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Disappointing Turnout in Studio City Neighborhood Council Elections

A total of 292 votes were cast, that’s about $18.50 spent by the council for every vote cast.

The Studio City Neighborhood Council voting yielded a disappointing 292 total votes—and everyone who was on the council was re-elected to their positions.

The votes were counted after polls closed at 8:30 p.m. and it took about 90 minutes to count the ballots before the Empower LA revealed the results.

Among the contested races, the Residential Homeowners winners were John Walker, Lisa Sarkin, Gail Steinberg and Denise Welvang, who were all on the Council in the past.

In the Residential Renters race, previous Council members Ron Taylor and Lana Shackelford, and Jane Drucker (who previously was on the Council) won their seats.

In the At-Large race, Lisa Cahan Davis, who was the Outreach committee chairperson, won with 180 votes against 83 votes for Sam Humeid, who manages a local medical marijuana distribution business in Studio City.

Youth Candidate Pasha Vafaee, who ran unopposed, received no votes (you had to be between the ages of 15 and 18 to vote), and although no one was on the ballot, he did not win that race, according to the polling manager at the scene. The voting was at Walter Reed Middle School.

Both City Controller Wendy Greuel and Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian—who are residents of Studio City—came in to cast their votes. Two famous musicians, three recognizable actors, a major cartoon voice and a notable award-winning chef were also seen casting their votes.

Council members Rita Villa, Lisa Sarkin, Gail Steinberg and Richard Niederberg were at the scene during vote counting.

“I am terribly disappointed by the turnout and I don’t think that stakeholders who were not adults in 2000 before Neighborohood Councils,don't seem to know how important they are,” said Lisa Sarkin. “And I think we need to be more involved with the schools.”

Villa said, “It is disappointing that we didn’t get more people out with all the money spent, but I understand that there was not a major issue to draw the community out. I am grateful for the people who did participate.  I think that in this next cycle of my time on the Council I will work to reach out and enlist more youth participation.”

Not only did $5,400 in council money get spent promoting the elections (including an ad on Patch and other media), but council members spent private money on flyers for their slates, spent time at the Studio City Farmers Market, walked their neighborhoods and businesses, and held a forum to discuss their candidacy.

That resulted in each vote cast costing about $18.50 (not counting the private money involved).

“It cost $18 a vote,” Niederberg said. “It’s nuts! With all the money and labor involved, you would have thought we would have had more people turn out.”

(For entire election results click here.)

