News

Nine candidates vie for WeHo council

By Aaron Blevins, 2/07/2013

Two incumbents seek re-election in ongoing race

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Election season is alive and well in Los Angeles County, and West Hollywood is no exception, as seven West Hollywood City Council candidates are striving to replace two incumbents — John Duran and Jeffrey Prang — who are seeking re-election.

Tom Demille

Demille, 57, previously worked for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, Organizing for America, as a co-captain of a phone bank for 31 weeks. He said he has attended city council meetings for the past 15 years.

Tom Demille

The West Hollywood resident of 22 years said he has frequently stood up for residents at council meetings, but to no avail. City hall often ignores residents in the decision-making process, he said.

“This city council has shoved everything down our throat — doesn’t care about hearing what we have to say, doesn’t care about our ideas, doesn’t care about our concerns, doesn’t care about anything except their next meals,” Demille said.

He was critical of the current council, saying that the members have lost their enthusiasm and have run out of good ideas. Demille said he signed and supported the term limit initiative.

“[The residents] don’t want this city council anymore,” he said. “This city council is tired. …The city council is now barren. The one thing we lack in West Hollywood is democracy itself. And that’s sad.”

If elected, Demille said he would listen to residents, take their advice and bring them into the city council decision-making process. He would also like to see street and neighborhood improvements, such as the replacement of “antiquated” streetlights on Sunset and Santa Monica boulevards.

“We need to have our boulevards lit during emergencies,” Demille said, adding that he would also like additional security cameras installed, especially at Plummer Park.

He also hopes to increase the size of the city council to seven members, and add a Russian-speaking representative. Demille, who has AIDS, said the city needs to offer additional help to its ill and elderly, by providing food, security, mental health services and AIDS support.

Sam Borelli

Borelli, 45, is an independent public relations and marketing consultant, and he is running for political office for the first time. He said he has served as a public safety commissioner for the last 10 years.

Sam Borelli

Borelli said the city has had good leadership for the last several years, but it is time for the next generation of leaders.

“We need some new leadership and some fresh ideas,” he said. “There’s a lot to do.”

One of his top priorities is addressing transportation and parking. Borelli said the city had attempted to build its way out of these issues, but has settled for trying to convince people to get out of their cars.

“What we haven’t done well as a city is come up with creative solutions,” he added.

Borelli said he would like to see a nightlife shuttle travel east and west through West Hollywood, and he believes that a bicycle share program would benefit the city. Such a program has been proposed, but has been “bogged down by bureaucracy,” he said.

“It’s innovative and creative,” Borelli said of the bicycle share program, “but as a city, we’ve lost our ability to be innovative and creative.”

Additionally, he wants to ensure that West Hollywood offers more affordable housing. Borelli would promote creating micro-units — approximately 320 square feet — that would be more affordable for a young person.

The Massachusetts native said the city should be more transparent, as residents generally learn of building projects and other actions after they’ve moved along in the planning process.

“The process is, ‘Here’s your pill. This is going to be good for you’,” he added.

Rusty Wiggs

Wiggs, 40, is running for office for the first time and is the executive director of Cognitive Behavior Associates, which specializes in cognitive behavior therapy. He said he is running to add his value to the civic process.

Rusty Wiggs

Wiggs, too, would like to improve the city’s communication with residents in regards to proposed developments. Through his involvement with the West Hollywood West Residential Association, he learned how important it is for residents to be heard and valued. Wiggs cited examples of projects being scaled back due to community involvement.

“That happens because of the residents, not because of the city,” he said.

He said he would also like to see the city think strategically about the types of developments it wants.

“It’s a major issue with everyone here in the city of West Hollywood,” Wiggs said of proposed developments. “I think it’s something that we can address, and we can work on getting better development than we are getting right now. …We are a developing city, and we need to ask for the infrastructure of our future.”

He said he would promote community building while navigating the city’s future and representing the community. Wiggs would also like to address various social problems, like traffic congestion.

“We have a lot of community services that we provide in West Hollywood, and I don’t see why we can’t work on some of these social issues,” he added. “It’s not just West Hollywood’s problem. We are a part of a big, urban city.”

Wiggs said that his experience in psychology has given him the ability view things as a whole — instead of basing decisions on an individual project. Having traveled abroad, he said he’s also learned about other forms of government. His experience as an executive director has given him experience with finances, marketing, management and efficiency, Wiggs said.

“I think that’s given me a lot of experience to be able to deal with the community and be able to communicate needs,” he added.

Jeff Prang

Prang, 50, has been on the city council since 1997 and has served four terms. He’s also served as mayor four times.

Jeffrey Prang

“I care deeply about this city,” Prang said. “There’s a lot of important work that needs to be done, including the protection of our affordable housing stock, the rehabilitation and expansion of open space, the development of transportation plans, as well as public parking. I have been and would like to continue to be an advocate for our residential neighborhoods.”

He said he would continue to fight for historic preservation and sustainable growth, while proceeding with his efforts to add affordable housing and open space. Prang said the Plummer Park project is a thing of the past, but work still remains. The project had been delayed after residents voiced concerns, and then shelved in December after redevelopment funding for the project was denied.

“It needs to be freshened up,” he said. “It needs to be improved to be made a much more dignified park for the people who use it.”

Prang also wants to expand Laurel Park, and he cited the city’s recent $1.5 million investment into the property.

“I have been an unwavering advocate for that property for a decade, and I’m eager to see it through,” he added.

In terms of transportation, Prang said he would like to facilitate short- and long-term projects. He listed several possibilities, such as a nighttime shuttle, a city line to the Hollywood and Highland Metro station and light rail.

“We need more short-term strategies as well,” Prang said. “Surface transportation could be another opportunity.”

He also hopes to address parking issues and bring traffic relief to neighborhoods.

“I’ve been a very effective member of the city council, and my passion for this position and this community remains undiminished,” Prang added.

Steve Martin

Martin, 58, is a family law attorney and served on the city council from 1993 to 2004, when his re-election bid fell short. He said his colleagues at the time wanted a council member who was less outspoken.

Steve Martin

However, the current council’s vision for the city does not align with what West Hollywood residents want, Martin said.

“People are fed up with the status quo,” he said. “They’re tired of the game-playing. They’re tired of the ethics violations.”

Generally speaking, the city council listens to developers while ignoring the wants and needs of the residents, Martin said. He cited the city’s adoption of its general plan as an example.

“We all want to see the city revitalized, but we don’t want to see the city over-developed,” Martin said, adding that the city has a great, unique character. “That’s the kind of character and charm we want to maintain. And that’s what’s being lost.”

He said his first priority would be to look at the general plan and determine ways to reduce allowable building heights. Martin said he also wants to eliminate or restrict the use of development agreements with new developers, which “has become very abused,” and restore civic engagement to West Hollywood.

“People don’t feel that their voices matter,” he said. “We need to restore faith at city hall, but we also need to make city hall responsive. …That’s not going to happen over night.”

Martin said he would also strive to increase diversity on city boards and commissions, promote fiscal responsibility and review the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station’s law enforcement priorities from top to bottom.

A total of nine candidates are running for two seats on the council. The remaining candidates will be profiled in upcoming editions of Park Labrea News and Beverly Press.

 

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