Laurene Weste’s re-election campaign for what would be an unprecedented sixth term on the city council seems to be starting just fine. Although as of Tuesday, she had not yet turned in her paperwork to the city clerk, she still had a few days, and she raised about $24,000, more than any other candidate.
Weste was set to be the fifth candidate for city council (and first incumbent) the Gazette interviewed and wrote about for its occasional “Meet the Candidates” series. She did something different, however, requesting questions be emailed to her instead of sitting down for an interview, as Diane Trautman, Jason Gibbs and Brett Haddock did; or consenting to talk via telephone, as Logan Smith did.
The Gazette complied and emailed her the following questions on July 31, prefacing that “these aren’t softball questions.”
1. Why have you decided to do this by email instead of meeting and/or talking?
2. What will you do differently than in any of your previous terms?
3. 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?
4. You have repeatedly denied you stand to gain anything from the Lyons-Dockweiler extension, yet the perception persists. What definitive, tangible proof can you offer to put those naysayers to rest?
5. 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. I have heard this regarding the Laemmle Theater project, the Lyons-Dockweiler extension, the cannabis dispensary ban, the homeless action plan and the sanctuary city question. Logan Smith made this point when I interviewed him. Is it true? On average, how much time do you spend reading staff reports? Do you do independent interviews and reviews of issues?
6. Brett Haddock is calling for term limits: a maximum of four. What do you say?
7. I quote Diane Trautman: “Laurene tends to talk to people like children.” What is your response?
8. I quote Diane 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 Diane’s comments have merit? Why or why not?
9. Diane Trautman believes the city council should set policy and the city manager should carry out the council’s plans, 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?
10. The council’s average age is 68, but take away Cameron Smyth and it’s 73.75. You will be 70 on Election Day. 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?
11. 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?
In its original email, the Gazette hoped to receive a response by Friday. When none came, a reporter called Weste, who responded that she was on the other line talking to a sick relative, that she hadn’t yet had time to respond but would, abruptly said, “God bless” and hung up.
The Gazette continues to hope Weste will respond and will print her answers if she does.