West Hollywood Councilwoman Sepi Shyne is no stranger to being a “first.” She was the first LGBTQ+ Iranian-American to be elected to office and also the first woman of color to be elected to the West Hollywood City Council. Now, she’s aiming to be the first woman, the first Iranian-American and the first LGBTQ+ person to represent California’s 30th Congressional District.
Shyne immigrated to California from Iran at the age of 5, fleeing with her family during the revolution.
“Our democracy has been eroding [due] to extremism,” Shyne said. “I was 2 when the revolution happened. It was extremism that eroded freedoms for the people in Iran. Juxtaposing what happened over 40 years ago with what’s been happening in our country in the last decade, with the rise in hate toward every single community that I belong to very much compelled me to stand up and courageously run so that I can save our democracy, help people [by] passing local legislation at a federal level, and bring funding that’s desperately needed to this district.”
Raised in Santa Clara Valley, she holds a bachelor of science degree from San Jose State University and a juris doctor degree from the Golden Gate University School of Law. After obtaining her degrees, she relocated to Los Angeles and landed in West Hollywood. She operates two small businesses, one of which is a solo practice concentrating on trademarks and business law. On the other end of the spectrum is Soulillume, an alternative healing company. In addition to her legal and political work, Shyne is a Reiki master intuitive guide.
Looking at the potential of entering the United States House of Representatives, currently in Republican control and plagued with divisiveness, Shyne thinks that the bridge for compromise and substantive change starts with conversations.
“Just like we need to do in our regular community, we need to find compassion, empathy,” she said. “There are quite a few toxic individuals in Congress. However, I do believe that there are many that are approachable and through conversations will help bring down barriers and walls. I believe that there are places where we can agree on more than that which divides us.”
She pointed to her record in West Hollywood, where in her first two years, 60 items she spearheaded were passed.
“Just because we’re all Democrats [on the West Hollywood City Council] does not mean we all agree,” she said, noting that many of the items she’s worked on have endured and evolved through intense conversations and compromises with her colleagues.
She thinks a personable style could help get through important legislation, including her first goal of crafting a bill that would fight climate change by incentivizing compostable alternatives to plastics. When she headed a motion that banned plastics where there were compostable alternatives, Shyne said the council knew the compostable market was “very small,” but the city anticipated problems smaller businesses might have in the transition.
“It costs businesses quite a bit more money to use compostables. And because it’s a small market, there hasn’t been as much innovation yet … So, what we ended up doing [is tiering] the timeline for bigger businesses we felt wouldn’t have as much of a hit on their profits, [such as] Target, grocery stores, Starbucks.”
She added that in bringing this bill to Congress, she would want the federal government to use a grant process for compostable alternatives creation, making an economic market for entrepreneurs and new businesses.
“By doing that, by uplifting folks that want to get into this type of business, we put people to work, we’re supporting businesses and there isn’t going to be as much pushback, because when there are more of these businesses the costs will go down,” Shyne said.
She said that she takes a solution-oriented approach to governance.
“This is how I see my role in public office,” she added. “I know this is the issue, [so] here’s a solution that will bring [people] together.”
When it comes to the homeless crisis in Los Angeles County, she pointed to the ways in which the city of West Hollywood utilized $300,000 of appropriation funding from current 30th District Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank). With the money, the city was able to launch at a 24-hour behavioral health crisis response team. Shyne said that addressing the mental health component, in addition to working to create more affordable housing, creates a “holistic approach” to the problem.
“We’re going to focus on reducing barriers to mental health access. Mental health is a big part of my entire platform. Mental health is so critical to people functioning in their homes, in their careers, in their families, so they can have an incredible life and keep their life secure and functioning,” she said.
Shyne said that 24-hour mental health response teams would “be a game changer” if every city in America had access to funding for similar programs.
Among her other goals is increasing the minimum wage, noting how key the passage of West Hollywood’s highest-in-the-nation $19.08/hour wage has been in the city’s “phenomenal” economic recovery. Shyne also wants to address the epidemic of hate.
“There’s such a rise in hate in our entire country, and specifically in L.A. County. [There’s been a rise in] antisemitism, a rise in racism, a rise in Asian hate, a rise in LGBTQ hate and Islamophobia. I want to create a department of equity. We really need to tackle hate head on at the federal government to really take a stand,” she said.
Shyne added that she loves the 30th District because of its diversity, citing the unique vibes in each city and community, as well as the artistic thread that runs through the sprawling impact of the entertainment industry in the area.
“This is an incredible, incredible district that really deserves to have a congressperson that represents the vast array of folks that live in this district. And I am that candidate,” she said.
For information, visit sepishyne.com