Michael McCue September 21, 2012 at 08:09 PM
If Studio City is nothing without Ben Neumann, then it has been nothing for a long time, because Neumann doesn’t live in Studio City and his businesses are not located in Studio City, are they?...except perhaps for a rented PO Box, which isn’t an actual qualification for the NC….or is it?
Michael McCue September 21, 2012 at 08:10 PM
As long as the SCNC does not welcome new voices, or anyone who may express an independent thought contrary to their own, and as long as the SCNC power base actively suppresses the ability of independently-thinking stakeholders to express themselves, as Neumann and Walker have done, (and as they infamously did to Scott Ouellette's homeowners’ group, when they dared to speak up and expressed their outrage with what they believed to be a wrong-headed “Floor-Ratio Plan” that the SCNC power base had incorporated into their mansionization code recommendations), then the SCNC will continue to enjoy a ruined reputation for transparency, and legitimate process, no matter what Krekorian, or any other corrupt professional politician says.
Michael McCue September 21, 2012 at 08:11 PM
When Krekorian claims that the new mansionization code is now being used a model around the nation, and that the SCNC should be proud of their accomplishment, he should remind us that the code, as written, was not the SCNC’s idea at all…but a result of the persistent efforts of Mr. Ouellette and his determined group of homeowners, who fought tooth-and-nail to get the SCNC's unacceptable, wrong-headed code modified, and even then, only after a long, drawn-out, soul-draining struggle that threw the entire NC into a state of chaos for months and just before the last election in 2010.
Michael McCue September 21, 2012 at 08:13 PM
This was clearly Neumann’s doing with the support of the other members of the power base. That’s nothing to be proud of. All of this happened on Neumann’s watch, who himself, personally encouraged and promoted the internal chaos, by violating the Rules of Order at meetings, and disregarding the constitutional rights of others, including fellow board members, who dared to stand up for the homeowner’s right to be heard, and sadly, all in order to achieve the results he was seeking for the centralized power base to which he owed allegiance.
Michael McCue September 21, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Krekorian should know that the real credit for this new 'national model' of mansionization legislation (as he puts it…) goes to Mr. Ouellette and his homeowners, who are the real heroes here (which you can easily tell, because they never utter any self-serving comments, as Neumann consistently does…real heroes just don’t do that…), and NOT the same SCNC board members, and their operatives, who tried to suppress Ouellette’s group at every turn. Krekorian, as usual, is completely misstating the Truth, and giving credit for this new national model, to a corrupt power base that he needs to get re-elected, rather than the heroes who actually deserve the credit. Ouellette’s victory in the SCNC election is the most significant, because it is the most deserving, and the most heroic.
Michael McCue September 21, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Ben, you should know that you can’t claim the mantle of “responsibility,” or even a "transition to responsibility,” while at the same time, refusing our Studio City homeowners who disagreed with the SCNC power base, a chance to be heard. Never mind the fact that by claiming a successful “transition to responsibility” you are actually admitting your own irresponsibility…that goes into the obvious category, for those familiar with the English language.
Michael McCue September 21, 2012 at 08:16 PM
This is Neumann's true legacy...refusing to let a group who didn't agree with his power base a chance to be heard. It was this action above all others that led directly to, and is mainly responsible for, the chaos that ensued for months afterward, when the stakeholders organized to throw out NC members who had knowingly misrepresented the board’s consensus at city hall committee meetings, (and even owned up to it, knowing that the power base would protect them from any real consequence)…while at the same time, vilifying the only council member who actually stood up for the homeowner’s right to express a differing opinion, and voting for his removal without cause, on false, baseless charges that our stakeholders spoke out against en masse.
Michael McCue September 21, 2012 at 08:17 PM
If a council member spoke up in favor of those homeowners being heard, they were dealt with brutally, and a witch hunt commenced, one without any basis of fact, but that was backed by the power base, so it was also a done deal…just as this week’s election was proven to be, which, again, explains the low voter turnout.
Michael McCue September 21, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Neumann never seems to mind that it was his own actions that ruined the reputation of our council, (see LA Weekly http://www.laweekly.com/2010-09-02/news/done-in-by-democratic-process/ ) and caused the SCNC to be known as a vicious group of 'insiders' who were rife with irresponsible behavior, and who disrespected the democratic process.
Michael McCue September 21, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Whenever a slate is “organizied” with the type of "mob boss" tactics that are designed to keep everyone in line with the powers that be, (be they independent board member, or stakeholder at large with something to say…) who literally attempt to "rub out" any opposition (like myself, Ouellette's homeowners, etc…) so that the power base's apple cart won't tip over, then you no longer have a functioning democratic body.
Michael McCue September 21, 2012 at 08:20 PM
The "unified voice" that Neumann mentions, and that Lisa Sarkin has previously claimed to be so necessary to the success of the SCNC...needs to be one whose unison is reached by using the consensus process properly, and not by the top-down bullying tactics that create havoc for the independent voices on the board, bring ill-repute to the board itself, and end up suppressing stakeholder participation as a result.
Michael McCue September 21, 2012 at 08:22 PM
True grassroots democracy is a “bottom-up” process…(the kind Neumann admitted he was completely unfamiliar and frustrated with…)…not a “top-down” marching orders process, as Neumann so proudly admits to being familiar with and fond of, based on his experience as a CEO, and his natural predisposition for favoring a dictatorial process…the one that he mentioned he favored earlier this week in Studio City Patch, is an anathema to any successful democratic process.
