Why So Few Candidates for Community Council Election?
By SUE PASCOE
With only two contested races (out of nine Representative races) in the upcoming Pacific Palisades Palisades Community Council election–one for the Highlands seat, the other for the At-large position–some residents are thinking, Why bother to vote?
Democracy only works when there is a choice. When people won’t run for office and there is no choice, you get a “government” that doesn’t represent you.
At the July 26 Community Council meeting, Chair George Wolfberg was asked why more people weren’t running, and he said, “Ask them.”
So, I did. I reached out to about 20 people in different organizations–at the grocery stores, the gym, the park and on the street–and promised them anonymity if they would reveal why they didn’t run or wouldn’t want to be part of the Council. And I got an earful.
Complaints were mainly divided into four areas: 1. Lack of listening to the community; 2. Not wanting to volunteer where it might be unpleasant; 3. PPCC sells out to “development;” and 4. Problems with the by-laws and the executive committee.
- Lack of true representation and that many of the same people have run the PPCC for years.
“Nobody listens to us there,” one said. “Those people have no connection to the people they represent. They vote their own beliefs, rather than finding out what the people in their Area want.”
Another agreed, only more strongly: “Most of the representatives are only in it for themselves.”
“It’s a fiefdom,” one said. Another commented, “They [PPCC] just keep recycling the same people over and over, which means there are not different points of views.”
“They are a group tightly controlled by small number of people,” another wrote.
- Being on the Council, because of its makeup, would be unpleasant.
One wrote, “The Council is a self-serving political hole. I get more done at the DMV. I have better places I can put my energy.”
A woman said that maybe people didn’t want to run “because it’s so contentious. You have to deal with difficult people at work, why would you want to volunteer your spare time and have to deal with difficult people where you might be attacked for your views?”
Another offered the following insight. “However important the PPCC’s role may be, people have a lack of desire to deal with sometimes petty community politics and often unpleasant people who seem to believe that they can treat their Reps rudely–even though these members are fellow residents and are all volunteers serving the community on their own time.”
“Pacific Palisades went through a transition a few years ago where people became less involved in the community and concentrated on their own homes and virtual social circles,” a person said. “PPCC didn’t evolve to deal with this and lost the new, younger residents. By not reaching out or bringing in fresh, relevant people and ideas, they isolated themselves.”
“I didn’t run,” a woman told me, “because it would be a waste of my time.”
- Some felt that PPCC sells out to “development.”
During the Caruso Palisades Village hearings, and more recently the Highlands eldercare facility debates, one resident noted, “The symbiotic relationship that some on the council had with Councilman Mike Bonin and his desire to further the interests of developers at the expense of the quality of life, turned people off.”
Another person pointed out that “the council never did anything to try to enforce the requests they made of Caruso, specifically regarding what he would ‘give for Village beautification’ in exchange for community support of his ‘land grab’ on Sunset.” (The City vacated the alley between Swarthmore and Monument and gave a small park–between the Mobil station and the bank–and a lane of Sunset to Caruso for no compensation.)
This person continued, noting that those same people are still on the Council and have not pressed for any money for beautification from Caruso. “They accept the attempt by the PRIDE group as a fulfillment of this request, but Caruso’s people have made it very clear that they will only pay for plans…they will NOT pay for implementation of any of the beautification project.”
- Others cited current by-laws and the last executive committee election as reasons not to run.
A resident suggested that the Area representatives should be elected first and they in turn could elect the new executive board. Currently, the executive board candidates are voted upon by the entire council membership every June, and the Area representatives are elected in August every two years.
This resident said, “In my opinion, the most important issue is the timing for the board electing the executive committee (EC). I cannot understand why the EC can’t be selected AFTER the new board is in place on October 1. Selecting the EC three months before the new board takes ‘office’ makes zero sense.
“For me, however, it turned out to be a good thing because the newly elected EC board made my decision to NOT participate on PPCC very easy,” the man said.
