By Edwin Folven, 11/21/2012
Officials to examine ways to get more people involved
Only 63 people voted last Thursday in the Mid-City West Community Council (MCWCC) election, prompting the city’s Department of Neighborhood Empowerment and MCWCC leaders to examine ways to improve participation in future elections.
The low turnout could have been attributed to the fact that only one seat on the 45-member board was being contested, according to Steven Rosenthal, chair of the outreach committee for the election for the MCWCC. In that contest, voters chose candidate Ravi Bhatia as the representative for residential zone 2, which covers the area east of Fairfax Avenue, west of La Brea Avenue, north of Rosewood Avenue and south of Romaine Street. He received five votes, compared to three votes for opponent Elizabeth Reynolds and two votes for candidate Paulette Caswell. Only residents living within that area were allowed to vote for the zone representative. Rosenthal said another factor may have been voter apathy after the presidential election, which was held nine days prior.
“I think people may have looked at this and said, ‘I just voted last week for the president, and you want me to vote again?’ People had voter’s block,” Rosenthal said.
The council attempted to increase voter turnout through announcements about the elections in local newspapers, on the MCWCC website and flyers posted at community centers and other public buildings throughout the area.
“I’m not sure what else we could do,” he said. “We promoted all of the events.”
MCWCC chair Tim Deegan said the turnout was discouraging, and added that he would be looking for ways to increase voter participation for the next election in two years.
“We obviously need improvement,” he said. “For better or for worse, it was right after the national election. We don’t get a lot of people coming to our meeting, and that is another thing I would like to try to improve. We will be looking at ways to increase outreach.”
Alisa Smith, an independent elections coordinator who helped oversee the MCWCC election, also said the turnout likely reflected the fact that only one seat was contested. She said voter apathy is an issue that can be difficult to overcome.
“Considering there was only one open seat, I thought it was a good turnout,” Smith said. “I hope to see more outreach, all of the time. There is always room for improvement, and outreach is everybody’s responsibility.”
Stephen Box, acting senior project coordinator for the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE), said the low turnout reflects the level of involvement in the community. He compared it to the recent election for the Venice Neighborhood Council, when 1,600 people voted.
“[Venice] is an engaged, outspoken neighborhood. They have a tradition of speaking up,” Box said. “It’s something to consider. Are we giving folks enough opportunity to speak up?”
Box said DONE officials would be examining whether anything different can be done for future elections. The challenge goes beyond the ballot box, he said, and lies in getting entire communities more involved.
“It’s one thing to do outreach, but how are we engaging folks to draw them in?” he said. “Elections are our single greatest opportunity to tell our story and get people more involved in the neighborhood council system. We will be looking at how we can bring more people in, and how we can improve the system.”
Thirty-eight additional candidates ran uncontested for open seats. Three candidates received 48 votes: Rosalie Wayne, who was elected as the education representative; Rosenthal, who was elected as the medical representative; and Fred Goldstein, who will become the non-profits representative.
Cary Brazeman, a candidate who received 33 votes for one of seven seats on the board for at-large representatives, added that he believes sufficient public notice was given about the election. However, he also said there is room for improvement.
“I think DONE did a great job in implementing the procedures,” said Brazeman, who is also currently running for city controller. “The neighborhood council can always provide more notice, but I think reasonable notice was provided. I am excited about the council going forward.”
The additional candidates elected were David Mann and Yudy Machado, arts representatives; Edward Mullen, Marlene Savage, Michael Darner, Stanley Brent, Andrew Jhun, Charles Lindenblatt and Brazeman, at-large representatives; Patrick Seamans, disabled representative; Michael Barba and Don Whitehead, homeowners representatives; and Javier Vera and Michael Hilty, medium to large business representatives. Candidates Sabrina Simmons and Rita Doucette were elected as the minorities representatives; Scott Epstein, Stefani Poretz, Marc Sinnott, Jiunn Lie Leung and Deegan were selected as the renters representatives; Susan Belgrade will be the new seniors representative; and Stephen Kramer, David Weiner and Matt Lazansky were elected as small business representatives. Additional winners were Angela Guzman, unions representative, and Michael Kapp, youth representative. The zone 1 representative is Julie Brame; zone 3, Michael English; zone 4, Scott Burau; zone 5, Adam Carr; and zone 7, Liza Gerberding. No candidates ran for the zone 6 position.
Deegan said the new board members will be sworn in at the MCWCC meeting on Dec. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the NCJW/LA Council House, 543 N. Fairfax Ave. The board will also appoint a new executive committee during the meeting.