Michael McCue September 21, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Using the top-down model causes you to lose true public servants like Jeffrey Carter, Ben DiBenedetto, and others, who leave the board with no regrets, having learned that the scope of their influence is severely limited by a corrupt bloc of board members, who do not grasp the essence of grassroots democracy, or the consensus process, or the Rules of Order, or the Code of Conduct, and who protect themselves from removal by eliminating their own term limits, conveniently, just before an election.
Michael McCue September 21, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Scott Ouellette, and the unelected challengers to the power base slate, like Geoffrey Going, Sam Humeid, Eric Feder, Dan Nieman, Karen Eisenberg, and others who dared to run for office against incredible odds, are the true heroes of this election, as well as the stakeholders, who proved that they are truly engaged citizens, by showing up and placing their votes for our new SCNC board members.
Michael McCue September 21, 2012 at 08:24 PM
I wish them all the best of luck, encourage them all to stay active politically, and pray that they will not give up on the SCNC. That will only make things worse.
Michael McCue September 21, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Remember that many candidates (myself, included) ran at least once or twice before finally being elected. And if it's a self-serving statement you want, Ben, remember...because of the low voter turnout, which I feel was at least partially a result of the corrupt practices of the centralized power base on the SCNC...no one has broken my still-standing record as the highest vote-getter in any SCNC election, set in 2007. The difference between us is, that in my case...I wish the record had been broken by some new candidate, who had proven themself to be a truly engaged citizen.
Richard Niederberg September 21, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Dear Michael, I hope that you will attempt a new activism approach at the West Hills Neighborhood Council, starting at their election on September 29th, so as not to alienate persons as you did at the Studio City Neighborhood Council. You would be far more effective.
Richard Panotia September 21, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Bravo, Ben I have to agree. You got more comments on your RETIREMENT ARTICLE on AOL/Studio City Patch than Geoffrey got votes for the election *and he voted for himself!* ;)
Michael McCue September 21, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Richard, your snarky comment only reinforces my statement that the members of the SCNC power base are a bit slow on the uptake, especially when it comes to matters of grassroots democracy & knowing who they are dealing with. The West Hills NC has a very similar problem to the SCNC in that they have a power base that illegally removed members from their board for specious reasons, a few months ago, and those members had to be reinstated by DONE (not re-elected by the stakeholders, as I was in 2010). Knowing of my years of experience with a similar type group on the SCNC (they read the LA Weekly), several members of the community, including a doctor and a rabbi, approached me about running for the WHNC, knowing that I had experience battling with entrenched power bases that acted illegally, and who had also restricted the input from their own stakeholders at meetings. So, after all these years, if you knew anything about me, you'd know that if elected, I will continue to speak Truth to Power, in order to create true reform & ensure our WH stakeholders are engaged properly in the process. I know that speaking Truth to Power makes you and other members of any power base uncomfortable, but that is exactly why I've been approached by many community members to run for WHNC. So the answer is "No!"...I will continue with an approach based on my core values. Try it, sometime. You may find it gets a better results than the sad turnout numbers for your SCNC elections! Thanks, though!
Louise Randolph September 21, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Michael... you will never be a match for power players of the like of Niederberg or Neumann. I saw the video where they removed you from the board on youtube, I understand why you would be bitter. That being said, Neumann will be Mayor of Los Angeles in 2013 if he wants. Just read the foreshadowing in his comment above: 'I will probably focus more on the upcoming mayoral election' - which could be the only reason he retired when he wasn't termed out of the Council. You better be mindful of your tone. You are just not in their league... when he wins, you won't have any credibility in this town again. I hear of some nice apartments by the Glendale Galleria.
Sue Taylor September 21, 2012 at 11:09 PM
John, I completely agree that a wholesale change of board member is not the best plan - my experience on many other boards is that there are effective methods to limiting terms and bringing in valuable new blood and ideas without necessitating that the entire board be replaced at any election. Ideally there are new people coming in at each election and thus there are always a handful who are termed out (bringing in new blood) and a percentage of those with experience running for re-election that can share the history. For example, if there were 3 term limits, and new people came in at each election, there would always be a mix of old and new. Perhaps the old system of term limits wasn't ideal, but no term limits is even less ideal. My opinion is that with the entire existing board running as a slate (minus those who did not run and a couple of new faces to replace them) it is a clear message that the chances of someone new that is not part of the old guard slate getting elected are quite low - unless you run in a category that is uncontested. Just look at the election numbers - it is a pretty clear picture. The individuals on the slate have the power of everyone else on the slate also working together to get them elected. How can a single individual outside of that group believe they have any chance - absent some huge issue that allows them to rally stakeholders against the slate? Slates + no term limits = exclusionary. Just my opinion.
