It’s been a while since our last “Engaged Citizen” post, so welcome back readers, who may (or may not) be asking. “Why the long delay?”
Here’s what I did last summer while away…
In the June Primary, I was elected to represent Green Party voters from the 27th State Senate District, to our Green Party Los Angeles County Council, and almost immediately afterwards, at a General Assembly of LA-area Greens, I was elected to serve as County Council Coordinator (County Chair in non-Green speak), so I’ve been busier than ever, more engaged than ever, and working on several issue and candidate campaigns throughout LA County. More on that later….
This “Engaged Citizen” has been asked to weigh in on the upcoming Studio City Neighborhood Council elections, probably because of our unique, insider’s perspective on the SCNC and our past experience.
So, as a public service to Studio City stakeholders who may not be engaged with their Neighborhood Council, it’s our privilege to make recommendations for tomorrow’s SCNC election, based on the Ten Key Values, which I practice, my history with the SCNC, and the current crop of candidates, their backgrounds, etc….
Not surprisingly, only a few council members have changed since I left the SCNC in late 2010 after my re-election. That’s the problem.
My Renters Seat, when it became vacant because of my departure, was filled by a long-serving council member who was originally elected to a Homeowners’ Seat. How is that possible, you may ask?
The side-step shuffle coordinated by President John Walker, made it possible for former Homeowner Rep, Ron Taylor, to be seated in a renter’s seat after he sold his home, even though other dedicated, homeowner candidates, like Scott Oullette, who narrowly lost a homeowner’s seat in 2010, had to be purposefully overlooked for this to be done. Was that fair?
It was a complicated, yet elegant dance move that Fred Astaire could be proud of, (since it was so difficult), and lucky, too, since it helped to preserve the centralized power base that controls the council’s every move and decision. Nice play, Shakespeare. But don’t take a bow just yet.
No SCNC member seemed to want to hear from Mr. Oullette, since he represented a group of homeowners and a point of view that didn’t jibe with the SCNC’s centralized power base’s desires.
But guess what?
Former LAPD officer, Scott Ouellette, is not the sort of man who can be held down and silenced.
Ouellette is running unopposed for one of two SCNC Business Owner’s seats, and stakeholders can show their full support for him with confidence. Ouellette
will not be bullied by the Ben Neumann-types on the board (will anyone miss
Neumann?), and will provide a decent, respectful, independent voice on the SCNC
board. In fact, his election is overdue.
Engaged Citizen endorses Scott Ouellette for the Business Owner’s seat on the SCNC.
Bravo, Scott Ouellette. You are a hero in more ways than one and unlike the other business owner candidate in your category…you have core values that cannot be compromised, as well as my full-hearted endorsement.
Let’s get back and review the Residential Renters’ race…where were we?...ah yes, the homeowner who became a renter and kept his seat on the board anyway….
Ron Taylor’s memorable record of, (what I consider to be) Code of Conduct violations, and outright, open hostility and indifference to our volunteer stakeholders, whose committee work he dismissed as “not important,” makes his candidacy for a renter’s seat completely unsupportable.
Infuriated with the way our stakeholders were being treated, I walked out of an SCNC meeting over this issue when Pres. Walker refused to acknowledge that a Code of Conduct violation had taken place right before his eyes, immediately after Taylor’s rude dismissal of our stakeholders’ hard work.
If Taylor were to respect the Code of Conduct, show up to meetings on time, etc…he could be considered seriously…but that’s not the case. And he’s not really coming from a Renters’ point of view, anyway, having been a homeowner for so long. This Engaged Citizen considers him to be self-disqualified for any seat on the board, homeowner, renter, or otherwise, by his own rude behavior.
If, instead of being appointed by Walker, Taylor is actually elected as a Renter Rep, (a worst-case scenario for Studio City Renters…) we all hope that his “respect” for his fellow stakeholders finds its way back to his SCNC meeting conduct.
But I know that there are other candidates who can avoid insulting our stakeholders at meetings, and who won’t use profanity at council meetings as Ron so infamously did before, which at least he owned up to.
There are five other candidates for the three seats in the Renters category, and having sat in one of those Renter’s Representative Seats for over 4 years myself, naturally, I’m very interested in seeing an honest group of renters representing on the council in the seats that are closest to my heart.
Engaged Citizen endorses Jane Drucker, Karen Eisenberg, and Geoffrey Going, for Renter’s Representatives on the SCNC, mainly because they are all new to the council, which desperately needs new faces and fresh perspectives.
