One of the most crucial meetings of the year for West Hollywood happened this week, and you missed it.
If you had come to this ostensibly-open-to-the-public gathering, you would have gotten a great sense of how the city is doing financially, where it’s making money and what it’s spending the income it gets from your taxes and fees on.
But don’t blame yourself.
City Council’s Budget & Finance Subcommittee met Thursday night in a stuffy room inside City Hall, and only about four members of the public showed up. If more had come, they wouldn’t have had a place to sit; the room was packed with municipal employees.
Public engagement was clearly not the priority for this meeting. Nobody knew about it. Those who did couldn’t access the reports to review beforehand. Even the front door at City Hall was locked.
The subcommittee consists of Mayor Sepi Shyne and Mayor Pro Tem John Erickson, who explained the undesirable 6:30 p.m. scheduling thusly:
“Apologies to members of the public that, you know, want this on a different night. This is usually scheduled around the availability of the mayor and the mayor pro tem. And sorry, we don’t mean to have it during the Planning Commission. Nevertheless, we are very busy. I’ve been here since 4.”
But the meeting couldn’t begin without the mayor, who strolled into the room a few minutes late.
As we waited, City Clerk Melissa Crowder asked attendees if we wanted snacks or refreshments — a joke everyone laughed at.
Why is it so outlandish to expect, say, a Coke and a donut at a meeting like this?
How many city luncheons and receptions come catered with espresso coffee, juice bars, pastries piled high? Why aren’t residents treated like guests at these insider meetings? Why does this feel like waiting in line at the DMV? If WeHo really wanted us to be involved, they would be doing a lot more to get us in the door and keep us here.
Why not use all those fancy digital bus stop ad spaces to promote the meetings? Or go low-end and screw two sheets of plywood to the building facade and you’ve got yourself a marquee to display times, dates, etc. in big-ass, bold-ass letters.
Why not hold these meetings somewhere nice, with tables and comfortable chairs?
Why not send the brand-new CityLine Flex on-demand vans to pick up and drop off anyone who wants to attend?
Why not give out freebies as an incentive to get people to come — koozies, t-shirts, coupons?
Why not make an agenda that doesn’t look like a Verizon Terms of Services contract, something that’s easy to read and understand?
Why make everyone crawl over their neighbors in the audience in order to speak at the podium? Every church in the country has a wireless microphone that can be passed around, is that too much to ask for the disabled and senior citizens of WeHo?
Why not set aside 10 minutes for unrestricted actual conversation, where the audience can talk freely and have the valuable back-and-forth that’s forbidden by law in the rest of the meeting?
The traditional response might be, “We’re a small city, we don’t have money for that.” After sitting through the Budget & Finance Subcommittee Meeting, where most dollar amounts in discussion have seven figures, I call bullshit on that notion.
The real question is why are these meetings held in physical spaces at all any more?
The pandemic proved that going all virtual was not only possible but highly preferable. For all their faults, Zoom meetings expanded public participation by orders of magnitude. No longer are official city meetings held at off hours in unfriendly buildings behind closed doors, where anyone who’s not in the clique or cabal feels unwelcome not by chance but by design.
On Zoom, everyone can be seen and heard if they want to be.
Proceedings are recorded and closed captioned.
There’s a place to chat via text and ways to conduct polls, to share documents and files.
Important visuals and data aren’t lost in a blur on a faraway projector screen.
The Zoom grid is the great equalizer — nobody’s square is bigger or more important than anyone else’s.
And it provides us immunity from the political circus antics, the coordinated mobs and undemocratic shout-downs that have plagued physical meetings as of late.
The less pomp and circumstance, the better.
Do the dumb photos ops before the meeting and stick them on Instagram.
Let public comment be a two-minute video or voice memo you record on your phone and send in to the city clerk, who uploads it to YouTube for all to see.
No having to cut people off, no more wasting people’s precious time on earth.
Ditto with adjournments, proclamations, councilmember presentations etc. etc.
And voila! No more seven-hour meetings to sit through with A/Cs running full-blast and a dozen staff members and security ambassadors on the clock. No more slow painful demise for civic interest and community involvement. No more dubious dealings done in the darkness of disinterest.
