The other day 34-year-old Mayor Lindsey Horvath of West Hollywood, Calif. said Republican presidential contender Donald Trump and his campaign were “not welcome” in her city. She also “instructed City staff that they are able to refuse to issue special events permits to Trump should he attempt to schedule a rally,” reported Gabby Morrongiello in the Washington Examiner. “Horvath has also called on the other 87 mayors in Los Angeles County to follow suit and block the billionaire from campaigning in their cities.”
Those comments might have set her community up for a costly lawsuit, since her position is plainly unconstitutional. Courts in the United States have made it clear that cities are not free to turn down a permit for one candidate that they would have approved for another simply because they disapprove of the first candidate’s viewpoint. Yet when contacted by law professor/blogger and First Amendment specialist Eugene Volokh, Horvath stuck by her position.
However, city attorney Michael Jenkins, evidently better informed, gave a response that directly contradicted the mayor’s when Volokh contacted him for a follow-up: “The City would consider an application from the Trump campaign no differently than from any other campaign.” Notes Volokh: “The city attorney’s position is consistent with First Amendment law; the mayor’s is not.”
There is no indication that Trump has planned any rallies for West Hollywood, notwithstanding a tweet in February by author Bret Easton Ellis that raised some eyebrows about the possibility that the billionaire might have an untapped constituency there.
P.S. In comments, Chris Bray notes that under West Hollywood’s system of governance, which delegates executive power to a city manager while a largely ceremonial position as mayor rotates among city councilpersons, it appears Horvath could not order city staff to adopt any policy on her own.