THE TREASURER OF VENICE
By Jim Smith
In those “endless summer” days back on the beach around 1970, not even in my wildest fantasies did I think I would someday be elected the Treasurer of Venice! Alright, it’s actually treasurer of the Venice Neighborhood Council, but let’s not quibble over semantics.
As I sat there on the sand with my friends, inhaling the sweet aroma of, er ah, the fresh seabreeze, I gave little thought to how to preserve this wonderful slum by the sea, as Larry Lipton called it. Venice was a breath of freedom in an oppressive, Vietnam-era land. What obligation did my friends and I have except to enjoy it?
Oh sure, I went to all the protests and riots. But I left the serious work of defending Venice to John Haag, Carol Berman, Rick Davidson, Mary Lou Johnson, Marvena Kennedy and all the others.
But all too soon the endless summer ended. I became a union organizer. A worthy endeavor, except that I spent many weeks, months and years seeing, and being in Venice, only at night and early in the morning, since my organizing work took me elsewhere. It was always a joy to return to Venice after short trips away. I treasured the infrequent strolls along the Ocean Front, or a chance to watch the sun sink behind the mountains.
In the late nineties, I began feeling that something was wrong. It was like an itch on the back of my neck. Perhaps it was seeing all those big, ugly boxes rising throughout Venice. When one popped up next door, I knew it was time for action. Something had to be done, or else wealth and greed would make the community many of us love, disappear into the homogenization of Los Angeles.
I found that quite a few other Venetians had also felt that itch on the back of their necks. Now there are more than 600 of us who cared enough to vote in the past election that propelled 10 of us into the neighborhood council, where we might be able to do some good, or even save Venice.
Let me end this with a Call to Action to everyone who, like me, has ever experienced those nirvana moments that often come to residents of our community. Venice has given us much over the years, now she needs us. All of us have an obligation not just to enjoy Venice but to help preserve her. In a sense, we all need to be treasurers of Venice. If everyone who cares, will join a Venice organization, come to a meeting, and support those who are doing their best to retain our ethnic and economic diversity, then we’ll win. That is, we’ll be able to pass on this special place to the next generation, and the one after that.
Check the Beachhead for ways to get involved.
Posted: Wed - October 1, 2003 at 07:07 PM