Venice Neighborhood Council executive officer candidates make their case to voters at Tuesday-night election forum

By Gary Walker

Anyone expecting fireworks or defining moments at the Venice Neighborhood Council’s executive officer candidate forum on Tuesday night likely walked away disappointed or surprised. The two and a half hours of candidate Q&As at the Westminster Avenue Elementary School Auditorium was a low-key, low-drama event by Venice standards.

In some ways, it could also be viewed as an evening of missed opportunities. Given the opportunity by moderator and Venice Neighborhood Council parliamentarian Ivan Spiegel to engage each other — which does not often happen at neighborhood council forums — candidates either passed or asked each other about their hobbies and what they do for fun, as land use and planning  chair contenders Daffodil Tyminski and Alix Gucovsky did.

Board vice-president candidate Grant Turck, who on May 17 filed a complaint with the Los Angeles Ethics Commission against incumbent George Francisco over the collapse of the Venice Chamber of Commerce’s partnership with Venice Pride, simply replied “no” when given the opportunity to ask questions of Francisco.

The audience of about 50 people saw candidates give mostly polite answers to questions posed by Spiegel.

Perhaps the most interesting exchanges came between Tyminski and Gucovsky on future planning matters that will affect Venice. The winner will chair the council’s land use and planning committee, arguably the board’s most influential committee. While they largely agreed on most topics, they differed on one of the more controversial items that could affect commerce and tourism: the potential rezoning of Ocean Front Walk.

“I’m for that plan. I realize that there are people who object to it. But I think we can do it while still preserving housing,” said Tyminski, a current committee member.

Gucovsky, a talent agent, noted the proposal to rezone the Ocean Front Walk came to the land use and planning committee without specifics for which properties might be redeveloped.

“This is a big zoning change. How can anyone support properties to be rezoned TBA (to be announced)?” she said. “This needs proper analysis.”

The candidates also slightly differed regarding who should sit on the committee.

“The takeaway for me is that there is a little bit of an echo chamber on the committee,” said Gucovsky.  She advocated for a broader diversity of voices on the committee — “not just architects and developers who have a financial interest in Venice,” she said.

Tyminski took the opposite view, claiming that local architects have been able to provide historical advice and context to developers and the committee for years.

“We absolutely need architects and developers from Venice. We need qualified people. This is not a social engineering committee,” countered Tyminski, who acknowledged that she has a “pro-business” point of view.

Outreach officer candidates Joslyn Williams and Sima Kostovetsky  agreed on most ideas of how to conduct outreach for the council. But Williams, a current board member and member of the outreach committee, did ask Kostovetsky one pointed question.

“Why do you want to be the outreach officer? Where have you been the last few months?” asked Williams, who noted that Kostovetsky has not been part of the outreach committee.

Kostovetsky explained that she had been on the East Coast caring for her sick mother for most of the year. Regarding her decision to run for the outreach officer seat, she said “because I think that I can make a difference and I think that there are some things that can be done differently.”

Exchanges between incumbent Ira Koslow and current outreach officer Hollie Stenson in the campaign for board president were also uneventful.

Koslow, the longest-serving member on the board and the current president, asked voters to stay with him for another term based on his work of inclusion and his history with the council.

“I feel that my job is to go by the rules and to let everyone participate, and that’s not always easy in Venice. People are worried about a lot of things, but I’ve seen it all. Over the years I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly of Venice,” said Koslow, a retired teacher and a 48-year resident.

Stenson, an actress and owner of a Venice-based social impact strategy company, praised Koslow for his tenure but said she thinks Venice needs a new direction for the next several years.

“I think it’s time for a shakeup. I think it’s time for a change,” she said.

Incumbent council treasurer Hugh Harrison and council secretary Melissa Diner will be reelected without a challenge. Theresa White, the wife of outgoing communications officer Evan White, also has no opponent and will join the board after the election.

A similar forum will be held in the same location at 6 p.m. Wednesday night for the 14 at large officer seats.