Villaraigosa for Mayor

We shouldn’t have to spend time and money for a runoff election on May 17. The city of San Francisco has wisely converted to Instant Runoff Voting to ensure that the wishes of the majority are reflected in just one election, not two.

We hope that Antonio Villaraigosa will support IRV and a host of other reforms if he’s elected Los Angeles Mayor. It’s a safe bet that Hahn won’t do much for another four years if we’re foolish enough to reelect him.

Venice is only one one-hundredth of the city of Los Angeles, but that doesn’t mean we don’t care.

Villaraigosa can do a lot to improve our lives and our community.

He can carry through the democratic reform called neighborhood councils, which has stalled under Hahn and his appointee, Greg Nelson.

He can breathe life into the building of thousands of units of affordable housing throughout the city.

And he seems excited about getting a handle of the increasing traffic jams that have caused some irate drivers to start shooting at other drivers. The time has come for rail, buses, bikes, shuttles and other workable alternatives to automobiles.

None of this will happen with Jimmy Hahn. The Peter Principle has been proven again.

So, all together now:

You’re just a pawn,
If you vote for Hahn.
You’ll be worse off
If you fall for Krisiloff!

Rosendahl for City Council

Reading and listening to the basic statements of 11th Councilmanic District candidates Krisiloff and Rosendahl, it's hard to tell the difference between them.

According to their literature both are interested in creating more affordable housing. They both question the wisdom of the current plans to expand LAX, they both want City Hall to take advice and input from community groups especially the Grassroots neighborhood councils, and they are both against crime- and for the environment.

Most of the Beachhead Collectivites are voting for Rosendahl. Rosendahl is more detailed in his plans to alleviate traffic and homelessness.

Ms. Krisiloff's stand on various issues, while pleasant, are vague. Ms. Krisiloff, early in the campaign, sent out mailers that questioned Mr. Rosendahl's integrity, while Rosendahl kept on target with what his goals and ideals are for the 11th district.

Ms. Krisiloff is a planning commissioner. She has consistently allowed structures to be built that change the character of the community. She, along with her fellow commissioners, have allowed developers to claim “hardship exemptions” so as to circumnavigate the local plans for height, width and density.

In some Venice neighborhoods, these outsize buildings take up every square inch of the lot while towering over existing single family homes and small apartment buildings. These outsize buildings resemble office buildings. They are single family dwellings with little garage space. Despite testimony from Venice residents, Ms.Krisiloff has allowed more density, height, etc., without any benefits to the neighborhood.

Ms. Krisiloff is endorsed by our present unelected councilwoman, Cindy Miscikowski, who has shown little interest in hearing from anyone but business and speculator interests. She has not been open to listening to the Grassroots Venice Neighborhood Council, instead, choosing to listen almost exclusively to those people in opposition to the LEGITIMATELY elected GRVNC BOARD. In the words of one activist, Cindy has not shown much interest in dealing with the poor and the downtrodden.

Bill Rosendahl holds a Master's in Social Work, and is endorsed by various teacher's and law enforcement organizations. Rosendahl recently stated that he would call for an Environmental Impact Report to the proposed Lincoln Center, if elected. This is the first time in five years that Venetians get to vote for their representative at City Hall. City Councilpeople should be accessible to residents of all sorts, not just a hand-picked few.

Mr. Rosendahl seems to promise that he will be available to listen and act on what Venice neighborhoods want. City Government has more immediate impact on people's daily lives than the Federal government. For most people, a City Councilperson is the one elected government official that they can contact personally.

This election on May 17, 2005 is almost more important than the federal elections.


Mystery at Venice Skills Center
By Majorie Hinds

Is the principal of Venice Skills Center, Dr. Fred Hermosillo, honoring a gag rule imposed by LAUSD?

Hermosillo refuses to explain why, on April 18th, he notified instructors at the Venice Skills Center (VSC) that their services would not be needed for the summer session. Hermosillo would not acknowledge the letters he sent to faculty members and declined to state whether or not skills training would be available this summer. Members of the community, and students, who depend on the center for vocational training and employment preparation, want to know if the school will be closing.

Nancy Woodrum, Administrator of the Regional Occupational Programs of LAUSD, and Hermosillo’s supervisor, denies exhorting silence from the principal and his staff on this subject. Her position is that the decision pertaining to VSC summer offerings will be made within the next two weeks. Tacitly admitting that a reduction of services is being considered; she maintains ignorance on the subject of the layoff notices.

