With the March 5 election fast approaching, candidates for West Hollywood City Council shared their thoughts with Patch on the election and issues affecting the community.
West Hollywood Patch: What personal characteristics and experiences set you apart from the other candidates?
Sam Borelli: Both personally and professionally I would be described as open, thoughtful, considerate and determined. I have nearly 10 years of service to West Hollywood as a member of the Public Safety Commission, where I led the creation of the inaugural public safety education campaign Live, Work, Play: Be Safe. This important outreach and education tool covers everything from pedestrian safety, earthquake preparedness, identity theft, domestic violence, Internet safety and vehicle burglary prevention, which is on the rise in West Hollywood.
I also have over 20 years of experience volunteering for numerous nonprofit organizations in various capacities including serving as board vice chair of The Trevor Project during its critical early years. Further, I ran a small business in West Hollywood, a home health care agency that provides caregivers to seniors and those in need. Currently, I am an independent consultant operating out of a home office, or my booth at Kitchen 24. Finally, I have worked with numerous departments and staff at West Hollywood City Hall and other local businesses as a member of the Avenues of Art, Fashion & Design Streetscape Working Group and as an independent consultant working with an organization that produces West Hollywood’s most economically advantageous event, LA Pride. All of this combined makes me the most uniquely qualified, nonincumbent, first-time candidate.
Patch: How would those characteristics and experiences define your term on the city council?
Borelli: My responsibility as a West Hollywood City Councilmember is to be accessible to residents so that we can bring a focus on the real problems impacting our community then working collaboratively to find productive solutions. Far too many people feel that our city has become inaccessible and secretive with behind-closed-door deals and a lack of information flow to residents. And I agree. Universally, community members feel that they are treated like they are the problem and not part of the solution. Friends and colleagues know that I am a solutions-based thinker with a passion to make things better.
Patch: In your interactions with West Hollywood voters during the campaign, what were the top three issues they were most interested in?
Borelli: Among the issues of concern that I hear most from residents is over-development in areas that will negatively impact their quality of life and drastically alter the character of their neighborhoods. Coupled with that is a lack of trust by residents of current councilmembers, who are primarily funded by developers, will vote fairly on projects. Additionally, as mentioned above, critical information from city hall is not reaching residents. I hear this at almost every neighborhood watch meeting I have been to over the past 10 years, at many commission and advisory board meetings, at council meetings and recently at a few of the community study gatherings and as I have been out meeting residents during this election cycle.
This community wants to engage in the process and not be dictated to what is best for us. I believe that “required legal notice” may be acceptable for large cities but is unacceptable to a community that prides itself on being progressive. There are so many examples of projects or issues getting far along in the process before the community knows what is going on that ultimately backfires on the city and causes more time, staff resources and, often, legal action that has too many times cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. As a city, we can do better!
Patch: When you look around West Hollywood, which project, development or ordinance approved by previous city councils would you like to see undone, reversed or changed in some way?
Borelli: Thanks to the active residents that surround Plummer Park, and to the many users of the park, that faulty redevelopment effort was stopped in the nick of time. As I have said before, Plummer Park does need some TLC and enhancements but not the drastic makeover that completely would have changed its unique character, including the removal of many longstanding trees.
The city recently went through a long, sometimes grueling, process to update the General Plan, so there has been community input on the type of uses we want and where they should be located. Therefore, I will work collaboratively with all stakeholders to implement the General Plan and oppose development agreements because they far exceed the zoning and only serve the interests of developers.
Finally, I will drive the effort to utilize new technology to further engage residents with the city and update the city’s website, so it is much more user-friendly, push for advancement of a more proactive social media plan to better share information and, finally, televise and stream advisory board and commission meetings on an advanced online streaming system. We need to reach people where they are; home, work, smart phone, application, etc.
Patch: If you weren't running for city council, which one of the other candidates would be your first choice?
Borelli: My first choice is not running in this election. In fact, I don’t know who my first choice will be in the next election but I am going to work to make sure that there is at least one, if not more, female candidates on the ballot next go around.
Over 28 years ago a united community came together to form West Hollywood—all genders, cultures, ages, sexual identities, ethnicities, abilities, nationalities and religions. We have some of the most fantastic, dynamic, creative, progressive women in our community and many serve on commissions, advisory boards, local nonprofits and in other various capacities that qualify them to be on the city council. The time has come for more balanced representation on our city council that more accurately reflects our diverse community.