The new Venice Neighborhood Council members are being sworn in right about now. To mark the occasion, we asked the outgoing President of the VNC Mike Newhouse to share some thoughts with the community.
Yo! Venice! would like to thank Mike and all of the other outgoing Council Members for all of their great community work! Hopefully next Tuesday evening finds all of you on the beach having a cold beverage of your choice!
From Mike Newhouse:
An Outgoing Letter From The President of the Venice Neighborhood Council
It is with mixed emotions that I finish my term as President of the Venice Neighborhood Council. After three as an elected member of the VNC, and two and a half years as its President, I feel tremendously proud of what we have done and grateful for the opportunity to have served with my neighbors. But, I also feel that we have only scratched the surface of what needs to be done.
Over the past two and a half years, all twenty-one of your VNC Board members have served with distinction, and made great strides towards making Venice a better place. The Council has made it a priority to engage and involve every specific neighborhood in Venice in our work; whether it be through our Neighborhoods Committee organizing for disaster preparedness, or the Land Use and Planning Committee specifically working with neighborhoods in which a project is proposed for siting. Community Outreach has risen to a new high, with the VNC’s work being more effectively communicated to us all through our newsletter, Your Venice, increased press coverage, e-mail alerts, and community tabling at the Venice Farmer’s Market and First Fridays. We have also taken the concept of Town Hall meetings to a new level, creating interactive forums where hundreds of Venetians come together to discuss an issue, make concrete recommendations as a community, and forward that input directly to the City Council and the Mayor.
More specifically, the VNC has worked with the merchants of Abbot Kinney and the Venice Chamber of Commerce to create First Fridays. We have helped to make recycling on the Boardwalk a reality, added trash cans and recycling bins throughout our commercial districts, and created the Bin Your Butts program, which seeks to provide receptacles throughout Venice for cigarette butt disposal, keeping that waste out of our ocean.
The VNC has also taken an active role in the Neighborhood Council system and in the City. We’ve been a big part of creating the Westside Regional Alliance of Councils, which brings all 13 Westside Councils together to cooperate on issues of regional importance. And, through our participation in the Board of Neighborhood Council Commissioners (BONC), Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC) and other groups, we’ve taken the lead on many city-wide issues and contributed to the best practices of the Neighborhood Council System.
When it comes to funding good works in our community, the VNC has re-invented the model of neighborhood council funding. We reserve almost 50% of our annual budget for projects proposed by stakeholders and community groups that directly benefit Venice. Our innovative method of basing most of this funding on a competitive application process has been widely praised and is being emulated all over the city. As for our serious issues regarding homelessness, the VNC has spent the better part of the last two years working with Councilman Rosendahl’s office to develop a system for overnight parking permits – for neighborhoods that want them – coupled with a Safe RV Parking program to provide refuge and opportunity for members of our community living in their vehicles.
In short, I believe that the VNC has become much more reflective of who we are and what we think as a community. The fact that 43 people ran for office, and almost 1300 voted, in April’s VNC election (more by far than we have ever had – and more than all but 1 of the other 89 Neighborhood Council in Los Angeles) suggests that if nothing else, more Venetians than ever know about the VNC and feel it has an effect on their lives.
However, this is just a start, and so much more needs to be done. While statistically small, over the last year Venice has experienced a disturbing rise in property and violent crimes which must be addressed. Our parking and vehicular congestion problems are growing, and in the midst of a city-wide budget crisis not only is it likely that the VNC’s budget for coming years will be heavily cut, but the city’s ability to provide basic services to our community is also in jeopardy.
Because of all the work that still must be done, I challenge every one of you to get more involved in Venice. Whether that means working directly with the VNC and its committees, starting a neighborhood watch on your street, or simply attending a meeting (which will continue to be held on the 3rd Tuesday of every month at 7pm at Westminster Elementary School) doesn’t particularly matter. What matters is your participation in making our Community a better place. Remember, It’s Your Venice, Get Involved!