Following is the speech Lauren Meister made on Monday night at her installation as Mayor of West Hollywood.
I’d like to thank everyone here tonight, those watching from home, my colleagues, city staff, our City Manager and City Attorney, my incredibly patient and supportive family, friends and honorable guests.
We are WeHo — a city that celebrates creativity, diversity and, most importantly, community. I never would have dreamed that one day I would be Mayor of one of the coolest cities this side of Brooklyn. (And I also never would have dreamed that one day Brooklyn would be cool!)
Now, I may not be the youngest Mayor in the country, but, hey, I’m also not the oldest! Yes, this past year, there’s been a lot of discussion around age. And, as much as we may still see that 25-year-old when we look in the mirror, the reality is, the median age of a WeHoan is 42 (6 years older than the County).
Since the year 2000, our 55-to-64 year old age group has experienced the largest increase in West Hollywood demographics, growing over 36%, while 21-to-34 experienced the greatest decline (by 12%). The last of the Baby Boomers are getting their AARP cards. But, being 50+ today is not like being 50+, 30 years ago.
So, who are these new WeHo seniors? In fact, some of these folks are the same LGBT activists, straight allies, neighborhood advocates, artists, rockers and visionaries that founded and shaped the City of West Hollywood over the last 31 years. And this new generation of senior is more vital than ever.
These are not people who want to “go gentle into that good night.” (Dylan Thomas)
The Aging in Place initiative, which focuses primarily on housing, transit and healthcare, is extremely important and timely. But I think we can take it one step further by looking at the social, cultural and recreational activities we offer our older adults and revamping these services to accommodate this new generation of senior. It’s what I call, Rewriting the Third Act.
We also need to reimagine our Neighborhood Watch program. It’s been a great vehicle for dealing with public safety issues, but, in the context of Aging in Place, it can be so much more. I’m committed to working with Public Safety and Social Services staff on both of these initiatives.
Whether you live on the Eastside, Center City, or Westside, it is truly our neighborhoods that contribute to our quality of life in West Hollywood.
An integral part of our neighborhoods is our small business community. It’s our small businesses that help define a neighborhood – just look at “Historic Boystown” or the Russian delis and shops on the Eastside, or the Design District on Melrose and Robertson, or the Sunset Strip.
Just as we have moved forward with developing strategies to help our residents age in place – we must do the same to help our small businesses to age in place.
That’s why I’m very excited my colleagues supported the creation of a Small Business Task Force to deal with the challenges of opening and running a small business in West Hollywood. I look forward to working with new partners to protect, preserve and promote the unique identities of our business districts.
Another challenge is how we move forward to help our homeless. We know that the number of homeless in our city has grown, but, what we don’t know is, what portion of our homeless are veterans, or those suffering from mental illness or substance addiction.
In March, Council approved an item to direct staff to conduct a homeless needs assessment study. This study will help identify the specific needs of our city’s homeless population, so we can customize a program of services and make better-informed decisions on how to allocate funds. I know our Human Services staff is up to the task of developing a meaningful program that, perhaps, can be a model for other small cities in the future.
Now, we all know that WeHoan’s love our animals. The City of West Hollywood has a long history of supporting measures that promote the protection of animal rights, and West Hollywood has long been recognized as one of the most animal-friendly cities in the nation.
Because we don’t have a county animal shelter close by on the Westside, I’ve initiated conversations with our federal representatives, the VA, local leaders and non-profit organizations, like Pets For Vets, to gauge interest in opening an animal shelter at the Westside VA facility as part of a larger program for our veterans. So far, I’m seeing a lot of enthusiasm.
I will also continue to work with staff and our lobbyist (Helyne Meshar) to establish a statewide Animal Abuser Registry to allow for immediate background checks for animal adoptions.
Another issue I will continue to address is water. As you may know, the City of West Hollywood has two water providers, and these two providers have very different conservation levels based on state requirements.
I’ll be working with our Public Works Department and City Attorney to ensure that the water conservation requirements placed on our residents and businesses are fair and reflect our usage, and that rates and surcharges are equitable, no matter which company provides your water in WeHo.
I’m looking forward to this next year as your Mayor.
Certainly, there will be challenges – and there will be many hearty discussions about housing and transit, about sustainability and livability… As a city that’s only 1.9 square miles, with a density far greater than most others – 18,000 residents per square mile – we are unique.
We have to do what’s right for our city. Together, we have to create our own destiny. Hash tag #We Are WeHo!
A few final thoughts… Whether we’re talking about our senior community, our community of young people, our LGBT community, our Russian-speaking community, our arts community, or our small business community, the key word here, is, in fact, community.
I’d like this next year to be about community – and about renewing that inspired community spirit that started this great city over 30 years ago.