Interview #30: West Hollywood, CA Mayor Lauren Meister (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer 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.

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West Hollywood, CA Mayor Lauren Meister

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

#25: Los Angeles, CA 6/3/16

Like most things in Tinseltown, the Los Angeles city council meeting became all about s-e-x.

“Half of black men and a quarter of Latino men who have sex with men are projected to be diagnosed with HIV,” testified Councilwoman Nury Martinez, looking anything but somber in a fiery yellow dress.

“Way back when, in the early 1990s,” she reminisced, “my job was to hand out condoms. Not only to my peers at San Fernando High School, but around small little bars and cantinas.” The sex-positive councilwoman batted her eyes. “I would talk to grown adults and pass out condoms.”

Councilman Paul Krekorian perked up at this risque mention of prophylaxis. “I had no idea about this first job of yours,” he bashfully admitted.

“I’m not gonna tell you who was Condom Man in 1990,” she responded coyly. “I happen to have married him.” Whoa, talk about a power couple!

As the council moved on, Martinez strode back to her seat and, off-mic, breathlessly told Krekorian, “He was Condom Man! We were just so popular in school!”

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Councilwoman Nury Martinez, a.k.a. Mrs. Condom Man

Council President Herb Wesson called for public comment on an affordable housing ordinance. “I want to take up item 3…Mr. Walsh? Mr. Walsh, please come forward.”

A bedraggled man shuffled forward–flannel shirt unbuttoned, yet still wearing a tie. “Tweeting @hollywooddems,” Walsh mumbled by way of introduction. “Under [Mayor Eric] Garcetti, it’s like the mob. Everything  is done like the mob.”

He signed off merely by giving his URL: “hollywoodhighlands.org.”

The next commenter was as cocky as he was efficient with his allotted two minutes. “One minute only, please! One minute,” he yelled out, like some Babe Ruthian showman, calling his home run.

“You never define what ‘affordable is! Are you deciding what’s affordable by district, or what’s affordable for the whole city?!” He clocked in at exactly 58 seconds.

The next several items also required public comment. And the only people signed up to gripe were–I’m sure you can guess–

  • Mr. Walsh (“Blogging at hollywoodhighlands.org or jwalshconfidential.”)
  • Mr. Speedy Gonzalez (“One minute only!”)
  • A lady who held the microphone directly on her lips and thundered “We must vote for Donald J. Trump!”
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John Walsh: blogger, tweeter, person who barely sits down at city council meetings

After their third or fourth appearance, they stopped being polite and started getting real.

One-Minute Guy: “I’m going to be the lead plaintiff in a suit against the city of Los Angeles because–” his voice became sing-songy–“you’re hiding documennnnts councilmemberrrrrrs!”

John Walsh.blogspot/tweets.gov: “There are thousands of blacks and Hispanics who have been murdered and you don’t give a f*cking sh*t about their asses. HOLLYWOODHIGHLANDS.ORG.”

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Mr. One-Minute-Only, as he’s known in city hall and the bedroom

At blessed last, an angelic face stepped up. “To my friend, the Honorable Herb Wesson, Jr., who undoubtedly will be our next mayor–”

Council President Wesson blushed. “Oh, come on, Chuck!”

“To all the agitators who mock, belittle, degrade, or are prejudiced to him, shame on you!” roared Chuck. “Let Herb do his job! Leave him alone and stop picking on him!”

You’re a good man, Chuck. Too bad you’re not the one with the blog.

Final thoughts: Be honest, you’ve already forgotten that Councilwoman Nury Martinez was married to the Condom Man, haven’t you? I give this meeting One Minute! One Minute Only, Please!