Opinion: WeHo’s Rambling Council Meetings Discourage Public Participation

West Hollywood City Council meeting (Photo by Jon Viscott)
West Hollywood City Council meeting (Photo by Jon Viscott)

It is 10:26 p.m., and only 11 people who aren’t employed by the City of West Hollywood are sitting in the City Council Chambers as the Council takes up one of the most important items on its agenda.

That item, proposed by council members Lauren Meister and John D’Amico, would ask city staffers to research policies and tools to attract and support small businesses to West Hollywood. Laudable as that sounds, parts of the proposal have raised concerns from the business community.

But the only members of the business community who have managed to hang on since the 6:30 p.m. start of the meeting to address the proposal are Genevieve Morrill, CEO of the city’s chamber of commerce (who, given her position, doesn’t have a choice), and Larry Block, owner of the Block Party apparel store. The dozens of other small businesses owners who might (or might not) benefit from the proposal presumably are run by people who actually have to be at work in the morning.

Several of them did show up at 6:30. But they decided not to wait through the two hours of presentations of plaques, “adjournments” in honor of people like Patty Duke and the victims of ISIS attacks in Brussels, the calling out the names of dead soldiers from across the United States, speeches by Council members about what they’ve done during the week before and the shuffling of items on the agenda.

Some of that rambling two hours was worthwhile and necessary, once the ego-stroking is extracted. Certainly the Council should continue to honor and celebrate the people and organizations who do good for West Hollywood. Certainly it should “adjourn” to honor local residents who have died (although perhaps John Heilman should drop his habit of honoring dead celebrities like Patty Duke). The “adjournments” could include local military personnel who have died. (But do we need to call out those from Maine and Florida and Alabama?)

Practically speaking, the way the City Council conducts its meetings deters the participation of local residents who want to discuss the specific matters that matter to them. One resident who attended the first part of tonight’s meeting said she couldn’t stay to the end and couldn’t force herself to sit through Council meetings on television, given their length. In the past certain Council members (Jeffrey Prang comes to mind) felt the same way and pushed to cap the length of meetings. Items that weren’t addressed by, say, 10:30 p.m., got pushed to the next Council meeting.

So what’s a City Council to do if it wants to take time to honor those who deserve it and yet it can’t force itself to stop preening in public? A solution might be to push the twice-monthly meetings earlier instead of letting them drag on as late as 2 a.m.

The Council now meets in a closed session at 6 p.m. to discuss personnel and legal issues before moving to the public dais for the 6:30 p.m. meeting. But what if that closed session were held at 5:30 p.m.? And what if that period of public adulation and council member comments started at 6 p.m. (and was strictly limited to 30 minutes)? Then the people of West Hollywood who are interested in a particular item on the Council agenda could show up at 6:30 p.m. with a decent chance of hearing the Council debate and vote on that item without worrying about showing up late for work the next day.

Pushing through that sort of schedule (and enforcing more strongly the Council’s standards of conduct)  would increase citizen participation and would be a great way for Lauren Meister to kick off her reign as mayor.

0 0 votes
Article Rating

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

16 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
JJ
JJ
6 years ago

@ LOVE NO HATE.. It’s not about being politically correct. It’s about the way you come across to people. It’s the way Donald Trump comes off versus Hillary Clinton. Trump comes off as a wack-a-doo and Clinton comes off looking presidential. When you get up at every opportunity and you scream at the council you look like some crazy person trying to make themselves look important and patting yourself on the back. Sometimes running your mouth too much turns people off to your cause and doesn’t persuade them to see your point of view. I know people in the neighborhood… Read more »

LOVE NO HATE
6 years ago
Reply to  JJ

Thanks for the feedback. maybe you should talk our amazing Mayor, Lindsey Horvath the best Mayor Pro, to be our new Mayor Lauren Meister and our best city manager Paul Arevalo, so far, i got nothing but 100% support from each and everyone of them. My # is 818 613 8713, say the time and the place, i will love to take you to lunch and show you few facts. When it come to our election? 18% 20%,… this isn’t the nir show, those number are WEHO SHOW. just like our city council meetings our advisory board meetings or most… Read more »

Brian Holt
Brian Holt
6 years ago

AMEN! Leave the important – but lets face it – superfluous stuff till the very end. That way the ctiy’s and its resident’s business can be addressed between 6:30-10:30 PM! And yes, moving up by 30 min would help – though I respect council members have full-time jobs they must coordinate. How Public comments are implemented should also be reconsidered. While I respect many of my fellow residents, espcecially smart and articulate ones (Cathy Blavis comes to mind) participating, there are many others who are cringeworthy! There should be a system like in radio contests – if you’ve won (in… Read more »

mike dunn
mike dunn
6 years ago

All the awards and adjournments should be given out at the end of the meetings not at the beginning. Then those who really cared about each and everyone of them could stay while those at the meetings to voice their opinions about the real issues would be heard earlier..

