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A Point Overlooked

March 16, 1986

In belated response to your Jan. 23 article on the West Hollywood City Council race and the difficulty of successfully challenging the incumbents, the West Hollywood City Council will indeed be "tough to beat" in this April's election. However, your staff writer overlooked the singularity that distinguishes West Hollywood's City Council from all others in cities of comparable size and informs this inequitable situation as well as underscores the reasons given in the article.

During the campaigning in '84 we were correctly told that our form of government would necessarily follow the state-mandated guidelines for a new municipality--a part-time "weak" City Council to oversee policy issues with a "strong" city manager to administer those policies and oversee the day-to-day running of the government.

In the first days of our almost nonexistent bureaucracy the "part-time" City Council decided (it) should have personal, full-time administrative assistants (unfortunately a.k.a. "aides"), thus constricting from the outset all attempts at governmental organization, for our entire government operation was being conducted in a 40-by-40 interim City Hall. The "part-time" City Council, with (its) full-time aides, required so much of the extremely limited available space that there was an inordinate delay in the hiring of staff to deal with the normal business of local governance. But it did give the City Council (its) initial advantage in refocusing the administration of municipal matters onto (itself) and the subsequent continual attention on (it) that makes (it) "look tough to beat."

When a discussion of the necessity for such unheard-of, full-time, one-on-one assistants was criticized as being a subversion of the clear intent of the state law to limit the power of "part-time" city councils, the weak excuse was offered that they would only be for six months, at which time the city staff would be able to take over their functions. The aides are now permanent city employees at a total cost of about $150,000 a year. This is how the incumbents have been able "to solidify their political bases, meet with voters and repay old campaign debts." These aides have enabled the council members to be "out there talking to people and dealing with issues every day"--issues that normally should be dealt with by the nonpolitical staff at City Hall.

At the council meeting Jan. 23 this undermining of our state Legislature's determination to keep local government a basically civic process was further aggravated by (the council's) decision to now hire student interns. Like the aides, these political staff workers will be further diverting a civic process to personal political gain for the council members.

Hopefully, in April, there will be three candidates with a greater interest in the people of West Hollywood, with a sincere desire to give West Hollywood the apolitical, civic-oriented representative government that is our right and our due. Politics may have played the major role in our incorporation, but the debt has been paid. April 8 will be the time to return West Hollywood to its citizens and to the possibilities inherent in our democratic system of government, in spite of all that the incumbents have done to subvert, and thereby ostensibly forestall it.

RONALD SHIPTON

West Hollywood

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