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?
Steve Martin: As an activist and family law attorney I bring board experience to this position. I have lived in West Hollywood since 1980 and was part of the grassroots movement that incorporated the city in 1984. That was the beginning of my activism. I was president of Stonewall Democratic Club during the 1991 AB 101 demonstrations and I was in the forefront of dealing with issues of homophobia in the Sheriff’s Department and AIDS issues. I had the honor of being elected as a Clinton/Gore Delegate to the Democratic Convention. I met scores of dedicated individuals when I ran the AIDS Marathon in Honolulu in 2002 and 2003. I also was involved in community issues such as the Save the Park initiative opposing the city’s plans to build a huge civic center in West Hollywood Park that would have eliminated our only pool. I developed grassroots organization skills that have given me a huge respect for public participation in the governing process. As a city council member I was I do not believe that governments should be run by elites and that local government in particular should be transparent and participatory.
Patch: How would those characteristics and experiences define your term on the city council?
Martin: I have always been independent and I am not one who goes along to get along. I am not afraid to ask hard questions or question the status quo. None of these characteristics made me popular with some of my former colleagues when I was on city council but they repeatedly gave me positions of responsibility. I sat on the city’s budget subcommittee for eight years and was selected to head the Santa Monica Re-Design Committee, a 40-person body of community leaders charged with planning for the reconstruction of our main street. As a council member no one ever accused me of being ineffective or indecisive. I lead the way on major issues like creating our new fire station on San Vicente, creating Kings Road Park, taking Santa Monica over from the state and the creation of the Eastside Re-Development Agency. These were major issues that have had lasting impact on the quality of life in West Hollywood. Unlike the two incumbents, I was never investigated by the district attorney nor did tax payers ever have to foot the bill for any transgressions. As a council member I would be an independent voice and my main goal would be to restore civic engagement in our city. I would bring common sense and fiscal responsibility back to City Hall.
Patch: In your interactions with West Hollywood voters during the campaign, what were the top three issues they were most interested in?
Martin: In my interactions with the residents, I would say the number one concern are the threats to the character of this community posed by overdevelopment and traffic. The second would be lack of integrity among city council members who seem more concerned with remaining in office than serving the public as evidenced by their reliance upon developer dollars to fund their campaigns. The numerous headlines generated about questionable campaign practices including intimidation of challenger’s supporters, the obvious conflict of retaining a land use lobbyist as a campaign manager and the obvious attempts by incumbents to undermine our limits on campaign contributions have disgusted the public. Third concern would be lack of security within our neighborhoods and parks and the perception that the Sheriff is concentrating on patrolling our commercial zones at the expense of neighborhood safety.
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?
Martin: The fact we have a $64 million library that we cannot keep open on Sunday’s represents a lot of what is wrong at City Hall. The city council’s approval of the ten story Movie Town Plaza project in spite of our own Transportation Department’s concerns about creating gridlock on Santa Monica Boulevard and pushing traffic on to residential streets is an excellent example how developers have been able to influence council members at the expense of our quality of life. This project is emblematic of a disconnect between city council and the people they are supposed to serve. Developers dictate policy and the city council, as reflected by the recent campaign reports, are clearly bought by campaign contributions. Unfortunately this project is not an isolated instance but it is certainly the most egregious. The character of West Hollywood will be destroyed if we remain on this course.
Patch: If you weren't running for city council, which one of the other candidates would be your first choice?
Martin: All of the challengers have bought new perspectives and ideas to the table. I would say that Sam Borelli is the most articulate and has over a decade of selfless service on the Public Safety Commission. Sam certainly has numerous thoughtful policy positions and is undoubtedly ready and able to serve. Chris Landavazo has been a quick study and has not been afraid to raise tough issues. While the incumbents have been ranting against term limits by saying that they are irreplaceable, it is clear there is a new generation of leaders in the wings.