Neighborhood Council Elections underway in NELA

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Claire Jang/The Occidental

In NELA neighborhood council elections are officially underway — the window to request vote-by-mail applications opened Feb. 12 and will close April 6, one week before election day April 13. A vote-by-mail application is required to receive a ballot and can be emailed or mailed to the City Clerk’s Election division office. Vote-by-mail ballots must be postmarked by election day and received by the City Clerk’s Election Division’s office by April 16 in order to be counted. Ballots can be mailed or dropped off at unannounced Ballot Drop Box locations. 

The current cycle of neighborhood council elections began November 2020 and runs through June 2021. They rely exclusively on vote-by-mail ballots due to the ongoing threat to public safety posed by the coronavirus pandemic. In the 2020 presidential election this past November, nearly 80 percent of the record-breaking 4,338,191 votes cast in LA County came via vote-by-mail ballots according to the LA County Clerk’s office.

This current election cycle has a variety of positions available, which vary by district. Neighborhood councils are composed of community members who donate their time in office as volunteers. Each council’s structure is different, depending on the community it serves. 

In order to run for a position, the candidate cannot qualify as a for-profit entity. Additionally, depending upon the position, they must be at least 16 or 18 years old, and live, work or be a stakeholder in the neighborhood, according to the LA City Clerk‘s office.

According to the Empower LA website, Neighborhood Councils form the grassroots portion of the LA City government. They are advisory bodies funded by taxpayers that advocate for their communities at City Hall for issues such as homelessness, development and emergency preparedness

The neighborhood council system was established in 1999 to ensure appropriate governmental response to concerns voiced by local communities. According to Regina Freer, politics department chair at Occidental College, LA’s neighborhood councils were modeled after the Empowerment Congress of the early 1990s.

“The city-sponsored Neighborhood Council system based upon this model was initiated in part to respond to secession efforts in the San Fernando Valley, San Pedro, and Hollywood,” Freer said via email. “Residents in these areas asserted that LA city government officials were not paying adequate attention to their voices and concerns and quality of life issues, and so they sought to break away and form their own city governments.”

According to Frederick Cole, Urban & Environmental Policy (UEP) professor at Occidental College, the pandemic has revived interest in local, community politics as pandemic-related restrictions and guidelines have impacted every community member in some capacity. 

“What does it mean to ‘Build back better?’ That’s not going to be decided by a gridlocked Congress. It’s going to be determined by Mayors and Council members,Cole said via email.

Cole, who has spent a career in LA area government and most recently served as the city manager of Santa Monica from 2015–2020, said local governments like neighborhood councils need to remain focused on developing a comprehensive plan to smoothly transition communities out of the pandemic, while also considering inequities and disproportionate impacts that have been experienced by lower-income communities.

“Going forward, it will be equally critical for State and local government to have an effective plan for coming out of this disruption which has laid bare the grotesque inequities in our society,” Cole said via email.

Richard Loew, current Sub-District Four director and vice president up for reelection in Eagle Rock, stated that while the pandemic has instilled new societal issues, other citywide issues have remained relevant.

“While COVID-19 and vaccine distribution have been a significant topic, so has homelessness, which we continue to see lots of in Eagle Rock and city-wide,” Loew said. “We want to get those people housed and into stable situations, and make sure that we are also keeping those who are housed in stable living situations.” 

According to Loew, he will also be looking to examine the role of police in the city.

“While it’s definitely contentious, the amount of resources that are being allocated to them in comparison to other pressing issues is going to be a topic in the council going forward. We want those resources to be allocated in places that really need them,” Loew said.

Ash Kramer, incumbent treasurer of Cypress Park up for reelection, said that prior to the pandemic, the Neighborhood Council’s budget paid for events, provided Neighborhood Purpose Grants to local nonprofits and covered business expenses such as storage and copies. According to Kramer, this year’s budget has gone to addressing food insecurity and providing grants to organizations that provide food to communities.

Arroyo Seco

Vote-by-mail requests opened Feb. 12 and will close April 6. Election Day is April 13. The final date ballots will be accepted is April 16, as long as the postage date was on Election Day, or beforehand.

At Large Representative: Lucia Fabio, Timothy Gillis, Norma Perez-Morin, Alan Meier

Community At Large Representative: Teresa Bonsell, Drew Paonessa

Montecito Heights Representatives: Neiel Norheim, Steven Austin

Monterey Hills Representatives: Jim Henderson, Lynda Valencia

Mount Washington Representatives: Jennifer Bass, Joseph P. Desbarres, Ted Cannon, Nicholas Manalo

Sycamore Grove Representatives: Jessica Brennan, Madeline Vaiden

Eagle Rock

Voting By Mail requests opened Feb. 12, and will close April 6. Election Day is April 13. The final date ballots will be accepted is April 16, as long as the postage date was on Election Day, or beforehand.

