The City of Los Angeles Board of Neighborhood Commissioners has approved the election procedures for the 2005 Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council election.

The Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council, which was certified by the city in March 2002, has not held an official meeting since November.

The city Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) ruled last year that the Venice Neighborhood Council had no quorum for its last election.

Greg Nelson, Department of Neighborhood Empowerment general manager, said the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners instructed the department to draft procedures for a new Neighborhood Council election rather than abolishing the Neighborhood Council.

With the approval of the election procedures by the Neighborhood Commissioners Tuesday, June 28th, the Neighborhood Council must follow the procedures to hold its election this year.

The 2005 Grass Roots Venice council election is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, September 10th and 11th, and will be held at either Venice High School or Penmar Park.

All 21 seats on the Venice council will be open in the September election.

“Now we can have open and fair elections,” Nelson said of the approval of the election procedures.

“There’s plenty of notice now for people to run.”

One of the main complaints of the last Neighborhood Council election was that the election rules were approved only 13 days before the election, but now candidates will have “plenty of time” to prepare, Nelson said.

“Now people know what they need in order to run,” he said.

The 2005 election procedures were drafted by the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment on behalf of community stakeholders.

The procedures were created by utilizing input from community stakeholders gathered at three community input meetings and two meetings of the volunteer election committee.

Many members of the community were highly involved in meetings of the volunteer election committee to offer input for the procedures, Nelson said.

DeDe Audet, volunteer election committee chair, said she was “thrilled” at the approval of the procedures, which will now allow members of the Venice community to be involved in the Grass Roots election.

“I think the procedures, although improvable, give everyone in Venice an opportunity to vote,” Audet said.

But some members of the former Grass Roots council, whose terms expired Thursday, June 30th, disagreed that the election procedures are an improvement for the community.

“I think the election procedures are flawed in several ways and will restrict voter turnout, particularly the disabled people,” said Jim Smith, former Grass Roots council treasurer.

A main objection by Smith is that the election procedures require all absentee ballot voters to appear in person at an outreach event to request an absentee ballot, which may restrict homebound and disabled voters, he said.

“The point should be to encourage as many people as possible to participate, but some (procedures) seem to make it difficult,” said Smith, who is still considering whether to run in the September election.

But Venice resident Marta Evry said that when concerns were raised about potentially restricting disabled and homebound voters, the procedures were amended in order to accommodate those voters.

“At the (Neighborhood Commissioners) meeting, the election rules were further amended to allow any homebound voters to contact the independent election administrator so he could come to them and they could show a valid credential and register to vote absentee,” Evry said.

John Davis, former secretary of the Grass Roots council, said the election procedures are based on an “unlawful action” in which the 2004 Neighborhood Council election was invalidated.

“It’s an example of the (neighborhood) commissioners taking over a Neighborhood Council,” said Davis, who doesn’t intend to run in the September election.

“I find them (election procedures) overly complicated.”

Audet said that if the 2005 election is held without any major problems, the residents of Venice will be “satisfied that a fair election can be put on.”

The volunteer election committee is currently seeking volunteers to help prepare the Tuesday, July 12th, mass distribution of the first announcements of the 2005 Grass Roots election.

Candidate filing for the election is also scheduled to begin July 12th.

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