So this is my overview of the October 2019 VNC Board Meeting and the items that stood out on my radar. I got there a few minutes after 7pm (when it starts) and was the last one to leave.
The normal boring agency and local government announcements occupied the first hour. Of worthy mention was LAPD announcing they are now citing people at Oakwood Park for off-leash dogs which is an action that Save Venice worked to get into motion.
My understanding is that EmpowerLA, the LA City department that oversees all LA city neighborhood councils, was there “investigating” to ensure proper procedure for financial expenditure items. Not sure what the background is on that but it’s worth making not of.
I made a public comment giving an update on the First Baptist Church of Venice (FBCV) struggle and regarding Los Angeles Indigenous Peoples Day. The FBCV struggle is still in full effect despite the lack of attention by popular media opportunists. Save Venice has a civil lawsuit case against the City of LA hearing on November 7th at Stanley Mosk Courthouse and the Penskes still have a pending CEQA appeal and California Coastal Commission hearing to get past and to date, after 2 + years they have not been able to stick a shovel in the dirt. Just passing Indigenous Peoples Day (IPD) on Sunday I reminded everyone that it was Venice who lead the charge for the IPD holiday in 2015. Mike Bonin and Mitch O’Farrell conveniently leave that out of their narrative. I ended it by offering two self-reflective questions. 1) What is your relationship with the Native peoples of Los Angeles and 2) How or how are you not perpetuating colonial displacement patterns of old?
A very interesting exchange took place regarding agenda item 12A put forth by Bruno Hernandez who runs the VNC Arts Committee. The motion read:
“ 12A CIS in Opposition to Council File 11-1705: Citywide Sign Regulation Ordinance (Bruno Hernandez on behalf of the Arts Committee [email protected]) (10 minutes) MOTION: The Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) requests that the following statement of “Opposition Unless Amended” be attached to Council File 11-1705: Citywide Sign Regulation Ordinance. The Venice Neighborhood Council opposes “CF 11-1705: Citywide Sign Regulation Ordinance” unless it is amended due to the negative impact it will have on independent artists and small business and property owners in the Venice community and the city of Los Angeles. Due to the positive social and economic impact of hand-painted “sponsored” murals and signs; artists, small businesses and mom & pop property owners should be able to control a portion of the media where such can be placed and the proposed Sign Regulation Ordinance does not provide for this.
Additionally, hand painted murals that recognize sponsors and commercial projects are not currently allowed by right under the Fine Art Mural Ordinance. (LAMC Sec 14.4 et seq). Furthermore, in an effort to remove “billboard blight,” the proposed Ordinance considers issuing new permits in exchange for the removal of such blight. However, it does not create any other criteria to acquire these legal permits except for such an exchange or payment of an in lieu fee. Neither the Planning Department Report of May 28, 2019 regarding “Equity for Smaller Outdoor Advertising Companies” nor current sign regulations allow for a sustainable mechanism for independent artists and small outdoor sign companies to acquire legal permits or to afford in lieu fees in order to create hand-painted commercial projects. Recommended by Arts Committee 3-0-0 on 9-30-2019 ”
This was probably the most intelligent discussion and constructive discourse I have seen from this VNC board yet. I recommend you check it out. It was highly contentious given the corporate business and possible gentrification dynamics associated with it. I believe a representative from Ban Billboard Blight was there, he made a good case against the motion. All the board members who spoke on the item seemed to fluctuate between being for and against but with the motion eventually passing.
Asking Bruno for his perspective he said:
“I just feel that there are certain people on the Board who understand independent business and artists and work to create opportunities for them to prosper. You know a rising tide raises all boats so it’s a real credit for the Board members that supported the motion and worked on it. It’s a statement on behalf of Venice that things like hand-painted murals and the people who craft them should be recognized and considered when the new ordinance is made. It’s hard to believe that half the Board would think that trying to give a voice to the independent artists who do hand painting would somehow create giant McDonald’s billboards everywhere. Thank God for George Francisco saving the day! This is one of the few, if not the only highly debated subjects that I’ve seen that was supported by board members that rarely if ever seem to be on the same side of issues. I’m just glad that the tiebreaking vote came down on the right side of looking out for the little guys. It’s a beautiful thing when art can unite and bring us together to protect the voice for some people that are way too often ignored.”
I have a feeling this will topic will be coming up more in the future.