It’s a troublesome matter if LAUSD’s budget difficulties necessitate the closure of VSC for one semester. More disturbing, however, is the implication that school officials were forbidden to discuss the issue with students. The question of whether Hermosillo elected to withhold information from the public, or whether his superiors instructed him to do so, matters little.

The more pressing question is: why the subterfuge? A desire to cash in on the current market value for prime Venice real estate is almost too easy of an answer. But let’s not dismiss it as simply too obvious, or because Woodrum denies the connection.

Like all schools in the LAUSD, this training facility receives funding based on average daily attendance. The heads being counted at VSC include those with disabilities, people of color, individuals living at shelters, English language learners, and all manner of folks earnestly readying themselves to participate in the workforce.

Closing for one semester would deflate attendance figures for the following semester. Schools can be shut down due to insufficient attendance.

Funding earmarked for remodeling the VSC campus has been available for several years. If LAUSD were to proceed with this project it would demonstrate a commitment to the future of this valuable community resource. According to Woodrum the work is scheduled to begin this fall. Let’s see that is does.

To support the Venice Skills Center, contact Nancy Woodrum at 213-241-3153.

City Agency Rejects Decertification of Venice Neighborhood Council; Calls for New Election

By Jim Smith

During April, it became clear that the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council (GRVNC) is not DONE. Instead, some of the major critics of GRVNC got BONC-ed when they least expected it.

This semantic foolishness is possible because some of the city agencies ruling over the neighborhood council system have rather interesting acronyms - DONE is the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment which was created to assist the 80-odd councils in the city of L.A., while BONC is the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners which oversees DONE's behavior. It is made up of seven appointed commissioners who apparently have taken an oath that they will never all appear at the same meeting. Must be a national security thing.

On April 24, many Venetians found a flyer on their front door that was not from a Thai restaurant. It was from DONE, announcing three community meetings which it believes must precede a new GRVNC election. Many other Venetians, particularly apartment dwellers did not get the flyer. In any case, the first meeting will be held May 4 at Westminster school.

For the past several months, Venice Forvm (which doesn't really stand for Financiers Organized to Ream Venice Mercilessly) members and friends have been on a campaign to decertify GRVNC. These solid citizens - who include Marta Evry, renown for expediting a vote by her dog; Richard Myers, who received only 28 votes in last year's GRVNC’s election, but succeeded in getting it overturned on a technicality; shopping center developer Greg Fitchitt; Joe Sheilds, who has something to do with the law firm of Latham & Watkins which also represent Trammel Crow developers; Rick Feibusch, who calls his email rants, The Watchdawg; and other assorted developers and absentee property owners have been pleading with BONC for months to decertify GRVNC. No matter that no neighborhood council has ever been decertified and there are no discernable reasons to abolish the council, except that people they don't like beat them badly in the last two elections.

Decertification Nixed

The decertification strategy hit a brick wall at the April 5 when an outpouring of Venetians determined to save their neighborhood council showed up at the BONC meeting in West L.A.

After hearing from about 30 articulate defenders of the Council, and about half as many who promoted decertification, the BONC Board reached a consensus for going ahead with a new election that will put GRVNC back in business. The Commissioners unanimously rejected decertification. Two of the seven Commissioners, Pat Duran and Tony Lucente, who had supported decertification at a previous meeting, reversed themselves and joined in supporting an election.

In spite of much agitation by a small but determined group, the decertification option now seems at a dead end. It wouldn't even have been on the April 5 agenda had not DONE pushed it as an option. At a meeting last month, the Commissioners had asked DONE to return with a plan for a new election run by some other entity since DONE had a biased reputation in the community.

Instead, the DONE staff report claimed that it could not find anyone else to run the election, and again presented decertification as an alternative. In fact, when DONE staffer Jamiko Bell read the staff report to the Commissioners she skipped over the election option and began with the second option, decertification. She did state that DONE was not advocating decertification, but her presentation seemed to belie her disavowal of it.

BONC Commissioners oversee DONE, which has constantly interfered with the Venice Neighborhood Council. However, since DONE staff work full time, while the Commissioners only come together once or twice a month for meetings, BONC is often dependent on DONE for information on the neighborhood councils.