Jane Drucker, Karen Eisenberg, and Geoffrey Going all have dedication, common-sense, good manners, and they will all bring an independent attitude and diversity of opinion to the board, which again, is sorely needed.
Also…and this is important…they are all under 50 years of age, which is much needed on this board of old timers whose perspective is, shall we say, skewed to 20th century thinking?
Karen Eisenberg is a young mother in the Tujunga Village area who is studying politics, (she’ll need that!) and Geoffrey Going is a young father working in the entertainment industry, which is under-represented on the SCNC, and shouldn’t be.
There are no young parents on the SCNC board that I know of, (especially since Todd Royal’s exit last year) and that perspective is sorely needed. Vote for
these candidates, Studio City Renters! They’re exactly what the SCNC needs!
I love Jane Drucker because she speaks Truth to Power, has experience, and gets to the point. Jane has never suffered fools gladly, so she’ll have her work cut out for her, but she’s an experienced heavy-lifter who’s served on the SCNC board before, (years ago) and will continue to be an influence, no matter what. She’s an excellent watchdog for the SCNC.
Jane Drucker has my endorsement and full support! If she isn’t back-stabbed by the centralized power slate, like I was, she’ll be the breath of fresh air that’s needed. I believe all three of these candidates will bring that much-needed freshness.
Good luck renters! You have a wealth of choices this year, and a bullet to dodge as well, so vote carefully and wisely.
There is no point in making recommendations for Service Organization Representative, or Business Representatives since there are only two candidates for two open seats, in each category, but it is worth noting that one of the incumbent candidates in the Service category would not be eligible to serve, if the SCNC had not voted to strike down their own term limits rule, just in time for this election.
That doesn’t sound fishy at all, does it?
Does anyone wonder how your own rep on the board voted on the term limits bylaw last May, when retiring (too soon) council member, Jeffrey Carter, argued so eloquently against that board action, based on conflict of interest concerns, which are forbidden by law? Carter finally found his voice on that issue, and he served the Council faithfully and honestly.
Unlike the often-absent, or distracted, Ben Neumann, or the long-winded, time-wasting, Barbara Monahan-Burke….Jeffrey Carter will be truly missed by Studio City stakeholders.
But….let’s not forget that there were many convenient, if not self-serving votes, which made it possible for one candidate, at least, to continue their service beyond what was called for by SCNC bylaws. Good for them, I guess.
But is that good for the Studio City community? Why did the term limits bylaw exist in the first place? Has anyone challenged the ethics of that vote, other than Mr. Carter? You can fill in the blank on that question…and try to do so before you vote tomorrow…or use these endorsements as your guide to sustainability of the council.
You might as well know right now that Engaged Citizen will not be endorsing any incumbent council member who voted in the affirmative on that ethically-challenged, term-limits vote.
Clearly, that vote was a gross violation of the Key Values of Grassroots Democracy, Social Justice, Future Focus/Sustainability, and Decentralization of Power, as Jeffrey Carter suggested at the time of the vote, and we agree.
When candidates have a record of violating so many basic Key Values, it’s impossible for them to get my endorsement. People dislike Romney because he seems to have no core values and will say anything, or do anything to get elected. The same applies here.
Both candidates for the At-Large seat are qualified.
I know that Lisa Cahan-Davis is a hard worker and great organizer, but somehow, I can’t help but believe that Sam Humeid could be the wild card that the SCNC needs to keep from ossifying into petrified wood. He may even be the freshest breath of all! If he’s elected, I may start coming to meetings again!
Sam Humied has the Engaged Citizen’s endorsement for this election, so the stakeholders will have to decide this one. This race is important if there is to be any block to the slate that has been put together by the so-caled, “Concerned Citizens.”
The Employee/Independent Contractor’s seats are uncontested, but independent candidate, John Lawler has the Engaged Citizen’s endorsement for the Employee seat, with the understanding that I hope to get to know Mr. Lawler better, and wish I had been acquainted with his service when I was on the SCNC board. He’s elected by default anyway, so that time will come, and I wish him well.
Which brings us to the Homeowner’s Seats, which is where the real contest is, in tomorrow’s election.
We must remember that the Homeowner’s Representatives are easily the most important group, with the most influence, and the most votes, that is, if they continue their practice of voting in a centralized bloc, as they’ve seemingly been ordered to do in the past by the powers that be.
