May 28 election draws 111 candidates for more than 60 seats on four neighborhood councils
By Gary Walker
A sea of new faces and a few old ones dot the landscape of candidates for upcoming neighborhood council elections, a welcome sign of change to many close observers of the local advisory boards.
That dozens of newcomers want to become more engaged in local government “is a great sign,” said Stephen Box, director or community outreach and communications for the Los Angeles Dept. of Neighborhood Empowerment, which oversees the city’s 95 neighborhood councils.
Election Day for all Venice, Del Rey and Mar Vista neighborhood council seats and 15 of the 31 seats on the Westchester – Playa Neighborhood Council is May 28, with mail-in ballots going out April 18.
In Venice, where five incumbents are not seeking reelection to two-year terms, 55 people are running for 21 seats on the board, according to preliminary city election records. All but one race is contested.
In 2010, Venice posted the highest neighborhood council voter turnout west of the San Diego (405) Freeway, with more than 1,200 ballots cast.
First-time candidates include Petra Rudisill, a teen who serves as student body president of the magnet program at Venice High School.
The candidates also include five former neighborhood council members who hope to return to the board — Kelley Willis, Challis McPherson, Michael Newhouse, Joseph Murphy and Jed Pauker.
Box said the Westside contests are shaping up to have a beneficial mix of incumbents and challengers.
“There’s something good about having people who have the historical knowledge of a neighborhood, and there’s also something good about bringing in new perspectives and fresh outlooks,” Box said.
Unlike several past election cycles, many Westchester – Playa contests are shaping up to be competitive. This year 26 candidates seek the 15 seats up for grabs, leaving six contests with two or more opponents.
In 2012, Westchester – Playa voters were the only Westside group to reelect all of their incumbents. This year 17 Westchester – Playa candidates are first-time office seekers.
Among local councils, Mar Vista has the lowest number of new candidates — just four out of the 15 hopefuls for 13 seats.
There are also 15 candidates for the Del Rey council — six newcomers, eight incumbents and Marlene Savage, who previously served but lost a reelection bid in 2010.
While other neighborhood councils appoint presidents from within, Del Rey’s council president must be elected to the position. This year, however, only one candidate — incumbent Jonathan Neumann — is running for that office.
Development — rather, opposition to it — could be a major theme of campaigns this year.
Westchester resident Garret Smith believes large-scale projects have had adverse impacts on neighborhoods.
“I do not support any project in Playa del Rey that is not consistent in height or density with [the] surrounding community,” Smith wrote in his candidate statement.
As of Tuesday, several candidate statuses were listed as pending the processing of final paperwork.