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Meet the Candidates for the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council Elections (Part I)

A Q&A with Patch—ahead of a candidates forum Tuesday evening hosted by the ERNC.

Today, Tuesday, Oct. 9, the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council will host a Meet the Candidates forum from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness, located at 2222 Laverna Ave., not far from the Citibank building on Eagle Rock Boulevard.

Besides giving potential voters a chance to meet their future neighborhood leaders face to face four days before the Oct. 13 elections at Eagle Rock City Hall, the forum will also include a Q&A with the candidates.

Click here to read the personal statements of the candidates on the EmpowerLA website.

Partly to force the candidates to do some hard thinking—and also to prepare them for some of the tough questions that ERNC Civic Director Maria Nazario is bound to ask—Patch fielded a set of 10 questions for the candidates.

Here’s how some of the candidates responded to the questions via e-mail:

 

Nelson Grande II: President

What do you think accounts for the unprecedented interest in the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council elections this year?  

If you’re not with us, you’re against us. This is the divisive sentiment that I feel the current Council has displayed over the last two years. Led by Mr. Michael Larsen’s zealousness on a few contentious issues in Eagle Rock, the Council has alienated a very large portion of the electorate. Now, a previously silent majority is speaking out against such an unrepresentative Body. Under familiar leadership methods, the supporters of the current Council have been incorrectly led to see this new rise in governmental interest as an offensive approach instead of a more comprehensive one. This sentiment is also resonated amongst Mr. Larsen’s loyal supporters through his comments, such as, “…we have a whole set of folks like those on the “Green Slate” who advocate in favor of … illegal businesses.” This false dichotomy has perpetuated the “us vs. them” scenario that Mr. Larsen begun. The influx of candidates on either side of these debates is a direct result.

What, in your view, is the purpose of a Neighborhood Council?

The purpose of the Council is the same as every other large governmental body, to serve as Representatives of The People. Its success is dependent on the participation of its constituents. Outreach must be a top priority in its duty for the General Welfare of all people instead of a select few.

What kind of changes would you like to introduce in Eagle Rock if you’re elected to the ERNC?

I will work for the Empowerment of every Eagle Rocker by making outreach Priority Number One. I have already begun to seize all available resources in order to attract as much interest as possible. I will continue to use advancements in technology to promote a new type of Council. This new Council will reach out to everyone using paper, email, text, live video, social media, local radio, and strong partnerships with local organizations.

Much like my visit to a couple of classes at ERHS on Monday, I will continue to work on facilitating Community involvement and to make it attractive to every Eagle Rocker. I will work with those already involved to form dynamic committees and strong partnerships so that there is always an avenue of support when working on comprehensive projects such as the revitalization of our local economy. Forming an outlet that encourages one’s personal enthusiasms while in the process of building our Community will surely bring positive results to Eagle Rock.

Eagle Rock has some tremendous resources many other neighborhoods lack—two broad boulevards, two sprawling public parks, good schools, to name a few. Which of Eagle Rock’s major assets do you think are well utilized? Which do you think are underused—and what would you do to utilize their full potential as a member of the ERNC?

I feel Colorado Boulevard and Eagle Rock Boulevard are invaluable assets to our Community. Sadly, they are vastly being used as throughways to and from Glendale, Pasadena, and Highland Park. The Council must partner with established organizations such as Take Back the Boulevard in order to preserve the historic value of the boulevards while modernizing them to fulfill the current demands of our patrons and residents, alike.

As President, I will organize Unity Fairs at our local parks. These are fantastic areas that can be used by our local Residents to get to know one another and build long lasting friendships and partnerships. These Unity Fairs will be vital to Collaborative Progress.

Do you think corporate businesses such as Target and Starbucks are good for the community—or do you think they harm the interests of small businesses? Do you think Eagle Rock needs a judicious mix of mom-and-pop shops and corporate-owned stores?

There is no substitute for the warm feeling one gets when visiting a small business. This is what makes Eagle Rock such a wonderful Community. Our local shops are cherished by residents and patrons, alike. However, there is no question that a ‘big box’ store attracts much more foot traffic to the area.

Personally, I feel that these large stores are placed well in an area like Target’s. It is in the Community, but it doesn’t overshadow the warm, ‘small town’ feel further East on the boulevard.

What’s your view about land use issues in Eagle Rock? Do you think Eagle Rock’s community leaders are too tough on businesses looking to open in the neighborhood?

While discussed, the 20-year-old Colorado Specific Plan has not been revised to attract up and coming entrepreneurs. Businesses are moving out of Eagle Rock due to major restrictions in the Plan. What was once a problem in 1992 is no longer and our current local economy is suffering for it.

Oxy students and residents are encouraged to send their patronage to our neighboring towns when looking for a place to eat after 9 p.m. Small business owners see this and decide to open up shop elsewhere, leaving Eagle Rock with more and more empty storefronts by the month.

We must consider amending the Colorado Specific Plan to allow for later hours.

How would you use the Neighborhood Council’s limited funds for projects in the community? Which areas—neighborhood beautification, public safety, youth programs, for example—would you like to prioritize?

All Projects must be an investment in the Community. We must make decisions that will have a return greater than what was put in. If we plant a tree, that tree can be used as a lesson on gardening for children, a unifying community event, and can be used as a testament to our residents’ empowerment. With one tree, we can accomplish at least three major goals. As President, I will lead the Council to make these types of investments.

Do you think a Neighborhood Council should spend its funds in ways that benefit every community member? Or do you think a Neighborhood Council with limited funds has to necessarily be selective about backing certain projects at the expense of others?

We are a Neighborhood Council and we must work for the Neighborhood. A glass case for a shop is nice, however, we must take into consideration the amount of impact this glass case will have in the entire Community. Our investments must be smart. We must always strive to have the largest impacting return for the Community as a whole. The City provides funds for the entire Neighborhood, not for a select few.

Would you be willing to tap private and nonprofit organizations to raise funds for community projects? What expertise, if any—in grant writing, for example—do you have for fundraising?

