VOTING REFORM - The Venice Neighborhood Council is comprised of twenty-one elected officers, all volunteers but elected officials nevertheless.
The board has a president, vice-president, communications officer, treasurer, secretary, land use and outreach chairs all elected at-large.
But the board also has thirteen elected community officers, also elected at-large, but stakeholders only get to select just one!
The question is why?
It’s a question I have asked for decades without a single credible or rational explanation why voters don’t get to select all thirteen or less, if they choose to do so.
Stakeholders are not selecting the full twenty-one member board, but just eight positions or just 38% of the entire VNC membership!
In effect, stakeholder participation has been intentionally minimized and such a rigged system of sorts denies voters in participating in 62% of the overall candidate selection process.
Since all community officers are elected at-large and not by districts or selected neighborhoods in Venice, every officer is a representative of the whole community.
For a review of who has been elected community officer is an array of familiar faces that favors incumbency or those who have sought office before.
Jason Sugars and Christopher Lee for example were both unsuccessful candidates last March, but due to vacancies were appointed to fill unexpired terms.
Both were known quantities to the VNC and will make for qualified representatives for the neighborhood.
For the selection process favors incumbents and familiar faces and the results bear that out.
In the March election community officer incumbents Allie Bean, Clark Brown, Soledad Ursua, CJ Cole and Robert Thibodeau were all re-elected including two other incumbents that have since resigned.
Erica Moore, who was appointed Outreach Chair had run in the past and was a known commodity to stakeholders. Lisa Redmond, who was also elected had run previously as well. Yolanda Gonzalez also elected was a previous board member.
Only new board members Deborah Keaton, Steve Bradbury, Eric Donaldson and Amanda Hordt were elected from a large lot of candidates (over 50) that have never sought community office in the past.
In fact, candidate Bradbury emphasized during his campaign that no one from his Marina area neighborhood was on the board, in effect targeting a small slice of the board’s overall boundaries because of this flawed, one-vote selection process.
He employed the correct election strategy to gain a seat because of this peculiar election selection process.
For if you know fifty friends or neighbors under the current selection process, you can win yourself a board seat which in many ways becomes just a popularity contest versus an actual campaign of ideas and issues.
Personally, I find Mr. Bradbury to be an effective new member and would have considered his candidacy had I not been limited to a single ballot franchise.
For if stakeholders had the ability to choose all thirteen officers, they could select every board seat, and races for the position of community officer will become more democratic with the freedom of choice the election process demands and deserves.
The Rules & Selections Committee of the Venice Neighborhood Council is charged with the responsibility of amending the current By-Laws and Standing Rules so that such obvious discrepancies be corrected by a two-third’s vote of this new VNC board.
This committee has some excellent members, and they take the job of revising and amending the rules seriously.
When I served as moderator for the VNC candidate forums last March, I asked every candidate this very question of amending the By-Laws and not a single incumbent or challenger that participated opposed the notion of an expanded voter franchise for the position of community officer.
Hopefully, they will see the benefit of the expansion of the stakeholder franchise from one to thirteen or less, so that this local democracy will no longer be stunted, but in fact thrive moving forward.
An expanded stakeholder democracy and full voter franchise is simply best for Venice.
(Nick Antonicello is a thirty-year resident that covers the Venice Neighborhood Council. A member of the Outreach and Oceanfront Committees, the author can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].)