Having served as a whistleblower on the SCNC for many years, having confronted their misdeeds and improprieties, and being familiar with the centralized power base currently entrenched there, I’m sure you will understand if I do not mince words here, and speak Truth to Power to you, my beloved Studio City stakeholders, who have always shown me your great love and strong support.
For far too long the SCNC has ignored the consensus process that is supposed to take place with the input of the stakeholders. Instead, the process has, unfortunately, become a sham, when council members come to meetings with closed minds, already having decided every agenda issue, and deaf to their stakeholders’ public comments, no matter how urgent.
I’ll never forget when Lisa Sarkin infamously said to the stakeholders, “What you people say doesn’t matter!” when she wasn’t getting the input and response she was seeking from the Studio City community at large. Our stakeholders actually booed and hissed at her that night, they were so enraged, and not long afterwards, the stakeholders petitioned for Sarkin’s removal, which I blame on the actions of Ben Neumann, who clearly violated the Robert’s Rules of Order to accommodate this centralized power bloc, and which made Sarkin seem ruthless and bitter when she couldn’t dictate the proceedings!
Neumann’s acquiescence to a questionable proceeding ended up hurting Sarkin, even though she supported that action. That wasn’t fair to her, and if Neumann was truly her friend, he should have advised against it. So foolish!
This ignoring-the-stakeholders-type of behavior violates the Brown Act and does a disservice to the Neighborhood Council concept by preventing our stakeholders from being heard, or even considered, while the council deliberates each issue before them.
Like the upcoming November election, I believe it is wise to ‘throw a lot of the bums out,’ and give our new community leaders the chance they deserve to serve. They certainly cannot do worse than the current homeowners on the SCNC have done.
Therefore, Engaged Citizen is endorsing Sarah Angel, Eric Feder, Dan Nieman and Lisa Yacoubian for the four Homeowners’ seats on the
Matt Pyken seems far too cozy with the centralized power bloc, and there’s an unhealthy perception that he seems to have benefitted from years of special favors bestowed by that power. This may, or may not be true, but he’s a non-starter for that reason, and for perceived conflict of interest problems that may arise in his special case.
Lisa Sarkin will still chair the Land Use committee, no matter what, which I fully expect her to do from under the ground, even after she has expired, so her influence will always be present, that is, unless the stakeholders take another stand, more vigorous than their last attempt to oust her from the board. I say, let Sarkin chair Land Use…but do not send her back to the board to be hissed at by the stakeholders for Code of Conduct violations. It destroys the reputation
of our council.
John Walker is not truly an advocate for the people, by any definition, not only because he “leads from behind” and has many instances of questionable behavior on his record, and so much so, that we cannot support him for this election. But that should come as no surprise…right John? (And you still owe me for two Theatre tickets at the Ahmanson, which you never made good on, when I cancelled for your special meeting that was later declared illegal by DONE.)
Has anyone asked Walker why Ben Neumann was serving in the Business Owners’ seat for so long when he didn’t even own a business in the Studio City jurisdiction? Walker knows the answer. Ask him before you vote.
The truest test of a community members’ leadership is what they do when they are NOT serving on the SCNC board. Are they still active in the community? Do they still advocate for community issues? Are they still engaged as a community leader on behalf of We, the People?
I’m certain that Lisa Sarkin would be as active as ever, with or without her seat on the board, because she is at heart, a true community leader, though at times, she is misguided by imagined power struggles of her own creation…but I am not convinced that the other long-serving incumbents would be heard from at all, that is, without Sarkin’s leadership to guide them.
Since incumbents, Taylor, Sarkin, Walker, Steinberg, have all been serving since 2007, wouldn’t it be proper to follow Ben Neumann, and give them all a rest…a well-deserved vacation…and that way, we can see what they do with their spare time?
At this point…That’s the only test that will qualify them for further service on the SCNC board, in my humble opinion.
It’s time to renew and refresh the SCNC with new and younger blood, that is not jaded by centralized power, and new, fresh faces that will actually use the consensus process to hear all the stakeholders on every issue, and get the job done.
It’s time for a change of leadership.
It’s time for a change of board members.
It’s time to become engaged citizens in this hyper-local
election, and get out there and vote!
“Engaged Citizen” Endorsements for the SCNC Election
Residential Homeowner’s Seats
Residential Renter’s Seats
Business Owner’s Seat
Employee/Independent Contractor’s Seat
Service Organization Seat