Elections to the are almost exactly a month away, and at least one candidate who wants to lead the local body as president is in full campaign mode. Besides appealing to voters through a Facebook page, Nelson Grande II has been meeting business owners and residents, urging them to "put a representative OF the people FOR the people on the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council," to quote from his Facebook page.
Grande, who works for Disney in the information technology sector, plans to use his Internet and social media skills to conduct community outreach if he is voted as ERNC president. He sat down on Monday along with his wife Erykah Grande, a business consultant who is also running for the position of ERNC Director for Sub-District 5, to give a wide-ranging interview to Patch in . Excerpts:
Eagle Rock Patch: What do you like about Eagle Rock?
Nelson Grande: We moved to Eagle Rock [from Highland Park] about three years ago and fell it love with it right away. It’s very neighborly. It’s a place I can walk my dog around at night without fear of anything. It’s a place where my wife can actually walk the dog without fear of anything. I have not been in any neighborhood where I can go outside and say hi! to random neighbors anytime. We all get along fantastically.
Patch: You said in a recent comment on Eagle Rock Patch, Erykah, that Nelson and you are running for the ERNC because “we got tired of taking a backseat.” What did you mean by that?
Erykah: I was mostly speaking generally—but specifically as well, and politically. With the way everything is being run right now in this country, I found myself fighting the system and being so angry for the last couple of years. Finally it dawned on me—or I just got tired of being angry—and I said, “why don’t we do something about it.” And it clicked. That’s why we’re doing it [running for the ERNC].
Patch: And Nelson, you were in the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council before, weren’t you?
Nelson: Yes, I was youth director for just under a year a couple of years ago. I enjoyed it. (Erykah interjects to say that the youth director position was “the only open spot” at the time.) I wanted to get involved politically in what was going on in Eagle Rock. I had a 14-year-old boy who had just started going to Eagle Rock High School and my little one had just been born and I thought, what a perfect fit.
Erykah: I [was the one who] actually found out about the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council and I contacted [ERNC President] Michael Larsen through the Eagle Rock [Neighborhood Council] website. He actually notified me—he said, “come in, check us out—there’s no position, maybe you can do [youth director] and that’s when I told my husband, “hey, there’s this thing going on in the night in Eagle Rock—check it out.” I thought I was going to do it, but I ended up overwhelmed with a baby. So he ended up taking over.
Nelson: It’s obvious my wife’s the one with the detailed memory—I’ll tell you that. (Laughs). Yes, I thought it [working for the ERNC] would have a more direct impact on the education of my son. I am a very big believer in prevention rather than reaction as far as fixing any type of issue goes. I’m hoping that brining a better education and a more long-lasting and dynamic and more comprehensive education of our kids will lead to more intelligent, more critical thinking and more reasonable, logical, practical decisions made by future generations. I think some of those aspects are missing from government at this time.
I wasn’t able to stay as [ERNC] youth director because I felt I wasn’t ready for it at the time. I think that at that moment I was still able to act more as a civilian rather than as a representative. Now, after a couple of years, having seen how the local government and local residents are involved with the actual local happenings, I feel more apt to make better decisions as far as [being] a representative of the people.
Patch: For better or worse, you have come to be associated in Eagle Rock’s debate over medical marijuana as an advocate of marijuana. What exactly is the “Green Slate”—and who chose the name?
Nelson: This is something that I’ve discussed with a few people. Green is synonymous with nature and the respect for it. I have a website, that I put together, called EagleRockTownHall.net, and in it I put a little project together called the Parkway Garden project. It’s the first project on EagleRockTownHall.net and I’m hoping to move forward in different ways as well. And I put that together because I’m a big fan, as we were discussing earlier, of nature in itself and respect for nature. I think a lot of medicine comes from nature—a lot of medicines are synthesized versions of natural remedies. We are of the earth—I think it’s a very important thing to remember.