Next Agenda item of interest was 12B: “Renewal of VNC Ad Hoc Homeless Committee” (Charles Rials)
Due to expired committee chair appointment time limit rules VNC had to revote on creating the committee again. I believe it was three people, including myself, who made public comment regarding discontent with Matt Fisher essentially being black balled from the committee as well as other committee efforts surrounding the topic of housing/homelessness. VNC president Ira Koslow expressed some defensive perspective and reasoning for why he left out Matt Fisher but it got lost in a tit for tat exchanges between Matt and Ira. In that exchange accusations about child abuse enabling popped up. Not sure what that was about but obviously there’s some deeper underlying dynamics.
Charles Rials, the assigned Homeless Committee chair left the meeting early and never returned. I can only speculate it was because he was overwhelmed with the homeless committee drama. He’s a young man extremely new to Venice politics so I’m sure he’s feeling a lot of pressure. While the bulk of the discussion revolved around Matt Fisher being left out of all homeless and housing related committees the board eventually voted on the motion which was to approve the formation of the homeless committee. I hope the background drama that seems to be stifling this important work gets resolved soon.
Final Agenda item of interest was 12C:
“ 12C. Amend VNC Bylaws to Increase the Number of Community Officers that stakeholders can vote for (15 minutes)
MOTION: The VNC Board shall amend its bylaws to allow each LWO stakeholder of Venice to be able to cast three (3) votes for the thirteen (13) Community Officers. ARTICLE X: ELECTIONS Section 4A shall be amended as follows: . Each LWO (Live-Work-Own Property stakeholder shall be entitled to cast votes as follows: One (1) Vote for President; One (1) Vote for Vice President; One (1) Vote for Secretary; One (1) Vote for Treasurer; One (1) Vote for Communications Officer; One (1) Vote for Community Outreach Officer; One (1) Vote for Land Use and Planning Committee Chair; and Up to Three (3) votes for Community Officer. ARTICLE X: ELECTIONS Section 4B. “Each Community Interest Voting Member shall be entitled to cast one (1) vote for a Community Interest Community Officer candidate”
Recommended by Rules and Selections 7-0-0 on 9/16/19 NOTE: Amendments to the bylaws require a two-thirds (⅔) majority vote of the full Board of Officers.
This is an important topic. In deconstructing tools of racism and analyzing the mass displacement of traditional Venetians from this community, we can surely find voting policies to be gentrification instruments. The proponents of this motion’s essential claim is that the current VNC voting rule of only being able to vote for one community officer during elections is less than democratic. I made a public comment noting how most of the people I’ve seen rally around this topic on the internet are people who’ve been vocal against the fight for the church and equity movements in general. I also mentioned that when the VNC board was mad homogenous last term no one had issue. But now that there’s a trace of diversity on the current VNC board there seems to be an issue. Those are major flags.
Some board members were initially on the fence or confused thinking it was a good a thing but thankfully they listened to reason. Even Ira Koslow and Ivan Spiegel, who many claim were instrumental in marginalizing traditional Venetians by dismantling the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council (GRVNC) way back when, commented against it. Despite the experiential proof of senior board members and traditional residents some board members still insisted their democracy was being shorted. It’s moments like this where you can see the subtleties of racism at work. Here you have an issue where majority, black, brown, and traditional Venetians not adequately represented in the council and most targeted by law enforcement and real estate vultures, clearly expressing facts about why this motion is not good for us and you get the white gentry insisting, against facts, that it is actually their democracy that’s being shorted.
It also resurrected the topic of how certain forces dismantled the GRVNC. Ivan and Ira insist the current VNC bylaws which they helped create was more fair than the GRVNC and is more inclusive than the proposed motion on the table. However, if we look at the impact of the GRVNC’s destruction it’s evident that it marginalized the bulk of our voice. If you care about equity and racial and economic justice you will keep your radar up for any more attempts to tamper with voting equity.
It’s important to get out to these meetings. Gentrification and polite white supremacy forces are at work. Sometimes obvious, sometimes very deceptive but are doing what they do to further marginalize us. Fakers only prevail when the true hearted Venetians don’t show up.
My name is Mike Bravo, I am a 5th generation Venetian, Indigenous Spiritual Activist, and Youth Mentor. I am also a former board member of the Venice Neighborhood Council (2014-2016.)
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