The City of West Hollywood will be holding its General Municipal Election this Tuesday, March 8, wherein its citizens will be able to elect three members to the City Council. The City itself is famed for being strongly pro-Democratic, deeply concerned with human rights, and leading the United States in a number of progressive issues – West Hollywood’s track record of being at the forefront of passing legislation includes creating registrations for same-sex domestic partnerships, the adoption of mandatory green building ordinances, and the formal denunciation of Arizona’s controversial SB1070. As a microcosm of budding movements in social justice beyond the age of Thomas Aquinas, and of the political economy of the causes of today’s American Left, it’s a fascinating, exciting place. And, with only days to go before Tuesday, incumbent Councilmember Linsdsey Horvath, who is running for re-election, has been kind enough to grant an interview to TNB.
SS: For those unfamiliar: who are you, where do you come from, and what do you do?
LH: My name is Lindsey Horvath. I am a fierce equality advocate, a dedicated public servant, an effective grassroots organizer, and a champion for social justice.
I’m originally from Cleveland, OH. I went to high school in Las Vegas, and I then attended the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, where I graduated Cum Laude as a Political Science and Gender Studies double-major.
Currently, I work as an entertainment creative advertising executive, and I am honored to serve on the City Council in West Hollywood, CA.
And what is it that has lead you into following a political career? It can be a difficult life; especially in the US, I’d imagine.
I have always felt a calling to be of service and help those in need, and I believe we are all called to help the least fortunate among us.
While I was raised in a fairly conservative, Catholic family, I found my true home in grassroots activism on progressive issues during my college career. I learned that the values I had always held were more in alignment with liberal ideas and Democratic politics, and I began organizing events and actions that addressed the injustices many people face throughout the world. I believe that issues of gender define the 21st century civil rights movement, and I wish to work in service to it.
I’ve also found that serving in local government has afforded me the opportunity to protect our vulnerable populations. I joined the City Council in West Hollywood in 2009, after long-time Councilmember Sal Guarriello passed away at the age of 90. My now-colleagues unanimously decided to go through an appointment process, and ultimately they chose me to serve out the remainder of Councilmember Guarriello’s term. As an organizer in the community, I learned how important it is to have elected leaders who are willing to listen to the needs of people and fight for justice.
Prior to serving on the Council, I was Chair of the Women’s Advisory Board and served in a variety of community leadership positions including President of our local National Women’s Political Caucus; President of the Hollywood Chapter of the National Organization for Women; and Producer and Organizer for VDAY.
It seems we live in a time when the public are simultaneously growing more disenchanted by, and passionate about, their lives as political individuals – and their leaders. Which political leaders inspire you?
People are inherently political because politics encompass each of our personal experiences -Carol Hanisch summed it up perfectly when she said “The personal is the political”. It’s interesting how many people tell me that they “aren’t political” – but they religiously watch Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow, or they are really annoyed by potholes on the street they drive every day to work, or they don’t know why there aren’t more resources to help them care for their aging parents. While the political process can be disenchanting for some, I think a strong, inspiring leader can make all the difference in calling people to action.
My greatest political hero is Hillary Clinton. I am still so thrilled I had the opportunity to work on her presidential campaign and witness an intelligent, strong woman pursue the highest level of leadership in our country. Her bold work as Secretary of State has gained respect for America in the international community, while calling attention to the atrocities that gender minorities face throughout the world. She inspires me to use every opportunity I have to create the greatest amount of good for people.
The most inspiring leaders are those who see the challenges ahead… and decide to go forward anyway.
If people vote for Lindsey Horvath on the 8th of March, what is it they’re voting for? What are the key features of your platform?
I represent a new generation of progressive leadership in West Hollywood. I am committed to making West Hollywood a sustainable, age-friendly, diverse City that is as much a world-class destination as it is a community where everyone feels at home.
I will work to protect and create affordable housing in our community. As a renter, I understand the value of our Rent Stabilization Ordinance and wish to protect the quality of rent-controlled housing in the City. Our City was founded on rent control, and as such our City’s core values include a commitment to affordable housing.
I will maintain our proven record of fiscal responsibility. Our City has earned a AAA bond-rating – the highest possible financial rating for a municipality – for our sound fiscal management. In a time where many cities and states are facing devastating budget cuts and significant layoffs, we have been able to increase funding for social services, to take on capital improvements, to create much-needed green space, and to enhance public safety without laying anyone off in the City. This is the kind of leadership I want to see continue.
I am also committed to enacting our Climate Action Plan, which will help us significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and foster the growth of a new economy in California. In particular, I am focused on implementing energy efficiency retrofits to existing developments as well as cultivating new modes of public and alternative transportation, such as zip cars, shuttles, and bicycling.
And I am personally invested in welcoming a new generation in West Hollywood, as well as supporting our aging population, to ensure that people have the services they need at every stage of life.
Most importantly, I want to keep West Hollywood a safe community.
You’ve already spent time as a council member for West Hollywood; your endorsement list is a who’s who of Californian progressives such as Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, Congresswoman Judy Chu, and Inspector General Laura Chick. You must be doing something right – what changes and successes have you overseen during your tenure?
Thank you very much for the compliment. I have been honored to work with such incredible leaders.