There is no doubt in my mind that we will be seeking partnerships with private and non-profit organizations. Strong partnerships facilitate progress. However, we must always be careful to create partnerships that are in the best interest of the Community. I firmly believe Transparency is vital to honest Government. Therefore, any and all partnerships will be brought before The People of Eagle Rock for analysis.

If elected, what would you like to see as your biggest success as a member of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council?

By the end of my first term, the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council will be a household name in Eagle Rock. It will have set an example in Outreach and Unification the likes of which had never been seen by any NC. We will have achieved major milestones in the redevelopment of Colorado Boulevard and the revitalization of our local economy. Through the facilitation of open dialogue amongst all residents, we will have discussed massive Collaborative projects. The ERNC will be commonly known as the local body of Government that has facilitated Progress in Eagle Rock through the empowerment of every resident.

 

Irena Seta: Civic Affairs Director

What do you think accounts for the unprecedented interest in the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council elections this year?

Outreach & community/resident interests.

What, in your view, is the purpose of a Neighborhood Council?

Liaison to local and statewide government.

What kind of changes would you like to introduce in Eagle Rock if you’re elected to the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council?

Funding distribution outlines & requirements; more community-wide event.

Eagle Rock has some tremendous resources many other neighborhoods lack—two broad boulevards, two sprawling public parks, good schools, to name a few. Which of Eagle Rock’s major assets do you think are well utilized? Which do you think are underused—and what would you do to utilize their full potential as a member of the ERNC?

Our local parks are well utilized with sports programs and community events, while our 2 boulevards have definitely evolved over the years, but I still feel that it could use more businesses to meet our community needs.

Do you think corporate businesses such as Target and Starbucks are good for the community—or do you think they harm the interests of small businesses? Do you think Eagle Rock needs a judicious mix of mom-and-pop shops and corporate-owned stores?

Corporate business are, for the most part good, because they are the draw to our community. But a good mix of both is a true enhancement to our community.

What’s your view about land use issues in Eagle Rock? Do you think Eagle Rock’s community leaders are too tough on businesses looking to open in the neighborhood?

I don't think they are tough enough. They need to consider how these new and existing establishment are going to effect the traffic and parking issues for our residents.

How would you use the Neighborhood Council’s limited funds for projects in the community? Which areas—neighborhood beautification, public safety, youth programs, for example—would you like to prioritize?

Public safety and community improvements as a whole.

Do you think a Neighborhood Council should spend its funds in ways that benefit every community member? Or do you think a Neighborhood Council with limited funds has to necessarily be selective about backing certain projects at the expense of others?

Council funds are limited, so yes we need to be selective about the projects we fund.

Would you be willing to tap private and nonprofit organizations to raise funds for community projects? What expertise, if any—in grant writing, for example—do you have for fundraising?

Pursuing private & non-profit organizations funding and grants should be priority before approaching the NC.

If elected, what would you like to see as your biggest success as a member of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council?

Teamwork, commitment & equal stance on community issues.

 

Eddie Ramirez: Civic Affairs Director

What do you think accounts for the unprecedented interest in the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council elections this year?

In my opinion, it’s because residents are now more aware and educated of the ERNC, me included. Thanks to the Patch, I became aware of the ERNC and after attending one meeting, I knew I needed to get involved. Eagle Rock residents are smart & passionate and now that they are aware of the value of the ERNC, they want to be involved with the decisions that affect the neighborhood.

What, in your view, is the purpose of a Neighborhood Council?

To represent the community as a whole (residents and businesses) and to be their voice to City Officials. In addition, one of ERNC’s primary roles should be to listen to resident concerns and then collectively work with all parties to come up with positive resolutions that address most, if not all concerns and the neighborhood.

What kind of changes would you like to introduce in Eagle Rock if you’re elected to the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council?

I feel very strongly that if you fix most of what hurts Colorado Boulevard (or even Eagle Rock Boulevard), you will fix most of what hurts Eagle Rock. These two boulevards have been revolving doors for businesses; open one day and close another. To me and the rest of the Progress & Collaboration slate, this means updating/strengthening key provisions of the outdated Colorado Specific Plan.  By updating the plan, we can attract the “right” kind of businesses to our main commercial district. This “small” change will positively increase many areas (e.g. home values, crime reduction, etc.).

Eagle Rock has some tremendous resources many other neighborhoods lack—two broad boulevards, two sprawling public parks, good schools, to name a few. Which of Eagle Rock’s major assets do you think are well utilized? Which do you think are underused—and what would you do to utilize their full potential as a member of the ERNC?

We actually have three parks in Eagle Rock—the two large parks are well utilized. I know this personally because I take my dog for play time. The Richard Alatorre Park on the other hand is highly underused due to unawareness or location—look what’s across the street and no “real parking” (in my opinion).

Eagle Rock has unbelievable resources and passionate residents, just look at the amount of candidates for this election. The exciting part for me is the potential Eagle Rock has or can become. More than any other neighborhood in Los Angeles, Eagle Rock is poised for significant improvements should we all organize behind a few key and simple ideas: revitalizing Colorado Boulevard (and Eagle Rock Boulevard), cleaning up the neighborhood and unifying the citizenry.

Do you think corporate businesses such as Target and Starbucks are good for the community—or do you think they harm the interests of small businesses? Do you think Eagle Rock needs a judicious mix of mom-and-pop shops and corporate-owned stores?

In my opinion, a diverse community needs both types of business to meet the needs of the entire community. This is one of the areas where a balance and common sense approach has to be taken and not just jump to judgment and draws a “hard” line without putting the community needs ahead of one-self ideas or interests.

What’s your view about land use issues in Eagle Rock? Do you think Eagle Rock’s community leaders are too tough on businesses looking to open in the neighborhood?

Yes—Eagle Rock has too many "outdated" restrictions. The Colorado Boulevard Specific plan needs to be strengthen/revised to keep up with the needs of the community. Today’s community needs are different then when the current Colorado Specific plan was written. It’s 2012, time to move and keep up with times!

How would you use the Neighborhood Council’s limited funds for projects in the community? Which areas—neighborhood beautification, public safety, youth programs, for example—would you like to prioritize?

