MY TURN-When I heard the anti high speed rail group SAFE calling for a demonstration on Wednesday, I was not particularly excited. That is, until one of my very regular readers pointed out that this was more than just about stopping the High Speed Rail. It was about ordinary people rising up and hopefully forcing the CHSRC group to at least listen.
This is what the original founders of the Neighborhood Council system imagined LA’s Neighborhood Councils would do. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Water and Power stands as a significant and rather lonely achievement of the earlier NC's standing up to power.
Such potential to make a difference and currently mired in petty infighting. There were two NC’s, Foothill Trails and Sunland Tujunga involved in the ongoing push against this controversial railroad project, but it was other members of the communities affected who've stayed the course for the last couple of years.
I attended the demonstration fully prepared to see the usual small turnout of activists and malcontents. Imagine my surprise to see a hundred people, many of whom were carrying signs along with a few of the horse set representing the cavalry.
David De Pinto, (photo) president of Shadow Hills Home Owners Association, has been carrying the message and shouting it loudly to both the press, politicians and anyone else who would listen. His consistent beef with the CHSRC is they don't talk to anyone other than their own group. They keep regurgitating the same information. Their last meeting was in Anaheim. This is in spite of the fact that the project would change the environment, create housing and business displacement and may never be properly funded. Some have called it, "The train to nowhere".
There are legitimate arguments on both sides but it seems the opposition is a lot louder and has more to lose. After all, for some it is only their way of living. They do have political support and the LA County Supervisors came out against the plan as it exists. I was told they keep asking Mayor Garcetti for his opinion and get stonewalled. Our Mayor doesn't seem to like controversial issues where he may get people angry with him.
Like many of you ... I look around and get very discouraged about our civic progress. Most of our elected officials are busy planning their run for higher office or making sure that they get re-elected. The appointed staff quickly fall into a COA pattern and know not to make waves.
So when I see a group of stakeholders give of their time, energy and money to stand up to the entrenched politicians I want to shout hurray!!!! On the whole, I think Governor Brown has done a good job but this ... one of his legacies ... has too many bad consequences for too many people.
Other parts of the City are facing different problems. I was once told by a very successful politician "everyone greases a squeaky wheel." But it's not just the noise factor ... it's the organization, it's the facts given without histrionics. It's the structure of the opposition. That is why we have Lobbyists. For the average person, whose life is already stressed with more than they can handle, they are only too happy to leave it to someone else.
Try driving down Wilshire, Santa Monica Blvd or Sunset anytime between 3 and 7 p.m.? Food trucks and cots would do a landslide business for the people driving east. Yet more and more developments are being built. There are issues in every corner of our City.
I thought that the 2020 group laid out a pretty good strategic plan for Los Angeles Most of it got buried in the bureaucracy. Maybe, if that group had gone to the various districts BEFORE they presented it to the City Council, they would have had more enthusiastic buy in from Angelenos, thus putting pressure on the Mayor and City Council.
How do you get average citizens to realize there is strength in numbers and they can make change? One of the political commentators today remarked that we had set the lowest civility bar in our history--- this election. One newspaper columnist suggested we turn off cable news until the debates. I can understand the populace becoming more and more disillusioned.
One can't expect everyone to be altruistic all the time. It is however in our best interests to have good neighborhoods, safe streets, clean water, reasonable utility bills, and good schools. Fortunately, there are still people who will go beyond their own self interests. We need to back them up. We need to take action in determining our future.
David De Pinto and his diverse North East San Fernando Valley community have set the bar higher. If they are ultimately successful, it won't be because the politicians achieved it. The politicians who wrote some of the bills were pressured by many of their constituents and that Ladies and Gentlemen is the way it is done!
As always comments welcome.
(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: [email protected])