Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council – THE LACK OF PROGRESS REPORT
By Alice Stek, District 7 representative
What has Grass Roots Venice (GRVNC), our new neighborhood council, accomplished so far? A review of the conduct of the Board meeting from this Progressive Candidate’s perspective will illustrate the problems we encounter in accomplishing our objectives as set out in our platform. Thanks to a minority of the Board, at the last GRVNC Board meeting, a year of work by the Voting Methods Committee was dismissed in 10 minutes.
At the last full Board meeting on November 25, the most important issue on the agenda was the discussion of the best voting methods for our new council.
By way of background: at the November 2001 GRVNC meeting, the attendees approved instant runoff and cumulative voting for use in GRVNC election races where applicable. In the weeks following this meeting, several members opposed to these more democratic voting methods privately approached acting president Tisha Bedrosian and requested a recall vote. She agreed with their request and the voting methods were subjected to a recall vote at the next GRVNC meeting December 2001. This vote resulted in a tie, which was broken by Ms. Bedrosian, who voted against implementing instant runoff and cumulative voting methods, leaving GRVNC with the familiar, but not very democratic, plurality voting system.
In part as a response to this maneuvering on the part of the Bedrosian/Rose Avenue Working Group team, the Progressive Candidates formed their platform and slate. At that December GRVNC meeting, the Voting Methods Committee was created to study the various possible voting methods and to make a presentation for a later discussion by the Board.
The Voting Methods Committee was open to all interested participants and met regularly over the course of the next 10 months at open meetings. The committee decided which criteria are most important for an organization such as GRVNC, studied various methods, ranked them according to the established criteria, and prepared an extensive, well-documented report (available on the GRVNC website at: http://www.grassrootsvenice.org/Reports/voting_method_rep_102902.html#fn2). The committee found that instant runoff voting is the most appropriate method for single-seat elections, such as for GRVNC officers, and cumulative voting for multiple-seat elections, such as the GRVNC at-large positions. Both of these methods are quite simple and can be easily explained to the voters. Instant runoff voting allows voters to rank their choices and was recently adopted by San Francisco for city elections. If your first choice wins the majority, this candidate is elected. If your first choice is eliminated as receiving the least votes, your vote is applied to your second choice, and if necessary, the same is done for your third choice. This encourages sincere voting and avoids the current familiar “lesser of two evils” voting strategy. (Example: with IRV, your vote for Nader would have helped elect Gore if he was your second choice.) With cumulative voting, you can “spend” your votes among the candidates as you see fit. For example, in the GRVNC at-large race you can designate your 7 votes to 7 candidates or use them all to support one (or 2 or 3 or 4…) candidates. This encourages minority representation.
At the November 2002 Board meeting, the Voting Methods Committee presented their report, and recommended approval by the Board to send to the general membership for approval, as required by the GRVNC bylaws. Unfortunately the meeting agenda was filled with other items, and the chair conducted the meeting (perhaps this was due to inexperience and intervention by some members rather than intentional) so as not to allow adequate time for discussion.
Voting Methods Committee member Jason Parry made a valiant attempt at an abbreviated presentation, and was rudely interrupted by several Board members opposed to the proposed changes, including untrue statements regarding the committee’s alleged bias and predetermined decisions. Several Board members claimed they lacked the intelligence to understand the proposed voting methods. (It works for George Bush, why not for us?) More ominously, the District Representative for Oakwood implied that these methods were too difficult for her intellectually impaired constituents, and even brought a constituent to represent this view at the meeting.
A 2/3 vote of the Board is required to send bylaws amendments to the general membership for approval. Eight Board members voted for the proposed methods: Sheila Bernard, Phyllis Des Verney, Greg Fitchitt, Yolanda Miranda, David Moring, Lydia Ponce, Alice Stek, Chris Wood; and five against: Chris Bedrosian, John Caldwell, Rick Feibusch, Barbara Gibson, Chris Williams. Tisha Bedrosian abstained. Bonnie Cheeseman, Mark Van Gessel, Elena Popp, Kelley Willis and Laddie Williams were absent. Naomi Nightingale and DeDe Audet left the meeting before the vote but both spoke out against the proposed voting methods. The required two-thirds majority was not achieved, and 10 months of work by the Voting Methods Committee was negated. The remaining option is to submit a petition from GRVNC members to present the methods to the general membership.
In contrast, the following presentation by the Parking Committee, which has been addressing the issue of parking problems in Venice for a couple of months, made a somewhat lengthy presentation without interruption.
Since certification by the City of Los Angeles in March and elections of the Board in June 2002, the Board has spent much time and effort on procedural issues and bylaws. Several committees, in particular the Conservation Committee, Voting Methods Committee, Land Use and Planning Committee and Parking Committee, have been meeting regularly, developing their agendas and preparing reports.
A General Membership meeting will be held in late February. Meeting announcements with agendas will be posted on the Grass Roots Venice website at <www.grassrootsvenice.org>.
Any Venice “stakeholder” (live, work, own property in Venice) who is at least 16 years old may register. You need not be a citizen or eligible to vote for state elections or have a green card to register, but you must be able to document stakeholder status. Register and have input into local government!
Contact us at Progressive Candidates: telephone 310-280-3411 or visit our website: <http://home.attbi.com/~venicecandidates> or via the link at <www.freevenice.org>.
Posted: Wed - January 1, 2003 at 08:38 PM