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Column: Will New Political Players Offer More Effective Local Government for Los Angeles & Venice?

Bass, Park could become unlikely allies in fighting homelessness, rising crime and the quality-of-life issues that plague both Angelenos and Venetians alike!

LA and Venice face a multitude of challenges that resulted in wholesale change as who is at the wheel in LA City Hall as well as new representation here in CD-11, the question now is who has the ability to create consensus and a path to solving the primary crisis on our streets in the form of rampant homelessness and rising crime?

For Traci Park, she is inheriting policies and proposals that have not worked and resulted in multiple recalls and bitter angst against Mike Bonin, who was forced out of the race for reelection to a third and final term when a second recall effort secured some 95% of the signatures required to move him from office. Since then, Bonin continued to play politics behind the scenes as he endorsed Erin Darling to succeed him with many observers of the opinion that Bonin’s seal of approval probably cost Darling the runoff, as Park won by the slimmest of margins (52%-48%) or about 4,000 votes with nearly 100,000 cast as he had to defend Bonin’s policies and support as if he was the incumbent himself.

For the race was really about Bonin and Darling became an extension of a councilman that simply lost his way.

But the election is finally over and residents are expecting real change as to how the homeless question will be addressed moving forward.

For Karen Bass, who withstood a $100 million dollar-plus landslide of spending from billionaire developer Rick Caruso, her campaign was optimistic, but lacked any clarity or specifics in tackling the homeless question. And with a new city council that probably tilts further to the progressive left, her answers to the homeless question need to be swift and workable, as the public’s taste for more of the same is seemingly not an option.

Here in Venice, the outgoing incumbent is seeking to box-in the incoming Councilmember Traci Park by extending and seeking permanence to strategies like the Ramada Inn conversion to homeless units with little regard to local opposition along with retaining the Bridge Housing at Main Street, the most obvious of failed municipal policy that most in Venice continue to oppose and harbor resentment to a project that was fast tracked by both lame duck Mayor Eric Garcetti and Bonin.

It is this kind of petty politics by Bonin that will be his legacy instead of recognizing the results of the election and letting Park stake out her own policies and proposals unencumbered by this unhappy lame duck who doesn’t seem to understand his time is now over.

In addition, the plight of the Venice Median Project seems also in limbo, as Park has stated her resounding opposition that sits before the California Coastal Commission for final recommendation and approval.

While the name has changed, the opposition remains the same.

And it will be interesting to see what Park can do regarding the ongoing situation at Lincoln and Flower, with one budding business a hostage to continued occupation of a sidewalk that has become a nesting ground for drugs, thugs and prostitution that has that neighborhood up in arms as they populate local ZOOM calls seeking help and assistance from the Venice Neighborhood Council and specifically Community Officer Clark Brown, who has made it a point to take on this never ending dilemma on behalf of these exhausted residents.

For change is truly at the heart of what most Venetians are expecting and the Councilwoman-elect has promised that help is now on the way.

And while these structural conditions are obvious, others talk about charter reform, such as expanding the size of the Los Angeles City Council from fifteen to thirty to maximize local control.

With 4 million residents, a fifteen-member governing body seems anachronistic and outdated given the fact the New York City Council has over fifty members and twice the population. While getting eight people to agree on something, anything seems reasonable, the embedded nature of city government is such that those fifteen would never endorse a thoughtful course of action that would diminish their personal power and authority!

And then we have the dysfunctional and catatonic neighborhood council system, that is advisory in nature, but most of those suggestions and recommendations go ignored.

These cumbersome and ineffective boards are too large to offer change and are embedded in a structural bureaucracy with paltry budgets that spend most of those dollars getting themselves elected versus simply treating all these neighborhood elections as the primary responsibility of the LA City Clerk.

Why are expenditures for local elections not absorbed by the LA City Clerk?

For why do Venetians have to apply for a ballot to vote in these neighborhood elections if they’re already a registered voter?

Why the unnecessary redundancy?

Why do property owners who do not reside in Venice have the same voting authority of a local resident?

Why are employees allowed to vote in these elections as those votes usually come in blocks and tip the balance of power from residents to non-residents?

For the whole definition of a stakeholder is distorted, and is purposely designed to offer power to the more powerful and the playing field is stacked and rigged against actual residents of this Venice neighborhood!

Even the current voting guidelines only allow stakeholders to select one (1) community officer when thirteen will be seated?

Why would any Venetian tolerate or support a voting process that disallows one from voting for the entire board membership?

And charter reform being the fear of most city officials, isn’t it now obvious that large problems like homelessness and crime cannot be solved by this top down, dysfunctional approach when government works best when the foundation is truly local and grass roots in function and substance?

It will be interesting to see how Park handles these neighborhood councils, and will she support greater responsibilities for these boards that can complement her agenda as she moves forward?

Here in Venice there will be elections for our local neighborhood council come March, and the process has been hampered by no public meetings for nearly three years thanks to the pandemic, as this process has become virtual, distant and seemingly out-of-touch.

Once the filing process commences just how many locals will stand up and get involved in making Venice a more functional neighborhood and community once again?

But as Bass and Park prepare to govern, will politics be placed aside and will the core issues of homelessness and rising crime take center stage?

Will Bass seek a one-size fits all, citywide approach, or will she collaborate with individual council members and districts as to what makes the most sense?

For politics, an effective government design is built from the ground up.  

Bass is seemingly in the “September of her years” as an elected official, as her long tenure and resume in government at various levels seems to make sense in fixing homelessness, which would be a crowning achievement in closing out her time center stage for decades here in LA.

For Park, offering specific action plans to immediately clean up Flower would solidify local support much in the same way the situation at the Venice Public Library was finally conquered by city officials.

While the encampments are gone, what is Park proposing to improve access, and get the fencing taken down and let the library be the library again?

These could be signature wins for this newly minted elected official.

Yes, all politics is local.

Communication and consensus should be the catch words for progress.

While Bass and Park come from different places in the political spectrum of Los Angeles, don’t be surprised if each can help each other, and thus by mutual cooperation things in Los Angeles and Venice can actually improve and that would be a good thing for all concerned.

Nick Antonicello is a 30-year Venetian who serves on the Outreach & Oceanfront Committees of the Venice Neighborhood Council (www.venicenc.org). Have a take or a tip on local governance and grassroots democracy? Antonicello is can be contacted via email at nantoni@mindspring.com

in Opinion
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