The first thing I would do is work with the other council members to come up with a plan of action. Every dollar counts! That is why I would work with the rest of the council to come up with guidelines and expectations that have to be met in order to receive any funds.  The current way the council works now (and what prompted me to get involved) is that Joe-blow from XYZ company/project attends a meeting, does a two-minute plea and the council either grants it or rejects it.  If someone wants funding from the ERNC, there has to be a more strict set of guidelines or process, like a template, application, or budget proposal (if you will) that has to be completed and submitted for review in which specifically addresses why and where the funding will go before being given the opportunity to do a “formal” presentation.

In addition, it’s ridiculous how many members of the council choose to “abstain” from voting when some of these fund requests are on the table for vote. If “you” have a board position, it’s your duty/responsibility to vote, whether you agree or disagree. Abstaining from a vote because “you” feel like it should not be an option.    

Youth programs must be a priority for the neighborhood and the council needs to take it serious.  Developing our youth is the future of the council and neighborhood.  Having a youth take an official board position with no mentoring or coaching is a waste of time for the youth and a loss for the neighborhood since this youth usually is not given the opportunity to express his/her ideas or thoughts, let alone vote on key issues/fund requests. 

I would work with the rest of the committee to revise the by-laws and add a position, like an “Associate Director” so that a youth can be involved and learn along the way without affecting voting procedures. 

Do you think Neighborhood Council should spend its funds in ways that benefit every community member? Or do you think a Neighborhood Council with limited funds has to necessarily be selective about backing certain projects at the expense of others?

Let’s be realistic, there will never be enough funding to make everyone happy. Just look at the national debt we’re in and everyone at the top just point fingers to each other.

That said, yes, the committee is responsible and needs to come up with a “priority” list and fund the projects that will have the most impact on the community or project.

Would you be willing to tap private and nonprofit organizations to raise funds for community projects? What expertise, if any—in grant writing, for example—do you have for fundraising?

I absolutely would be willing to approach private and nonprofit organizations to raise funds for community projects. I have been a board member of another 501c3 for 10 years, last three as President and have been successful at approaching and receiving sponsorships to keep all of our the programs successfully running year after year. We are a community and in order to move forward and grow, you have to get your head out of the sand and be smart about generating funds for projects.    

No. I personally do not have expertise in grant writing.

If elected, what would you like to see as your biggest success as a member of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council?

If elected, it would be to (to name a few):

  • Work with my fellow council members to ensure time and funds are maximized to its potential and not waste so much time, energy and resources on one issue.
  • Continue to reach out to the community and continue to maintain awareness about the ERNC and what/how “they” can be involved with projects in the community.
  • Set up a youth program within the council, call it “internship” if you will. That way, the ERNC will be in solid hands for future generations. 

 

Hamilton Yutan: Business Director

What do you think accounts for the unprecedented interest in the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council elections this year?

With the rise of the Internet, and as more and more get connected, we are seeing information that matters most to our community becoming more accessible, allowing residents to be more involved and informed than ever before. Websites like the Eagle Rock Patch have certainly played a big part in that.

What, in your view, is the purpose of a Neighborhood Council?

Neighborhood Councils are necessary to give locals in a community a voice that can be heard by a much larger city government. Without them, many of our local interests would go unnoticed and our concerns would not be addressed. Neighborhood Councils give us a forum that we can actively participate and share our ideas with others in the community, address the issues we are facing, and take action on these issues together.

What kind of changes would you like to introduce in Eagle Rock if you’re elected to the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council?

If elected as Business Director, I would make it my number one priority to work with our local businesses to find out what are the top issues they face and devise a plan for us as a community to address them. I want our local businesses to thrive and impact our local economy in a positive way and listen to the residents that are most affected by the businesses in Eagle Rock so that we can work together and benefit the community as a whole.

Eagle Rock has some tremendous resources many other neighborhoods lack—two broad boulevards, two sprawling public parks, good schools, to name a few. Which of Eagle Rock’s major assets do you think are well utilized? Which do you think are underused—and what would you do to utilize their full potential as a member of the ERNC?

I believe our greatest assets are the businesses and residents of Eagle Rock. It is my belief that a majority or residents do not know, or are unfamiliar with, many of our local businesses that we have right here in Eagle Rock. I intend to forward solutions that create an environment that is pedestrian friendly, one that will encourage residents to walk throughout our neighborhood and feel safe doing so at all hours. This will give residents the opportunity to explore our diverse shops and eateries and get to know not only the local businesses, but also our own neighbors we might not get to see very often.

Do you think corporate businesses such as Target and Starbucks are good for the community—or do you think they harm the interests of small businesses? Do you think Eagle Rock needs a judicious mix of mom-and-pop shops and corporate-owned stores?

All communities need great places to shop. This includes both large corporate businesses as well as small businesses. We need great businesses in general in our community to provide jobs, goods and services. I believe that the businesses that provide our residents with the best products, great service, and reasonable prices will not only succeed here in Eagle Rock, but be supported by our residents.

What’s your view about land use issues in Eagle Rock? Do you think Eagle Rock’s community leaders are too tough on businesses looking to open in the neighborhood?

I support a land use policy that is able to adapt to our fast-changing environmental, social and economic conditions. I believe in a sound master plan that evolves with the people and culture of the community. New businesses may find starting out in Eagle Rock to be difficult, however, the process gives them insight into what our community values as well as our concerns.  When businesses are able to address these, both the new business and the residents win.

How would you use the Neighborhood Council’s limited funds for projects in the community? Which areas—neighborhood beautification, public safety, youth programs, for example—would you like to prioritize?

I would put neighborhood beautification and public safety as my top priorities. During these difficult times, funds are extremely limited and we need to use the money we have to wisely invest in our neighborhood that will not only generate more business, but will also increase the value and better the environment in Eagle Rock.

Do you think a Neighborhood Council should spend its funds in ways that benefit every community member? Or do you think a Neighborhood Council with limited funds has to necessarily be selective about backing certain projects at the expense of others?

