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Seeking Equality Without Hostility

June 16, 1985

The Times article on June 2 reported the vote on an amendment offered by (West Hollywood) Councilman Alan Viterbi and confused the amendment with the main motion. The Viterbi amendment called for the city to send a letter of strong protest to the county indicating extreme displeasure with the resolution of the issue and suggesting that the city would begin exploring how to get rid of the sheriff and all other county contract services unless the county accedes to our demands in the future.

Councilwoman Helen Albert and I opposed this for several reasons, including the fact that the tone and content of the letter were never clearly set forth by the proponent of the amendment. I also opposed the amendment for the following reasons:

1--I thought the hostile, arrogant tone of the suggested letter would ruin the dialogue that some members of the council had developed with Sheriff Sherman Block. Councilman Stephen Schulte and I had met with Sheriff Block several months ago to develop a strategy to get the Sheriff's Department to make some outreach into the lesbian and gay community to recruit new deputies. The sheriff was receptive to our concerns and I believe we made progress in our meeting. I was concerned that the Viterbi proposal would destroy any progress we had made by creating a hostile, adversarial relationship that would not be conducive to change.

2--I was concerned that Councilman Viterbi's suggested letter would further damage our relationship with the county that already was severely tested by our long stay in Plummer Park. Like it or not, we are dependent on the county for many services and we will continue to be dependent on the county for some time into the future. I saw no reason to engage in a war of words with the county given the fact that the county agreed to abide by our ordinances in letters from the sheriff and the chief executive officer.

3--I also believed that Councilman Viterbi's suggestion that we investigate starting our own police department was unrealistic, financially irresponsible and directly contrary to what was told to the voters less than seven months ago when we formed our city. Almost every major candidate for City Council assured the voters that we would retain the services of the sheriff after incorporation. To suggest that we now want to consider getting rid of the sheriff is contrary to the assurances provided to the voters and I think contrary to the sentiment of the overwhelming majority of residents, including the lesbian and gay community.

4--Finally, considering that the county agreed to provide written assurances that would comply with our antidiscrimination ordinances, I thought the abrasive letter to the county suggested by Councilman Viterbi was pure political grandstanding, something which all of us on the council have engaged in too frequently.

I know that each of us on the council is committed to the struggle for equality and for human and civil rights. I do not know how anyone could suggest otherwise. I am confident that we will be able to work with the county to make the changes we want to make. Real change, however, requires attitudinal changes that do not occur overnight and do not develop from hostility. I am confident that through meaningful dialogue we will achieve our goal of equality.

JOHN HEILMAN

Mayor Pro Tempore

West Hollywood

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