New Mayor: Most places consume culture; WeHo invents it

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April 22, 2014

By John D’Amico, Mayor, West Hollywood

Mayor Pro Tempore John D’Amico took the Mayoral reins last night in an outdoor ceremony unusual for its informality.

John D'Amico at center with a group of, well, WeHo citizens acting a little goofy. Photo by Richard Settle.

John D’Amico at center with a group of, well, John’s family acting a little goofy. Photo by Richard Settle.

During the ceremony, Mr. D’Amico gave an address to the crowd that expressed his hopes for the city during the coming 12 months, and set a bar for all future Mayor speeches’ to come.

Here, less the many necessary live thank yous to those present, is the full text of the New Mayor’s speech:

For me, the best thing about West Hollywood is the people. Individually and collectively as a community, we have consistently invented extraordinary ways of thinking about and being in the world.

Most places consume culture, West Hollywood invents it.

Jeanne Dobrin, now 93, seldom misses a city meeting. She sees her citizenry as a high calling. Photo by Richard Settle.

Jeanne Dobrin, now 93, seldom misses a city meeting. She sees her citizenry as a high calling. Photo by Richard Settle.

Beginning 30 years ago, with John Heilman’s leadership, our city was the first in the nation to offer domestic partner registrations and healthcare benefits. Abbe’s leadership helped our WeHo become the first pro-choice city in the US. John Duran helped us become the first city to support medical marijuana, ban the declawing of cats and the sale of fur apparel – making this the most humane city in America. Jeff Prang has always been the good government guy, leading the way – making sure that our city uses our resources wisely.

And so many others from the larger WeHo community have joined us in this adventure of inventing the culture.

Up on Sunset the GoGos told us ‘we’ve got the beat,’ and the Doors told us to ‘break on thru to the other side.’ And RuPaul let us know, ‘you better werq,’ David Cooley brought us the Abbey, Shelly Hwang started Pinkberry here, and Rudi Gernreich gave us ‘the monokini,’  Ed Ruscha taught us about irony along the Sunset Strip, Rabbi Denise Eger and Reverend Troy Perry brought open religions to WeHo.

A band gave a creative flavor to the event . Photo by Richard Settle.

A band gave a creative flavor to the event . Photo by Richard Settle.

Wolfgang Puck gave us the brie and grape quesadilla, and the Zweibels invented courtyard housing and Rudolph Schindler brought us outdoor living at the Kings Road House. Lorcan O’Herlihy installed the “Wishbone” billboard last week. Oprah Winfrey is moving her OWN network headquarters to the old 1920s PickFair studios next month.

All of us inventing the culture that we call WeHo.

And there are the personalities too, who have called this place home:  Wayland Flowers and Madam, Marilyn Monroe, Sal Mineo, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Andre Ethier, Evander Holyfield, International Mr. Leather Mikel Gerle, and Elton John, Gov. Gray Davis, pioneers Harry Hay, Chaz Bono and Ivy Bottini and so many more iconoclasts that upset the balance and created new buoyancies. They gave us room to play and grow and protest.

And oh, how WeHo loves to protest!  Act Up and Queer Nation, Prop 101 and Prop 8, Jane Fonda and “1 Billion Women Rising,” the Transgender Day of Remembrance, “Save Tara” and “Protect Plummer Park,” the Mattachine Society and the Lesbian Visibility Network, and many more movements that reflected us in the space of appearances and changed how we think about inclusion and oppression and action and addition.

Planning Commissioner John Altschul with Mayor John D'Amico. Photo by Richard Settle.

Planning Commissioner John Altschul with Mayor John D’Amico. Photo by Richard Settle.

All of this is packed into 1.9 square miles.

With your help, and your participation we will continue this 30 plus year tradition of culture making;  building on our past and inventing the future.

While Mayor, City Hall will open up to as much daylight and fresh air as possible.  We will redouble our efforts to share with the residents how we do business and engage in as much conversation at every level about what is best for our WeHo.  New technologies will provide new opportunities for residents, businesses and visitors to work with us in city-making.