DONE also ignored the urging of front-running Mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa, who in a letter to DONE General Manager Greg Nelson said, "I encourage you to bring together the remaining duly elected GRVNC board members, your staff, the City Attorney and anyone else you feel is appropriate, determine a path forward for reconstituting GRVNC, and help them to get it done in the most expeditious manner possible." Although Villaraigosa sent the letter in January, DONE has yet to act upon it.

Other neighborhood council leaders, including Mar Vista President Tom Ponton and Tarzana President Leonard Shaffer, have also expressed concern to BONC.

By the end of the meeting, BONC Commissioners were convinced the election should proceed. BONC President Ron Stone volunteered to oversee the election. By this time, BONC had heard about two hours of testimony from a variety of community leaders who noted that Venice needed the Neighborhood Council's voice on issues such as evictions at Lincoln Place, the upcoming Lincoln Center project and other developments, problems of homelessness and increasing rents, and preserving the historic mix of peoples and income levels.

At a BONC meeting in March, some decertification advocates had scornfully observed that the GRVNC had no support beyond its board members. This time they were proven wrong as many other prominent Venetians not connected with GRVNC came to its defense, including Eric Vollmer (Imagining Venice); Artists Janet Gervers, Lance Robertson, and Zed and Alayha Aquarian; Prof. Arnold Springer; Lincoln Place residents Ingrid Mueller, Carol Beck, Rose Murphy and others; Venice Community Coalition members David Ewing and Mindy Taylor-Ross; Realtor Sylviane Dungan; and a Ballona Wetlands Land Trust leader Paul Herzog. Activists on opposite sides of the Ocean Front Walk permit controversy - Carol Berman and Peggy Lee Kennedy - both spoke in defense of GRVNC.

Advocates of the failed decertification effort included Developer Frank Murphy; Property Investors C.J. Cole and Barbara Gibson; as well as former losing GRVNC candidates Richard Myers, Rick Selan and Kelly Willis.

Also dead on arrival were the proposed bylaws for a new neighborhood council in lieu of GRVNC. Although it was the product of a small group of decertification advocates, the DONE report termed it the product of “the stakeholders of the Venice community.” The proposed bylaws would have severely restricted who is eligible to vote and would have balkanized Venice into 19 districts. No one being elected by all of Venice. Without decertification, the bylaws are moot.

On the down side, BONC did not restore the GRVNC’s quorum so that it can conduct business before the election, nor did it take steps to overturn the one-sided arbitration that invalidated GRVNC Board members elected in 2004.

DONE was instructed by BONC to return at the next meeting with a timeline for a GRVNC election. Many of Venice speakers said the election should be held in June in accordance with the bylaws. Commissioner Lucente suggested July.

On April 19, supporters of GRVNC were disappointed to find their trip to Mission Hills for yet another BONC meeting anti-climactic as DONE again seemed to be dragging its feet. The DONE staff claimed an election could not take place before August or September.

DONE’s proposed election timeline violates the BONC’s newly approved “Policy to Remedy Non-Compliance of Neighborhood Council Elected Boards with Timely Elections Requirements.” In the policy, it states that DONE will use a process of “Finalization of Election Procedures consistent with the Neighborhood Council’s approved bylaws.” GRVNC falls into this category since DONE refuses to allow it to function, claiming lack of a quorum.

Several Venetians pointed out during “public comment,” that GRVNC bylaws call for an election in June. Suzanne Thompson outlined a timetable that would allow the election to take place in June.

“This is bullshit!”

When questioned by BONC Commissioner Jimmie Woods Gray about the requirement for a June election, DONE staff member Jamiko Bell flippantly replied that the election could be held the following June (2006) if that was what the commission wanted. "This is bullshit," Woods Gray exploded.

DONE’s credibility is at an all-time low, and not just with BONC. Even those who want to decertify the neighborhood council seem to be fed up. In an April 21 statement, Marta Evry complained, “We wrote a new set of bylaws at the invitation of DONE’s Greg Nelson and had those bylaws vetted by BONC’s (Commissioner) Bill Christopher. Yet we were denied a chance to implement them.”

Nelson seems to have been very active in working with the decertification faction. He also wrote a letter to the Argonaut newspaper, April 14, complaining about the (goofy) elected GRVNC leadership.

Now his department is proposing an election that violates GRVNC bylaws, leaves it without any officers after June 30, and nearly guarantees another round of challenges after the election.