Let us archive this portrait of Charlotte in May 2021.
A mayor. Fingers pressed to her forehead. Eyes closed. Papers all around. Two bottles of better-than-Snapple in front of her. Trying hard to swallow the words she’d really want to say.
What’s happening: Mayor Vi Lyles usually keeps her cool while moderating the draining City Council meetings, but for one second of a contentious seven-hour gathering Monday night, this peacekeeping, problem-solving, grandmother-first-politician-second mayor of the 15th largest city in the country needed a moment to regroup.
Why it matters: Every now and then, something happens in a city meeting that lives on as a clip or snapshot of the time. There was the incredible “rogue helicopter” clip from 2002, and the awkward embrace between Anthony Foxx and Pat McCrory in 2013, and the day in 2015 when City Council killed the dab.
- Now we have the Lyles lean.
How it happened: It came 3 hours, 57 minutes, 37 seconds into Monday night’s council meeting broadcast during a riotous debate over Robert’s Rules.
- Braxton Winston raised a hand and made a motion to vote on item 44 on the agenda — which would remove a controversial proposal to allow duplexes and triplexes in single-family-only neighborhoods.
- “There you go,” Tariq Bokhari said with a nod, almost reaching across the floor to fist-bump Winston. Bokhari and Winston stand on opposite sides of the issue, but Bokhari clearly got a rush out of the chips-all-in motion from Winston, so he seconded it.
- But then Renee Johnson tapped the poker table and she wanted to withdraw 44, which was her proposal from last week. The mayor said the time for that had passed.
- That’s when Victoria Watlington flipped it over with a wish to make a substitute motion, and the clouds of confusion moved in.
A dozen minutes of back-and-forths passed before Lyles finally had enough from the class.
- “No, wait a minute,” she said. “No I just asked the city attorney this question, y’all. Keep up, now! Keep up!”
- Then the mayor tossed her hands up and leaned back in her chair and pressed her fingertips against the left frontal lobe to keep bad thoughts from escaping into the public record.
And the meme was born.
Ely Portillo posted the screenshot, and people immediately saw it as a metaphor for their own frustration with the process.
Some saw similarities with their own family …
Some noted that if Lyles has friends like this …
Seriously though, this image is extremely concerning considering it’s a Dem majority council. https://t.co/oSrrWCgIBf
— Jon (@Jon_D_) May 18, 2021
Here’s a Hornets joke …
“They lost their last five games and now they’re the 10 seed??”
–@ViLyles, probably pic.twitter.com/PcaxqEOcc9
— Josh Klein (@joshkleinrules) May 18, 2021
Some tagged a friend about something that bothers them …
When they spell @BowTiePolitics with an L on national news hits. pic.twitter.com/QHx9L0Bt4f
— Tim Boyum (@TimBoyumTV) May 18, 2021
One used a completely foreign approach: sincerity.
Imagine working in local government for 30 years and having to tactfully deal many competing viewpoints.
Props to @ViLyles. She’s got a hard job. #cltcc https://t.co/ID2r40HLE6
— Sam Spencer (@choosesam) May 18, 2021
And other folks just saw it as civic participation …
(I had to do it. It is mandatory that I, a Charlottean, post this.) https://t.co/1hpQZE3CcM pic.twitter.com/IOE6C24SOO
— Melissa Lefko (@melissalefko) May 18, 2021
The bottom line: Lyles snapped up after this, made her point clearer, then took a breath and said, “I’m sorry.”