Citing a need to give more attention to his personal life and financial situation, West Hollywood City Councilman Steve Schulte said he will not seek reelection in April.
Schulte, one of three remaining council members elected when the city was incorporated in 1984, took out candidacy papers, but said Monday that two weeks ago he decided not to run.
"Right now, I don't have anything that is bringing in financial rewards. I just celebrated my 44th birthday, and I don't own a house yet. The city has been my preoccupation, and I need to switch priorities," Schulte said in a telephone interview.
West Hollywood pays part-time council members $400 a month. In December, Schulte dissolved a public affairs consulting business and is now looking for "full-time business involvement."
Schulte had appeared to be on a political winning streak after leading the successful charge last year on initiative campaigns defeating a proposed civic center and a bond issue.
But on Monday, he expressed frustration with his role as the "opposition" on the council. Though all council members are considered ardent liberals, Schulte increasingly found himself in the minority on major issues as his term wore on.
"There was nothing political per se to dissuade me from running again," Schulte said. "But it would have been nice to have been on the majority once in a while."
After his first year on the council, Schulte was often the lone voice of dissent on several major issues. Of the five current council members, all but Schulte are members of the powerful Coalition for Economic Survival, a renters rights group that played a major part in the cityhood battle five years ago.
Schulte found an occasional ally in Councilman Paul Koretz and infrequently teamed with other members. But on major issues, such as tightening rent control and building the proposed civic center, he often provided the only opposition.
Schulte pointedly suggested that after five years, the council as a whole may have stalled.
"I think maybe it's time to recharge. We need some new blood and fresh ideas, and I mean that across the board," he said. "I fully agree that people should not serve too long, that it can become personally and politically disadvantageous."
Schulte is one of three council members whose terms expire this year. Councilwoman Helen Albert also has said she will not seek reelection. Councilman John Heilman, with whom Schulte frequently sparred over the years, has taken out candidacy papers for the April 10 election and is expected to run. The filing deadline is Feb. 1.
Ten others have taken out candidacy papers to date: Robert K. Davis, an east-side neighborhood activist; three city rent stabilization commissioners, Sal Guarriello, Babette Lang and Stephen Martin; Tom Larkin, neighborhood activist and leader of the campaign to defeat the civic center proposal; John C. (Jack) Reilly, a retired teacher; the Rev. John W. VonDouris, a minister and activist; Sybil Zaden, transportation commissioner, and two other residents, Joshua Morfin and John O'Brien.
Only VonDouris has filed to date.
All council members serve the city at large. In April's election, the three candidates with the most votes are elected.
Schulte is credited by many with pulling together the coalition of disgruntled east-side residents and previously inactive residents who successfully shot down the city's proposal to build a $23-million civic center in West Hollywood Park. He said he hopes the coalition will hold together without him.
"That was the hardest part of my decision. I know people involved in the initiative campaigns, and those who felt they had been underrepresented thought they had a chance to change things," Schulte said. "They would have had an incumbent to be part of a team, and that is not going to be there now. . . . But what we have going for us as a coalition, we still have."
Even if Martin, whom Schulte has said he will support, wins a seat, Coalition for Economic Survival candidates are likely to take the other two, Schulte said. He also acknowledged that without another strong dissenting candidate to form a slate with Martin, coalition candidates could take all three seats, giving it all five seats on the council.
"Our opportunity to win two seats could be blown by not having two strong candidates," he said.
The Coalition for Economic Survival is expected to vote on endorsements this week. Heilman and Lang are widely expected to be on the slate, with one other candidate.
Schulte said he expects candidates supported by the Coalition for Economic Survival to focus again on rent control. In two post-cityhood council elections, the group has successfully elected candidates on rent-control oriented platforms.
West Hollywood has one of the most stringent rent-control ordinances in the state, and Schulte said recent laws enacted by the council that impose new restrictions on landlords serve as evidence that rent control is not threatened in the city.
"Every candidate understands that it continues to be an important issue. It should not be used to stir people up, because that is a charade. A lot of people see that there are multiple issues at stake in this election, including neighborhood preservation, concern over development and public safety," Schulte said.
One of two acknowledged gay council members in West Hollywood, Schulte also expressed concern that the new council have strong gay advocates. While in office, he actively pursued a number of issues concerning gays and helped to create a Public Safety Commission to monitor complaints of anti-gay behavior by sheriff's deputies. He has criticized the city's marketing corporation for ignoring the city's gays and lesbians, who make up an estimated 35% of the population.
But Schulte warned against electing "token gays."
"I don't think having gay people on the council is the same as having a strong gay voice," he said.