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Lesson in Grassroots Democracy: Council District 5

And the winner is … David T. Vahedi.

The 60 or so representatives of dozens of groups that are part of the Coalition of Homeowner Associations-Council
5 came to a near-unanimous verdict that Vahedi, an attorney and former state tax auditor, was their choice vahedi.jpgto succeed Councilman Jack Weiss, the wannabe City Attorney they disliked so much they tried to recall him.

I was one of the moderators of the group’s recent two-hour forum in which five Fifth District candidates participated and here’s what homeowner activists said when asked later “which candidate
or candidates were the most likely to be an advocate for protecting and preserving

1. David T. Vahedi (83%)

2. Ron Galperin (33%)

3. Paul Koretz (15%)

4. Robyn Ritter Simon (4%)

5. Robert Schwartz (0%)

Adeena Bleich was a “no show” at the last minute, which didnt help her case among this segment of the population of CD5, which includes Sherman Oaks and a large chunk of the Westside.

CD5, along with Bill Rosendahl’s district farther west, are the most affluent areas of the city. Yet, the most striking impression I have from giving up my status as a Valley guy and venturing out across L.A. among community activists from every part of the city is the universal experience of anger and frustration.

Rich or poor, regardless of race or economic class, the experience is the same: City Hall gives them the runaround, nothing but lip service, and doesn’t solve their problems or address their needs.

Some are angrier than others, their specific issues are different and so often are the values they have. But they are fed up with being disrespected and powerless.

The groundswell of this discontent is beginning to coalesce and the city elections in March will show, I believe, that a popular uprising is taking shape.

Marcia Selz and her CD5 homeowners coalition taught me a lesson in how community groups can methodically dissect candidates’ backgrounds, records and positions.

They started with a small group interviewing the candidates individually at length and compiled what they learned and the independent research they did into this chart cd5interviews.htm.

Then, they prepared a detailed set of questions for the three moderators to ask and gave each candidate the chance to respond. Development was their No. 1 concern as it is in much of the city.

After the forum, they surveyed cd5survery.htm the participants and came up with the scores reflecting their judgment, not an endorsement.

They also surveyed what participants thought of the process and found 83 percent said they were much better informed and 78 percent said the interviews were very or extremely helpful.

Personally, I felt like I knew a lot — not just from what they said — but from the way the candidates responded which gave me a feel for their personalities. The coalition intends to put the video of the event on the Internet.

I’m not sure every group has someone as organized and detail oriented as Marcia Selz but the basic process could be used anywhere.

In fact, I hope the Saving L.A. Project applies it to officeholders themselves as a means of pinning them down on the issues confronting the citybefore they go into back rooms and make deals and script their public performances.

As community groups come together, we are seeing positive signs of change. The Cultural Heritage Commission vote to grant monument status to Griffith Park, the DWP debate on a Ratepayer Advocate, the Planning Commission push for a ban on new billboards are just a few of the recent events where public pressure have helped move things forward.

Even the lively City Council debate on ballot measures this week shows what happens when the poltiicians see the community is paying attention, getting aroused and organizing.

For a long time, I’ve said i’m not sure if we can change the people but I know we can change the agenda.

I’m now beginning to think we could even change the people. The entry of DWP board president Nick Patsaouras into the Controller race, strong challengers to Weiss for City Attorney and the possibility Rich Caruso will jump into the mayor’s race provide the opportunity to wake up the voters and make a difference.

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6 Responses to Lesson in Grassroots Democracy: Council District 5

