A YouTube video of the current Del Rey Neighborhood Council president and treasurer filmed during last year’s neighborhood council elections has quickly become Exhibit A for those who feel that the “factual basis stakeholder” provision should be revised or altogether dissolved.
Ivan Spiegel, the parliamentarian of the Venice Neighborhood Council, showed the video at an Aug. 2 meeting of the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners (BONC). The board is a subset of the agency that supervises the city’s 93 local boards, the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE).
Spiegel plans to send the video to the Los Angeles City Council, which will soon be reviewing several recommendations by BONC, including a more refined interpretation of the factual basis voter. Factual basis stakeholders are voters who “affirm” a stake in a community but do not live or work there.
In the YouTube campaign video, Del Rey council Treasurer Brett Flater and President Eric DeSobe chronicle a list of locations in Del Rey, telling viewers that if they shop at places like DSW Shoes, attend a movie or dine in the Villa Marina Marketplace, they are eligible to vote in Del Rey elections.
“If you’ve come to see a movie in Del Rey, you’re a stakeholder,” Flater tells viewers. “If you shop here (at DSW), you’re a stakeholder.”
They encourage viewers to vote for their slate of candidates, which included first and second vice presidents Elizabeth Zamora and Thomas Kielty, respectively. Zamora and Kielty defeated two incumbents, Marlene Savage and Theresa Luo.
Flater and DeSobe ran unopposed.
DeSobe listed other locations where potential voters can do business and then vote in the upcoming election, including patronizing a popular Culver Boulevard diner and a bar in a strip mall.
“If you shop anywhere in the Del Rey area, think Culver Boulevard and Inglewood (Boulevard), Ronnie’s Diner or the 90 West Lounge, all sorts of places make you a stakeholder,” DeSobe says in the clip.
The video also lists sites where potential voters can visit to qualify as stakeholders, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles and Costco, which are in Culver City, the grocery store Pavilions and the Cat Practice.
Earlier in the campaign video, viewers are told “residency is not a requirement to be a stakeholder in Del Rey elections.”
BONC Commissioner Linda Lucks found the video “pretty shocking” and said she feels growing concerns about the possibility of people who live outside of a particular neighborhood taking over a local council are justified.
“The video absolutely confirms our commission’s decision to ask all local boards to change their bylaws so that they can become more uniform,” said Lucks, who is also the president of the Venice Neighborhood Council.
The City Council created the factual basis stakeholder provision in 2008 as a vehicle to generate additional participation in the city’s 93 neighborhood councils, which were created via a charter amendment in 1999.
A large portion of neighborhood councils, including the Venice council, the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa and the Mar Vista Community Council protested the inclusion of the factual basis stakeholder on their councils. They passed resolutions creating one factual basis seat on their councils in order to comply with the city ordinance.
Previously, only those who work, live or own property were eligible to vote in a particular neighborhood council election.
West Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Chair Jay Handal said while Del Rey’s bylaws allow for factual basis stakeholders to vote for any seat, he feels the campaign video made by Flater and DeSobe underscores the controversy associated with outside voters participating in neighborhood council elections.
“The way that their bylaws are written gives them the right to do what they did. Does that make it right? No,” Handal said.
DeSobe said he was “glad (the video) got an audience” and feels offering the opportunity for many voices to be heard is part of a local council’s mandate.
“I believe neighborhood councils should be inclusive of a variety of stakeholders. The Del Rey Neighborhood Council founders built that idea into the bylaws and all candidates for every election ever held by the council followed it,” the Del Rey president told The Argonaut.
Former Del Rey Neighborhood Council President Mark Redick took issue with the campaign’s message.
“A commercial transaction does not make you a stakeholder,” Redick, who opposes the factual basis provision, countered. “Now BONC has seen firsthand what factual basis stakeholder voting can do.”
DONE General Manager BongHwan Kim also voiced concerns after seeing the video. “That was an obvious slight around the policy of what the factual basis stakeholder is,” Kim said. “The video highlights the problems that some people have with others who would like to exploit this portion of the factual basis voter definition.”
City Attorney Carmen Trutanich’s office received many complaints after last year’s election and a probe found that 16 percent of the votes citywide were cast by outside voters.
In Del Rey’s election, the total was almost 22 percent, according to Trutanich’s office.
“Del Rey stakeholders were cheated and the lack of respect that was displayed by these tactics was morally reprehensible,” Redick said. “(The current Del Rey board) wanted a rubber stamp board and that’s what they have.”
The 2010 Del Rey election was among the city’s most controversial and one of the founders of the local board filed an election complaint alleging a series of violations. The city clerk’s office found no irregularities after an investigation.
Handal feels that the City Council bears the lion’s share of the responsibility for situations like Del Rey’s because it has not provided BONC with any enforcement powers to prevent a possible takeover of a local council from outsiders.
“This is symptomatic of why Los Angeles is broken,” the West Los Angeles council chair asserted. “It shows that anyone who wants to can game the system and take over a neighborhood council.”
Kim thinks that due to the cumulative actions that have transpired since the last election, there could very well be changes in the definition of the factual basis stakeholder.
“I anticipate that the City Council will take action on this,” he said.
Handal says the City Council has also made the situation with factual basis stakeholders worse by voting earlier this year to postpone neighborhood council elections, which were scheduled to take place next year but due to budget cuts will be held in 2014.
“If there was an opportunity for someone to vote out the people who are trying to make the board not representative of Del Rey’s interest, that’s been taken away now,” he noted.
Both West Los Angeles and Mar Vista councils have had past incidents where churches in their communities sought to place members of their congregations who did not live in the neighborhood on the local boards to promote the organization’s n and not necessarily the neighborhood’s n goals.
While their efforts were successful in West Los Angeles several years ago, they were not able to take over the Mar Vista council.
DeSobe said he would be amenable to changes in the factual basis definition if the supervising agencies recommend them. “If BONC decides that their current rules are inconsistent with their desired outcome of robust community participation and dedicated community action then I support them clarifying the rules,” he said.
Redick, who did not run for a third term last year, had harsh words for DeSobe and Flater’s actions on the video.
“Here is a budding politician that is following the example of Donald Segretti,” Redick claimed, referring to the former political operative of ex-President Richard Nixon who was hired to engage in a political “dirty tricks” campaign during Nixon’s 1972 reelection campaign.
“The (Del Rey) election was riddled with dirty tricks,” Redick added.
Lucks agrees with Handal that the City Council shares much of the blame for what has transpired with the factual basis stakeholder. “If they had been clearer when they expanded the definition we wouldn’t be where we’re at now,” she said.
Redick believes the City Council has all the proof that it needs to reexamine how an unclear definition of the factual basis voter has the possibility to alter a neighborhood election.
“(The DeSobe and Flater slate) made a mockery of the election,” he said. “And the people of Del Rey deserve better.”
The video can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIBEqZITxXg, or on YouTube under
“Del Rey Neighbors Come Together.”