The Venice community in the City of Los Angeles is preparing to elect half of its Neighborhood Council this month after enacting substantial changes to its bylaws earlier this year. Not only has the “Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council” title given way to the perhaps less Venetian but more straightforward name “Venice Neighborhood Council,” but changes in the voting rules have eliminated slate politics from the process.
The September 17 election features 23 candidates for 11 open seats on the council. Also because of the recent bylaw changes, the 11 open seats will be filled for one-year terms in this month’s election, and the entire council of 21 seats will run for two-year terms in September 2007.
The neighborhood council was created as a result of reforms in the Los Angeles city charter in 1999 whereby about 100 communities in that city were authorized to elect councils to speak for the neighborhood and advise City Council members and city departments on matters of concern to the local community. To date, 86 neighborhoods have elected councils, and seven more are in formation. Each neighborhood council has a $50,000 budget of City funds and operates under the aegis of the City’s Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE).
The Venice area, long known as a politically active, eclectic community, has embraced the neighborhood council concept as a platform for addressing the local side of issues from affordable housing and cultural diversity to education and employment, and all sides of local issues from regulations on the Boardwalk to gentrification.
The pool of voters for the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) includes all “stakeholders” (residents, property owners and persons employed) in Venice – a defined geographic area roughly bounded by Santa Monica on the north, the ocean on the west, Walgrove Ave. on the east and Washington Blvd. on the south, with the addition of Marina Peninsula (or the Venice Strand, depending on your age) and L.A. City territory near Lincoln Blvd. south of Washington Blvd.
VNC president DeDe Audet is running unopposed to continue in that office, and Yolanda Gonzalez, a VNC vice-president, is running without opposition for the new First Vice President office. Council member L. J. Carusone is running alone for Outreach Officer, responsible for the Community Outreach and Events Planning Committee and the organization of stakeholder meetings and special events to increase participation in neighborhood affairs.
Two council members, Challis Macpherson and Michael P. King, are running to chair the influential Land Use and Planning Committee. Each has over 20 years experience in Venice. Macpherson, a UCLA Fine Arts graduate, is the incumbent committee chair; King, who was a Peace Corps architect in Bahrain, is a committee member and a local architect and planner.
The remaining 18 candidates are all running at large for seven Community Officer seats. Unlike past elections, this year each stakeholder may vote for one candidate only, and the seven with the most votes get the seats – no slate voting. The candidates (in the randomly determined order listed on the VNC website) are:
Luis Salazar, a Venice renter and Southern California native; Matthew Dowd, who lives and works in Venice; Tom McComas, who wants “to give back to an already tremendous community”; and Raphael Gutierrez.
Spike Martin, 54, whose slogan is “Destroy All Monsters” and believes government should “keep people honest so that innocents don’t suffer by the actions of others”; Sylviana Dungan, a realtor, mother and 15-year Venice resident; Stewart Oscars, who names his priorities as “slowing development” and “fair siting of social services;” and Nadine Parkos, a Venice resident since 1993 and president of the Venice Canals Association.
Robert Hegyes, a father of four teenagers and a teacher at Venice High; Darlene Knoll, born and reared in the Santa Monica/Venice area, and who has experienced homelessness; Robin Murez, an attorney and a working sculptor with a studio/sculpture garden on Abbot Kinney Blvd.; and Ira Koslow, a New York native, 35-year Venice resident and music industry manager turned high school math teacher.
Regina Tuohy, who cites her “work in education, community/workforce development, and public policy organizations”; Howard J. Wiggett, a 20-year resident of the Oxford Triangle section of Venice with a Master’s in Applied Science; and Eileen Pollack Erickson, an MBA mother of four (aged 14 to 24), with Big 8 accounting firm experience and 30 years in Venice.
Jaccoma Maultsby, father of four and grandfather of two, and a former Public Safety Liaison for Los Angeles City Councilmember Mark Ridley Thomas; Joseph D. Murphy, a 2004 arrival from Seattle, Vietnam veteran and graduate of Notre Dame and Cornell Law School, with mediation experience; and Rick Selan, 57, a retired Mark Twain Middle School math teacher who served 15 years as Union leader and stresses “safe accountable public schools.”
Election particulars, including voter registration (it can be done on Election Day with appropriate evidence) and candidate statements, are at grvnc.org/election.