Very rarely will communities agree 100 percent on every issue. It is our duty as leaders to listen to the community and have an open dialogue and come to an agreement on the actions we will take. We need leaders that have a genuine concern for our community and that we can trust in making the hard decisions. Community members may not always agree on everything, but with open communication and transparency, we can trust that the decisions we make are the best for Eagle Rock.

Would you be willing to tap private and nonprofit organizations to raise funds for community projects? What expertise, if any—in grant writing, for example—do you have for fundraising?

It is of no surprise that our community needs funds for our community projects. Sources of these funds should come from all avenues, including public agencies, nonprofit organizations, corporations, and individuals. We must find the right grants that will better our community as a whole and be able to create great proposals that will enable us to receive these grants. I am willing and able to do the necessary research to find and create such proposals.

If elected, what would you like to see as your biggest success as a member of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council?

I see success as knowing that I did my best for my community. I want to see businesses thrive and give back to the community that supported them. Eagle Rock is our community, our home.

 

Mark Yutan: Business Director

What do you think accounts for the unprecedented interest in the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council elections this year?

With no doubt, it because of the popularity of the Patch News site that members of the community become aware of community matters, including elections. Currently, there are very few resources for local residents to get local news that is up to date and specific to our community.

What, in your view, is the purpose of a Neighborhood Council?

The Neighborhood Council has a dual purpose - to promote public participation in government, and to make government more responsive to local needs.  In effect, it should empower local citizens to play a role in discussing, planning for and fulfilling the community's needs.

What kind of changes would you like to introduce in Eagle Rock if you’re elected to the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council?

As a Business Director, I would encourage a diversity of businesses to take the opportunity to invest in our community. Eagle Rock has a history of attracting specific businesses. In the past, we had tons of auto repair shops that popped up. After a while, a surplus of small retail shops dotted each of our boulevards.  In the past decade, we've seen an abundance of restaurants come in. Now, we have a slew of massage clinics and marijuana dispensaries. Certain businesses should be concentrated in particular districts, with a wide diversity of others spread throughout the area.   

Eagle Rock has some tremendous resources many other neighborhoods lack—two broad boulevards, two sprawling public parks, good schools, to name a few. Which of Eagle Rock’s major assets do you think are well utilized? Which do you think are underused—and what would you do to utilize their full potential as a member of the ERNC?

The schools are definitely known for their quality education. Also, the boulevards are used heavily to conveniently get from one side of town to the other, benefitting local residents and visitors, as well as small businesses that set up shop along the boulevards.

We could surely use the beautiful parks for more community events, especially to enhance quality of life. For example, a Walk-a-thon could be set up with a route starting from Eagle Rock park and going down Figueroa to Yosemite, and past another station set up at Yosemite Park, through until Eagle Rock Boulevard, and up to Colorado Boulevard, and back up to Eagle Rock Park. An event like that would not only promote healthy living, but also give participants the opportunity to actually walk by (and see) storefronts that they usually just drive past.

Do you think corporate businesses such as Target and Starbucks are good for the community—or do you think they harm the interests of small businesses? Do you think Eagle Rock needs a judicious mix of mom-and-pop shops and corporate-owned stores?

Corporate businesses are excellent for any community, large or small. They provide good quality products and services at affordable prices, which greatly benefits all consumers. They also provide a standard which smaller "mom-and-pop shops" can exceed. They can provide something unique and different (maybe specialized products or services, or even something as simple as friendlier service) to give Eagle Rock it's own unique flavor.  

As a Business Director, I would not support extensive regulation of any business, but would support local businesses by promoting their products and services.  It is hard to compete against the advertising budgets of a Target or a Starbucks or a McDonald's—but with local support, we can make sure that those with viable businesses that are providing desired products and services get noticed and patroned.

What’s your view about land use issues in Eagle Rock? Do you think Eagle Rock’s community leaders are too tough on businesses looking to open in the neighborhood?

Community leaders should make it clear what types of businesses the community is looking to promote. Businesses should be given a fair chance to succeed given those circumstances. The role of the community leaders should be to provide vision and direction, and ensure the safety and wellbeing of it's citizens. The market could and should police itself. 

How would you use the Neighborhood Council’s limited funds for projects in the community? Which areas—neighborhood beautification, public safety, youth programs, for example—would you like to prioritize?

As a Business Director, I would use some funds to promote local businesses. That would be my priority, and that's what I would fight for.     

Do you think a Neighborhood Council should spend its funds in ways that benefit every community member? Or do you think a Neighborhood Council with limited funds has to necessarily be selective about backing certain projects at the expense of others?

Any funds spent by the Neighborhood Council should promote the general good, and should be justified by showing that it would benefit at least 50 percent of it's citizens. Citizens trust that leaders have the common good in mind when entrusted with spending of community funds; nevertheless, funds spent on the community should be transparent.

Would you be willing to tap private and nonprofit organizations to raise funds for community projects? What expertise, if any—in grant writing, for example—do you have for fundraising?

Eagle Rock is worth it. That is the message that we need to send out’to our residents, to our local business owners, to private organizations, to non-profit organizations, to our elected officials, to everyone. If it is known that this community of ours is "worth it"—we have households that have disposable income, we have businesses that provide needed products and services, we have people who care, we have citizens that vote—we will see investments come in because we have a thriving community that is valuable to them.

If elected, what would you like to see as your biggest success as a member of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council?

My biggest success would be to do my best for our beloved community with the given duties and responsibilities of the elected position.

 

Sande Seto: Civic Director

What do you think accounts for the unprecedented interest in the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council elections this year?

Although my goal is simply to work to make sure that the Neighborhood Council represents the community of Eagle Rock, it does seem that much of the interest this year is due to the issue of medical marijuana.

What, in your view, is the purpose of a Neighborhood Council?

The purpose of the Neighborhood Council is represent the interests of the neighborhood to city government.

What kind of changes would you like to introduce in Eagle Rock if you’re elected to the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council?

I think Eagle Rock is a wonderful place and really don't think much should be changed. I would like to continue to support our community groups.

Eagle Rock has some tremendous resources many other neighborhoods lack—two broad boulevards, two sprawling public parks, good schools, to name a few. Which of Eagle Rock’s major assets do you think are well utilized? Which do you think are underused—and what would you do to utilize their full potential as a member of the ERNC?