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Walt Whitman said nearly 150 years ago, “To have great poets, there must be great audiences, too.”  I would agree and extend that sentiment by saying that,

A speaker regaling the public during public comments. Photo by Richard Settle.

A speaker regaling the public during public comments. Photo by Richard Settle.

“To have great cities, there must be great residents, too.”

And here we are tonight in Plummer Park, to witness the city government, outdoors, render it visible.  A perfect way to step into the next year as your mayor.

Let’s find out what fresh air and daylight can bring.

Please know that WeHo will continue to do all the things we always do, fill potholes and fix sidewalks, fund social services and build subsidized housing, issue parking tickets and collect the trash, protect rent control, redouble our public safety efforts, wrestle with our traffic problems and celebrate events big and small.

Yet there’s more to do, as John Chase used to say, “West Hollywood is never finished.” There are big decisions to be made, big issues to tackle, and we need to think big and act responsibly… especially on the Eastside.  How do we protect Plummer Park and make it modern and fresh for this century?  And how do we retain the charm of all of our neighborhoods while mid-rises rise, up and down Santa Monica and Sunset boulevards?

“To have great cities, there must be great residents, too," said WeHo Mayor John D'Amico.

“To have great cities, there must be great residents, too,” said WeHo Mayor John D’Amico.

How do we update our 50-, 60-, 70-year-old apartment buildings while keeping the rents affordable and residents in place? What’s best to help our aging-in-place population?  What do we do about traffic? What do we do about traffic? All good, tough questions that need to be answered with big ideas and responsible actions.

Let’s find out what fresh air and daylight can bring.

In 1984, our city was founded at the beginning of what is now the worldwide AIDS pandemic. Some estimates are that more than 10,000 West Hollywood residents have died or are living with HIV. What is AIDS in 2014 after 30 years of messages and memorials and fundraisers and pharmaceuticals ?

aidsribbontallWe know one thing for sure.  AIDS will not end with a “mission accomplished” banner and party at the beach.

AIDS will end with a prescription from your doctor.  We now know that medical “treatment equals prevention,” 100 percent. We know medications kill the virus and medications stop new infection.

“Use a condom” can no longer be the beginning and the end of the discussion.

WeHo does not provide healthcare, but we can provide leadership. We can deliver the message that “your whole life is important,” and we need you present to help us invent the future.  West Hollywood led the discussion at the beginning of this disease 30 years ago, and we can help lead the discussion now.

Let’s see what fresh air and daylight can bring.

So, I close with a proposition to every resident, business and visitor.  Engage with our city.  This is an amazing place.  Invent your life here like so many others have, and help invent the future history of our WeHo.

As my mother used to say, “go out there and be somebody.”  Be a citizen in the best way you know how.

John D'Amico urges citizens to, “go out there and be somebody.”  Be a citizen in the best way you know how.

John D’Amico urges citizens to, “go out there and be somebody.” Be a citizen in the best way you know how.

Talk to your neighbors, talk to the staff, talk to us, we’re on the web, email us, tweet us @wehocity, call us, call my cell phone –310.498.5783, attend a city meeting, be vocal, cause trouble, disagree, protest, heckle if you must.

Let my dear friend, 93-year-old Jeanne Dobrin be your guide — ask her how she does it and why? She will tell you. It will all make sense.

Take the time to engage and know that every time you speak up you are bringing more daylight and more fresh air to our city.

On your seats are packets of sunflower seeds.  Take them with you and plant them in your gardens, in pots on your window ledge, in flower beds on your streets, anywhere you’d like to the see the sun shine.

These sunflowers will burst open in June and July and shine for months.

They can be a reminder to all of us that sunshine and fresh air are best for plants, best for us and best for our government.

It’s up to us, WeHo, and WeHo is up to the task.

John D’Amico

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