Geoffrey Going September 22, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Richard Panotia. Don't quit your day job. I guarantee you that I received more than my vote. Were you a candidate?
Geoffrey Going September 22, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Is there a link to the amount of votes each candidate received Richard? I would love to see my one vote I received.
Geoffrey Going September 22, 2012 at 02:18 AM
I agree with Sue. Also the current board at our speeches the other day were not friendly and made no attempt to introduce or welcome the candidates. Not one current board member introduced themselves to me. Not one member invited me to a meeting.
Alex Daniels September 22, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Aside fromm the personal politics in the post above me, bottom line, nothing the neighborhood councils say or do really effects material change in the city, thats why no one give a s**t to attend the meetings or vote..I suppose not voting is a vote of no confidence..So take that to heart SCNC..Working within the confines of a city wrought with corrupt public union approved council members shows the sad trajectory all the neighborhood councils are headed. We are in a public union locked stranglehold that will only get worse. Maybe if the SCNC had the b*lls to stop lobbing softballs to the invited union purchased shills like Labonge, Krekorian and Gruel, we can make these people sweat and see that we seek "real" change to what is becoming a 3rd world city and real interest and credibility would come about to all neighborhood councils including the SCNC..When will we as citizens of Studio City purge ourselves of all this corrupt city bullsh*t and really get down to business and bring forth real change to serve maybe those people who were not lucky enough to buy their homes 40 years ago and paying $300 annual property tax bills. If that were the case for me then working on esolutions to remove lost pet posters would suffice. But as a resident of SC who pays over $13,000 a year in property taxes, I would hope for more....
Alex Daniels September 22, 2012 at 03:12 AM
Maybe dealing with REAL issues such as Studio City's broken streets sidewalks, filthy garbage laden streets and sidewalks, outrages water rate increases, endless apartment expansion, broken schools and over pensioned and paid city workers...Then you will get "real" people to come out and really start care about what our neighborhood councils do. In the meantime, enjoy playing "house"....Respectfully
Michael McCue September 22, 2012 at 01:06 PM
@Louise Randolph, Thanks for the hearty laugh your comment gave me...yes, I'm not in the same "league" as Ben Neumann, for which I am grateful. Thank you for the compliment. But, if you really believe that Neumann has even the slightest of chances of becoming the next mayor of Los Angeles, then you need a reality check. Hilarious! Angelenos would never elect a bully who is such a lightweight (morbid obesity aside...) on the issues, and who has a record of rarely showing up to meetings, and a proven record showing that he does not understand the Rules of Order, the Code of Conduct, etc...which is what made your comment so funny. I'm not sure if you meant to be funny, or if you were trying to be snide, but whatever the case, thanks for your comment (it gave me a hearty laugh this AM) and please know...Neumann has as much chance of getting elected mayor of LA as he does getting elected dog catcher...which is zero. He is a political lightweight (the only thing lightweight about him) who has no idea of how to provide real leadership. Just the thought alone of a bully like Ben getting elected is enough to keep me laughing for days. If you saw the tape of that meeting, then you saw all the stakeholders who opposed Ben's actions, passionately supported me, and you saw the DONE parliamentarian who kept telling Ben that he was violating the Rules of Order. That's enough right there to guarantee that he won't be elected to higher office. Thanks for the laugh! I nededed that!
Michael McCue September 22, 2012 at 01:29 PM
@Geoffrey Going, please pay no attention to political operatives like Richard Panotia. Neumann will always have enough ring-kissers on his payroll to make self-serving comments on his behalf in social media like Patch. I don't agree that the whole NC system should be dumped....we have many great NC's all over the city which are not run the way the SCNC is...but...what you could do is apply to get the SCNC de-certified with DONE. The vote on ending term limits just before the election is cause enough alone to initiate such an action, not to mention the many other reasons you could cite. The SCNC's snub to you...their shunning of you as a newcomer, is proof that they have no manners, no grace, no compassion, no class, and is also proof that they have real reason to fear an honest outsider like yourself. Don't let them bother you in the slightest. Go to meetings and speak out. They hate that, but democracy loves it. Keep going, and follow your passion. Good Luck to you, and again, don't sweat Neumann's ring-kissers and operatives who will always try to discredit an honest citizen like yourslef. Good Luck to you!
Louise Randolph September 25, 2012 at 10:21 PM
wow I just have seen the responses. NC is about community and neighborhood. Can't we get along?
Michael McCue September 26, 2012 at 04:42 AM
What NC are you talking about, Louise? That's certainly not what the SCNC is about. Still can't figure out where you're coming from with your comments (satire?). First Niederberg and Ben Neumann are "power players" and now our Studio City NC is all about community and neighborhood. Didn't you read Geoffrey Going's comments about how they treated him? Didn't you read the LA Weekly article about their previous underhanded power plays and manipulations? Or are you dreaming? Can't figure you out because your comments are so out of touch. I know that what you say is what NC's are SUPPOSED to be about...but Studio City certainly isn't about the things you mentioned. But thankfully... many NC's ARE about community and neighborhood, and several were given awards at the LA Congress of Neighborhood Councils held on Saturday at City Hall. When the award winners were announced...Studio City was NOT among them....but Sherman Oaks NC WAS...congrats to Jill, Jay, and the great members of the SONC...they're doing a great job! Wish it were so in Studio City...right next door, but a world away...(like Louise's comments). Still laughing about Neumann, the "power player!" Hilarious!

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