Now, as far as the marijuana subject is concerned, I feel it is a medicinal plant for some and I feel it is within their right entirely to be able to administer it for themselves. I wouldn’t want to be someone who shuts somebody out entirely. If someone is pro-marijuana, I feel that is entirely within their right. If someone is anti-marijuana, I feel that is also within their right.
I have been labeled pro-marijuana because of the Green Slate and because a few of the people within that “Slate” are definitely pro-marijuana. I can’t speak for them—I can’t say how far they are pro-marijuana, I can’t say if they want total legalization, if they [advocate] marijuana only for medicinal purposes, or if they stand anywhere in between. But I can say for myself that if someone feels that a natural remedy from the earth is a good remedy, I support that. My personal stance on marijuana is part of why I’m on the Green Slate but it doesn’t define—it’s not the reason why I’m on the Green Slate. There’s a very broad reason why I’m on the Slate. Medical marijuana—and the respect for somebody wanting medical marijuana—is one part of that large reason.
Patch: Who coined the term “Green Slate?”
Nelson: This is something that Tim Ryder [Eagle Rock resident and head of Cannabis Clubs United With the Community] and I have discussed. I can’t say who said it first because I can’t remember exactly who. But Tim Ryder, while I cannot speak for him, I can safely say that he’s a marijuana advocate. Given the fact that he’s an advocate for marijuana and I’m an advocate for greenery and natural remedies—that’s where we came up with the Green [Slate] idea.
Patch: Erykah, you take marijuana for medical reasons, right?
Erykah: Yes, I do. For anti-inflammatory reasons. It’s either that or a daily 600-milligram dosage of Motrin. I am, however, concentrating on high CBD content [a strain of marijuana that contains low amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in intoxication, and high amounts of cannabidiol, which offers relief from illness]. I’m actually looking for CBD capsules—an extract of CBD in capsule format.
Patch: Nelson, your “Nelson Grande for ERNC President” Facebook page has a post from this past Friday that reads: “The race is on, guys. The other team is rooting hard and loud (well, kind of). :)” Who’s “the other team” and who are they rooting for?
Nelson: I could preface all this by saying that I’m not directly the one who writes everything [on the Facebook page]. While everything there I do support, I don’t use the exact words. But as far as “the other ones [team],” to be honest with you, it’s any other candidate who’s on “the other slate.” We whole-heartedly respect any other candidate who’s on the other [anti-marijuana] slate. Instead of saying “don’t vote for somebody else,” I’d rather say, “vote for me.” I don’t believe it’s us versus them. As mentioned many times before, I’m running on a platform of collaboration. I truly believe in the word “representative.” Whether I have constituents who are pro-marijuana or constituents who are opposed to marijuana, I will respect each of those individuals because it would be my duty to represent each of those individuals.
Patch: But who is the “other team” rooting for?
Erykah: The exact words, to complete the post, are “the other team is playing dirty.” They’re bashing on Nelson for president. They’re sending out misinformation or omitting facts.
Patch: Nelson, if you became president of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, how do you see yourself working as a representative for people on both sides of the medical marijuana debate? What would you do?
Nelson: I feel that many folks are very steadfast in their ideas and opinions, whether it be one way or another. And I feel it has become a sort of shouting match between the two sides. I aim to do everything in my power to quell that divide—that anger, frustration and animosity that is there on either side—and truly say, “let’s understand each other. Let’s do what we can and truly be diplomatic about this. Let’s hold town hall meetings, informational sessions on either side of the topic. For the sake of collaboration.
I don’t think the medical marijuana issue is an “all or nothing” issue. I don’t believe in an all-out ban, and I don’t believe in having a medical marijuana clinic next to a nursery school. I really don’t like the word “mediate,” but at this point I think we really need a mediator who shows equal respect for both sides.
