Since she began campaigning for office in 2019, Mayor Pro Tem Sepi Shyne has faced a near-constant barrage of criticism … some of it unfounded, some of it well warranted.
“Access to me is a privilege,” she said last week on her official Mayor Pro Tem Facebook page, reposting a meme created by London-based psychotherapist Seerut K. Chawla.
The meme is a diagram of concentric circles, the outermost being “strangers on the internet” and the innermost being “you.” Separating “you” are larger and larger rings representing a person’s “inner circle,” those they know and trust, “neutral,” “random acquaintances,” and those they “know and don’t trust.”
The meme is an illustration of social insulation, an instructional diagram presumably meant to help one stay sane in a world of snarky online comments and public-persona drama.
But posted on her official page as an elected official, the statement begs the question: Should Sepi Shyne limit her access to such a privileged few?
She is notably tight-lipped to all but the friendliest of media outlets. Reaching out through both public and private channels often proves fruitless. Calls go unanswered. Texts get no reply. When trouble erupts, Shyne tends to close ranks with her supporters (and some of her fellow councilmembers), staying silent while waiting out the storm.
Openness, transparency and engagement are hallmarks of good leadership, and the most successful elected officials will make themselves available even to their most bitter enemies.
While anyone in Shyne’s position — whose every move is met by at least some stubborn resistance, whose opinions are mocked mercilessly regardless of their virtue, and whose private affairs automatically become fodder for public discussion — might put up walls as a survival tactic, the more powerful and effective defense mechanism would be to meet the haters head on, to tackle the criticism aloud and slay the runway with the poise, grace and fierce intelligence that got her elected in the first place.
What sets Shyne so far apart from her colleagues is the passion she inspires — the fervent devotion of her inner circle of friends and allies, as well as the vitriol in her detractors. No one else on City Council has this effect on people.
Shyne should embrace both — the love and the hate — because both are barometers of her impact on West Hollywood and the world beyond.
Weighed together, they show a public figure and thought leader whose shine is by no means dimming — it’s actually getting brighter.
The public deserves a place in Sepi’s inner circle. And in turn the public should treat her (and each other) with the decency and respect becoming of those in a trusted circle of fellow citizens and neighbors.