Plan to shrink Mar Vista Community Council would expel contrarian minority

By Gary Walker

Just five months ago the highest voter turnout in Mar Vista Community Council history propelled the Standing Up For Stakeholders slate to a landslide victory, giving its seven members majority control of the 13-seat board following a decidedly pro-homeowner campaign pitched largely as a countervailing force to L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin.

The Stakeholders’ mandate was further amplified by the concurrent election victories of North Westdale Neighborhood Association President Martin Rubin and Venice Boulevard road diet resistance leader Selena Inouye, who tend to vote in line with the Stakeholders slate and its leader, MVCC Chairman Elliot Hanna.

Having a supermajority apparently isn’t enough, however, to keep the slate’s allies from attempting to purge their remaining political adversaries from the board — including members of an opposing slate that was younger, more ethnically diverse and specifically attuned to renters’ concerns.

Rubin, the board’s vice chair and head of its Elections and Bylaws Committee, set off a political firestorm during the committee’s Oct. 30 meeting by offering a proposal to eliminate the community council’s six at-large seats.

Doing so would not only expunge members who ran in opposition of the Stakeholders slate, it would leave the Stakeholders in control of six out of seven remaining board seats, the seventh being Rubin’s — essentially 100% control of the board.

In a written statement, Rubin said his rational for eliminating at-large seats was to prevent disproportional representation from any particular voting district, saying the change would “make for a more fair representation of our Mar Vista Community Council. As [sic] present there exists the possibility of an inordinate number of directors from one or more zones. With an all-zone board of directors, I would hope that there would be a few non-voting advisory seats (perhaps education, youth senior and environmental advisory seats) to allow for specific input.”

Rubin referred The Argonaut’s questions to his statement. Hanna declined to comment for this story, and a member of the Stakeholders slate said all questions about board activities must go
through Hanna.

At-large members Andrea Ambriz and Gabriel Hill — members of the Mar Vista Makes Waves slate that Hanna painted during the election as puppet candidates for the council office — were quick to call out Rubin’s proposal as a thinly veiled attempt to silence the board minority. Ambriz said acrimony surrounding the proposal “speaks to failed leadership and a misdirected use of power.”

During the Oct. 30 meeting, chaos quickly ensued when Ambriz asked Rubin to discuss the proposal prior to other agenda items due to a large number of people who came to hear discussion and offer public comment.

Rubin refused, and after longtime board member Rob Kadota — an at-large member whose seat would also be on the chopping block — asked Rubin to reconsider Ambriz’s request, Rubin began shouting that he was in charge of the meeting and those who opposed him could leave.

“We’re going in order! We’re not moving things around here. If you don’t like it, leave and complain to the board, but I’m not going to be running a circus here,” Rubin shouted.

A cacophony of crosstalk ensued, with Rubin directing comments to audience members who returned a volley of accusations that he was trying to silence elected board members who disagree with him, and Rubin accusing Ambriz and Kadota of trying to take over the meeting.

“I recognize the discomfort that you feel, especially when you’re outnumbered,” Ambriz told Rubin. “But it’s important that the residents of our community hear things, even when it might not be something that some don’t like hearing.”

The push to eliminate political opponents is “a slippery slope,” said Hill. “I don’t believe less representation equals more representation. If certain members support and will eventually vote to eliminate at-large seats, what’s to stop them there?”

Rubin, who ended up pulling the proposal on Oct. 30, returned the item to the committee’s Nov. 20 meeting but the committee ran out of time before taking it up. Instead, they discussed a proposal by Inouye — an at-large member who has occasionally butted heads with Hanna over taking formal action against the Venice Boulevard road diet — to enact a mechanism for removing council members via a recall election.

“The city charter says all officers, elected and appointed, can be removed by recall,” said Inouye, who suggested as few as 100 signatures should trigger a recall election but declined to further elaborate for The Argonaut. When asked publicly by Hill what was driving her proposal, Inouye responded: “The stakeholders are asking for this.”

During the meeting, Rubin offered support for Inouye’s proposal, but a vote was tabled to a later date. Under current rules, the board would have to consult with the L.A. City Attorney’s office to expel a member.

Greg Tedesco, a former community council member who has frequently clashed with Rubin, said it would open the door for special interest groups to target members of the council with whom they disagree.

“My concern is this could make it easy for an angry mob to get 200 to 300 signatures to get rid of someone because they don’t like their position on some issue,” Tedesco said.

Hill said it was “very clear and apparent” that Inouye had unspoken motives.

“I do take issue with Selena not being transparent or forthright about her motives and motivation to make it easier to remove members from the board, especially when there is a way to currently remove members from the board,” Hill wrote in an email after the meeting. “I may not agree with everyone on the board or believe some of them should be there, but I’m not actively pushing for their removal.”

Managing editor Joe Piasecki contributed to this story.