Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Some thoughts on the West Hollywood City Council Election and where we go from here

First, let me say I love living, working and playing in West Hollywood.

I correctly predicted the top five candidates, but had no clue about the order of finish, but believed Mayor John D'Amico would be the top vote getter and he was.  Here are the totals at present.  There are still 700 provisional ballots to count, and with less than one hundred votes separating the second, third and fourth place candidates it is still conceivable, though I am not sure how likely, the outcome could change. So these numbers are not final, but this is probably but not definitely the order of finish, which we should definitely know by Monday (incumbents are starred, top three are elected):

John D'Amico*               1,892
Lauren Meister               1,750
Lindsey Horvath             1,692
John Heilman*                  1,664
Joseph Guardarrama          1,525
Larry Block                          826
James Duke Mason              307
Matthew Ralston                  283
Christopher T. Landavazo    276
Tristan Schukraft                  224
Brian Funnagan                     79
John Allendorfer                    73

I heartily congratulate Mayor John D'Amico on his re-election to the City Council, and to likely City Councilmembers-elect Lauren Meister and Lindsey Horvath.

No matter how any of us voted, we should all thank John Heilman for 30 years of devoted service to West Hollywood.  That's 30 years of dedication to the city we love.

A word to Joe Guardarrama.  You came so agonizingly close.  I hope you will consider running in the special election in June to replace Jeffrey Prang.   But please do not go away.  West Hollywood needs you.

A word to James Duke Mason.  Most great politicians did not win their first campaigns.  Your heart is clearly in the right place, so here is a tip.  Every candidate in the race was a progressive champion.  Just running as a progressive wasn't enough to distinguish you in a progressive city like West Hollywood.  Local elections in general are about land use planning, economic development, social services, public safety, transportation, and quality of life issues.  You have a future, and I am sure you learned a lot in this race, so do not be discouraged.

I thank ALL of the candidates who ran no matter how many votes they received.  Most candidates who run for office do not win, and politics is a experience of disappointment and heartache more often than not.  Whether we agree with the platforms of any or all of these candidates, they all deserve our thanks for putting themselves forward to take the slings and arrows.  Every city should have the caliber of candidates we have for West Hollywood City Council.

Clearly from the results in thus far, many voters of West Hollywood are concerned about what they fear are too large developments, and they fear the changes brought by increasing density, and want to ensure West Hollywood keeps its unique character.

However, here is what will not change in West Hollywood no matter whom is elected when the final numbers are released: Increasing traffic and density.  That's correct.  I said it out loud.  Anyone who thought they were voting for any particular candiate because they could bring back a low-density, low-traffic, suburbanesqe experience in West Hollywood was only living in the past and hiding from an inevitable future, not just for West Hollywood, but for its environs.  Sorry to break the news to you.  Well, I'm not so sorry actually, because I don't ever want to go through another West Hollywood election where it appears as if traffic and parking are our only transportation concerns.

I compare West Hollywood in Los Angeles County to Luxembourg in the European Union.  West Hollywood is an extremely desirable part of it, but has very little actual control over the politics and economic forces determining the whole of it, and must ride the wave of whatever it happening.  Increasing density and traffic is happening throughout Los Angeles, especially in Hollywood and mid-City and "Manhattanization" will continue. (Disclaimer:  I lived in New York for several years and there are very desirable parts of Manhattan.  There is a reason why so many people want to live there, so do not fret.)

It is my contention that the golden era of the single-occupancy automobile in California, where we all drive cars on clear, low-traffic roads, and treat people who ride public transit as the marginalized poor who can be ignored, and dismiss cyclists as freaks who should be avoided, is over.  In fact, West Hollywood already knows that to be true, and voted 84% for Measure R in 2008, more than any other city in Los Angeles County, because it wants transportation alternatives to simply sitting in their car in heavy traffic.  There will still be millions of cars in Southern California, but it will be multi-modal, like every other major metropolitan region in the world.

So now is the time for all of us, whomever we voted for in this election to come together and find transportation solutions for not just West Hollywood, but all of Southen California that work for the 21st Century.  Here are some policy questions to begin discussing:

  • Do we remake "Fountain Speedway" with bicyles lanes and traffic calming so that it serves our residents best?  
  • Do we remove curbside parking on Santa Monica Blvd. to create transit lanes that could also be used by a streetcars or light-rail that connects to SilverLake and downtown, and if so, were can we put alternative parking?  
  • Do we wait possibly twenty years for a subway to be built here, or, do we take away parking or a traffic lane on Santa Monica Blvd. for an above ground mass transit solution that can be built in within five?  
  • How do we reduce the pedestrian accidents that have plagued our city recently?  
  • How do we work cooperatively with Beverly Hills, Los Angeles City and County, the neighborhood councils of Los Angeles, and other entities to solve those problems and create opportunities that benefit all of us?  

This blog will continue to explore those questions that were not even discussed in this election.

On a personal note, like many, I started as a angry young man in politics and policy.  But, as I have grown older and matured, I have grown into someone who is focused on finding solutions and improving the quality of life for all of us.  If someone wants to keep looking backward at a West Hollywood and a Los Angeles County and Southern California where only cars mattered in transportation, and everyone else was simply marginalized or ignored, then this blog probably isn't for you.  In fact, the future of Southern California probably isn't for you.

But, if you want to find solutions that work for everyone -- motorists, cyclists, transit riders, pedestrians, all peacefully co-existing and mobile -- let us find those solutions, because they future is already upon on us, and West Hollywood, the creative city, will likely be in the forefront of it.

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