Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council elects new representatives

Eagle Rock City Hall accommodates The Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council (ERNC) meetings at Colorado Boulevard in Los Angeles. Wednesday, April 24, 2019. Bella Fabiani/The Occidental

The Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council (ERNC) elections took place April 13 at Eagle Rock Plaza. According to the official election results posted by the City Clerk’s office, 24 people ran to fill 16 positions on the council. Lisa Kable-Blanchard, immediate past president of the ERNC, said there was a mix of new and incumbent winners, with many of the older executive council members choosing not to run again. She also said that this election was significant because it marked the end of an extended term and the start of a new election schedule.

Kable-Blanchard said that this is the first election to take place since 2016 due to a transition in election management by the city. She said that terms normally last two years. In the past, the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment ran neighborhood council elections, but this time the City Clerk’s office oversaw the election process, according to Kable-Blanchard.

According to Suzanne Smith, former social justice coordinator for the ERNC, the reason for the transition in election authority was that the city of Los Angeles wanted all neighborhood council elections to be held in the same year to save money and promote higher voter turnout. Since the last ERNC elections were held in 2016, this meant the council’s term was extended by a year so that their election would fall on the same year as the other neighborhood council elections.

Some of the elected members will remain in the same position they held before the election. Amy Stein will be returning for another term as art director, Peter Finestone as education director and Sylvia Denlinger as public safety director.

New directors of the board include Haley Solar as business director, Marcel Wittfeld as boulevards director, Victor Sanchez as at-large director, Chloe Renee Ziegler as social justice director and Margaret Irwin as elder director.

Smith said that all of the director positions require connecting to the various communities and organizations of Eagle Rock, including local businesses and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Northeast Police Station.

The next term’s eight sub-district directors are Becky Newman and Lindsay Kiesling for sub-district one, Jesse Saucedo and Michael Sweeney for sub-district two, John Acevedo and Andrew Jacobs for sub-district three and Richard Loew and James Panozzo for sub-district four.

Re-elected sub-district four Director Jesse Saucedo said that the role of the sub-district directors is to act as a liaison between the ERNC and the neighbors and representing their sub-district. He said that some positions on the council remain unfilled.

“We currently have two vacancies: the youth director and sustainability director,” Saucedo said.

According to Kable-Blanchard, the executive board will appoint representatives for the remaining unfilled positions at a special council meeting on May 7.

Saucedo said that voter turnout was lower than in past years due to a lack of visibility and outreach by the council.

“Last time we had elections it was really an event at City Hall,” Kable-Blanchard said. “There was a pie truck and it was a lot more of a party, and I think we picked up a lot of people just going by because it was so visible. I think because [this election] was just upstairs, outside of Target, it was harder to find.”

Smith said that while her term felt very long, she has enjoyed her time on the council.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for people to learn how the city operates and have a vehicle for engaging with the community, meeting people and collaborating with city members to find ways to improve the neighborhood,” Smith said.

Kable-Blanchard said that being under the management of the City Clerk’s office led to other changes in the most recent election. This included changing the dates for signing up for candidacy and allowing more time between the candidacy announcement date and the election itself.

During the special council meeting May 7, Kable-Blanchard said that the outgoing executive board members will set the agenda for the next meeting and officially step down from their positions. She said that she will remain on the ERNC in a supportive role to help get the newly elected members up to speed.

Saucedo said that having a mix of new electees and incumbents will make the transition of leadership smoother.

“There is a pretty steep learning curve when it comes to neighborhood council business, so it helps to have some people who have a working knowledge about how the board works to continue the work,” Saucedo said. “I’m looking forward to some fresh ideas and new perspectives from the newer folks.”