West Hollywood continues to change, and it’s time for this progressive city to move on from a previous generation of leaders that, while important from WeHo’s founding until recent years, have had more than their share of time on the council dais. People like Steve Martin and John Duran enjoyed many years of service, and in Martin’s case, remain so active they comment on items at just about every city council meeting. However, Duran’s behavior has soiled his reputation and he is no longer a qualifying candidate that should be given any consideration. John Heilman served well in his time on council, and, after narrowly losing re-election in 2020, certainly has every right to try and reclaim the council mantle.
That being said, and with Councilmember John D’Amico unfortunately retiring after two terms, there are just too many exciting younger leaders that should be given their time to lead the city forward. We believe residents of West Hollywood would be best served if they elect Sarah Adolphson, Chelsea Byers, and Zekiah Wright on November 8.
Ms. Adolphson is someone with whom Westside Voice has enjoyed a professional relationship for several years, and it’s not only honest but ethically required to say we are therefore openly inclined toward her candidacy on a personal level. That said, we’ve enjoyed professional relationships with many people that we don’t miss at all. Whereas Adolphson has earned our admiration as a person and someone committed to civic – and civil – engagement. A former Peace Corps Volunteer placed in Georgia of the former Soviet Union, Adolphson doesn’t come from the traditional progressive base of WeHo residents who all know each other well. But we know her socially responsible business relationships and civic engagement approach will yield strong results with council colleagues and city staff alike. Sarah even spoke with us about wanting to bring a true spirit of kindness to city hall. It may sound corny to some, but some tension at the council and commission level in the city is pretty hard to ignore. It might be time for someone that didn’t originate from the traditional WeHo cool kids table to join the council with an outside perspective. She may end up a little friendlier with the West Hollywood Chamber than our comfort level allows, but she’s passed our test enough by telling us she supports the West Hollywood minimum wage and the new labor and safety guidelines that were passed for hotel workers.
As for Ms. Byers, we’re just going to say it – we find her to be cool as Hell. We really like her attitude and the fact that she’s an advocate for building a lot of new, affordable housing; and, as a renter, is a true renter’s advocate. She is committed to renter’s rights and keeping a city 80 percent filled with renters in their homes through subsidies that will keep them off the streets. As someone without a car living in West Hollywood, Byers has honed a skill for innovating public transit solutions and is committed to creative transit outcomes to help more people. We also really like the fact that Byers works the frontlines of nonprofit, social service work and therefore understands the full scope of city services and the nonprofits with which the city contracts for help. She’s also endorsed by people and organizations we respect, including Assemblymember Laura Friedman, former West Hollywood Mayor Abbe Land, current Councilmember John Erickson, the County Democratic Party, L.A. Labor Federation, the Sierra Club, and the Stonewall Young Democrats, among many more.
Zekiah Wright is someone we really enjoyed interviewing and we’ve followed their campaign with great interest. They have a great story, growing up in a small Florida town that they say, “taught me that it wasn’t ok to be queer.” They aspired to live in West Hollywood, the city they now love due to its open, progressive reputation and as a city that values identity and representation. We love the fact that Wright, an attorney, is a trained mediator – something that should come in handy with regard to intra-council relations. They, like Byers, are also in tune with our values on the issues. As a Rent Stabilization Commissioner, they have prioritized rent control and renter protections. They believe in affording housing development and in more responsible policing and public safety measures that take city stakeholders in mind as well as residents. We like that they have made a point of encouraging residents to support local businesses, and we appreciate their holistic view of ways to assist the unhoused. And representation matters. As a queer, non-binary person of color, Wright will be an important voice in council chambers and throughout the community.
We can’t in good conscience endorse current Mayor Lauren Meister for re-election. Despite our respect for aspects of her leadership style and stance on several issues, her bizarre animosity toward Councilmember Lindsey Horvath, Westside Voice’s endorsed candidate for Supervisor, is disqualifying in our view. We have heard wonderful things about Robert Oliver, who has proven to be a solid fundraiser and is in a very competitive position to win. But we just were never able to nail him down and get to know him. But we wish him well. In the end, we stand by Sarah Adolphson, Chelsea Byers, and Zekiah Wright, and hope West Hollywood voters will as well.