This podcast interview is available on iTunes, Stitcher, Player FM and right here:
West Hollywood–or “WeHo” if you’re cool–is a progressive, strongly LGBTQ community in LA County. Its city council meetings are well-attended and are well-corralled by Mayor Lauren Meister. We talked about why she thinks council members shouldn’t be on electronic devices and about the time she evacuated the chamber!
Q: In the April 2016 council meeting, you became mayor and were sworn in by a drag queen! Why did you decide to do it that way?
A: We are West Hollywood, so we don’t always do things the usual way!
Q: You only give people 90 seconds to public comment. As someone who watches a lot of city council meetings, I think you’re doing the Lord’s work. I think you can get a decent argument out in 90 seconds.
A: If there are a lot of people, my goal is to try to get as many people in–if not everyone. The rest of the meeting may go until midnight. If they have more to say, they’re welcome to stay until the end of the meeting and to speak again. We’ll have 15, 20, 25 people come in to speak.
Q: When you do go that late, do you notice people’s attention and patience start to drop? Do you feel fatigued?
A: Definitely. I come with my triple-shot Starbucks, that’s for sure.
Q: In May of last year, you proposed banning electronic communications–like council members using cell phones or tablets–from the meetings. Why?
A: It just doesn’t look good if people are busy texting. During a public hearing when you’re supposed to be listening to the public–even if you’re just texting your mom, it just doesn’t look good.
Q: Do you have a “no cell phone rule” at the dinner table?
A: [Laughs] No! I guess some people are multi-talented and can do all these things at once but I think we should be paying attention.
Q: If you had to describe your style of running meetings in three words, what would you say, other than “speedy” or “efficient?”
A: Well, you’re taking away all my words! I’d say I try to run a tight ship.
Q: Do you have any memorable moments from the WeHo city council meetings?
A: It was actually at that meeting when we were talking about electronic devices, there had been a robbery and the suspects had driven to a neighborhood. And there ended up being a lockdown. I wasn’t getting any of the texts because of course I had my phone off!
Q: Oh, the irony! That’s why you need the cell phones, mayor!
A: Another [time], we were in the middle of a discussion and the fire alarms went off. It was 11 o’clock at night and I had a really good run where I was getting us out at 11. We ended up adjourning the meeting outside! Everything was fine. It was just someone who was doing steam cleaning in the garage.
Q: Do you ever have any movie stars come in to the meetings?
A: We have had one or two. Actually, recently we had someone who spoke at public comment.
Q: You had Marisa Tomei from My Cousin Vinny at the last meeting.
A: Yes, that is correct. I still gave her only 90 seconds, by the way!
Follow Mayor Lauren Meister on Twitter: @meister4weho