Several people commented that most of the PPCC ‘work’ gets done by the EC, behind closed doors. The Council, unlike a certified Neighborhood Council, does not have to observe the Brown Act.
Another person suggested that there should be term limits, either sequential or cumulative, especially for officers. “People might feel more inclined to step up, knowing they can participate, have a chance to serve at various levels, but wouldn’t be expected to be there for the long haul, which can be daunting.”
Another person felt that there should be a conflict-of- interest provision in the by-laws.
Yet ultimately, as one person pointed out, there’s a flip side to all these complaints about the Community Council. “Too many people in our town sit back, complain and don’t step up to do the work.”
That’s the call for action for those who feel dissatisfied about the political leadership in Pacific Palisades. Residents, email your representative (pacpalicc.org). Look at the upcoming agenda, which Wolfberg has promised to post 72 hours ahead of time, and if you have an opinion about an upcoming item, email your rep (and cc Wolfberg) and tell them your position.
I know good things have come out of the PPCC, but haven’t paid attention to them in the last few years. It’s easy to become exclusive, and even paranoid, when you are criticized publicly. The PPCC needs better PR, at least: I’ve heard the same comments that you published about them from folks who I know really care about our community.
I’m planning to attend some meetings in hopes I can at least be in the peanut gallery to see if I can compare what folks say with what I experience for myself. Thursday, Aug. 9, 7 pm, Community Room of PP Branch Library.
Its not clear who and where you gathered these opinions, a little confusing between 20 organizations and at the grocery store, etc.
Those opinions have to be from people connected to the council in some way since i find it hard to believe you randomly found people with such definitive thoughts on the matter because most people in this town don’t even know that the council exists or what it really does. “Too many people in our town sit back, complain and don’t step up to do the work.” That person had it correct !! You seem to have an agenda Sue!!
I absolutely had an agenda. I wanted to find out why no one would run. I’m rather chatty and while I was sharing a shower with two other women at the pool, I asked their thoughts. When I walk my dogs, I am often stopped by people on the street. A few years back, I tried to convince my youngest child to go along with me to the grocery store. His response, “Only if you promise not to talk to anyone. I don’t have all day.”
I wish non-residents of Pacific Palisades and in the Highlands would let residents who live in the Palisades have a voice. It is very apparent that the only agenda is by these non-resident trolls. Unfortunately, the Highlands has suffered from this. Decisions were made for residents in the Highlands without our knowledge nor permission. This practice continues and is actually getting worse, Furthermore, volunteerism should not be used as an excuse for bad behavior. I volunteer at several organizations (including my HOA board) and I have never asked for pat-on-my-back nor used my volunteering as a excuse to bash people. For me, this is a sign that PPCC has out-lived it’s usefulness.
Sadly, this person is a non-resident of Pacific Palisades and also spends his time trolling on Nextdoor too. It is unfortunate that residents of Pacific Palisades has no real representation with the city. PPCC is actually a lobbying arm for real estate agents and the Caruso deveolpment. The residents never had a chance.
Particularly in the Highlands. Pathetic and really sad
I’m all in for residents having a voice. If I am elected At-Large rep in the current election, I will sit at a table at the farmer’s market to listen to our citizens’ viewpoints and demands.
Current Highlands Dist #2 Rep
and At-Large Rep candidate
Thanks for your effort and insights. There seems to be a number of reasons to conclude that the PPCC isn’t really the voice of the Palisades. If the PPCC is perceived as a closed group, and some of the members appear to have conflicts of interest or are too pro-development, it’s easy to see why more people weren’t inclined to run as Area representatives. My personal experience of the meetings is they are over-controlled, decisions are already made, and sincere from community members is very limited in time and not really welcome.
Maybe it is time that the Community Council be disbanded. I would suggest that our City Councilman should take the responsibility that he was hired for: making basic decisions for our community.