Democracy dies in dullness, too. It just takes longer.
Glasnost/гласность (noun) — the declared public policy within the Soviet Union of openly and frankly discussing economic and political realities: initiated under Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985.
GREAT article Brandon!!! You’re depiction of this louse of a Mayor & her lateness to the meeting, is the parallel arrogance she has bestowed upon residents since stepping into the role as a council member. There are two to follow in her footsteps, however, we’re at least most fortunate to have rid ourselves of Nika Soon Shiong only further supporting this agenda – And mind you, this clan has a very clear agenda that has begun to erode this city & its once-correct ethos & values.
Thank you Robert!
Thanks, Brandon for giving us a peek into how this “city” is run. Imagine having to wait for Mayor Bull Shyne to wander in! Nightmarish. Also, the city employees are working for themselves and not the residents. You can right off any glamour when it comes to West Hollyood’s elected officials or management. The city is a closed door when it comes to investigating what’s going on with the MONEY! Talk about corruption. Erickson works for Planned Parenthood, taking a salary from this federal funded organization. But he spends half his time prancing around as a council person. There is… Read more »
Thanks! WeHo can be pretty loco!
WEHOville plays a very important civic role in holding officialdom accountable to the people it serves–we the residents of West Hollywood. They are indeed an incestuous cabal and that makes for an environment in which critical thinking is shunned or hidden or worse, bullied into submission. Let’s keep the lights shining brightly, and call out the bullpucky as it’s happening. Politics is not a game for thin-skinned folks surrounded by sycophants and enablers in echo chambers. Question everything. Dissent is golden.
WEHOville thanks you for your support!!
It is a long slow elitist suffocation of this city. Calcifying. And its all about the money.
If you don’t mind, it seems a faux elitist suffocation as there is nary a sophisticated individual in our midst. Essentially only crude grabbers.
Tell me about it! Sepi alone is a reiki therapist scammer with a junky website!
And she perceptibly lied claiming to be a “person of color”. I can think of why she did but it was still untruthful. Who does that claiming also to be a person of integrity? Full Stop! Out, sooner than later.
So what transpired at the meeting? We know there was no Coke and donuts.
What a great post, Mr. Garcia.
I watched the meeting online, because I set a reminder after you posted the information here.
Exactly where and how did you view the meeting online?
Gosh, I’d love to know the answer to that question, too!
Awesome! Glad we could help you engage!
If the people of West Hollywood are either too stupid, or too lazy, to rise up against the vile character of so-called “mayor” Septic Shyne and her various winged monkey moron posse of sycophants, they get what they deserve. There has been more than enough evidence to do major recall elections and get these people off the city Council and replace them with people with actual competence and integrity. We are waiting, people of West Hollywood, we are waiting. Pathetic.
Who is “we”?
What if a lot of the people were working 2-3 jobs and don’t have time to consider things in semi-hidden meetings? Or they don’t even vote? Sigh.
Because they don’t want the public to attend and participate.
Most meetings are when the working class are at work or stuck in traffic on the way home from work. No accommodations for the old, disabled, or immunocompromised. You would think at least the senior and disability meetings would have Zoom access, but nope. The city is controlled by those put into power by the Unions and Developer interests, and their nepotism appoints to councils and boards.
Very clever but undoubtedly accurate!
It must have been demoralizing for David Wilson & Melissa Crowder, two apt professionals, to have had the snark explanation by the fool, excuse me, Official Court Jester and the perpetually disheveled and attitudinal Sept Shyne to stroll in late. How busy can this duo be with their self involved busy work.
Every day one leans more about the city than they ever wanted to know. Let’s revert to Jack Webb and Dragnet…”just the facts man”. Where is he when we need him? And where are Gorbachev’s sentiments?
Sounds like the thieves and scoundrels at City Hall are laughing at us while they take home unreasonably huge salaries, benefits, and pensions.
I have to applaud the Mayor Pro Tem for his dedication to his elected duties in actually being present at City Hall for a whole 2 1/2 hours without mentioning it to the press. Oh wait..