Editor’s note: the following is a column from CD 11 candidate Jim Murez in response to a recent Letter to the Editor Yo! Venice published.
By Jim Murez
My vision for Venice and all of Council District 11 is much different than some have recently represented. For my entire 35 years of living in Venice, I have always believed in humane treatment for the homeless living in our community, but have always stood opposed to people living on our streets, beaches and parks. Those positions are not in conflict. We can be humane and restore our community. My track record on the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) for the past twenty years has always been to support finding solutions to problems, and my voting record backs me up.
I am proud of my work on the VNC, including the work we have done with respect to homelessness. The VNC has taken a strong position on issues that relate to homelessness in Venice. As a Los Angeles Certified Neighborhood Council, the VNC is restricted by the laws of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment and our adopted Bylaws. These laws define our geographical region and bind our jurisdiction to issues which fall within these boundaries. When larger regional problems require action, we propose recommendation to the West Los Angeles Regional Alliance of Neighborhood Councils (WRAC), which in turn considers the issue between the fourteen participating councils.
What the VNC is not is the attack dog for any disgruntled individual, even if that individual is a VNC Officer. My track record on the VNC is one of transparency and inclusion. For example, when I became President, I extended Public Comment at our meetings to allow people more time to have their voices heard. The VNC Board is comprised of 21 Officers; I am only one voting member and normally do not talk on agenda items when I’m conducting the meeting. I have no more nor less control over the outcome of an item than any other Board Officer. It is outrageous for anyone to accuse me or any other Board member that is following the Brown Act, a State law that dictates public transparency of Board Members who have the authority to take actions, of engaging in conversations outside the public arena. Clearly, any individual that engages in such accusations is not only breaking the law, but crying out for attention.
My vision as a candidate running for Council District 11 is very clear on my website at www.MurezForCityCouncil.com, which goes into detail about my proposal for a FEMA like response to the current homeless emergency by creating triage-like camp sites where homeless people can live until the City has enough beds in shelters, tiny homes, or any of several other solutions. I want social workers, backed up by LAPD officers, to immediately enforce all laws restricting camping in public spaces as soon as the sites get opened. These sites will start being created on day one after I’m elected, and will provide restrooms, showers and electricity, along with 24/7 security and case management staff. There will be several location options, including women only and families with children, in addition to general population sites. There will not be a curfew or lights out restriction and people will be given the flexibility to pick their own neighbors. Case workers will be available to help with job placement and registration for housing programs, as well as enrollment into recovery programs. For those that are seriously substance addicted or mentally ill who will still be required to clear the streets, case workers will be assigned to help get these individuals the help they need and placement into County operated facilities. No one will be left behind; we must return our quality of life to an acceptable level where we all feel safe and secure in our neighborhoods and proud of our community.
The VNC Board, as well as our Homelessness Committee, have a long track record when it comes to having strong positions related to issues of encampments, RV’s parked on our streets, and trying to help the City find solutions for homeless people. Below is a brief recap of several recommendations made just this year.
On 11/30/2021, the Homeless Committee approved 7/0/0 a motion written by Clark Brown recommending moving all the homeless to vacant land at LAX. Although the concept sounded well thought out and inclusive, and the Board voted to approve it (meeting date 1/18/2022), no one but Mr. Brown was aware that the site he specified was abutting a public elementary school. When the Board Members realized how they had been misled by Mr. Brown’s motion, at the following Board Meeting 2/15/2022, the Board reconsidered the motion and voted 17/1/0 to retract the motion due to lack of outreach to the Westchester NC, which had already determined an appropriate place to create a homeless shelter. The one opposing vote was Mr. Brown, with everyone else supporting returning the motion to the Homeless Committee to be rewritten before being reconsidered.
On 2/15/2022, the Board approved a Community Impact Statement to Increase Mental Health Beds and Related Staffing and filed it with the City Clerk (CF 21-0002-S195). In this case, the Board of Officers passed the motion, voting 18/0/0.
On 2/22/2022, at a Special Board Meeting, the Board passed 16/2/0 to file a Community Impact Statement with the City Clerk opposing Mike Bonin’s motion to allow homeless shelters to be created without any public hearings in any neighborhood by any non-profit company. The motion also allowed the City to make temporary shelters permanent, again without any community input.
On 3/15/2022, the VNC Board supported the community Hurricane/Grand Canal residents by asking the City to not approve a Public Works project that potentially would create homeless encampments on the abutting proposed parking lot without first addressing the community concerns. This motion passed 17/0/0, with 1 recusal.
On 4/19/2022, the VNC Board supported a motion with a vote of 16/0/1 to implement the settlement terms of the LA Alliance v. City of Los Angeles case in Venice and throughout CD11.
Also on 4/19/2022, the VNC Board considered a motion to put mobile toilets for sanitary health and safety in Venice at any encampment where 5 or more tents existed. A lot of the discussion focus was on Centennial Park, where the encampment has now grown to over 100 tents, and the abutting Venice Branch Library restrooms and other facilities are overrun on a daily basis by homeless individuals. The motion failed with a vote 2/14/1.
The details of these VCN actions, as well as many earlier recommendations related to homelessness, are available in the Minutes of the VNC meetings at www.VeniceNC.org.
We are all entitled to our own opinions, but let’s get the facts correct before publishing misleading stories that only increase tensions and sensationalize fake news. I believe we need to work together to find solutions to the poor political leadership we have had over the past several years. I intend to bring strong leadership and practical immediate solutions to our district and to our community.