Patch: Tim Ryder, who heads Cannabis Clubs United With the Community, wrote in an article in the latest issue of the Boulevard Sentinel that being a customer of one of the medical marijuana collectives in Eagle Rock qualifies a person to vote in the ERNC election and that this might increase voter turnout significantly. What are your thoughts about Ryder’s piece and the prospect that medical marijuana dispensary patients and customers who are not residents or don’t have other interests in Eagle Rock may vote in the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council elections?
Nelson: That is not specific to medical marijuana clinics. That provision has to do with belonging to a club that is based in Eagle Rock. I welcome anyone to be part of a club that is in Eagle Rock …
Patch: By “club” do you mean Tim Ryder’s Cannabis Clubs United With the Community?
Nelson: Ryder’s club, a church—or any other club. I truly believe in the idea of the “stakeholder” and if Mr. Ryder or anybody else wants to bring people who belong to medical marijuana clinics, fantastic. Others should take part as well—invite people from your congregation, invite folks that come shopping at your shoe shop, if you’re a business owner, invite all your customers as a method of rallying support for whatever your personal cause may be.
Patch: According to ERNC President Michael Larsen, however, medical marijuana dispensary patients and customers who don’t live in Eagle Rock are not legitimate stakeholders because the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment has advised the ERNC that, to quote, “Medical Marijuana Dispensaries are not authorized under the Los Angeles Administrative Code as any of the permissible and enumerated uses contained within the Code. Thus, a person who claims an interest in a neighborhood alleging that it is based on a Medical Marijuana Dispensary, which is an unauthorized and illegal use, is not an eligible stakeholder.”
Nelson: I would say that I, too, have received [an e-mail] letter from the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, stating something quite the opposite. If Mr. Larsen would like to sit down with me and discuss the specifics of what is and what is not allowed, I’d welcome it.
Patch: What does the letter say?
Nelson: It was a general reaffirmation that anyone belonging to a club that is located in Eagle Rock is considered a stakeholder and can vote.
Patch: Did you mention to DONE that it was a marijuana-based club?
Nelson: Absolutely. The question was, “patients of medical marijuana clubs located in Eagle Rock.”
Patch: And they [DONE] told you that such patients would be considered stakeholders in Eagle Rock?
Nelson: The line [in the letter] did not directly say “medical marijuana patients can vote.” I’d be happy to forward it to you if you want.
Patch: So the response did not mention the word “marijuana.”
Nelson: The only thing missing was the word “marijuana.”
For the record, this was the response Nelson received from an official in the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment: “Voters would need to establish identity (Some form of personal ID) and a connection to the community (something with an address within the NC Boundaries). Membership in an organization that is active within the community and has a verifiable address would qualify voters for a factual basis status.”
Patch: Nelson, if you get elected as president, which of the many important issues in Eagle Rock would you want to address?
Nelson: Collaboration. Education. Quality of life—for everybody. And, as I mentioned, [I would] be the definitive version of what a public servant and representative of the people means. I will serve the public and I will represent each and every Eagle Rocker. My number one priority will be outreach. I will do everything within my power to reach out to each and every Eagler Rocker in our vicinity because I cannot be a representative of the people if I don’t know what the people want.
I want to make sure I use all forms of communication, be it paper, the Internet, SMS [text messages], live webcasts of Neighborhood Council meetings. I want to get everybody involved. I want to reach out to kids in the high school because 16-year-olds are official stakeholders in Eagle Rock.
Patch: What are your particular skills regarding outreach? What do you bring professionally to the table?
Nelson: Even before I began working for Disney—and the reason I got a job at Disney—I had knowledge about information technology. I had grown to know the Internet and the potential of its reach.
Patch: Given a choice, would you like to be known as The Innovator or the The Collaborator?
Nelson: I’d like to be the one who innovates different ways to collaborate to continue finding more innovations.
Note: The deadline to run for the ERNC elections as well as the deadline to vote by mail is Thursday, Sept. 13. Elections are scheduled on Oct. 13 and voting will take place at Eagle Rock City Hall. Click here for details.