Cy Husain
6 years ago

Do West Hollywood’s Rambling Council Meetings Discourage Public Participation, or is there Public Participation because; This is What Democracy Looks Like? I remember the protesting against the World Trade Organization summit being held in Seattle, Washington in November 1999. The people with me were successful in exposing the WTO’s usurping of our Democracy through their power to arbitrarily overrule (granted to them by trade agreements) nations’ Environmental, Social and Labor Policies in favor of unbridled corporate interests. We were completely demonized by an extremely hostel corporate media that literally represented as as terrorists, causing a violent reaction by law enforcement.… Read more »

JJ
JJ
6 years ago

No one has a problem with people being passionate. It’s the way in which some communicate. Getting up and screaming at every meeting (and every opportunity) does nothing to further anyone’s cause or to solve a problem. It turns people off (as does rambling comments to articles on this site).

LOVE NO HATE
6 years ago
Reply to  JJ

Sorry, but Being politically correct DOES NOT make you correct.

LOVE NO HATE
6 years ago

We do not have to look to far, just take a look of the number of our voters in each election. there is the answer, PEOPLE DO NOT CARE. 18% -20%? So why are we so surprised ??? more sad is our everyday lives of those they need our help, METH is a huge issue. HOMELESS we keep saying it’s all over the world, it’s very true, but if we clam to have “only” 87 homeless, as a rich city that can afford to spend millions of dollars on parking lots, and a park, over millions dollars on gay “pride”… Read more »

Randy
Randy
6 years ago

As important as the “city presentations” portion of the meetings are, they also eat up a lot of time, and are always at the beginning of the meetings. How about only doing those at every other council meeting? I know it would take more time at those particular meetings for such presentations, but they could also attempt to balance agenda items that are less time-consuming to coincide with the meetings where they have these “city presentations.”

Christopher
Christopher
6 years ago

I agree with all of this except criticizing a few words of tribute for Patty Duke. She was much more than a mere “celebrity.” Aside from her acting cred, she was a long-time friend to the gay community and West Hollywood. She publicized and participated in AIDS Walks, she showed up at various events to poke fun of her TV series (sometimes with a guy in drag as her twin cousin) and she went to screenings of Valley of the Dolls and laughed along with her gay fans at her on-screen antics. Most importantly she became a tireless advocate for… Read more »

JJ
JJ
6 years ago

I think another reason people don’t participate more is that there is a small group of residents that ramble on at each and every meeting and are sometimes a little too “passionate” bordering on nutty (and some cross that border way too often). While everyone wants to feel that their voice is heard and their opinions matter, some just get up to hear the sound of their own voice and to make themselves feel self-important. If you’re getting up at every single meeting both at open public comments and then again during an agenda item, you are probably getting out… Read more »

Lilly
Lilly
6 years ago

Thankfully City Council is now using its time wisely. I appreciate that our elected officials are doing their job and then offering the remaining time to those who have patiently waited to be heard.

Jeffery Ward
6 years ago

As a disabled resident, it is extremely hard to plan for a council meeting since you never know how long they are going to run, transportation is iffy at best, and meetings lasting into the wee hours of the morning are just downright dangerous since your transportation choices evaporate and you have to worry about drunk drivers coming from the bars and robbers while you wait by a bus stop, I just can’t run from trouble like I did in my better years. I watch the council meetings on TV and have been known to text one or two of… Read more »

Sam Borelli
Sam Borelli
6 years ago

I think that “hot button items” where the city management and council know that there will be many who wish to participate and be heard should be taken up once a month on a Saturday morning. Imagine some of the 2+ hour items like major developments (8899 Beverly Blvd) or the recent minimum wage discussion shifting to a Saturday morning where people are awake and fresh and not sitting for hours in a dark room, at the end of the first workday of the week. If not once a month, maybe every other month, maybe when necessary. It certainly can… Read more »

16
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x