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WeHo candidates neglect LGBT issues at forum

Are gay candidates erasing their own?

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Homelessness, affordable housing, development, traffic, mass transit and the burgeoning cannabis business dominated the discussion at the Jan. 29 West Hollywood City Council Candidate Forum. The forum— sponsored by the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles—was moderated by out KNBC reporter Robert Kovacik who asked questions drafted by the Chamber and voters.

Nine of the 11 candidates seeking three council seats in the March 5th election participated: current City Councilmembers Lindsey Horvath, Lauren Meister, and John D’Amico and challengers Brendan Hood, Duke Mason, Shawn Davis Mooney, Marquita Thomas, Tom Demille and Sepi Shyne. Candidates Jack Cline and Eric Jon Schmidt did not participate.

The candidates largely agreed on the issues, including the discomfort at being pressed to answer big questions in 45-second responses. Some themes were carried over, such as Mason’s call for the city to reassess the zoning map, which would help figure out what new development should go where and what neighborhood housing should be preserved.

When asked about the city’s nightlife, Mooney noted that “we’re all kind of grown up and married” but he’s “fine” with the bars on Santa Monica Boulevard and the Sunset Strip. Meister said more venues were needed on the Strip with the demise of the House of Blues. “Less hotels, more venues,” she said. Thomas noted that extended hours are coming and that is a public safety issue, as well as an increase in noise for nearby residents.

But as the 150-minute forum stretched on, it became increasingly clear that while seniors, the homeless, Russians and diminishing middle class were all being addressed—no one was talking about the city’s renowned LGBT population. What made the benign neglect even more striking is that all of the candidates are gay and lesbian, except straight incumbents Horvath and Meister.

And during his final two minutes, instead of talking about the need to “Save Boystown,” the spirit that got him elected in 2011, D’Amico pointed to his husband, smiled and talked about how happy he is living in West Hollywood.

“West Hollywood remains a hub of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) culture and a tourist destination for gay and bisexual men around the globe. The City is also home to a large number of gay and bisexual men — roughly 40% of the city’s population,” reports the city’s 2013 Community Survey.

“Thirty-nine percent of all respondents to the West Hollywood Community Study survey selfidentify as gay men; another two percent of
respondents identify as bisexual men. The percentage of gay and bisexual men living in West Hollywood has held constant over the past 15 years with similar figures reflected in surveys conducted in 1998, 2000, and 2006,” the survey said.

However, there appears to be an exodus of LGBT residents as rents for both apartments and small businesses continue to rise. Only Mooney briefly touched upon the issue, promising to keep alive the legacy of ACT UP and LGBT history. But no one addressed the need to retain the LGBT community and its culture, with which the city has been so long proudly identified. Isn’t LGBT history as valuable as an old Hollywood house?

Additionally, no one thoughtfully addressed the need for social services, including help for people with HIV/AIDS, even though the 2013 Community Survey reported that the “cumulative number of people living with HIV and the cumulative number of people living with AIDS continued to increase” in West Hollywood. And no mention was made of the city’s drug and crystal meth problem or the alarming increase of STDs in WeHo.

A 2019 Community Survey is apparently underway. But the “Community At A Glance” graphic provided for prospective business owners makes no mention of the LGBT community at all. It does indicate, however, that about 80% of the city’s 35,797 (a 2016 figure) residents are white.

That statistic and general impression of White WeHo has been more popularized since the death of young black escort Gemmel Moore in 2017 at the WeHo apartment of white political activist Ed Buck. Rallies by activists from the black community have alleged malfeasance on Buck’s part, though the Sheriff’s department concluded that Moore died of an accidental drug overdose. The death of a second gay African-American man, Timothy Dean, at Buck’s apartment only intensified the belief that whites are treated with unaccountable deference in West Hollywood.

Though there is an ongoing investigation into Dean’s death, the candidates were not prohibited from discussing WeHo’s image problem.

It was a point made by Jerome Kitchen as the forum was ending.

Kitchen, who identified himself as a friend of one of the deceased men, loudly asked why none of the candidates had addressed the deaths. He was considered a disrupter and shouted down.

Several candidates mentioned the importance of West Hollywood “values,” but no one really discussed what those values are and how they are maintained.

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Secretary Buttigieg: Family leave not a vacation

“When somebody welcomes a new child into their family and goes on leave to take care of that child, that’s not a vacation. It’s work.”

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Screenshot via NBC News 'Meet the Press' YouTube.

WASHINGTON – Appearing on the NBC News program ‘Meet the Press’ on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was questioned by host Chuck Todd about paid paternal/maternal family leave, which is part of President Joe Biden’s legislative Build Back Better Agenda package currently under consideration and debate on Capitol Hill.

Todd commenced by referring to attacks earlier in the week by conservatives and Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson, who during his Thursday evening program said, “Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child – paternity leave, they call it – trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how that went. But now he’s back in office as the Transportation Secretary and he’s deeply amused, he says, to see that dozens of container ships can’t get into this country.”

Without mentioning Carlson by name, instead labeling the Fox News host “a loudmouth in our political system,” Todd asked Buttigieg for his take on paid family leave.

