By Edwin Folven, 11/08/2012
Election is Nov. 15 for neighborhood council
With the presidential election now in the shadows, another looms next week — the Mid-City West Community Council (MCWCC) election.
The election will be held Thursday, Nov. 15, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., at the Pan Pacific Park Recreation Center, 7600 Beverly Blvd. While anyone who lives, works, owns property or frequents the area is encouraged to vote, only one seat on the 45-member board is being contested. The open seat is for the representative of 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. Candidates Ravi Bhatia, Elizabeth Reynolds and Paulette Caswell are vying for the position.
There are 38 people running for other open seats on the board, but there is only one candidate running for each of those positions, so each candidate will win with one vote, according to Alisa Smith, an independent elections officer overseeing the MCWCC election for the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE).
Bhatia is an environmental and project management consultant who is an advocate for affordable and mixed-use housing. He has also worked on grants and program development for non-profit community health clinics and disability organizations, as well as large-scale tree planning and sustainability programs for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the Los Angeles Unified School District and the city of Los Angeles.
According to his candidacy statement, Bhatia is interested in the intersection of technology and public and social policy, and how they can make Los Angeles a better place for residents. He is also an advocate for spay and neuter and adoption programs.
Reynolds has been a member of the MCWCC in the at-large category for the past year, and is now seeking to represent Zone 2, where she has been a renter for the past four years. She is a member and volunteer for the County Federation of Labor and SAG-AFTRA.
She has also been a block captain for the Melrose Action neighborhood watch and hopes to become more involved in promoting the growth of Fairfax High School and the Melrose Trading Post if elected.
Caswell has been a homeowner, non-profit manager and religious representative in the Zone 2 area since 1954. A previous MCWCC board member, she is hoping to use her background and familiarity with the area to benefit the neighborhood and local businesses.
Smith added that only residents or stakeholders in Zone 2 who are age 16 or older will be allowed to vote for that area’s representative, as is the case with all seven zones within the MCWCC. Anyone over 16 can vote for all of the other open seats.
Smith said that up until this week, four candidates were running for three board seats as small business representative, but candidate Edgar Poureshagh withdrew from the race. The remaining candidates for the three seats are Stephen Kramer, Matt Lazansky and David Weiner. Kramer said it is crucial that all stakeholders vote.
“I urge all of the groups to turn out and vote in this election,” he added. “It’s important for residents, it’s important for business owners and people who work in the area, it’s important for all stakeholders. Every stakeholder has the right to vote and become active in the council.”
No identification is required to vote, and people wishing to cast their ballots will only be required to sign a statement declaring under the penalty of perjury that they are a resident or stakeholder of the area. The signature requirement gives elections officials the ability to check records if problems arise after the vote, Smith said.
Stephen Box, the acting senior project coordinator for DONE, does not anticipate any problems with the election. The reason no identification is required is to encourage as many people to vote as possible. Participants do not need to be registered voters or citizens. The only requirement is that they have some interest in the community, Box said.
“Our greatest obstacle in the neighborhood council system is to promote participation,” Box said. “We don’t want to create a filter so strong that legitimate voters become disengaged from voting. It’s our job to make it very easy to participate in the neighborhood council program.”
Steve Rosenthal, the MCWCC’s health representative and chair of the election outreach committee, agreed that the reason there are few rules for voters is to encourage people to participate.
“As long as you have a reason to want to make a difference in the community —because you live there, you work there, you shop there, any reason at all — you have the right to vote,” Rosenthal said. “We said if there is somebody who believes they have a stake in the election, they should be allowed to vote.”