STEVE MARTIN: Sepi Shyne’s Fall from Grace

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Sepi Shyne received 7,378 votes, nearly 24% of the ballots cast, the highest number of votes ever received by any candidate in a West Hollywood election. In the November, 2020 election, Sepi Shyne bested 36-year veteran John Heilman, who came in third with 18% of the vote as well incumbent as well as John Duran, who had 3,071 votes, a mere ten percent of the ballots cast.

Sepi Shyne’s landslide victory had raised hopes that the City’s legacy of progressive leadership could be renewed and revitalized. People optimistically hoped for a new era of forward-looking policies under more youthful leadership.

So, what happened? How did Sepi Shyne go from being West Hollywood’s most popular candidate to becoming West Hollywood’s most divisive Mayor? How did she manage to alienate so many people?

Shyne had benefited from “incumbent fatigue”. West Hollywood voters had watched with rising frustration as the City’s reputation for progressive leadership was tarnished by a constant stream of LA Times headlines about the latest sexual harassment charges being bandied about City Hall. The half million dollar pay out to Council Deputy Ian Owens was a festering sore on the local body politic. The complacent old guard seemed to have lost its’ moral compass. The voters wanted change.

In some ways Shyne had a relatively easy task; avoid controversy and bring the divided community together.

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Unfortunately, Shyne didn’t see it that way.

Although her campaign was long on progressive platitudes and short on specifics, Shyne believed that her election was a mandate to impose her own brand of social justice politics and culture of grievance on West Hollywood.

Shyne’s initial focus on cultural/political issues was not really a surprise. New Council members often focus on these sorts of issues until they master the nuance of municipal finances, land use policies and infrastructure.

After all, there is a steep learning curve. But Shyne’s lack of involvement in the real issues of government prior to her election seemed to continue after she assumed office.

Within two years Shyne managed to alienate large segments of the electorate, including many people who had voted for her. Clearly the public had hoped for better.

For me the warning signal came during the Council debate over replacing the rainbow cross walks with progress flag cross walks. Personally, I couldn’t care less. I was fine with the rainbow cross walks, but I understood that the progress flag was meaningful to a younger generation of activists. Until Shyne jumped into the debate.

The rainbow flag is the flag of “white gay male privilege” declared Shyne. Suddenly Shyne was equating the rainbow flag with systemic racism. It was as if the banner that a generation had marched under, indeed many died under, a symbol of international hope, was being equated with the “Stars and Bars” of the Confederate battle flag.

My first impulse was to say to myself, “what a privileged, self-serving snot”. She wasn’t there for the battles; she was the beneficiary of the very people she was now denigrating. Her generation faced few, if any of the obstacles young people of my generation confronted when we came out, not to mention AIDS. She could have just said she supported the progress flag because it was a new incarnation of our movement; instead she chose to bash the people who brought the movement to where it is today.

Ultimately I moved on, thinking this was just an unfortunate incident. As it turned out, it was not. This was just an early insight into Shyne’s politics of grievance and victimhood.

Shyne needs to be a victim. She believes that is an important part of her credibility as a leader. The public is burdened with unending tales of her victimhood. She is a person of color, she was a victim of a “homophobic” incident, she suffered as an immigrant.

Of course most of this narrative is largely delusional. Shyne’s parents, a petroleum engineer father and child psychologist mother, fled Iran seeking freedom and opportunity here in the United States. While my immigrant ancestors braved the dangers of the Sonoran desert, the Chinese Exclusion Act and laws preventing Filipinos from owing land in California, Shyne’s parents had the luxury of flying to this country while bringing a respectable amount of their wealth with them. They were able to seamlessly incorporate themselves into the community. They prospered and their children became professionals; Sepi herself is an attorney.

While Shyne comes from a background of privilege, she wants to compare herself to the oppressed underclass of immigrants who had real struggles to get here and struggle each day to survive. While many successful immigrant families point to their status with a sense of pride, Shyne embraces her immigrant status as a point of grievance and oppression.

