business leaders and city staff. Someone who is running for City Council needs to have demonstrated through their actions that they are responsible and dedicated to serving the community.

We are fortunate because we have so many dedicated residents who serve our community on boards and commissions and volunteer in various capacities serving the community. We should always look carefully at every candidate for City Council to evaluate their experience and background and history of service to the community. While we should always be open to new ideas and we should welcome people who want to become involved with the city, we are best served by electing people to the City Council who already have a history of involvement and dedication to the community.

Christopher McDonald

My engagement with our city for the last 20 years has been as a responsible, caring and concerned resident. Every day I am engaged in supporting local businesses and the people who make this community what it is. I hear what people’s hopes and fears are for this city. I am running for office because developers seem to be dictating the future of OUR city and I want to right that wrong. I am starting to not recognize our city and we need an independent thinker on our City Council who does not accept donations from anyone.

My name might not be known throughout West Hollywood City Hall, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a history of engagement with city issues. I believe a concerned resident has just as much of a right to run for office in their hometown as anyone else. I think what matters most is voting for someone who is honest and has our city’s best interest at heart… someone who will govern with care and compassion, who believes in total and complete transparency, who will listen to all residents and will do what’s right for West Hollywood. I believe I am that person and I promise to provide a new voice and fresh perspective to the West Hollywood City Council.

Noemi Torres

I have lived in West Hollywood for 15 years, and of those years I have been engaged with the city for ten on an advisory board or commission, as well as having been a volunteer for the last 17 years at Project Angel Food.  I think it is important to be civically engaged and be a good listener to the community in order to be of better service.  City Council should be just like customer service, be available and not assume what the city needs, but rather ask what the community needs.  If someone is not civically involved, it is not understood what’s needed in the community.

Sepi Shyne

Yes. A general knowledge of the issues, solutions on how to fix them and a willingness to have an open line of communication to residents, community organizations and working families are critical to your success as a member of the City Council. I am proud to be one of the only candidates in this race who not only has a “vision” but specific action items related to my vision to implement once elected.

I also believe in the power of community and working together. That is why I helped to co-organize a community group called WeHo Neighbors Helping Neighbors. Together, we provide resources to our community as well as check-in calls for neighbors who are seniors, people with disabilities, people in immuno-suppressed households and anyone suffering from social isolation. We have a robust volunteer program, and our members have already volunteered in the community where they can. I hope to continue supporting the development of grassroots community groups to help our community come together even when this pandemic passes as a member of the West Hollywood City Council.

Mark Farhad Yupusov

I have been a resident of West Hollywood for 20 years, and I love living here! I serve as Chair of the Russian Advisory Board to the West Hollywood City Council, and for the past 19 years, I have served on the Homeowners Association in the Norma Triangle neighborhood, where I live with my wife and daughter.

I have a Master’s degree in Political Economy and am ready to address the ever-changing issues confronting our city. I am passionate about sports and health, and I want our community to have access to outdoor spaces to play and exercise. Three years ago, I organized an amateur soccer club that regularly plays (pre-COVID) on the fields just outside our city. I hope to be able to create more athletic and recreational spaces within our city. If elected, I will restart a dialogue with the City of Los Angeles regarding the Poinsettia Park & Recreation Center’s long-term lease so that WeHo can make necessary improvements to the park and athletic fields for our residents to use.

The other passion that I have is home improvement. As a long-term member of the homeowners association of a large complex in the Norma Triangle of West Hollywood, I was able to facilitate many capital improvements such as new, energy-saving “cold-roof” installation, energy-efficient mini-split systems, and efficient European style in-unit laundry machines. It’s a large complex, and one of the biggest lessons that I learned was that even changes that seem clearly beneficial for all are still challenging to implement. One cannot assume that a positive change can gain support without a well-thought plan, accompanied by a compelling and well formulated message and real effort made to balance and promote the ideas to everyone involved. If elected, I bring to the table my practical experiences of being a voice for a community of neighbors, my educated knowledge of the economy, the ability to listen well so that I can best address my neighbors’ concerns and to think long term for the betterment of our community.

Finally, I think that our city government needs to be more transparent, we must limit the influence of special interests, ban city vendors from contributing to Council candidate campaigns, and regularly publish all registered lobbyist information.

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Steve Martin
Steve Martin
3 years ago

I would think that some sort of participation in civic life in West Hollywood would be necessary for the public to gauge a candidate’s commitment to doing the actual work. If you want to be a city council member you may want to actually go out and speak at a council or planning commission meeting so people know where you stand. You should at least sit through an entire council meeting just to get a feel for the issues you will have to deal with. But I don’t think not being a Board or Commission member should be viewed negatively… Read more »

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
3 years ago

what a bunch of silly answers.

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
3 years ago

Perhaps it is just me, or perhaps many in the community are unaware of the hypocrisy that John Erickson brings to the table. In his own words:…” First of all, I have a lifetime of activism behind me: on women’s issues,…..” And yet, only a few weeks ago, on the Planning Commission, he chose to NOMINATE HIMSELF for Vice-Chair instead of showing support for the only other person nominated, the senior, more knowledgeable, more qualified FEMALE commissioner. This act is self-serving and along with the outrageous sums of money being donated to his campaign by developers, I do not see what… Read more »

3 years ago
Reply to  Deja Vu

You could not have stated more clearly how “Mr. Me, Myself and I” is not suited for city council. He barely demonstrates a grasp for his current assignment. No, Nay, Never.

3 years ago
Reply to  Deja Vu

Perhaps Mr. Erickson could tell us after all this supercharged training and experience, exactly what specifics he has accomplished with all this activism. It would also be good to know why he has determined that women need and want his help.

3 years ago

I think it’s fairly easy to “read between the lines” and see what needs to be seen on these mini resumes. As to being “trained” to be on Council, one has to ask “by whom?” Of course we know the answer, and I think we have more than enough candidates who are well versed in the ways of City Hall in the running. I am also puzzled to know what specific “concerns” the under-40 residents have that do not affect or do not concern those of us who kicked 40 in the pants, uhh, 5 years ago. I hope as… Read more »

3 years ago

I have had a front row seat to the many contributions Larry has made to our city. There is no other candidate that can match his contributions from the public comment podium.

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