The West Hollywood City Council made amendments to the city’s naming policy on Feb. 16, allowing the two-year waiting period following a person’s death to be waived.
According to a report by city staff, city buildings, land and facilities could be named for someone who died less than two years ago if the “deceased person’s contribution is deemed so significant that it has already met the test of time.” The discussion followed a vote late last year to rename the West Hollywood Library after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Sept. 18, 2020.
The council’s 3-2 vote on Feb. 16 was opposed by Councilman John Erickson and Mayor Lindsey Horvath.
“That’s pretty subjective, when you look at ‘test of time.’ … Anyone can have an opinion on that,” Erickson said.
Erickson added that he was worried the council was focusing too much on the “emotional aspect” of the naming policy.
“I am worried about the very subjective nature that the changes are opening us up to,” Erickson said.
Councilwoman Sepi Shyne countered that while she did not want the city to make naming decisions that were “just emotional,” in this case, the new proposed naming policy would appropriately allow civic leaders to be honored while preventing hasty decisions.
“Ruth Bader[’s] accomplishments, even after two years, would stand the test of time,” Shyne said.
Horvath said on Feb. 24 that she voted against the changes because she doesn’t “believe this process actively engages the community in the way our residents and stakeholders deserve.” The new naming policy requires that the city’s Public Facilities Commission hold a public hearing to discuss any new names, but Horvath said that is not enough.
“It is not a robust or thorough process and, in the case of the West Hollywood Library, it is being intentionally rushed,” she said. “Especially in this time where we are meeting virtually to make decisions, I think we need to do more – not less – to communicate with our residents.”
Horvath added that she thinks “most people in West Hollywood are unaware of what’s happening with this process and don’t know how to participate in it, even if they’re very engaged with the city.”
“I have personally received many questions from engaged residents and stakeholders about what happens next, as it relates to the library naming,” she said. “That signifies to me that even people who want to be engaged don’t know how.”
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