I think the parks and schools are fabulous and well utilized. Certainly there are some areas that could use more business development, but hopefully as the economy improves that will happen.

Do you think corporate businesses such as Target and Starbucks are good for the community—or do you think they harm the interests of small businesses? Do you think Eagle Rock needs a judicious mix of mom-and-pop shops and corporate-owned stores?

I think a judicious mix is the best for Eagle Rock.

What’s your view about land use issues in Eagle Rock? Do you think Eagle Rock’s community leaders are too tough on businesses looking to open in the neighborhood?

We have seen some wonderful new businesses open up in Eagle Rock. I would be happy to look at issue more closely if it appears there is a real problem.

How would you use the Neighborhood Council’s limited funds for projects in the community? Which areas—neighborhood beautification, public safety, youth programs, for example—would you like to prioritize?

I think it is better to consider proposals on their merits. All of the issues are important but we should focus on proposals that are the most effective.

Do you think a Neighborhood Council should spend its funds in ways that benefit every community member? Or do you think a Neighborhood Council with limited funds has to necessarily be selective about backing certain projects at the expense of others?

Of course the Council can't fund everything. All they can do is try to fund the best projects which will have the most impact for the amount of funding.

Would you be willing to tap private and nonprofit organizations to raise funds for community projects? What expertise, if any—in grant writing, for example—do you have for fundraising?

I was the executive director of the Disability Rights Legal Center and did fundraising and grant writing for them.  I help public interest law students and graduates raise money for their organizations.

If elected, what would you like to see as your biggest success as a member of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council?

I would be thrilled if we had more community involvement and continued to grow as a family friendly and connected neighborhood.

 

Mark Haskell Smith: Director Sub-District 5

What do you think accounts for the unprecedented interest in the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council elections this year?

I think people, at least my neighbors and business owners I’ve spoken with, are concerned that the ERNC has neglected issues that they feel are important to the quality of life here. The neighborhood has changed a lot in the 10 years I’ve been here and I think people want some concerned neighbors to step in and show some vision for the future of the community. And they want a council that listens to them. For me personally, I’m interested in opening the council up to the concerns of all the residents.

What, in your view, is the purpose of a Neighborhood Council?

To address the concerns of the stakeholders, try to solve some of the problems we have in the area, and represent the stakeholder’s concerns to our City Councilman and Mayor.

What kind of changes would you like to introduce in Eagle Rock if you’re elected to the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council?

I’d like the ERNC to be more responsive to the concerns of the people. I’ve talked to lots of residents and business owners and they all say the same thing. They want to have more choices, more places to eat or have coffee and meet their friends, safe parks to take their kids. Places to walk and shop. They want to be able to get a good burrito after 9:30 p.m. (not from a truck)

Eagle Rock has some tremendous resources many other neighborhoods lack—two broad boulevards, two sprawling public parks, good schools, to name a few. Which of Eagle Rock’s major assets do you think are well utilized? Which do you think are underused—and what would you do to utilize their full potential as a member of the ERNC?

The boulevards need to be reconfigured. Slow traffic down, open up more spaces with angled parking, which would keep people from parking on residential streets, and add some green space.  Of course none of that matters if you’ve got parking and nice trees in front of an empty storefront.

Do you think corporate businesses such as Target and Starbucks are good for the community—or do you think they harm the interests of small businesses? Do you think Eagle Rock needs a judicious mix of mom-and-pop shops and corporate-owned stores?

Austin Texas has a motto, “Keep Austin Weird,” which means, chain stores and chain restaurants are the exception, mom and pop shops are the rule. I’d like to keep Eagle Rock weird in that respect.

What’s your view about land use issues in Eagle Rock? Do you think Eagle Rock’s community leaders are too tough on businesses looking to open in the neighborhood?

Look around. Colorado Boulevard has a high percentage of empty storefronts and businesses that don’t necessarily improve the quality of life in the neighborhood. This is due to underlying economic issues caused by the dated Colorado Specific Plan. Vibrant businesses are choosing York Ave or other parts of North East Los Angeles, leaving Eagle Rock with massage parlors and empty storefronts.   We need to update the plan to still preserve the neighborhood we all want, but allow new business in and help existing businesses thrive.

How would you use the Neighborhood Council’s limited funds for projects in the community? Which areas—neighborhood beautification, public safety, youth programs, for example—would you like to prioritize?

I would really like to hear what the neighborhood thinks.   With all this energy coming into the council, I think now would be a good time to hear from the stakeholders and then set priorities. I’m approaching this with an open mind.

Do you think a Neighborhood Council should spend its funds in ways that benefit every community member? Or do you think a Neighborhood Council with limited funds has to necessarily be selective about backing certain projects at the expense of others?

Obviously it’s the job of the Neighborhood Council to make these kinds of decisions, but I would hope the funds would be used in a way that would benefit the largest number of residents.   

Would you be willing to tap private and nonprofit organizations to raise funds for community projects? What expertise, if any—in grant writing, for example—do you have for fundraising?

I have started a graduate school for the University of California, so I have some experience dealing with large organizations and building a foundation for a large project.

If elected, what would you like to see as your biggest success as a member of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council?

Preserving the unique small town feel of the neighborhood while helping the commercial corridor support healthy businesses and pedestrian (and stroller) friendly areas where residents could come together and enjoy life.

 

Baker Montgomery: Director, Sub District 1

What do you think accounts for the unprecedented interest in the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council elections this year?

Eagle Rock is full of smart, passionate people and the real question is why did it take so long for this interest in the ERNC to materialize. There is finally an awareness that the ERNC can be a great asset to our community, provided the council works hard to empower its citizens.

What, in your view, is the purpose of a Neighborhood Council?

The foremost charge of the council is to advocate for the wishes of its citizenry. If elected, I will do just that. The council should also play a crucial role in guiding government officials, both elected and appointed, as to the will of those in Eagle Rock. 

What kind of changes would you like to introduce in Eagle Rock if you’re elected to the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council?

