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Few ballots cast in Mid-City West election

By Edwin Folven, 11/21/2012

Officials to examine ways to get more people involved

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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.

A handful of voters lined up to cast their ballots in the Mid-City West Community Council election on Nov. 15. (photo by Edwin Folven)

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.

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3 Responses to “Few ballots cast in Mid-City West election”

  1. James O'Sullivan says:

    The reason so few people showed up to vote is that people don’t go where they are not wanted.
    The real question however should be why so few people signed up to run for the 45 board seats? The time to register to run happened long before the National election and is a glimpse into the very strained relationship between the Mid City West Community Council (MCWCC) board and the Community.
    People should read carefully what Stephen Box said about the Venice election which had 1593 votes cast for officers and board members. There were 36 candidates running for 13 at large Community Officer seats, 16 candidates running for 8 other seats including President (837 votes), Vice President (962 votes ), Treasurer (912 votes ), Secretary (925 votes), Chair of Land Use and Planning (687 votes ), Communications officer (634 votes ), Outreach officer (611 votes ), Factual basis Community officer (10 votes ). Mr. Box stated that “[Venice] is an engaged, outspoken neighborhood. They have a tradition of speaking up, it’s something to consider. Are we giving folks enough opportunity to speak up?”
    The answer is an unequivocal no! During the last couple of years, MCWCC has not tolerated anyone that is outspoken. They have hired private guards and called in police on various occasions to stifle the community when we dared show up and be “outspoken”! They violate their bylaws and the Brown Act (open meetings law) by not properly posting agendas. They have tried time and time again to limit the time community members can speak at a meeting and frankly treated us as if we are a big nuisance. We have complained to the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) and the City Attorney’s office about all of the above as well as workplace violence issues, to no avail.

    This doesn’t mean that everyone on the board is a tyrant. There are those we still work with on Neighborhood and Community issues but for Mid City West to become relevant it needs to start over with a board that actually has contacts with the category communities they are supposed to represent.

    The bigger question for me is what Councilmembers LaBonge and Koretz take away from this election? How much weight can they attach to any decision coming from MCWCC when a total of 48 stakeholders out of about 75,000 voted in this election? The record shows that 38 of the 63 votes were no doubt from those running for office and 15 votes were listed as Factual Basis (do not live, work or own property) but claim a stake in the community. That means that 10 other people who live, work or own property in the MCWCC area voted in this election for a total of 48 stakeholders. That is a pathetic .00064% of the community.

  2. Lucille Saunders says:

    WHAT MCW ELECTION REALLY SAID: LACK OF CREDIBILITY AND OUTREACH Mid City West, the largest city NC, reported 63 voted in its recent election, though records show no office received more than 48 votes. What the election really shows is the lack of standing and credibility the NC has in the community and the newly elected board does not reflect community views and interests.

    The recent election as reported in the La Brea Press gave [only] NC officers’ glib, illogical reasons for their satisfaction with the dismal voter turnout. Interestingly no citizen/stakeholder views were in that report.

    Attention was not given to the significance of the appalling lack of candidates for the en- tire board and lack of competition for most seats.
    The recent general election and lack of competitive NC offices given for the low NC election participation simply does not ring true.
    Glossed over was the most valid point in the La Brea Press report –the need to “improve” outreach for stakeholder participation in voting–and indeed in all NC functions.

    The MCW NC grandly cites “PURPOSE OF NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCILS:To promote more citizen participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs – Los Angeles City Charter Section 900.” 

    The NC has instead set formidable barriers to hinder citizen/stakeholder voices and roles in that body. These barriers have been long cited to the NC, Empower LA, the City Attorney, to other oversight bodies, and yes, the La Brea Press. The NC and these other bodies virtually act to endorse and enforce practices that ensure citizen concerns and voices will not be heard. These acts are the non-answers, to include inaccurate, incomplete or totally absent responses for citizen concerns presented to them, as well as the blatant disregard to the NCs own By Laws and policies. And in acts dictated by the City Attorney and the oversight bodies which claim citizen complaints are “without merit.”

    The real outcry of those citizen and neighborhood needs– and the real answers on how to engage citizens/stakeholders have been routinely ignored… Oh, No!!! Not if it means we must listen. Not if we must change!!

    So we citizens walk with our concerns –by not attending nor participating in this system that does not meet its stated purpose nor address our real interests.

  3. Scott Burau says:

    In the wake of the Mid-City West Community Council (MCWCC) elections on November 15, stakeholders and non-stakeholders alike have taken to these pages to voice their discontent with the process, the results, and the Council itself. We are all in agreement that 63 votes for board members on the largest neighborhood council in Los Angeles is far from ideal. What can be done?

    I have lived within the boundaries of the MCWCC for several years, and I have felt welcomed to participate, to engage, and to approach my elected officials. As does each community council in Los Angeles, the MCWCC serves an important role for all of us within its bounds. Challenges lie ahead for this neighborhood and its stakeholders, but low voter turnout, past disappointments, and a perceived lack of outreach does not mean that we simply give up on the MCWCC and walk away from an incredibly unique opportunity to participate directly in our government. We are always within our rights to voice concerns and to raise questions of our elected officials (including our board members), and we should do so. But we should also seize opportunities to make a difference in our community and to mend something we might think is broken.

    As I reflected several weeks ago on why this neighborhood is so special to so many of us, I decided to run for a seat on the MCWCC. I won that seat with no agenda, just a desire to serve my fellow stakeholders and to work with anyone who recognizes the power of collaboration, transparency, and outreach. We have important work ahead of us in this vibrant community.

    Scott Burau
    Zone 4 Representative, MCWCC


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