  1. Anonymous says:

    That group pushing Vahedi who’s the puppet of the spiteful and badly failed little recall effort, and hostily shuning anyone associated with Weiss or who has common sense and balance when it comes to how things actually run in the city and getting things done (their 3 on the bottom, plus “no show” Bleich who was smart enough to smell an ambush), is like a bunch of McPalin supporters taking a poll on who should be in charge of family planning.
    You yourself, Ron, although you’ve done some good, are a Valley-first, long-time Valley secessionist who is openly allied with those who oppose anything to do with the westside, e.g., Antonovich/ Khabe/ Molina on Prop R, because it would mean “subsidizing the rich liberals,” etc. etc. on down the line. The handful of old folks who held this secret meeting in NO WAY represent anywhere near the mainstream of the district, let alone the majority. That “coalition” of homeowner groups is an insular little group whose “leaders” are just people with time of their hands while the mainstream are busy working, raising their families and living in the real world. The fact that you, an active activist AGAINST CD5 and its people, presume to tell the citizens what to do, how to think, who to vote for, and were asked to by that little group, is indicative of this absurd isolation. A first instict is to say, “Where does this guy get the nerve to show up and presume to influence opinion in this district?”
    If you were to speak to a truly representative group in the district, you’d be roundly snubbed, as these people are by the majority in their district at Expo/ MTA community meetings, or anywhere that is truly open and publicized to the general citizenry. Therefore, I have no problem with your “moderating” these events, because I trust the generally educated and more well-traveled and common-sense populace to see through you and these people and totally disregard them. You’ll see that’s true when the REAL public opinion registers at the polls. But I thank you and that group for serving as a straw poll, because whoever they back, down will be up and up will be down. Thankfully.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The “objective” ranking system is so transparent it’s funny. Ritter-Simon, a former Hahn Mayoral appointee to the Westside Planning Commission and former head of Century City Chamber of Commerce, only gets FAIR rating because it concludes, “no homeowner assn. experience.” Bleich, the former Weiss field deputy, naturally only scores FAIR from this group. (They probably wanted to give her a POOR but that would have been too obvious.)
    They even throw in “no homeowner assn. experience” for Koretz, a former city mayor, councilman and state assemblymember, whose long c.v. makes it impossible to disregard into a FAIR anyway.
    The clear bias towards anyone who’s served on an HOA Board, namely as a rep for the Coalition of HOA’s that you say is founded by the same Marcia Selz who you also say organized and spearheaded the poll and “objective forum,” is just silly. If a group is going to openly regard that as bearing higher value than actually working on a city commission, working with the highest levels of government as an appointee and equal, this “ranking” is meaningless. I think the candidates will be able to make that clear to the voters when the time comes, so we can choose someone who’s most qualified to get the job done.

  3. ellen vukovich says:

    Okay, I am going to jump in. As one of the “old people” that attended the Candidate’s Forum, as compared to those above who did not, let me just say they don’t get what has happened. The results of the Forum pale in comparison to the fact that each of the candidates heard from active and concerned citizens about what’s on their minds and why. The questions were carefully crafted in order to illicit the respones we need to make informed choices.
    And, I don’t mind saying we are biased. Just like the writers above. What’s wrong with looking for a Council Member to speak on our interests as well as those of developers, special interests, etc.? How often do the voters get an opportunity to conduct in depth interviews (which was done) coupled with holding a forum (after said interviews) with a person whose decisions (for the next 12 years!) will seriously impact our community, neighborhoods and even property values? We made this time to to establish our working relationships. When else are we supposed to do this? After an election, when our backs are up against a wall after learning that a major traffic generating project is planned for our community?
    The fact that there are many of us from the 5th District (including the Valley and West LA) that are speaking, meeting and sharing input is only the beginning.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “The fact that there are many of us from the 5th District (including the Valley and West LA) that are speaking, meeting and sharing input is only the beginning.”
    Attaway, Ellen. Just because something has always been done does not make it right. As a secessionist, you bet I resent and will never ever forgive those who supported mayor jimmy hahn who traveled to Sacramento to take away our rights to self-determination! The Valley is now slave to the west-siders who think they own LACITY. Maybe they do, but then they should pay to play and stop taking money away from Valleyites. SECESSION NOW – that law is illegal and immoral. Disenfranchising the Valley is disgusting. We want to live and let live. TH

  5. Jim Bursch says:

    Everyone interested in the CD5 election is invited to participate in the CD5 Election Forum online at
    Help us to engage the candidates with electorate.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The CD5 coalition forum was brilliant. I’ve attended other forums as well. The coalition forum and newsletter was so well done. They created a standard for all future elections. Voters need to be informed to make good choices. I urge anyone reading this to attend a forum. It’s one thing to read their points on paper on on a site but you really get a sense of who they are by seeing them speak, deal with questions (the tougher the better) and see their mannerisms. Do they know the issue? Do they truly get it? When you call your council office who would you feel most comfortable dealing with your or your community’s issue. If your involved and engaged in your community you see how important this election is for Council District 5 residents. I agree Vahedi would to be the clear choice. I see Koretz as second over Galperin though.

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