Leonora Camner is the director of Public Access Democracy and the executive director of Abundant Housing LA, and served on the Santa Monica Housing Commission from 2019 to 2022. Before sitting on a panel for the Zócalo/KCRW event “Do We Even Need a City Council?,” she joined us in our green room to talk about bopping to Eurovision, the N.K. Jemisin trilogy that blew her away, and the ancient and modern cities that inspire her.
Where is your favorite place to go in Santa Monica?
I love to go to the playground with my kids. There’s a newer playground at the beach, and it's great because then you get the ocean and the breeze. My kids have a blast there. Just getting to enjoy the city with them is what I really love.
If you were a superhero, what superhero would you be and why?
I always thought time travel powers seemed like the most powerful. That would be amazing. I'd just love to see the future—experience the future. And go into the past and prevent horrible things from happening. But I did see a comic or something about a time traveler going back in time to warn people about climate change, and they were like, we already know. So maybe it’s not as powerful as I think.
What's the last book you read that you really enjoyed?
The Broken Earth trilogy. I recently finished that, and I can’t even describe how much it blew me away. I don't want to give any spoilers about what happened in it. But it really moved me in a way a book hasn’t for a long time.
If you were an L.A. monument, which L.A. monument would you be?
The City Hall building. I love the history there. And I'm a really big believer in government and public service.
What's one song that you have on repeat right now?
In my family, we love this Eurovision band. During the pandemic, we were watching that Eurovision movie, and we started watching Eurovision. We’re really into this Eurovision band, KEiiNO, and I just think they’re really fun. So at home, we listen to their songs on repeat a lot.
What’s the story behind the tattoo on your arm?
My tattoo is really relevant because it’s a kleroterion, which is [a lottery] device that they used in ancient Athens. So people would put their tokens in with their names, and then it would randomize who was selected to government positions and panels. So, it's this ancient, democratic tradition, but we still use it today in a lot of modern ways. There are a lot of places like Belgium and Paris where they have permanent parts of government that [employ] democratic lotteries.
What’s one city that’s inspires you?
There are a lot of ancient cities and civilizations that were here that are really inspiring, like, the Tongva people, they were able to house 100% of their population. So I think that's really important to think about when we can’t house so many people. And I'm really inspired by Tokyo [today] because I think there’s a better relationship between people, transit, and the built infrastructure than in many other places.