Mar Vista council hosts forum for Assembly, congressional contenders

BY GARY WALKER

The final candidates forum before the Tuesday, June 8th primary was held at the Mar Vista Recreation Center June 1st for the contenders for the 53rd Assembly and the 36th Congressional districts.

Hosted by the Mar Vista Community Council, the candidates answered predetermined questions developed by area stakeholders during the two-hour format.

An estimated 200 were on hand to hear the candidates’ views on a variety of topics as the primary season winds to a close.

“We made a decision early on to come up with a system that would be the most beneficial for the candidates to give the most thoughtful answers as possible,” explained Albert Olson, the recently reelected chair of the Mar Vista Community Council. “It was not designed for a lot of give and take between the candidates because of our time limitations.”

Nicholas Karno, Kate Anderson, James Lau, Edgar Saenz, Betsy Butler and Peter Thottam, all Westside residents and Democratic Assembly contenders, answered questions regarding the environment, the Santa Monica Airport, the Arizona immigration controversy and local development matters, among many other things.

Marcy Winograd, a Venice area resident who is competing against Rep. Jane Harman, in the Democratic primary for the 36th District also took part in the forum.

Harman did not attend.

Mar Vista resident Sherri Akers said the forum helped her with her decision on whom to vote for next week.

“I was so impressed with how they formatted the forum. I haven’t seen one done that way before and I thought it was brilliant,” Akers said. “I was only there for the 53rd District portion, but I felt I was able to gain some real insight into each candidate n not just by what they said but also by the questions they chose to answer.”

Olson observed the Assembly race is the most watched and most competitive in the state.

“It’s clearly nip and tuck,” he said. “It’s really quite remarkable how good they all seem to be.”

Akers, the vice chair of the council’s green committee, like Olson was impressed by the number of residents who attended the panel discussion.

“I was really impressed and congratulated Sharon (Commins, the local council’s first vice president) and Albert,” she said. “Also, I was so thrilled and proud of the community for the turn out n every seat was filled and the perimeter was filled with those who were standing.

“I’ve decided to support Kate Anderson and it was great to be able to feel I am making a well informed decision.”

The forum differed from others this year in the sense that candidates from the Republican and Green parties were also included.

“That’s something else that we decided,” Olson said. “We wanted to make sure that the audience had an opportunity to hear points of view that they might not be familiar with, and it gave (the Republicans and Green Party Assembly candidate Lisa Green) an opportunity to interact with a new audience.”

Olson, as others have stated during the primary season, is intrigued about the possibility of a neighborhood council member winning a seat in the Assembly. Anderson is on Olson’s local council, Karno is a former member of the Venice Neighborhood Council and Thottam was recently elected to Venice’s local advisory board.

“I think that it’s a terrific statement of what neighborhood councils are doing,” the Mar Vista council chair said.

City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, a Mar Vista resident, also finds that prospect interesting.

“I’m a big supporter of neighborhood councils, and I think it speaks volumes to how they have evolved,” the councilman said. “This is grassroots democracy at its finest, and it’s very possible that we could see more people from neighborhood councils seeking higher office in the future.”

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