By Aaron Blevins, 10/25/2012
Board also plans to rectify problems with posting meeting agendas
The Mid-City West Community Council will have its election from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 15, and two seats will be contested, although there are fewer candidates than there are available seats.
Three candidates — Ravi Bhatia, Elizabeth Reynolds and Paulette Caswell — are vying for the Residential Zone 2 position, which represents the area that runs east of Fairfax Avenue, west of La Brea Avenue, north of Rosewood Avenue and south of Romaine Street. Matt Lazansky, Edgar Poureshagh, Steve Kramer, David Weiner are looking to be the council’s small business representative.
With more seats than candidates, the possibility of Mid-City West having an election was uncertain. Alisa Smith, an independent election administrator working on behalf of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE), said open seats are not uncommon on neighborhood councils, especially one such as Mid-City West, which has 45 seats. Most councils have approximately 15 to 25.
“That means they have high expectations of engagement from their community members,” Smith said.
Although two seats are contested, officials could have opted to have a selection process to determine the winner. Smith said officials take into account any recommendation that neighborhood councils put forth pertaining to elections.
Several board members have opted not to run again or have resigned recently. Jeff Jacobberger, a former Mid-City West chairman, was among them. He said he plans to seek other avenues for his community volunteer efforts.
“I think there has been a lot of negative energy at the neighborhood council, and a lot of negative comments and attitudes expressed to me personally both by board members and stakeholders that have made it an unpleasant environment,” Jacobberger said.
While some board members may be leaving the board for similar reasons, he said some of the turnover is “cyclical,” and that the neighborhood council had at least one election in which some seats were unfilled while he was chair. Jacobberger said that, in lieu of an election, the city should save the money.
“There’s not really any reason to spend a lot on an election when everybody is going to get a seat on the board,” he said. “Why go through the motions and the expense of conducting an election?”
Additionally, Mid-City West has also been in contact with DONE regarding its agenda posting requirements. A scheduled meeting to discuss the Miracle Mile Art Walk was cancelled after DONE received complaints about the way the council posts its agendas.
“We were just asking them to please follow the outlined policies and procedures for posting,” DONE interim general manager Grayce Liu said.
If the council does not comply, which Liu doesn’t anticipate, the two entities would work to put together procedural guidelines to ensure the public receives proper notification of upcoming meetings. In the past, DONE has conducted training, mediation and revised bylaws to ensure compliance, Liu said.
“It really is just an opportunity for the neighborhood council to kind of focus on meeting operations so that they can get back on track and go back to helping their communities connect with city government,” she added.
Liu was quick to squash rumors that Mid-City West could be de-certified as punishment for not posting notices correctly. She said de-certification is not on the table. Only the neighborhood council itself and the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners can de-certify a council. Liu said it “takes a lot” of misconduct for a council to be de-certified. She referenced a council that was allowing pets to vote on council items. In this particular case, dogs could vote but cats couldn’t.
“By no means is Mid-City West near that,” Liu said.
Current Mid-City West chairman Tim Deegan referred to the meeting cancellation as a “delay of game,” and said the council has taken DONE’s recommendation into consideration.
“We worked with DONE to create a posting policy that will be presented to the board in December,” Deegan said. “It is already a closed issue. It just needs to be formalized.”
Jacobberger said the issue may boil down to some board members and stakeholders objecting to the perceived council vote on a particular subject, and then those people use the rules to stop the meeting.
“I think it factored into not how the meeting was posted, but how people object to the posting when they don’t want the neighborhood council to vote on the issue,” he said.
Jacobberger said part of the struggle to post agendas properly is that the council felt it would be best to post the notices in public places. However, some places, such as the Fairfax Branch Library and the Pan Pacific Senior Center, have limited evening hours or none at all.
“We haven’t gotten the support from DONE in helping the board members and committee chairs who have jobs in complying with the posting requirements,” Jacobberger said.
Deegan said the ownership dispute involving the Miracle Mile Art Walk will be discussed at the next scheduled arts committee meeting and the next Mid-City West board meeting on Nov. 13.
In a previous interview, Deegan said the art walk was held without the council’s knowledge this year. However, an e-mail allegedly written by Deegan on Oct. 3 and forwarded to the Park Labrea News and Beverly Press said that he hoped to see other board members at the art walk on Oct. 6. When asked about the e-mail, Deegan commented, “It’s a he said, she said [thing].”
Jacobberger said he didn’t know of any formal discussion that board members had to cut ties with the art walk. In discussing fiscal matters, board members had worried that they wouldn’t have enough money in the budget to support it, he said.
“I think that the exact relationship between Mid-City West and the Miracle Mile Art Walk has never been particularly clear in terms of whether we own the art walk or we’re just financially supporting art walk,” Jacobberger added. “This recent controversy is a good opportunity to make those relationships, or lack of relationships, clear going forward.”