Venice Neighbors Vie for Top Seats

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by Melanie Camp

The 2016 Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) Election will see a record number of candidates scramble to take a limited number of seats this year. Seventy one people have stepped into the ring to battle it out for a handful of spots.

All up there are 21 positions on the VNC Board, comprising seven Executive Board members and 14 Community Officers. Board Members serve a two-year term.

Current VNC President Mike Newhouse says that he predicts the record number of candidates will draw a record voter turnout on Election Day, June 5. Newhouse says that the support the VNC gets from the Venice Beach community gives the Council strength in numbers. “The City [of L.A.] takes the VNC seriously because we consistently field the most candidates, and turn out the most voters, citywide,” Newhouse said. “We also have higher meeting turnout than any other neighborhood council in the city.”

EmpowerLA, the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment with City of Los Angeles runs the neighborhood council elections, and explained that Neighborhood Councils by definition, are City-certified local groups made up of people who live, work, own property, or have some other connection to the neighborhood. Neighborhood Council Board Members are elected or selected to their positions by the neighborhoods themselves.

The VNC plays an integral part in helping the Venice community bring to light important issues and to have a strong voice at the City level.

Newhouse says that the input the neighborhood council has is “a big benefit because we only have 15 city council members, and they have massive constituencies compared to other major city, city councils. Neighborhood councils help council members keep their pulse on what is important to their districts.”

The VNC has weighed in on many issues with direct impact seen in outcomes at a City level. Newhouse says that the biggest issue where VNC sees its influence felt, is homelessness and dealing with the homeless crisis in Los Angeles.

“Participating in the Venice Neighborhood Council gives you the opportunity to shape the future of Venice,” added Los Angeles City Coun- cilmember Mike Bonin. “By running and serving, you will have an opportunity to work on projects to beautify your neighborhood, tackle homelessness and other pressing issues, and weigh in on develop- ment projects to make sure that Venice looks and grows the way you think is most appropriate. You also meet tons of neighbors, and I assure you that you will never, ever be bored.”

EmpowerLA says Neighborhood Council Board Members, both elected and appointed, are required to do three things in order to vote on issues that come before the council: take Ethics Training, take Funding Training, and sign a Code-of-Conduct Certificate.

Melissa Diner currently serves as a Community Officer on the VNC Board and says the job of a VNC board member is to “serve as customer service representatives to our community fielding complains, concerns, and ideas to the right people both within the VNC and at the various city and county agencies depending on the issues.”

Diner says a board position should be about serving the Venice Community and not be an ego- driven decision. “Most importantly our job as board members is to talk to as many community mem- bers as we can, whether they attend the VNC meeting or not, and come up with ideas that we as community members want to see come to fruition in our community that truly represent the majority of Venetians.

EmpowerLA enables Neighborhood Council elections to be open to everyone who lives, works, or owns real property in the neighborhood, and also to those who declare a stake in the neighborhood as a community interest stakeholder. Jump on the EmpowerLA website to make sure you qualify to vote.

Election Day is Sunday, June 5, 2016 from 10am-6pm at the Oakwood Recreation Center, 767 California Avenue Venice.

Stay up to date with all news regarding the upcoming VNC elections with Yo! Venice.

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