Voices from Beyond the Ballot Box

Tarzana Swearing In

Neighborhood Council elections are LA’s best opportunity to speak up.

Candidates get to talk about their vision and how it motivates them to speak up for their community.

Voters get to talk about the issues and what prompts them to stand up for their neighborhood.

Neighborhood Councils get to tell their story and communicate their commitment to engaging stakeholders and making government more responsive.

When the canvass of votes has been completed and the newly elected boardmembers have been seated, there comes another opportunity to speak up, this time to evaluate the elections journey. (if you’d like to contribute, click the link and take the 2012 Elections Survey)

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Historic and Cultural Neighborhood Council (HCNC) elections comes off without a hitch, deemed big success!!

On November 15th, nearly 600 voters cast their ballots in the 2012 HCNC Neighborhood Election in less than 6 hours. The average voter times from registration to ballot in the box, was estimated to be 10 minutes per stakeholder, and over half the voters in this election were under the age of 21.

The HCNC represents the original core of our founding city including the El Pueblo, Chinatown, the Arts District, Little Tokyo, Victor Heights, and Solano Canyon. These are the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles and are the most diversified by culture, language and history. The HCNC board is comprised of 33 board member seats, and here in this 2012 election we were voting on half those seats, thus defining a material portion of our board makeup for the coming four years.

Some of the issues the board members faced during the election process include the new Arroyo Seco Community Plan, the future of Dodger Stadium, Development in Chinatown and the Arts District, access to public transportation, the proposed new WalMart in Chinatown, public safety, and many more community grounded issues.

Unlike our national elections on Nov. 6th, where we all witnessed, or experienced long lines for hours, the HCNC elections went off as smoothly as expected. Collaborative efforts between our NC and EmpowerLA created the proper equation for a successful election event. The leadership exhibited by the Independent Elections Administrator Alisa Smith and the team at EmpowerLA was simply the best. As compared to the previous 4 HCNC elections, this 2012 election was the one with the fewest voting hours, and the highest level of voter satisfaction.

Good planning, outreach efforts, terrific staffing, well located signage, and volunteer support all contributed to a seamless and well run event which did this Neighborhood Council and its stakeholders a “good service”.

When the City Clerk’s office decided not to run the NC elections for 2012 the HCNC voiced their objections and concerns. But these concerns were proved to be completely unfounded, as EmpowerLA did its job professionally!!

DONE did it right!

Kim Benjamin
President of Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council

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Dear Alisa

Thank you! Your many hours of exhausting effort created a fabulous election for Lake Balboa-Region 3. No one will know all that you have done for us. The ball is in our court now-watch what you have created!!

Linda Gravani
Boardmember and Candidate
Lake Balboa Neighborhood Council

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On the whole I found this experience much less cumbersome and it had a dynamic aspect to it. We had a short amount of time to get the program up and running and it had a momentum all its own. The outreach component was entirely lacking with the City Clerk’s administration of the previous election and outreach and educating the stakeholders are crucial. There was also an added emphasis on recruiting candidates and that proved very successful, especially having the NCs set recruitment goals which in many cases were met and exceeded. Having local stakeholders volunteer in the election day voting was also cost saving and a good marketing tool for the NCs. The feedback from the surveys that were completed by voters, along with the list of voters and their contact information will prove helpful.

Ginny Hatfield
Neighborhood Council Valley Village, Election Chair

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“What was done right was working with neighborhood councils and asking us what locations were appropriate for the elections and doing the follow up. During the election and prior to the election we made the choices on how we would do outreach together and it made a big difference. The ability to collaborate with other neighborhood councils regionally was very important and helped us strengthen our mission and maximize our funding and get more exposure and engage the community more.

As a volunteer at the different locations, I have never seen the community so engaged in the process. It was very gratifying seeing so many people collaborate because they cared.”

Mary Garcia
Mid-Town North Hollywood Chair
Citywide Poll Worker/Volunteer

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I definitely think that we should continue to run the elections the way we did this last time…not only was it less expensive, but also the involvement by the NC’s as poll workers etc., created a sense of community that the City Clerk and its employees could never accomplish.

We also had a much better chance of getting the survey’s filled out and since everyone knew we were volunteers- they were most appreciative that we were giving up our time to help them. Logistically we can make improvements such as hours etc. We also need to have a better definition of who can vote. I thought Kevin, Glenn, and Stephen did a great job and I personally found it to be a very good experience in the actual workings of the democratic process.

You can count on me to help the next time.

Denyse C. Selesnick
Tarzana Neighborhood Council

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You don’t learn about the way elections work from studying history or civics. In school you can pick up a boatload of information about the way Lincoln’s handlers manipulated their way through the 1860 Republican convention, how vast economic drivers created the New Deal, romantic notions about the Kennedys managing to take charge of the country on the old Eastern Shuttle between Washington and Boston. But no one ever teaches you – least of all in college political science courses – about the nuts and bolts of how to make things work in a free society whose sovereign officer is the electorate at large. It’s really all about contact on an elemental level. Democracy is mostly about a handshake, a joke, and an idea or two – in that order. I didn’t know that before I stood for election to my Neighborhood Council.