I feel very strongly that if you fix most of what ails Colorado Boulevard, you will fix most of what ails Eagle Rock. To me, and to the rest of the Progress & Collaboration slate that I am running with, this means strengthening key provisions of the Colorado Specific Plan so that we can attract the right kind of businesses to our main commercial district. You do that and property values will go up, crime will go down and Eagle Rock will finally have the vibrant core it deserves. 

I am also dead set on cleaning up the litter and graffiti around our neighborhood. This is not the most glamorous task one can find on the council but few things will have the immediate and positive impact on our community than simply cleaning it up will. It actually dumbfounds me that the current council seems to have done so little in this regard. 

Eagle Rock has some tremendous resources many other neighborhoods lack—two broad boulevards, two sprawling public parks, good schools, to name a few. Which of Eagle Rock’s major assets do you think are well utilized? Which do you think are underused—and what would you do to utilize their full potential as a member of the ERNC?

Eagle Rock has unbelievable resources. What really excites me is the vast untapped potential here. More than any other neighborhood in Los Angeles, Eagle Rock is poised for a quantum leap should we all organize behind a few key ideas: revitalizing Colorado Boulevard, cleaning up the neighborhood and unifying the citizenry. But do I think our tremendous resources are being well utilized? No, I most certainly do not. I do not know one forward thinking member of our community that would argue our boulevards are anywhere near reaching their potential. The group of candidates running under The Eagle Rock Neighbors put out their policy positions and included was their prescription, or lack thereof, for improving Colorado:

“Some other ERNC candidates are running against the Specific Plan, claiming that the Plan has prevented new businesses from opening on Colorado Boulevard, driving them to York Boulevard in Highland Park instead. This is not true. The fact of the matter is the Specific Plan is routinely violated by ‘good’ businesses in Eagle Rock; and most of the time, no one cares.”

This is the kind of thinking that has kept Colorado full of empty storefronts and blighted with trash. We of the P&C Slate desperately want this type of attitude to be put into the trash bin of history. Perhaps the Eagle Rock Neighbors are not aware of the fact that because of the Specific Plan as it now stands, some restaurants must pay $18,000 just to apply for a variance that would allow them to stay open past 9 pm. If their application is denied, they are still out the $18,000. This is obviously not helpful to bringing the right kind of businesses to Eagle Rock. No one on the P&C slate is “running against the Specific Plan” and none of us want to do away with it. In fact, we want just the opposite; we want to strengthen it to allow the family friendly businesses that we all want to move in here. Trying to get a restaurateur to open on Colorado when he/she cannot stay open on Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m. is a near impossibility. Especially when they can simply go to York and not have to fight the draconian and byzantine laws that we have on the books here in Eagle Rock. Think of all the great restaurants that have opened on York in the past two years and then think about the ones that have opened in Eagle Rock. This is common sense stuff here and even one of the original drafters of the Specific Plan is dismayed at how it has stifled growth.

Do you think corporate businesses such as Target and Starbucks are good for the community—or do you think they harm the interests of small businesses? Do you think Eagle Rock needs a judicious mix of mom-and-pop shops and corporate-owned stores?

I absolutely do not think corporate businesses are good for the community. In fact, I think they are terrible for the community and as a member of the ERNC I will do everything in my power to keep corporate stores out of our community. 

What’s your view about land use issues in Eagle Rock? Do you think Eagle Rock’s community leaders are too tough on businesses looking to open in the neighborhood?

I addressed some of this above this above but let me add that the community leaders in the past have made very odd decisions as to who can and cannot open a business here. If you go back to the Eagle Rock Neighbors statement that I quoted above, they write:

“The fact of the matter is the Specific Plan is routinely violated by “good” businesses in Eagle Rock; and most of the time, no one cares.”

Well again, anyone with an ounce of commonsense could tell you this is not a sound policy to get businesses to come to our community. Opening a business is an expensive proposition and particularly so for the mom and pop stores we all want. It is often true that these potential small business owners are pouring all of their savings into them. When they come before the council to announce their intentions for their business and the answer they get is, “We will let you violate the Specific Plan as long as we deem you to be a "good" business", well that is certainly not encouraging. Who is going to risk their life savings into opening a business under those murky circumstances? Again, this is basic stuff here and the current situation is simply unacceptable.

How would you use the Neighborhood Council’s limited funds for projects in the community? Which areas—neighborhood beautification, public safety, youth programs, for example—would you like to prioritize?

The first thing I would do is work with the other council members to come up with a plan of action.  The way the council works now is people come ask for money and the council either grants or rejects that request without much apparent thought into long term planning.  We have to come up with a priority list with an eye to the future. For me, this would start with litter abatement.  As I said earlier, there are very few issues that can bring as substantial of a boost to the quality of life of our citizenry than simply picking up the trash. Not to beat a dead horse, but if you fix the main thoroughfares and boost pedestrian traffic, you will see dramatic decreases in litter as well as crime. Study after study shows this to be true.

And youth programs will absolutely be a priority.  In fact, the Progress & Collaboration slate has done quite a bit of outreach already to the high school and we will be hopefully getting both them and the students at Occidental more involved. I will also note that the current council drastically cut their support for Northeast Los Angeles Veterans Day Parade this year.  With so many veterans in the community this was a real shame and left a dark stain on the ERNC as far as I am concerned.

Do you think Neighborhood Council should spend its funds in ways that benefit every community member? Or do you think a Neighborhood Council with limited funds has to necessarily be selective about backing certain projects at the expense of others?

You have to be selective.  To say otherwise is nonsense and disingenuous.

Would you be willing to tap private and nonprofit organizations to raise funds for community projects? What expertise, if any—in grant writing, for example—do you have for fundraising?

I absolutely would be willing to tap private and nonprofit organizations to raise funds for community projects.  We of the P&C have already been discussing how this might be accomplished and while I am not a seasoned grant writer myself, I have already gotten pledges of support of those that are.

If elected, what would you like to see as your biggest success as a member of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council?

