Fighting for democratic governance

Re: “Neighborhood leaders confront Villaraigosa over loss of funds, canceling elections” (Argonaut, March 21).The illuminating article about our city government’s latest attack on democracy suggests that our Los Angeles city council has forgotten that the neighborhood council system arose from the threat of secession.Fiscal evisceration of neighborhood councils is illegal. In fact, the City Charter requires advance funding of neighborhood councils from a dedicated account with which the city must not interfere. Our city attorney may soon have to decide whether to defend a City Council that is too busy protecting its status quo to participate in representative government.The neighborhood council movement is growing. In a mere decade, the advisory council system has enriched Angelenos at the grassroots with the all-important belief that democracy is possible in Los Angeles.The council system has created conduits connecting neighborhoods, council offices and city departments. It has empowered otherwise disenfranchised voters to organize resources and improve our communities. It has provided a relief valve for neighborhoods frustrated with slow bureaucracy, and it has saved the city from taxpayer secession – so far.Cutting neighborhood council budgets from their annual $50,000 level to the current $37,500 – and now to $27,000, plus the additional 20 percent to self-fund 2014 elections – tightens the wrong belt. Every penny of the annual $4 million neighborhood council budget goes not to salaries, expense accounts or General Fund black holes but directly to 95 community and governance improvement projects, run by some 2,000 dedicated volunteers whose common mission is to make Los Angeles a better place to live and work.Contrast their measurable results with the value of spending nearly $3 million annually for City Council member salaries, plus office budget costs averaging about $1 million per council member. It’s no small irony that last year’s City Council budget overrun could have readily filled the neighborhood council system’s $1.2 million funding gap – with funds left over to defend the city against frivolous lawsuits.While our city attorney shows a moment of gracious clarity to support the advisory council mandate, budget advocate Jay Handal speaks truth when he states that postponing neighborhood council elections would be the “beginning of the end of democracy in Los Angeles.”However, having been raised in an eastern city whose residents had no representation, and having become an Angeleno during two decades of pre-neighborhood council Los Angeles, I would propose to amend Handal’s statement to read: “De-funding neighborhood councils and postponing NC elections – yet again – would be the end of the beginning of democracy in Los Angeles.”Democratic governance is what our neighborhood council system is all about. Fund it or lose both.Jed PaukerVenice

Wetlands learning experience

I can probably name about 10 birds by sight. I know the hummingbird, the red-winged blackbird, doves, ducks, bluebirds and crows. I’m proud to say I can even identify cedar waxwings, but only when flocking to gorge on my juniper berries.
I was visiting the Los Angeles area last weekend, staying in Marina del Rey, and was introduced to the Ballona Wetlands. It was great to find open space so close to a large city.
Picking up a wetlands bird list available for free, I started on my walk. Granted it’s a small area to walk/hike for us humans, but the birds like it. I saw a few bird watchers. Those are the people with the binoculars and long photo lenses. I asked one if he saw anything good and he said, “a ruddy.”
Now I know 11 birds by sight. I learned more than about birds, though. I learned from reading an article on the Friends of the Ballona Wetlands website that the Annenberg Foundation is proposing to develop part of the wetlands for an interpretive center, dog and cat clinic, and retail space. I noticed the empty buildings along Lincoln and Washington boulevards during my visit and wondered, couldn’t they be rehabbed to fit the needs of a dog and cat clinic rather than building on the wetlands?
You can build a Walmart, a gas station, or a dog and cat clinic anywhere. Wetlands are irreplaceable. Having seen their name as a PBS sponsor for years, I thought the Annenberg Foundation was one of the good guys. How surprising and disappointing to learn of their involvement.
Kate Medvedoff
Central Coast, CA

Let’s fight runway intrusion

I resent the way Los Angeles World Airports tries to bully the residents of Playa del Rey and Westchester into accepting their unnecessary and unacceptable rush to move the northernmost runway at Los Angeles International Airport 260 feet towards Playa del Rey and Westchester.
They have no regard for our way of life in these neighborhoods and it’s a disgrace that they won’t acknowledge what is important to residents, while at the same time having a blatant disregard for due process.
We must band together and fight this intrusion into our lives – like the residents of El Segundo successfully did.
Simply put, my wife and I didn’t buy a home in Playa del Rey to eventually become a part of the runway.
Gino Cirignano
Playa del Rey

An ‘out-of-scale monstrosity’

Re: “Proposed Gehry designed hotel draws praise and concern over height” (Argonaut, March 28).
I’m writing to comment on the rendering of the proposed new Frank Gehry-designed hotel on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica that was featured on the front page of The Argonaut. This building is an out-of-scale monstrosity. It is outrageous that the Santa Monica City Council is even considering this plan.
The area currently has a 4-story height limit, and the city seems to be seduced by the Gehry name in allowing a 22-story building proposal to come this far.
It’s bad enough to see Hollywood turn into Manhattan or Tokyo, but it is truly heartbreaking to see this happening in Santa Monica, ruining the coastal ambiance of that city.
What puzzles me more, is why hasn’t the Los Angeles Times and their architecture reporter, Christopher Hawthorne, covered this very important story yet? There was a brief mention of the project in the Times in early March, but no illustration accompanied it.
I’m sure many Westsiders would be interested to learn about this plan.
Laurie Trainor
Los Angeles


Homeowner revolt is one answer to runway plan

Cheers to Denny Schneider of the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion and to Airport Commissioner Valeria Velasco, opponents of moving the Los Angeles International Airport runway north.
This runway’s air traffic would impact the value of all homes in Westchester, Playa del Rey and up into the Marina, where planes are heard and seen with frequency over the main channel (ascent) and over the Marina Peninsula.
The plan for a stretch of Lincoln Boulevard to be closed down for two years is unreal; the traffic on the 405 freeway in this area is already unbearable. If Los Angeles World Airports is intransigent, there is a solution: a homeowner revolt and non-payment of property tax.
If property values and quality of life are diminished by the new larger aircraft and the closer proximity to homes, why pay these high Westside property taxes, especially those of us who bought in after Prop. 13?
Lynne Shapiro
Marina del Rey