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Am I But a Gadfly? 

VOICES-Some time ago, regular CityWatch contributor Ken Alpern told me I should write for CityWatch too, so here I am.  

Surely Dr. Ken Alperin wasn’t referring to me in his June 17 column. I wasn’t a member of any slate, proudly -- and unsuccessfully -- running for At-Large Director on the Mar Vista Community Council as an independent candidate.  

Why, just last August, Dr. Ken supported my seeking the appointment for the then-newly created 7th At-Large Director position and after I was not selected urged me to run for the MVCC this year.  

Dr. Ken is correct that the MVCC election was decided by a landslide. But his attribution of Mar Vista’s decline to the candidates who will not be seated on July 13 is not.  

Who else, though, could he have been calling a gadfly? I am but one of a handful of stakeholders who have regularly participated in the MVCC for as long as I’ve been involved.  

Indeed, I’ve been attending meetings of the MVCC and its committees for two years (though I’ve lived in North Westdale for 9 years). In fact, I earned appointments to serve as vice-chair of two MVCC committees, most recently the Community Plan Subcommittee. Ever-so-conveniently, I had never seen nor heard of most non-incumbent members of both slates until this past February, when the candidate filing period opened. There are some notable exceptions, including David Lee, Venice High School music teacher and a regular participant at meetings of the MVCC’s Education, Arts, & Culture Committee.  

As a matter of fair play, I reached out to all non-incumbent candidates for whom I could find contact info, candidates who -- as it turned out -- were running on both slates and as independents alike. I was delighted to connect with all who responded during the course of the campaign. We had conversations on the phone, via Zoom, even socially distanced in-person, and were able to find common ground on most issues. I spoke to lawyers, educators, marketers, doctors, photographers, architects, and more; not a single unprofessional among them, contrary to how Dr. Ken has characterized many candidates not on his preferred slate. 

In fact, I was the only candidate to be endorsed by candidates on both slates, as well as by independent candidates.  

I must ask Dr. Ken: At what point do I become a real community leader worthy of the votes of my fellow Mar Vistans?  

It is my personal belief that a plurality of views should be represented on the MVCC board, reflecting the plurality of views within our community, and this belief was evidenced by the ballot I submitted.  

Clearly that view was not shared by the candidates or our community, who were riled by the divisive rhetoric that played out on social media, particularly the toxic cesspool known as Nextdoor.  

As it stands, the four incumbents who will continue to serve on the MVCC will be joined by seven of their slate-mates (Stand Up for Mar Vista), as well as three members of the opposing slate (Mar Vista For All) and one candidate who was part of what Dr. Ken refers to as the opposing slate two years ago (Mar Vista Makes Waves). With this constitution, unfortunately, I’m confident that the MVCC board will only achieve a continuation of the contentiousness I’ve witnessed over the past two plus years I’ve participated as a stakeholder.  

It’s fascinating that Dr. Ken makes such a disingenuous juxtaposition between his preferred candidates and the rest he claims want to turn Mar Vista into a lawless hellhole of overdevelopment and waste.  

Dr. Ken should well know my views on planning, infrastructure, homelessness and so on from my participation at MVCC board and committee meetings, and especially from my work on CommPlan, both officially in my capacity as vice-chair and unofficially as a stakeholder determined to empower my neighbors to advocate for themselves. In fact, he and I generally have been on the same side of most issues; we have both spoken in favor or opposition of many issues, all-the-while approaching them from very disparate viewpoints. That is how we reach consensus as a community.  

I hope Dr. Ken remembers my presentation at his Westside Village Homeowners Association to explain the proposed zoning changes in his neighborhood and the one-sheet I prepared to help Zone 1 stakeholders like him write the dozens of letters that were sent to LA City Planning as well as their Councilmember Paul Koretz and his planning deputy Daniel Skolnick.  

I took it upon myself to create these one-sheets for all 7 Zones, assisted stakeholders in arranging meetings with LA City Planning, and hand-delivered the one-sheets to over 110 of my neighbors in Zone 2, North Westdale, so they, too, could make their voices heard to LA City Planning, to our Councilmember Mike Bonin, and to his planning deputy Len Nguyen.  

After all, I call myself a SIMBY: sometimes in my backyard. Except, as one of the ⅔ of Mar Vistans who are renters, I do not, in fact, have a backyard. One of the reasons for this self-description is my contention that development is irresponsible without any correlating improvement to our already-overexerted infrastructure.  

I hope Dr. Ken remembers my “first-rate” contributions to motions pertaining to Transportation & Infrastructure he workshopped, too.  

It’s possible that Dr. Ken does not remember that I live on a street where an encampment has grown over the past 5+ years, detrimentally impacting my daily life, and so I'm very sensitive to the issue of homelessness in our community. 

I’m ever-so-appreciative of the outreach efforts of both slates, and I wish the MVCC itself had been able to offer online registration workshops and help by phone to aid stakeholders in navigating the complex system put in place due to the ongoing pandemic. It’s impressive that 2000+ voters managed to overcome the barrier to voting when many NCs struggled to reach even 100 stakeholders. But with over 50,000 residents and countless other stakeholders who work, own property, or declare a community interest in Mar Vista, that’s no majority.  

Dr. Ken decries a “minority” of “gadflies,” who he sees as “troublemakers.” I’d like to remind Dr. Ken that they’re (we’re?) neighbors, too.  

It seems Dr. Ken rather favors the actual minority, the minority of MVCC residents who are homeowners. Once again, 12 of 15 seats on the MVCC board will be occupied by homeowners, as all of the dominant slate’s 11 candidates are. We underrepresented renters deserve representation and I charge the MVCC board with remembering they represent all Mar Vistans, not only those they agree with.  

I agree that it’s disappointing Mar Vistans haven’t seen Councilmember Bonin -- or Koretz for that matter -- at MVCC meetings for well over two years; however, his deputies have dutifully continued to appear on his behalf. I’m neither beholden nor hostile to our councilmember(s), and I urge the incoming MVCC board to take a similarly measured approach as it is their imperative to advocate to these city representatives and departments on behalf of us stakeholders.  

I’m proud of the campaign I ran, without soliciting donations or fearmongering against opponents, rather favoring collaborative communication and common-sense compromise. I urge the MVCC board to remember: Above all, we’re neighbors. 

I will continue to show up and do work, just as I have for the last two and a half years.  

I will not be silenced. 

 

(Ashley Zeldin has been an active stakeholder in Mar Vista for 2+ years at meetings of the Board of Directors of the Mar Vista Community Council and at various committees including Education, Arts, & Culture; Planning & Land-Use; Transportation & Infrastructure, serving as Vice-Chair of the Community Plan Subcommittee.)