“Look, paid family leave is important. It’s important as a matter of family values. It’s important to our economy. And one more thing that I think is maybe underappreciated. […] “When somebody welcomes a new child into their family and goes on leave to take care of that child, that’s not a vacation. It’s work. It’s joyful, wonderful, fulfilling work, but it is work.

“And it’s time that our nation joins pretty much every other country in the world and recognize that,”  Buttigieg replied.

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Transportation Secretary Buttigieg calls out Tucker Carlson on his attack

Carlson mocks Pete Buttigieg: “Paternity leave, they call it, trying to figure out how to breastfeed, no word on how that went”

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (Blade file photo)

NEW YORK – Appearing remotely on MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace‘s politics program Friday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called out Fox News host Tucker Carlson for the attack on his parental leave. “This attack is coming from a guy who has yet to explain his apparent approval for the assassination of Harvey Milk, ” Buttigieg said.

During his Thursday evening program Carlson said, “Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child – paternity leave, they call it – trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how that went. But now he’s back in office as the Transportation Secretary and he’s deeply amused, he says, to see that dozens of container ships can’t get into this country.”

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“The Snapchat Generation” runs for office

The tool offers an in-app portal designed to help walk users through the complexities of launching a political campaign

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A glimpse at the “Run for Office” tool. (Photo courtesy of Snap)

By Gabe Fleisher | WASHINGTON – Snapchat isn’t just for disappearing photos anymore. The popular app, once known for its inherently ephemeral nature, is now attempting to make a long-lasting impact on the political stage. 

Tuesday morning, Snap unveiled a new tool to encourage its young users to seek elected office and become more involved in the political process. The tool, “Run for Office,” will offer an in-app portal designed to help walk users through the complexities of launching a political campaign.

After prompting users to identify issues they are passionate about, the tool will feature a personalized hub of federal, state, and local races they may be interested in entering, from a curated pool of over 75,000 elections.

If users do decide to move forward with seeking office, Snap is also hoping to assist in the management of the campaign itself: the tool will include a feature called “My Campaign Dashboard,” showing users the steps they need to take to get on the ballot in their area, helping connect them with partner organizations that can offer more resources, and even allowing them to begin campaigning right there on the app, among their closest friends. 

“We hope launching the ‘Run for Office’ mini changes the idea of who can be in office — that no matter who you are, where you come from, that you can make a difference in your local community by running for office based on the issues they care most about,” Sofia Gross, Snap’s head of policy partnerships and social impact, told Wake Up To Politics. 

Justin Tseng, a Harvard senior who is balancing his studies with a campaign for Medford City Council in Massachusetts, told WUTP that his generation faces a slew of “existential challenges” that give young candidates “a perspective to political leadership that is more holistic” in listening to a diverse range of voters, including those from marginalized communities.  

Seeking office as a full-time college student, Tseng said that he has found “voters really are much more concerned with the maturity of one’s ideas than the age of the candidate.”

The new effort reflects Snapchat’s heightening ambitions in the political space. “We view this as a long-term investment in the next generation of American leadership, starting at the local level,” Gross said. “We want to help shape a more reflective and equitable democracy for all Americans, and that includes the Snapchat Generation.”

Snap also featured a suite of civic tools in the lead-up to the 2020 election, mainly aimed at encouraging its users to register to vote. According to the company, Snapchat helped register more than 1.2 million of its users — more than half of whom were first-time voters.

“Run for Office” builds off of what Snap learned during that process: the company’s research found that users were five times more impacted by being encouraged by friends to cast a ballot than by influencers and celebrities. As a result, the new tool will also allow Snapchat users to “nominate” their friends as a way to encourage them to run for office.

Medford City Council candidate Justin Tseng speaks to Wake Up To Politics in a Zoom interview. 

“I think that’s a huge factor in getting young people to run for office,” Tseng said. “A lot of people feel like they don’t have the knowledge or they don’t have the experience necessary to run for office, which is not true. But it sometimes takes the nudging of a few friends to push you to realize that, yes, you are qualified to run for office.”

Tseng, who has advised Snap in its development of the “Run for Office” tool, said the app was an ideal space for this type of outreach not just because of its reach — which extends to 90% of 13- to 24-year-olds in the U.S., according to the company — but also because of its less formal nature.

“Snapchat is a casual app,” Tseng said. “And I think we often think of the political realm as formal realm.”

“But the way that most people get involved in social life is through casual means, right? In joining a club or joining local community groups, you have a neighbor or you have a friend that gets you involved… And so I think there’s power in utilizing Snapchat as a casual network to bridge that gap with the political realm.”

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Gabe Fleisher is the Editor-in-Chief of ‘Wake Up To Politics.‘ He has interviewed a wide range of political figures, from Nancy Pelosi to Rand Paul. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, and NPR, and been profiled by The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe New YorkerNBC NewsPoliticoColumbia Journalism Review, and other news outlets. 

Fleisher can be reached at [email protected]

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The preceding article was originally published in the October 5, 2021 issue of Wake Up To Politics”  and is republished by permission.

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