While some deride Shyne’s claim of being a person of color, I personally think if your ancestors were not from Europe, you qualify. Traditionally that is how white people in this country have always seen it. While being Iranian qualifies as POC, I am not aware that Iranians as an ethnic group are facing discrimination, at least not here in Southern California. If living well is the best revenge, then our local Iranian-Persian community is doing it with gusto.

Shyne indignantly decried the reference to “Persian weddings” during a Planning Commission discussion as “racist”, the reference was to opulence, which is not exactly derogatory. But if your personal radar is always attuned to finding grievance, then you will inevitably find it. That incident reminded me of that Seinfeld episode where Uncle Leo complained about the antisemitic fry cook: “you don’t just over-cook a hamburger…”. Shyne’s accusation of racism was equally contrived. But the community lost a dedicated Planning Commissioner as a result.

Shyne is quick to find racism, particularly when she can use it to her advantage. When Public Safety Commissioner Nika Soon-Shiong, heiress to the fortunate behind the LA Times, convinced the Commission to make substantial cuts to the Sheriff’s funding, Shyne joined her then colleague, Lindsey Horvath, in describing all opponents of the “de-funding” movement as racists. I actually went to a City Council meeting and asked them if because I opposed the defunding, did they consider me a racist? Neither Shyne nor Horvath every replied, publicly or privately.

Then there is the bullying. First Keely Fields, whose recognition for her work distributing drug test strips in local bars and nightclubs drew Shyne ire to the extent that she refused, very publicly, to re-appoint Fields to the Women’s Advisory Board. What was really bizarre was how Shyne turned the whole thing around so that she was a victim; she told Fields she wouldn’t talk to her about the controversy because she, Shyne, “needed time to heal”.

When Keith Kaplan, former president of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, expressed outrage that Fields appeared to be the victim of political retaliation, Shyne called the Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, at home no less, demanding Kaplan be removed from the Chamber Board for his act of lese majeste. The arrogance of that demand is just astounding but so is Shyne’s bullying attempts to squelch freedom of speech.

But that was not Shyne’s only self-inflicted wound.

During her elaborate installation as Mayor, her praise singers declared Shyne was divinely sent to purge West Hollywood of the racism, transphobia and misogyny that she believes is endemic among her constituents. But she also let her guard down, resulting in a very unflattering interview with LA Magazine. She told a skeptical reporter that she had an ability to channel positive psychic energy so she could cast a spell over the phone that could cure your cat. She added that her rates for these services were quite reasonable. After regaling the reporter with tales of “lived experience” oppression, the reporter was able to compare notes with Shyne’s mother, who seemed quite surprised by some of her daughter’s claims of victimhood.

Finally, there was the half-baked decision to run of Congress. While I get it, it just seems to me that having a real resume of accomplishments might be helpful. Unless Unite Here is inclined to jump into her race in a big way, and at this point the Union does not seem so inclined, I just don’t see any viable path to Capitol Hill for the Mayor. Her bid for Congress just seems to be an embarrassment.

But there is hope. Recently Shyne did vote to restore funding to the Sheriff. That proves she is capable of suspending her dogmatic beliefs to accommodate reality, at least on occasion.

At the last Council meeting, the Mayor seemed miserable. There did not seem to be any joy in having the job. Maybe it is time to take stock and recalibrate her agenda for the next eighteen months. While Shyne seems to have spent a lifetime inventing a persona, it is never too late for any politician to re-invent themselves.

We can only hope some self-reflection is in the Mayor’s immediate future.

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About Steve Martin
Steve Martin is a former West Hollywood City Council member and mayor, former president of the Stonewall Democratic Club and author of West Hollywood's successful term limits initiative, Prop. C.

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Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
10 months ago

Steve, she’s always been a disgrace. But she serves a purpose: as an example of what not to be, who you should not raise your daughters to emulate.

CHLOE ROSS
CHLOE ROSS
11 months ago

She is all you have written and sadly, oozing with more to come. My kids used to refer to whiners and the vocally miserable as “the itty bitty pity committee”. She is not exactly itty bitty but this does describe her in terms easily understood. Add to the picture her “bully pulpit” and you have a damn near perfect political cartoonist dream come true. Wehoville could use one! Steve, she appears to be the very thing her family fled to escape. To me, she is the Ayatollah Come Lately. You nailed it. 5 stars.

Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
10 months ago
Reply to  CHLOE ROSS

Haha, based.

Loathsome
Loathsome
11 months ago

For someone to have “Fallen from Grace”. one must have been in a position of grace which clearly Sepi Shyne was not. She is apparently swimming around on the bottom of consciousness trying on numerous facades to see what will elevate her to acceptability. Unfortunately this is a loathsome way to travel.

Eastside Straight Girl
Eastside Straight Girl
11 months ago

I loved this article of TRUTH! I can confidently say that I used my strong instincts on this person & did NOT vote for her! Steve, this is an excellent article that lays the groundwork for people to read before the next election. Sepi’s mindset is glass 1/2 empty which you have pointed out in numerous ways.I just hope that people will remember this when they go to vote for CC of West Hollywood again. Good Job Steve!

Davedi
Davedi
11 months ago

Excellent article Steve. It should be in every physical mailbox in West Hollywood.

Michael Cautillo
Michael Cautillo
11 months ago

Thanks, Steve, for a very well-written piece. Thank you for running for Council as well. You had my vote. The first red flag for me regarding Shyne was her landslide victory. How did a virtual unknown who lived in West Hollywood for a brief time with now experience and no real platform win the most votes?

Ty/James Geltmaker/Rosen
Ty/James Geltmaker/Rosen
11 months ago

I would add that at recent City Council meeting comments when I noted recent death of West Hollywood native Benita Roth, author of “Life and Death of Act Up LA,” mayor Shyne followed other Councilmembers’ thoughtful comments with a detached “Sorry for Your Loss,” to which I and the public booed, “It’s not MY loss, it’s OUR’s.”

This white self-proclaimed fake “woman of color” with no acknowledgement/distinction of real African-American women of color is a disgrace.

Ty Geltmaker

Ty/James Geltmaker/Rosen
Ty/James Geltmaker/Rosen
11 months ago

I would add that just as George Santos needs to stop equating himself with Rosa Parks, Shyne should cease equating herself to Black women.

Ty Geltmaker

Ty/James Geltmaker/Rosen
Ty/James Geltmaker/Rosen
11 months ago

We campaigned and voted for Shyne, now knowing she’s a shyster.

Ty Geltmaker/James Rosen

WeHo Resident
WeHo Resident
11 months ago

How much of this was written by chatGPT?

What Now?
What Now?
11 months ago
Reply to  WeHo Resident

Your remark about this article written by Steve Martin overlooks the fact that he is an experienced attorney accustomed to writing briefs.

Davedi
Davedi
11 months ago
Reply to  WeHo Resident

A smart person could compare this to his style of writing and know it was SteveGPT.

Toms
Toms
11 months ago

Sounds like She is the long lost daughter of Donald Trump!

Mikey
Mikey
11 months ago
Reply to  Toms

The identical twin of Hunter and the Loser Klan Biden’s.

Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
10 months ago
Reply to  Mikey

Bingo. She could only hope to be half as classy as Ivanka on her worst days.

Kenny Nielson
Kenny Nielson
11 months ago

About those rainbow crosswalks – sooo badly designed, downright ugly and laughable, out of proportion, dirty. So embarrasing at the center of West Hollywood.

Your neighborhood
Your neighborhood
11 months ago
Reply to  Kenny Nielson

So juvenile. A children’s coloring contest. If folks are looking for respect, this is the wrong pathway. Are we going to design crosswalks for straight people? This is not intended as a derogatory comment regarding LGBTQIA+ community, simply the methodology. Better yet, ordinary crosswalks were designed for EVERYBODY devoid of any identity.

Indeed
Indeed
11 months ago

They are ridiculous.

Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
10 months ago
Reply to  Indeed

Make crosswalks black and white and clearly delineated again.

Outraged
Outraged
11 months ago

How can we ALL support the RECALL? Is there a meeting time and place? Let’s GO!

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