While every city council candidate who filed a ballot statement willingly consented to be interviewed, Laurene Weste didn’t. The Gazette emailed her questions back in July, per her request, yet she didn’t respond, and even hung up on a reporter who called seeking responses.
Privately, many believe Weste behaves this way because she doesn’t think the Gazette’s questions are worth her time. When she wants something, the belief goes, she can be as sweet as anyone. But when she has no use for someone, she ignores or acts arrogantly and demeaning. As Diane Trautman said, “Laurene tends to talk to people like children.”
At the recent candidate’s form at College of the Canyons, a reporter asked Weste if she was ready to answer the questions. She smiled and said, “You have no questions.”
But the Gazette had 11 questions, so when Weste appeared at last week’s Canyon Country Advisory Committee City Council Meet & Greet, Gazette editor Sarah Farnell posed three of them to Weste.
You have repeatedly denied you stand to gain nothing from the Lyons-Dockweiler extension, yet the perception persists. What definitive, tangible proof can you offer to put those naysayers to rest?
I think that’s a really good question. I’m glad you asked that. It gets it right off the table. When I got my place, I moved on a ranch and I wanted to be there because I had horses. I still have six … So, next to me is a city-owned road right-of-way, and they’ve had it from the county and it was apparently taken in the 1960s and the city inherited it, and they have it, and they’ll use it when they’re ready to use it. Like a lot of road easements in this valley, sit there for decades. I don’t get anything for it, and why would the city pay me for something they already own?
There is a perception that the councilmembers have their minds made up on an issue before they go into chambers and listen to public comment. We’ve heard this regarding the Laemmle Theater project, the Lyons-Dockweiler extension, the cannabis dispensary ban, the homeless action plan and the sanctuary city question. Is it true? On average, how much time do you spend reading staff reports? Do you do independent interviews and reviews of issues?
Oh my God, that’s a good question. I got a headache right now. I’m reading constantly because we get this much every week (turns to her left and spreads her hands out vertically) and then we get all the things from you. No, the council does not make up their mind ahead of time. There’s a lot of discussion and quite often the council will totally hold something over, or they ask questions. We have a good constituency. They bring things up and we try to work thought it, and if we can’t get you where you want to be where it’s comfortable, we continue until we do.
The council’s average age is 68, but take away Cameron Smyth and it’s 73.75. You will be 70 on Election Day.
Yeah! I’m good.
I quote Bob Kellar: “Are we supposed to stay on the city council until we’re 90 years old?” What do you say to those who believe it’s time for a new generation?
Well, it is time, and we will. Bob’s going off. I’m still roller skating, riding my horses and I water ski, so I’m having a heck of a good time. I think you should go off if you are not well, and I don’t care what that age is. I think you should not be there if you can’t do the workload. I personally think in America, you don’t start judging people by their age, but I’m very proud to be my age, which is 69 (her birthday is Oct. 26). I am thrilled that I can do actually more, probably, than I used to because I’m not sedentary. I’m proud to be the age I am, and I’m proud to work with people that have knowledge and compassion and have learned a lot through having life experiences, and I love working with Cameron, and I am sure we will get some other great young people.
A fourth question was not directly asked, but some of Weste’s opening statement could be interpreted as an answer.
You so often say how great Santa Clarita is. What is the best thing about it? What are the largest things that need addressing/improving/fixing? Why? How do you propose to solve these?
We’re improving traffic and we’re to expanding our road network. That’s critical. It’s important because we all are frustrated with traffic, including my family. We’re going to be building Via Princessa. That is the major connection from Canyon Country all the way across to the I-5, connecting up with Wiley (Canyon Road). We’re working to improve our transportation options. … Just this month, $47 million was approved to enhance and make the I-5 safer and open up that blockade where all that traffic is congested. We’ve got a new truck lane coming that will protect us driving along the 5 from the big rigs, and we’ll also have an HOV lane.
The remaining six questions have not been answered despite subsequent attempts to reach Weste.
What will you do differently than in any of your previous terms?
Brett Haddock is calling for term limits: a maximum of four. What do you say?
I quote Diane Trautman: “Laurene tends to talk to people like children.” What is your response?
I quote Trautman again: If a person comes before the council and is either critical or offers an opposing viewpoint, “It’s not treated as a matter of disagreement. It’s treated as an insult to the councilmembers. So, there’s not a welcoming of different ideas, and that’s not helpful to anybody. … It seemed to be that everyone has to agree, and that’s a dangerous thing to do, and it leads to groupthink.” Do you think her comments have merit? Why or why not?
Diane Trautman believes the city council should set policy and the city manager carries out the council’s plan, but here it’s backwards. Is she right? Do you believe the council should take the lead, or should it rely on Ken Striplin to set the agenda?
If elected, this would be your sixth term. You have said this will be your final term. Is there anything that could make you run for a seventh?
As always, the Gazette hopes Weste will reconsider and respond to these questions before Election Day. If she does, they will be printed.