IMAGINE VENICE--When Crayola can kick a color like the beloved ‘dandelion’ to the curb, how can we whine about the oh-so-much less monumental changes in our beloved Venice?
15 CANDLES—(Editor’s Note: It has been 15 years since Los Angeles certified its first neighborhood council … Wilmington. Former and present neighborhood council leaders have been invited to provide their perspective on LA’s NCs, what difference they’ve made if any and what their future holds.) It was 1999, City Hall was perceived as becoming alien, insular, exclusionary, and non-responsive to regional issues, only to serve their own interests and lacking real tangible outreach or civic engagement.
At the dawn of the Succession Movement, voters approved a City Charter that established the Neighborhood Council System and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (the Dept) “to promote more citizen participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs” and in May 2001, the City adopted the “Plan for a Citywide System of Neighborhood Councils (The Plan). This effort would finally empower NC’s to have Advisory Capacity decision-making influence while connecting residents to their local, regional, and city depts. on community-based issues – a real voice in the democratic process.
In the beginning, emotions ran high, participants scurried to become involved, outreach to local residents was at a fever-pitch, angry citizens arguing over historical boundary, grasping NC mandates, and the definition of advisory capacity leadership.
Now 15 years later with 97 NC’s and counting, they have taken their position as Neighborhood City Halls that have become alien, insular, exclusionary, not representative of their regions or communities only to serve their own individual interests lacking real tangible outreach or civic engagement. And to think it only took 15 years, 100’s of thousands of tax-payer dollars, and a further erosion of engagement and empowerment only to create another level of bureaucracy mandated by City Charter.
There is only one difference – there is no city agency that can enforce, mandate or hold NC’s or their boards from actions, decisions, or exclusionary practices accountable. When was the last time you received a local NC newsletter, announcement or notice in your mailbox or at your front door?
Are you being engaged or empowered to participate? Do you see change? Do you feel connected to City Hall?
(Bradley is a citizen advocate and was the founder of the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council.)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Dear Council President Wesson and Board President Kevin James: We are writing you, as community advocates, to urge you to use your power to right a wrong that has tainted the City Council race in District 7 and threatens to undermine the public’s trust in city institutions.
The Board of Public Works was created to prevent the politicization of public works services, to ensure the city invests in public works projects according to residents’ needs, and to stay away from the corrosive influence of political machines, political campaigns and cronyism.
On Thursday, April 27, a person affiliated with Sylmar Graffiti Busters, a contractor with the Department of Public Works, was caught on security cameras trespassing onto private property in Sylmar (located at 13701 Sayre Street, 91342) and illegally removing campaign signs. The representative can be seen on video driving a Sylmar Graffiti Busters truck and wearing a vest like those worn by workers associated with this city contractor. In the video, the person walks onto private property through a gateway to remove signs that were legally placed there. The signs belonged to Karo Torossian, one of two candidates vying to become the next representative of Council District 7. As you know, the election is on May 16.
This breach of public trust was so blatant that CBS 2's David Goldstein investigated the misdeed and reported on it in a May 9 segment titled “Controversy Swirls Around Campaign-Sign Removals In LA City Council Race.”
We can reach no other logical conclusion than that this illegal act was perpetrated to benefit the campaign of Torossian’s opponent in the election, former Board of Public Works Commissioner Monica Rodriguez. Rodriguez has close ties with the organization in question and we have on good authority that she has met privately with their leaders and directors to discuss how they can help her campaign.
We hereby request an immediate investigation into this incident, and we demand answers on how the Board of Public Works plans to punish those involved in the misuse and misdirection of taxpayer dollars for private gain. Our communities already suffer by receiving an unfairly small share of city resources, which makes it all the more insulting to have beautification dollars being wasted on dirty campaign tricks to benefit a former Board Commissioner. This violation threatens to undermine our trust in city institutions and run contrary to the founding mission of the Board of Public Works.
We urge you to act quickly and do the right thing. This wasn’t a mistake. This wasn’t a fluke. It was a deliberate action taken to influence the outcome of an election. We would like a response in writing on or before Friday, May 12, detailing how you plan to address this matter. Please send it to email@example.com.
(This letter, sent under the name ‘CD 7 Residents Against Corruption’, was signed by: Chandra Prater, Abby Diamond, Hon. Patty Lopez, Dale Gibson, Doreen Przybyla, Pati Potter, Mary Ellen Eltgroth, and Alfredo Diaz)
NEIGHBORHOOD SUPPRESSION-At a recent hearing of a Neighborhood Council Election Challenge Review Panel, the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE), the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council (DLANC) and the Skid Row Formation Committee testified before the Panel regarding three challenges on the Skid Row Neighborhood Council subdivision election. A special shout-out to General Jeff and his committee for their hard work in organizing an under-represented group of stakeholders in Skid Row. DONE and the DLANC were allowed 10 minutes each to speak against the challenges; the Skid Row Formation Committee, who filed the challenges, was allowed 10 minutes.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Maybe there really is no there here — not now — maybe there never was.
Did we just all fall in love with the irascible Venice of our dreams? We imagine ourselves as the unique one — the interesting — the doers — we bask in the idea that we are the vibrant happening town overflowing with artists, one-of-a-kind, seriously intent on cultivating the feeling of being in a real place.
We smugly look at the ‘others’ with sad eyes. They, who hold urgent meetings to deal with a cracked sidewalk. We, the noble ones, superior human beings determined not to be swallowed up in that ‘good life.’ No utopia for us here! We’re Venetians! We thrive on the internecine development fights occurring on a near daily basis.
We thrive on the latest outrage inflicted on us by the city. We beat our chests to get the LAPD to take a report about a mugging on ‘the coolest street in America.’ And, we remind you, some schmo just paid 8 million bucks for a tear-down. We can only guess that he thought it was worth the price of admission to drink the best wine, eat the best sushi, crow about the endless new restaurants selling one kind of faux food or another, and who gives a damn if he has to wait a couple of days for the LAPD to get an officer out here to take a police report.
Over there, where the sidewalks don’t have a crack, three cop cars respond at once to the most minor crime. The biggest story there is the guy with his RV parked on the driveway for months — who knows, maybe they Airbnb there too. But, we unique ones — we’re tough! We’re tolerant. We’re patient. We’re loyal. We take all comers. One moment we grouse about the kid sleeping on a shop’s front porch, the next, we are trying to figure out if his puppy is getting its shots.
Maybe that’s our secret. We are not a myth. You can throw anything at us—we deal with it all like conquering soldiers — we don’t quit. Just don’t make us live where all the houses are white and the roofs are red. We reject their architecture police. We crave the distinct place. The big idea! Where else will you find impromptu cocktail hours form on a Sunday afternoon where regulars migrate like they were magnetized — all living that idea that this place is real. In this crazy topsy-turvy world our craziness is almost charming. No matter how Aspen-like we are becoming, the kernel of uniqueness is alive. But we sure have to put up with a lot of **** to live this vibrant madness. We don’t want that groomed HOA controlled neighborhood here — don’t clean us or polish us!
Corner lots sell for 8 million, lofts rent for 40K — one creative marketing company is even renting two of them on the street now — hot dog trucks park illegally for days, the line is around the block for $5 ice cream scoops and $4 donuts. And yet, they come. They come because they feel alive and that’s why we are not a myth—where else can you say that?
We old Venice denizens just want the cops to show up when we call them… and the Rooster truck to take a hike.
(Marian Crostic and Elaine Spierer are Co-founders of ImagineVenice)