Why I would never vote for John D'Amico for West Hollywood City Council
February 12, 2015
I didn’t support Mr. D’Amico in 2011 and I cannot support him now. West Hollywood is my home, I care deeply about what happens here and I give serious consideration to who earns my support and vote to lead this city. For me, this is about authenticity and leadership and I find these two vital characteristics lacking in our current Mayor.
I met with Mr. D’Amico during the 2011 campaign to hear his ideas for “the future” of West Hollywood. I agreed to the meeting because I appreciated his work on the Planning Commission. During my tenure as a Public Safety Commissioner I made numerous trips to Planning Commission meetings to present on general issues of public safety and sometimes to discuss an area of concern that we had with a proposed development. Commission Chair D’Amico was much more welcoming and inviting to the public than previous commission leadership. Further, other people that I respected were supporting him so I wanted to listen. However, I also had some concerns about Mr. D’Amico prior to our meeting. While I love when people stand up and speak truth to power, and often find myself in this position with some of my clients, I was not a fan of his approach as he geared up for his first campaign.
We met and not long into our meeting I thought that he was a bit nuts and not someone that I could support as a community leader. In my work of over 20 years I have spent countless hours observing people and their behaviors and working with them to be better individuals. My former company worked with top executives to help them with their interpersonal skills. Even now I am teaching a program where one of the key components is helping people with how they think, act and react in certain situations. It didn’t take me long to figure out Mr. D’Amico and know that while he might likely win, I could not support him. I found his approach to be more often about what is popular versus what is right and fair for all, much more politician-like than community servant.
I still roll my eyes at one of his big campaign issues of 2011, the fur ordinance; a pointless symbolic gesture that pandered to special interests. And to what end? Yes, we LOVE animals here in WeHo but let’s be real, has this ordinance done anything to save pets or improve the quality of their lives? No! What it has done is cost the city valuable time and money and harmed small businesses that sold responsibly made products.
Yep, I am prepared for the militant animal rights activists to attack me. However, if you know me, animals often come first for me. My point is that if Mr. D’Amico truly cared about the welfare of animals there would have been a broader legislative effort. Instead, Mr. D’Amico cynically leveraged this matter to fill his campaign coffers and raise his profile. Meanwhile, an established West Hollywood business, Mayfair House, who have been fighting this lopsided ordinance, have had their safety compromised due to death threats. They can’t sell certain products yet the same consumer that can’t buy a wearable product at a West Hollywood business can easily bop on down to another and purchase a chair made with the skin of a zebra. Ask yourselves, what good has the fur ordinance done for West Hollywood?
Mr. D’Amico has become, or maybe always was, as political and calculating as what he claimed to be against just four years ago. Sure, you need an ego just to run for office, I certainly know that, but Mr. D’Amico’s ego and approach has since turned off as many people as he inspired during that campaign. I’ve had my own run in with him where he was less than gracious and acted in a way that I found unbecoming an elected official. Ask around, I know that there are others that have experienced this as well.
Mr. D’Amico talks a lot about fresh air and daylight at city hall, and in many ways I agree. City Hall, and especially up on that side of the 3rd floor, has a history of being a place for secrecy and holding things back. Is that the council? Or is that a dysfunction of city management? Likely a combination of both! Mr. D’Amico preaches working together but his approach at council meetings is a contradiction to collaboration and consensus. We don’t need our council members to be best friends. We do need them to work together for the common good.
In fairness to Mr. D’Amico’s public service, there have been some actions that I appreciated. For example, I agreed that the city needed to slow down the nonsensical plan on Plummer Park and work together to compromise on a park that worked for the vast majority. I also thought that we should at least try some traffic flow officers in key intersections during evening rush hour in the city. But, more often than not, I find that he does what he thinks is popular instead of doing what is right and fair for all.
Using city resources for a Go-Go Dancer Appreciation Day? Really?! If the bars, nightclubs and chamber want to do that, fine, but not with the people’s money. A better use of city resources that does the public good is to celebrate the generous spirit of West Hollywood. There are thousands that volunteer countless hours to numerous nonprofit organizations, let’s appreciate them. And the other “end of time or something night” that wasted valuable city resources, including staff and sheriffs time, that event was a bust. This from the councilmember who wanted to see less city events, he added more.
The whole dog park in WeHo Park recently got so blown out of proportion. Sure, Sadie and I want to see a safe dog area in WeHo Park but the approach was more about divisiveness than it was about coming together to make something that worked for all of the competing interests. Mr. D’Amico unnecessarily pitted families with children against pet people. That’s not leadership. In the end, it was his colleague that came up with a solution that most appreciated and agreed with.
Currently, his 2015 campaign tactics are another example of not walking-the-walk. Once again he has become what he professed to be against in 2011. I’m sure by now he has found that he has alienated many of the people that he claimed to be representing. Further, he has turned off many who supported him four years ago, some of whom ask me, what has he really done? Has there been some real work that has benefitted the city? Or has he played to certain groups and a few hot topics in order to sustain his popularity?
And speaking of the election, where is campaign reform? Certainly the tactics that I am hearing about include how his campaign is pressuring folks not just to support him but more so to support and finance his running mate, Joe. It also appears that he opted out of some endorsements so that his choice would receive them. Once again, he demonstrates the utter lack of authenticity because he preaches better politics but practices the Machiavelli kind.
Again, Mr. D’Amico states fresh air and daylight at city hall but he, and his deputy, have been known to run over city staff. Is that good leadership? And if he is going to bring council deputies into this campaign, as he did at the candidates’ forum, he should look at his own house first. Countless well-intentioned community members have been dismissed and mistreated by his deputy, and for no good reason. I’m sure the fact that I would not endorse him four years ago led to the way his deputy is with me, as she is with many others. Other deputies have learned to represent their council member and the city. Some former deputies work well with others and have gone on to other positions in city hall and have done great things for our city. If this is who Mr. D’Amico chooses to represent him, to me, that is yet another reason why I would never vote for him. Deputies may work for the council member but they get paid with city funds, our funds, and they should, at the very least, be respectful to the community that they serve.
I’m sure that many of his supporters will accuse me of being in the Heilman-Land camp. I proudly acknowledge supporting these two fine council members in the past. West Hollywood has benefitted from their vision and service. Of course I did not always agree with them on all of their decisions. I do feel that for a while that our development was over development but that was all of the council. Mr. Duran very rarely says no to ‘bigger, faster, louder’, which Mr. D’Amico purports to be against. And yes, I have had a long unique relationship with Abbe Land as an exercise partner and friend but we’ll both freely admit that we talk much more about other things, like food, than we do city politics… by far. The only camp that I am in is Camp West Hollywood.
Mr. D’Amico gave a speech during his 2014 Mayoral installation. In that speech he asked a lot of questions, stated the need for big ideas and responsible actions, but offered neither. Finally, in that same speech he pandered to the audience by asking city residents to participate more and to be more vocal, cause trouble and even heckle. Well I’m not much of a heckler but I will call attention to what I see, absence of authenticity and lack of leadership. I get that some people will still vote for him because they believe that he has helped with some things that they feel passionately about and that is their right. For me, it is not even close.
We as a city are just past the 30-year threshold and we need reliable, responsible leaders who will work together for the betterment of the entire city. Mr. D’Amico is not that person. I choose substance over symbolism.
I hope that my commentary informs your voting decisions. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Stay tuned for my thoughts on other candidates and more information on who I am supporting and why.