Community empowerment and outreach are two areas I hope to be successful in. This encompasses everything I have already been talking about in this interview. If you empower the people in the community, you will see Eagle Rock reach its potential. I contrast this with the current council and its obsessive focus on one issue. Not only was the council at odds with the wishes of the majority of those in Eagle Rock but also their myopia came at the expense of all the other issues we face. We have to move past this division and come together. If we focus on what we can do together, the future for Eagle Rock is bright indeed.

 

Erykah Grande: Business Director

What do you think accounts for the unprecedented interest in the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council elections this year?

A combination of things explains the unprecedented interest in the ERNC elections this year. The most obvious: the media. The coverage from Patch.com, a couple of TV News reports (that I know of), and the Boulevard Sentinel have all helped. An overall dissatisfaction of the LA City Council’s, as well as the current Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council’s actions, or lack of, have inspired people to “do something about it.” Whether a newbie or veteran, activists are either on the benches rooting loud and hard for their candidates, or on the field, playing ball. People are finally leaving the comforts of their homes to get out there. Very truly inspiring and I couldn’t be happier for being a part of that.

What, in your view, is the purpose of a Neighborhood Council?

An explanation found on DONE’s website states that “Neighborhood Councils receive public funds of $45,000 each year to support their activities. This may include creating events and programs that respond to the unique needs of their community or advocating on behalf of the issues they care about such as crime, roads and streets, the creation of safe spaces for children, gangs, and economic development.”

In my view, there’s that, as well as a much more meaningful purpose. When my friends and family ask about the NC, I tell them it’s an “official” group of individuals meant to represent a small cluster of the people of Los Angeles. Its purpose is to empower, to serve, and to inform The People; and lastly, to be a liaison between LA’s City Officials (Council Representatives) and their constituents.

What kind of changes would you like to introduce in Eagle Rock if you’re elected to the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council?

One, in particular, is Outreach. As a Business Director I aim to notify every business in Eagle Rock that we (the ERNC) are here to serve, inform, and empower them. I want them to all have my contact information and to use it if they have any questions/concerns and if I don’t have the answer, I will find it. I’m relentless and I see that as a strength perfect for the execution of this goal. Empowerment of The

Eagle Rock People is not something easily seen or acquired in Eagle Rock. Of course, my priority as a Business Director will be businesses, but I will not exclude Residents, Patrons, Students and even Children.

Eagle Rock has some tremendous resources many other neighborhoods lack—two broad boulevards, two sprawling public parks, good schools, to name a few. Which of Eagle Rock’s major assets do you think are well utilized? Which do you think are underused—and what would you do to utilize their full potential as a member of the ERNC?

One word: Collaboration. As a member in the board I aim to work with my fellow board members to build relationships. Eagle Rock has a number of organizations such as TERA, CERB, ERCC, and ERVHS that are run by active citizens working hard to maintain and utilize these major assets. By uniting with them we can help empower them even more. We can create bridges with the city so that we don’t go unnoticed and repairs to streets and sidewalks don’t take the usual 2-3 years to be addressed. Touching base on City Plans such as The Specific Plan (a plan over 20 years old!) can help revitalize Colorado Bolevard.

Also, working with businesses and residents off Eagle Rock Blvd can also be addressed to help make our 2nd major boulevard a more thriving one.

Do you think corporate businesses such as Target and Starbucks are good for the community—or do you think they harm the interests of small businesses? Do you think Eagle Rock needs a judicious mix of mom-and-pop shops and corporate-owned stores?

I am a big supporter and advocate of Local Businesses. Although I do not feel like corporate Target and Starbucks are harming our community, I feel they leave no room for small "mom-and-pop" businesses to thrive in a happily Small Town such as Eagle Rock. Places like Target and Starbucks are great places to shop in, don't get me wrong, their prices are great considering the economy most of us are feeling, but I wouldn't mind making the commute to Glendale Galleria's Target, a neighboring city who embraces a more Corporate Business. During my youth in Highland Park, I remember riding the bus through Colorado Boulevard and noticing the Small-Town feel. Now that I'm older and more involved, there's no doubt in my mind that Eagle Rock is a place for Residents to live in Peace, as well as a place for entrepenuers who wish to run small businesses that help maintain the small and resourceful town that we are.

What’s your view about land use issues in Eagle Rock? Do you think Eagle Rock’s community leaders are too tough on businesses looking to open in the neighborhood?

I feel like there are things, like the Specific Plan, that should have been addressed and never were. Well, at least not until the Progress & Collaboration slate brought it up. There is this 'Specific Plan' that was passed over 20 years ago that hinders newcomers from establishing businesses here and gives hardly a wiggle room for existing ones to expand with. A plan that is mostly the cause for so many empty storefronts. 20 years is a long time for something to go untouched and unmentioned within the ERNC.

Makes one wonder why, with an ERNC having 2 business directors, nothing was ever done to address this issue that seems to bother a good amount of local businesses along Colorado Boulevard. And what's most troublesome is that one current Business Director is now running for the ERNC President seat, same person who holds multiple "recognitions" with ER Chamber of Commerce and has a seemingly successful business on Colorado's adjacent Main Street, Eagle Rock Blvd. Simply put, 20 years is a long time for such an obstacle to exist. We need to discuss this and come to a fresh agreement so that our empty storefronts are filled with vibrant small businesses that help bring more life to this amazing small town my family and I call "home."

How would you use the Neighborhood Council’s limited funds for projects in the community? Which areas—neighborhood beautification, public safety, youth programs, for example—would you like to prioritize?

As Business Director, I would like to prioritize in tackling this Specific Plan project. I would love to work alongside organizations in Eagle Rock, such as CERB and TERA, and help facilitate resources so that they can continue making ER green and beautiful. I would love to help make both Colorado Boulevard and Eagle Rock Boulevard more pedestrian friendly. We are a town of folks who love to take walks with our children, our dogs, our friends. We ride bikes, drive scooters, cruise. We are a town that truly appreciates the Pause Button in life and we already have groups and people who are already fighting to maintain that. I will be here to empower them and lend a helping hand.

Do you think a Neighborhood Council should spend its funds in ways that benefit every community member? Or do you think a Neighborhood Council with limited funds has to necessarily be selective about backing certain projects at the expense of others?

