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West Hollywood politics: It's just the beginning

West Hollywood held its biannual election this March. Up for election in this cycle were two long-serving incumbents (John Heilman – 26 years and Abbe Land 18 years) and an appointed incumbent (Lindsey Horvath 1.5 years). In all but one of the past elections since the city’s founding in 1984, the incumbents have won handily, taking turns rotating through the Mayor’s seat on a one-year term basis. This year, however, would be different.

Many of us in West Hollywood (and across the country) believe this month’s election was a game changer, about much more than the 1.9 square miles of land surrounded by the cities of Beverly Hills and Los Angeles.

For us, this election was about how West Hollywood as a “transformational space” continues to play a role in the lives of people who invite openness, honesty and fullness into their lives. And how it is important to name that space and to keep that space as a living idea in the face of competing and collusional forces.

West Hollywood has a long history (much longer than the short 26-year cityhood history) of supporting people who were interested in a transformational experience.

Whether it was drinkers looking for speakeasies in the 1930s, architects exploring modernism in the 1940s, leaders of the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis looking for early members in the 1950s, immigrants from the (former) Soviet Union looking for freedoms in the 70s and 80s, renters looking for rent control, rock-n-rollers looking to find the beat, hippies looking for nirvana, decorators looking for the perfect chintz, or LGBT people looking for their fullest selves, or, or, or... Our West Hollywood, the named place, owned that identity and that promise.

But in recent years the city began to purposefully drift away from that identity towards more counter-counter-culture ideas of suburbanization and displacement as a part of the narrative.

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