After the first ballots were counted in November, it looked like Chelsea Byers’ campaign for West Hollywood City Council might just be over. Byers, however, said she had confidence that the long counting process would end in her favor.
“Mail-in ballots have shifted the way the vote tallying process happens, so my team and I knew it was important to wait until every vote had been counted, and the county indicated this process would take some time,” Byers said. “Because we had developed a more progressive, younger and renter-heavy base of voters, we knew this group would likely vote closer to election day, meaning our votes would be among the last to be counted.”
With each ballot update, Byers gained, and by the time the final results were certified, she had garnered the second-highest vote count, comfortably securing one of the three open council seats.
Byers believed that the voters were looking for a clear, positive and visionary message, something she felt aligned with her unique lived experience and values. Also,
one of the cornerstone issues of her campaign had far-reaching impact “Cities have a tremendous opportunity to meaningfully address climate change through land use policy at the local level,” Byers said, evoking her activist spirit, something that has been intrinsic to West Hollywood since the city’s inception in 1984. For Byers, this issue extends to finding new and improved ways to expand mobility across the city.
“I am looking into more opportunities to further multi-modal networks of mobility throughout West Hollywood. This includes surfacing and enhancing safe bike routes throughout West Hollywood and connecting cities with signage and thoughtful, artistic design,” she said.
Byers highlighted recent advancements by the city, including the bike giveaway program, the Fountain Avenue pilot program and CicLAvia events as ways the city has created “excitement around vehicular alternatives.” Additionally, she would like to develop what she calls a bike library for access to e-bikes and cargo bikes for use as short-term rentals.
At the Dec. 19 City Council meeting, when Byers was sworn in, her former high school student government advisor Tamara Scott read the oath of office in sign language, highlighting the importance of honoring “people who help make community and democracy more accessible,” Byers said.
Prior to the meeting, she said city staff helped her prepare, teaching her in a limited time frame how to navigate the 501-page agenda.
“Many of the topics in this first meeting were issues of importance throughout the campaign, so it was exciting to kick off this first meeting by digging into and addressing some of the issues that came up so often throughout the past year,” Byers said.
Among the issues discussed were Pride and public safety, and Byers made sure there was no room for error on her first day.
“I had never seen the other side of the dais before – not for a commission meeting or otherwise. I arrived three hours before the meeting began to give myself time to get comfortable and get ready,” she said.
Byers added that she sees opportunities for collaboration with the new council, which also includes outgoing Mayor Lauren Meister, Councilman John Heilman, incoming Mayor Sepi Shyne and incoming Mayor Pro Tempore John Erickson. She is the only member of the new council to have never served in a previous term.
“I am grateful for the ways my colleagues have shared their best practices for navigating big agendas, handling constituent relations, working with staff and so much more. It’s an incredible honor to serve with this dedicated group of individuals,” Byers said.
Collaboration is a big part of her philosophy, citing that it was the community, her campaign team and voters who helped to guide her to the council seat. She said she believes through continued collaboration great things can be accomplished for the city of West Hollywood.
“I am looking forward to getting people newly engaged in West Hollywood – whether it’s people who are stepping into leadership for the first time or longtime leaders engaging in new subjects. I am also very much looking forward to working with neighboring municipalities on our shared challenges,” Byers said.
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