I come from a place where they still have town meetings every year. After the centrally administered Neighborhood Council elections here two years ago I was skeptical of them and intent on having us go through a town hall meeting process to select board members for the coming term. What happened instead was that the EmpowerLA gang came to town and started to put together the elections process in an interactive way with the Board members who were not up for election and integrated it with our town events in place, and they won me over. So I went out shaking hands and telling jokes and sharing ideas and played at real live electoral politics. That works for me.

Elliot S! Maggin
Boardmember & Candidate
West Hills Neighborhood Council

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“It was over 100 degrees and we held an outdoor election in Reseda. Several of our NC neighbors in Tarzana, some from Sylmar, Lake Balboa and a couple from Northeast L.A. volunteered for the duration of our 6 hour election, and we had our biggest turnout and smoothest process to date. The great experience our community had continues to get comments every time I interact with folks at meetings and events. People felt us turning an important corner and the enthusiasm level and confidence seems to be at an all-time high thanks to the nature of the overall experience of our election process.”

Kevin Taylor
Reseda Election Committee and new NC Chairman

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Tiny Mack was a candidate who ran for the Watts NC. After the Poll closed, he came to be an observer. He watched the count. And then the recount. And then the Audit. After we finished, and he had not won, he stood up and said: “This is the first time I have had full faith and trust in the Dept. because these Elections were done so well” That was just one of the moments that we worked so hard for.

Jay Handel
Poll Manager and IEA

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As a candidate for a position on the UNNC neighborhood council, a feeling of accomplishment consumed me. I was proud that I could be a beacon of light to my neighbors. One of my proudest moments was seeing my 14 year old neighbor elated to have the opportunity to vote. I believe that the involvement of our younger generations are vital for a continuing progress throughout our state. As a NC candidate I was able to interact with many people in my neighborhood. Many of my neighbors were curious to hear of a Neighborhood Council, they assumed it would be just another department of bureaucracy, that seldom produces effective improvements. As I became involved a sense admiration and pride grew within me, because this organization provides a place where people like myself that live, work, and participate directly in the community could not only voice our opinions, but work collectively for a positive change that we create step by step, until the tasks are complete.

Neighborhood Council elections matter because it gives people a place to directly voice their concerns. They can be assured their issues, no matter how big or small will not fall on deaf ears. It provides a common ground for everyone in the neighborhood. The refreshing surge of empowerment and unity solidifies to create a purpose. The NC provides an outlet for neighbors to proactively work together on projects. Neighborhood Council elections matter because they are run by the people, individuals that live in the neighborhoods. They provide an outlet for the community to collectively organize for the improvement of the communities. More importantly, it allows the people to be more engaged. Neighborhood councils create a ripple of prosperity and active involvement toward progress.

Marilyn Romero
Candidate, UNNC

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I would agree that the election day was quite an experience. Thank you for arranging the poll workers and the volunteers who were so professional and who made a point of keeping voters appraised of the voting guidelines. It is helpful that you provided the link for us to look up the voting results. Thank you for making this part of the process transparent and easy.

Thank you for being open to my concerns. It is my hope that as the neighborhood council progresses it will become more inclusive of others, more regularly have a quorum….and focus on gaining more transparency about how, where, and why money is spent.

Sincerely,
Sunserae Keaton
Voices 90037

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Dear Mr. Rashad,
Thank you for your support and input. I did not win as you know, but the experience was so rich that I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. I’m hoping to be able to qualify for the Community Based Agencies contact person, or one of the other seats that seem to be vacant.

Shelia Nelson

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Overall I believe DONE hit a home run with the election.  It was clearly well organized and well executed.  The pacing was good (for our first try), allowing us to pick up “what worked/what didn’t” from earlier elections.  That also made the process much longer, and I’d suggest a shorter “season” in 2014. 

One of the best parts for me about being involved from the start was watching the evolution of the ideas that were put forth in March of last year.  I know there were many, many naysayers who thought it couldn’t be done.  Thank goodness for the Council members who believed in the process and put their weight behind it, and for you, Grayce and DONE who helped us believe we could make it happen. 

Much appreciation to Stephen Box and his wife for their outstanding support, and I also want to recognize Cindy Cleghorn and Lydia Mather who were instrumental in any success we had in our Region election.  They were brilliant and clearly committed to a successful election.  There were probably many other community based resources who helped other NCs.  We should be reaching out to those folks to solidify the relationships for 2014.  Also big kudos to volunteers across all NCs.  This really was a grass roots success.

For 2014.  My suggestions would include a centralized outreach effort that complements the individual NC effort.  E.g. would be the Regional ads that we did in DN.  Also would suggest that the citytabulate the economic expense and set that amount aside in the FY2014 budget to be used for DONE expenses plus costs for centralized outreach. 

I also believe there is an important “story” here that should be told.  Loudly.  A great outcome of the elections was that NCs really “grew up” and became a real coordinated force.  Now we have to iron out some of the kinks, like the eligibility issue mentioned in the LAT article yesterday.  But there is a very big success story here that should be held in high regard. 

In summary, shorter election season next time, core effort (centralized) coordinated by DONE that complements individual NC effort to do basic outreach, some 2014 city funding equal to the total amount spent on this year’s election (to support DONE, IEAs, election locations, etc), take credit for great work this year, hang on to community based resources.  Last but not least, I really believe the City Council should formally recognize the effort with a proclamation to DONE and to the IEAs.  I don’t believe most folks realize what a herculean effort this was and how outstanding the success is. ;-)

Tony Braswell
President
Neighborhood Council Valley Village 

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