While serving on the Council, I was proud to be part of the effort to create our first middle school in West Hollywood, and I secured computers for their inaugural class. I have fostered community partnerships that will provide funding for affordable housing for LGBTQ youth in West Hollywood. And I have collaborated with organizations like Break the Cycle and GLSEN to protect our youth from dating violence and bullying. I also collaborated with LA County Commissioner for Older Adults, Barbara Meltzer, to create a regional symposium on creating age-friendly communities, which highlighted ways for our City to allow people to age in place. I want to support people at every stage of life.
I worked with LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to secure funding to test the DNA in every kit in the backlog of untested rape kits. This backlog – about 5,000 in LASD in 2008 – will be cleared by June. Additionally, I created the West Hollywood Community Response Team to Domestic Violence after hearing about an increased number of incidents. This targeted, multi-agency approach – including a variety of domestic violence experts for same-sex and transgender relationships, teens, seniors and Russian-speaking residents – will ensure that survivors get the help and resources they need quickly and easily. It is critical that we keep our community safe.
I worked with my colleague, Councilmember Abbe Land, to create the City’s Bicycle Task Force to explore and implement new ways to make cycling safe, fun, and a real mode of transportation in and around West Hollywood. I also initiated a recycling program for CFL lightbulbs. Protecting our environment is a vital part of ensuring our quality of life.
Given that West Hollywood is set in one of the world’s capitals for entertainment and tourism, and it’s a place renowned for championing gay rights and social services, have you found there are challenges particular to the city itself?
As a densely-populated, urban, 1.9-square mile City, it can sometimes be a challenge to maintain a balance between a vibrant, world-class nightlife and residential concerns. With regard to the infrastructure of the City, one of our greatest challenges is protecting and creating affordable housing. During this difficult economic time, we have seen a need for increased social services. In 2008, we saw the devastating passage of Proposition 8 and have subsequently been subjected to the emotional roller coaster that is the Court process.
Every City has its challenges, but what makes our City special is the way people come together to address them. I am grateful for the active participation of our residents and the remarkable service of our City Hall staff. I am consistently impressed by the ways in which people step up to help one another in a time of need.
West Hollywood also has a long history of upholding and expanding social justice – how do you see this continuing into the future?
West Hollywood’s commitment to social justice is what drew me to the City. West Hollywood has been at the forefront of many progressive issues: we are the first pro-choice City in America; we are the first City to institute domestic partnerships; we have consistently supported universal, affordable health care for all… the list goes on and on. I enjoy reminding people who come from more conservative places that it is our City of progressive values that also has a record of financial success. I want to ensure West Hollywood maintains its status as the “progressive City on a hill.”
When Arizona passed its discriminatory SB1070, I authored our City’s resolution denouncing their actions, discontinuing City-related travel to Arizona, and implementing financial sanctions against the State, which made us the first City in Southern California to take such action. I also hosted our City’s inaugural Harvey Milk Day celebration and represented West Hollywood in the National Equality March in October of 2009. I remain committed to social justice and believe that no one is equal until everyone is equal.
How have you found this campaign so far?
The campaign is at times surprising, refreshing, disappointing, inspiring… and everything in between. It is truly democracy at work.
It is clear that people are passionate about the City of West Hollywood and what it means to them. I have welcomed the opportunity to discuss people’s frustrations with the way things are, the current leadership, and decisions that have been made in the past. I have enjoyed the chance to discuss what has made so many residents and businesses fall in love with the City. And it’s this diversity of opinions coming together that will make our City better.
Hillary Clinton once said, “What we have to do… is to find a way to celebrate our diversity and debate our differences without fracturing our communities.” This campaign has been quite an education in doing exactly that.
Also, I have found I am most grateful for steadfast friends who are there for me any hour of the day to remind me that I must stay the course and remain true to my values.
You’ve drawn comparisons to Hosni Mubarak; it seems a little… vitriolic… shall we say, to draw a line between a local candidate with a history of campaigning for women’s rights and a man once ranked 20th on a list of World’s Worst Dictators.
I have been called a lot of things on the campaign trail, and it seems the most “vitriolic” come from people who have never spent time with me and who don’t really know me at all. Such extreme language is used to get attention, but I think people have grown tired of political rhetoric. I want to be a leader who helps bring people together instead of furthering the divide.
Of course, such attacks are hurtful but I take each criticism as an opportunity to learn – either how I can be better in my leadership or how I can create the space for people to disagree in a healthier way.
If elected, what work will you do for West Hollywood?
Most importantly, I will work to support our City’s core values – respect and support for people, responsiveness to the public, idealism, creativity and innovation.
As such, I intend to protect the rights of renters, to encourage responsible, sustainable development, to maintain the social services our residents need and deserve. To fight for those who work hard to make our City a world-class destination and a leader on gender-progressive issues, and support our diverse populations (Russian-speaking, LGBT, and senior). I am committed to ensuring the cultivation of a new generation of leadership, and to creating opportunities for young people to become engaged in their communities.
I will ensure that the City maintains sound fiscal management to protect our much-needed social services and programs, especially in the wake of devastating statewide budget cuts, and reinvest in our commitment to the environment.
The official website of the City of West Hollywood can be found here.
The official website of Councilmember Horvath can be found here.