West Hollywood got a new mayor Monday night. In a largely ceremonial City Council meeting, outgoing Mayor John Heilman symbolically passed the reins of power to John Duran, who was sworn in for a one year term.
Holding his right hand up, Duran repeated the oath of office as read to him by City Clerk Tom West. And in a move that brought great laughter to the audience at West Hollywood Park Auditorium, when West read, “to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the state of California,” Duran repeated that phrase, then added, “except Proposition 8.”
While previous inaugurations have had a party atmosphere, this year’s swearing in was low key. Duran said he specifically asked the city manager to keep it simple.
“To me, this is just the annual changing of the gavel from one council member to the next,” Duran told attendees. “I don’t have any special powers, perks, privileges or staff. My entire administration is still just [deputy] Hernan Molina.”
Duran, who joined the City Council in 2001 after years as a local activist, went on to discuss how much the city has changed in the 26 years since it was founded.
“This city is not what it was in 1984,” he said. “For those of us who walked these streets in 1984, it was a pit. It is no longer a pit. It is a fashionable, fun, upstanding, sterling place that everyone wants to live, work and play in. That is possible because of the councils that came before us.”
Duran noted that the city has reached a tipping point. He said there are now more residents who were not living in West Hollywood when it officially became a city than people who were here in 1984.
“We have ideas that sometimes compete with the ideas of the original founders of the city,” Duran said. “That’s good healthy democracy, competition of ideas. People using logic and reason, passion to persuade one another about what is best for the community. Having those sorts of vigorous debates I think is healthy for the city of West Hollywood. I look forward to engaging those debates and trying to manage them with this slim gavel.”
As a thank you for Heilman’s year of service as mayor, the city is paying for a $150 bookshelf in his name in the new library, set to open in the fall.
Heilman thanked City Hall staffers for their tireless dedication to the city, especially mentioning City Manager Paul Arevalo, City Attorney Mike Jenkins and his deputy, Fran Solomon. He also thanked the sheriff and fire departments for their work. He further thanked West and Assistant City Clerk Cory Schaffer for keeping council meetings on track and making sure “the agendas were understandable.”
Heilman listed the many things the city had accomplished in the past year, including completing the Sunset Strip renovations, opening the , opening the behind the new library, opening the affordable housing unit on Sierra Bonita and breaking ground on the new affordable housing project on Hayworth.
He also noted that at the annual , the city set a new world record for having the most people doing the “Time Warp” dance from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The entire meeting lasted a mere 30 minutes. Council members Abbe Land and Jeff Prang were both absent—Land had a meeting she could not get out of and Prang had a work obligation that took him out of town. Consequently, the council voted at its April 4 meeting not to deal with any city business other than the consent calendar.
Prang’s absence prevented him from taking the oath of office as mayor pro tempore at Monday’s meeting, but was said to be sworn in during an invitation-only ceremony Saturday morning at Marco’s restaurant.
Before the meeting adjourned for cake and coffee to celebrate Duran’s swearing in, Councilman John D’Amico officially appointed Lauren Meister to the Planning Commission. Meister is a longtime city activist and former Public Safety commissioner who ran for City Council in 2003 and 2009.
Planning Commissioner John Altshul told Weho Patch that Meister was a good appointment, saying she was probably more knowledgeable on land use than any other citizen.
“I’m so honored to have been appointed by council member John D’Amico to the Planning Commission and am looking forward to being an active participant in the process as the city moves forward,” Meister told Weho Patch.