HOME: West Hollywood, California
Peopleknew I was HIV positive from the day I got elected to West Hollywood’sCity Council in 2001. Then, in 2004, I became mayor, since councilmembers rotate annually into that position. I was reelected to thecouncil in March and was very relieved that I won. During the campaign,another candidate e-mailed an organization that had endorsed me, sayingI might miss council meetings because I had AIDS. Even when I got sickin 2002 and was on short-term disability, I showed up to every meeting.Having HIV can even help—I’m used to being in hot spots.
Ifirst decided to run for city council because I’d been politicallyactive for 20 years and thought, “I can do this job as well as anybodyelse.” I was a lawyer for ACT UP in the ’80s. I also represented needleexchanges and medical-marijuana lobbies. I never thought I’d be theEstablishment. But having been the guy holding the big banner andgetting hauled off to jail gives me a different perspective. I’m moreopen to criticism from activists. And now, when I call the sheriff or aboard, they answer.
West Hollywood has a high percentage ofHIVers and a really nasty crystal epidemic that’s leading to a lot ofnew infections—so I made that my mayorial priority. I started communitycrystal forums. Over 200 people came to the most recent one, aboutcrystal and the sex industry. I also opened a drug and alcohol recoverycenter. I’ve been in meth recovery myself for eight years and know whatit’s like. It’s so frustrating to see these successful, bright gay menin relationships with great paying jobs reduced to homeless people.
Notbeing mayor this year will actually allow more time for my crystalprojects and others—including animal cruelty and affordable housing. Asfor higher office, if the opportunity arises and I’m feeling healthy,I’ll run. People sometimes view health issues as a weakness preventingyou from optimal public service. But if a larger electorate is lessliberal, that just means more people to educate about HIV.
A Positive Campaign
Inside a Mayor's West (Hollywood) Wing