Arts Director: Joe Moller

At-Large Director: none

Boulevards Director: Payam Ayazı

Business Director: Amy Evans

Education Director: Wade Harpootlian

Elder Director: Margaret Irwin

Public Safety Director: Claire Savage

Social Justice Director: Michelle Rojas-Soto, Flor Chaidez

Sub-District One Director: Becky Newman, Lindsey Kiesling

Sub-District Two Director: Michael Sweeney, Sylvia Denlinger, Star Silva

Sub-District Three Director: Rebecca Helm, Andrew Jacobs

Sub-District Four Director: James Panozzo, Craig M. Hirsch, Richard Loew

Sustainability Director: Laura Gonzalez

Youth Director: Velouria Perez, Zev Cambre, Adam Amaya

Elysian Valley Riverside (District Seven)*

Voting By Mail requests opened Feb. 5 and will close March 30*. Election Day is April 6. The final date ballots will be accepted is April 9, as long as the postage date was on Election Day, or beforehand.

At Large Representative: Xochilt Ivanov, Elsa Palomino, Juvenal Flores, Julie Sharron, Gracie Figueroa, Perla Escobar, Leydis Romero, Leticia Saldana, Melanie Petrushkin, Maria Elena Barboza, Maria Alejandra Minisee, Christine Louise Mills, Carey McDonald, Carlos Acevedo, Carrie Sutkin, Teo Berndt, Frank Mendoza Jr., Shaun Bandrowski, Alejandro Palomino, Alfonso Flores, Ana Gomez

Community Interest At-Large Representative: Linda Alfaro

Glassell Park

Voting By Mail requests opened Feb. 12, and will close April 6. Election Day is April 13. The final date ballots will be accepted is April 16, as long as the postage date was on Election Day, or beforehand.

Area One Representative: none

Area Two Representative: Brian McCain

Area Three Representative: Christina Dornbierer

Area Four Representative: David Calvo

Area Five Representative: Kelly McVey

Area Six Representative: Nancy Saltzman

Area Seven Representative: none

At-Large Representative: Blake Salzman, Erick Vasquez, Juliano Calvo, Jon Jandoc, Karin Davalos, Lindsay Kwock Hu, Rhonda Saunders, Sara Reihani

Greater Cypress Park

Voting By Mail requests opened Feb. 12, and will close April 6. Election Day is April 13. The final date ballots will be accepted is April 16, as long as the postage date was on Election Day, or beforehand.

At Large Seat: Bryan Kramer, Javier Lopez Jr., Lizette Montes, Mack Hill, Clint Birdsong, Romana Barajas, Teresa De Jesus Roman, Susan Rocha, Alexia Teran, Alfred Beltran, Ash Kramer

Hermon

Voting By Mail requests opened Feb. 12, and will close April 6. Election Day is April 13. The final date ballots will be accepted is April 16, as long as the postage date was on Election Day, or beforehand.

Community Organizations: Lee Turner

Educational Representative: Dentis Fowlkes

Community Interest Representative: Jer Adrianne Lelliott, Courtney Davison

Cultural (Historical, Culture, and the Arts) Representative: Nicole Mihalka

Hermon – East District Representative: Leonel Aguilar

Hermon – North District Representative: Katherine Harrington

Hermon – West District Representative: Jorge Quezada

Quality of Life (Environment, Health & Safety) Representative: Danielle Suarez

Student Representative: Jessica Jimenez

Historic Highland Park

Voting By Mail requests opened Feb. 12, and will close April 6. Election Day is April 13. The final date ballots will be accepted is April 16, as long as the postage date was on Election Day, or beforehand.

Arts Director: Ramona Joy Mikelson

At-Large Directors: Emily Kate Spokes, Emily Lu Aldrich, Estrella Sainburg, Mary Allison, Charles Blumsack, Robert E. Diaz, Theresa M. Elorriaga, Duncan Gregory, Sean-Michael Bowles, Scott Jackson, Steve Crouch, Shanna Oskin, Albert Ching

Business Directors: Cate Roberts, Christian Garcia

Homelessness Director: Theresa Saso

Housing Director: Rose Serna, Ghazal Hashemi

Public Safety Director: Steve Crouch, Samantha McBride

Senior Director: none

Sustainability Director: Elle Marquis, Prudence Boczarski-Daniel

Youth Seat: none

You can email your vote by mail application to the City Clerk’s Election division office at clerk.electionvbm@lacity.org or by mail at 555 Ramirez Street, Space 300 Los Angeles, CA 90012.