Same One-Word: Collaboration. I feel that as a united community we can all agree on something, eventually. I aim to present issues, make them public (through successful outreach), involve The People and come to mutual agreements on what needs financial priority. I know there will be many nay-sayers and non-believers, but I say Give Peace a Chance. Not all of us will agree on one thing, but I feel we can discuss things and reach agreements with a more engaged community. One thing, however, I am certain we can all agree on and that's a healthy, safe and thriving community—Something The Progress and Collaboration slate hope to bring to Eagle Rock.

Would you be willing to tap private and nonprofit organizations to raise funds for community projects? What expertise, if any—in grant writing, for example—do you have for fundraising?

As previously mentioned, I look forward to working with organizations (private or public) that wish to help this community. I have experience in Organizing, Planning, Production and have enough energy and friends to bring in an army of car washers, lemon squeezers and any other type of helping hand. I am extremely confident in my ability to reach out to people of all ages.

If elected, what would you like to see as your biggest success as a member of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council?

As Business Director: I'd like to think I brought Communication to the businesses; as well as a positive collaboration between Residents and Business Owners. As a member of the NC: I hope to bring empowerment to The People.

Continued in Part II

Marcus October 09, 2012 at 09:05 PM
There has been a lot of talk about ERNC tackling issues other than MMDs, and so I'd like to bring up the issue of graffiti and abandoned shopping carts in Eagle Rock. Does each candidate think that the community has a graffiti problem? Does each candidate think it's manageable, or have they thought this could be an area for improvement? I do feel the candidates for ERNC should be asked on how they see such issues.
Nelson R Grande II October 09, 2012 at 09:31 PM
As I understand, there is a service paid for by the local grocery stores to pick up abandoned carts. We can contact the local stores that do this to make sure they're actually getting what they pay for. If it seems to be that these are generic carts not belonging to any specific grocery store, we can create dialogue with the local residents on finding practical solutions to this. I feel this, along with graffiti, are part of the Vision that the Progress & Collaboration slate released in regards to litter. http://eaglerock.patch.com/blog_posts/blog-progress-collaboration-slates-vision-for-eagle-rock We can invite Young Adults and local schools to get involved. They may be able to get extra credit in Social Studies classes for Community Building. We can also build partnerships with the local businesses to subsidize repainting of their walls. These are just a couple of simple suggestions. But with empowered Eagle Rockers, we can formulate substantially more comprehensive plans to tackle these and other issues concerning Eagle Rockers such as yourself. 323.989.3762 NelsonBig@NEGeeks.net
John October 09, 2012 at 11:20 PM
T.A.G. - Totally Against Graffiti was a county program that sent mascots to elementary and middle schools to educate children on the costs and consequences of graffiti. Cartoon mascots appeared with pizza and prizes at school sponsored neighborhood clean up days, and schools were awarded for making the most improvements to the surrounding area. The biggest benefit of the program is getting to kids before they become taggers or gangsters, and getting them to see that graffiti costs them, their parents, and the city a ton of money. I think the city spends $20,000 a day cleaning up graffiti. The county has an 800 number where kids (or anyone) can anonymously report graffiti and they will come out within 48 hours and clean it up for free. I don't know what the city program is, but it is very similar. No reason Eagle Rock couldn't piggy back on the city program. Kids make the best patrol officers, and respond well to food and prizes as incentives. These candidates could visit schools to discuss drug abuse, alcoholism, diabetes, graffiti, litter, loitering, and community clean up with kids, and invite them to be the neighborhood leaders of tomorrow.
Erykah Grande October 10, 2012 at 06:03 PM
To add more to John's point on Graffiti Removal, a little over a year ago I saw some graffiti on my street, knew about a hotline and the response time was awesome. "For graffiti removal in the unincorporated areas of the Los Angeles County, you may contact our Graffiti Hotline at (800) 675-4357. Our graffiti removal hotline is available with live operators 24 hours a day seven days a week. We strive for a 48-hour response when calls are received via our hotline. In order for us to respond in a timely manner, please answer the brief questions our operators may ask you. Often questions may be related to graffiti on property which is not the responsibility of the Los Angeles County. For example, we offer information for the agency providing graffiti removal services to the following: Parks and Recreation, Caltrans, Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), Metrolink, United States Post Office, Southern California Edison, and the 88 Cities within the Los Angeles County. " From the Department of Public Works website: http://dpw.lacounty.gov/general/graffiti.cfm
Michael Larsen October 10, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Erykah, The number and web site you list are for unincorporated areas of LA County. Eagle Rock is in LA City, and we have an awesome company that handles the graffiti abatement in our area called Northeast Graffiti Busters. You can call 311 to report graffiti if you like to wait on hold OR you can go to this web site, and a couple clicks later, you'll be done. This is a GREAT way to report and get rid of graffiti in Eagle Rock - bookmark it! http://anti-graffiti.lacity.org/welcome.cfm?CFID=230&CFTOKEN=4C0FE335-6A76-4B17-AAEE2E6119F2EE54
Jane October 12, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Mr. Grande, I am thrilled that you are using street trees as a campaign issue. Maybe I could enlist your help in replacing a full grown Evergreen Pear, planted by Mr. Scott Wilson, that so mysteriously died a couple years ago. It straddled the Black Boar bar and House of Kush. Volunteers have tried on countless visits to talk to the owner of the Black Boar about getting his permission to replant this location. But he hid from us. Might you be able to help us convince House of Kush to help maintain a tree that neighborhood volunteers will plant? Though the security guard was super nice, I was slightly intimidated to go inside. Please contact me at urbanforestcollaborative at gmail dot com. I'd love to talk more about street trees. Also, since you are a fellow plant enthusiast, I wanted to let you know that I briefly chatted with your Public Safety Director, Tim Ryder, at a ERNC meeting a while back. He brought a potted umbrella grass plant to the meeting, thinking that it looked like marijuana. I am not thinking that an effective Public Safety Director needs to be good at plant identification, but just wanted to suggest that maybe we can work together to create awareness about this invasive plant species (the umbrella grass-- which does not in the least resemble cannabis). (: urbanforestcollaborative.wordpress.com

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