Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hat, meet ring

OK, in the interest of full disclosure, I'm getting ready to run again.

My new status as a full-fledged member of the PCNC board, where until recently I was Alternate #1, came rather serendipitously: the at-large board member I replaced had seemingly dropped off the face of the earth and hadn't attended meetings or asked to be excused from meetings due to hardship. We have rules in our by-laws which do not allow either two unexcused absences in a row or three in a given 6 month period. So the person I replaced was removed under these rules.

I will actually be running for renter representative in the Center-East region of Panorama City, the same spot on the board I ran for two years ago. I missed by only a couple of votes last time, and my competition for the seat has moved to another region of the Neighborhood Council area. I figure if I communicate a little better this time I might have a better time winning hearts and minds and votes. I also was a wee bit distracted at that point: I had just completed my Bachelor's in Psychology at Woodbury University, during the last year of which I was also caregiver for my husband, who has since died of multiple myeloma, a blood cancer.

The reasons why I am running are many. My most important reason is to provide a progressive counterbalancing voice on the board in a branch of LA City government that has mostly been a conservative, "NIMBY," (not in my back yard) and even reactionary branch. Panorama City Neighborhood Council has actually led in a different direction: the biggest example being our attempts to bring service providers together to better serve the significant portion of our community which is struggling with gangs and their attendant social menace through two annual "Gang Summits." I see this as an attempt within our Neighborhood Council to define our mission not only by striving to prevent what we don't want within our community, but to help shape what we DO want within our community. I am foursquare on the side of continuing with this, to inspire positive change within our community.

I want to see it expanded further, actually. Not every youth in Panorama City is struggling with whether or not to follow a family tradition and join a gang. Some are just struggling to finish high school, and possibly go on to higher education. Or maybe just to find work after graduation. As you probably notice every day, Van Nuys Boulevard is punctuated on both sides with empty storefronts; vacant lots; a derelict high-rise that has been condemned since the Northridge Earthquake of 1994 and is now basically a 13-story pigeon coop; and catercorner to each other on Roscoe, a vacant lot where a Black Angus Steak House once stood, and the old Montgomery Ward property. This is a community where hope is in short supply and jobs in even shorter supply.

The role of a Neighborhood Council in revitalizing our community is, unfortunately, a limited one. However, if we can bring together government, law enforcement and non-governmental organizations to move gang policy in our neighborhood forward, perhaps we can do more to move employment and economic development forward by bringing all of these elements plus people in the business community together to have a "Jobs And Redevelopment Summit." Maybe we can't make the change, but we can make the need for change ring loud and clear in the ears of those who might be able to help move us forward towards more jobs and smart, vibrant, green economic development.

We also suffer a bad rap in local media, foremost from the Los Angeles Daily News, the San Fernando Valley's Paper of Record since the turn of the last century. Horror stories about 'The Witch's Hat,' shock-horror-filth tales of rampant gang violence and delinquency have been fodder for the worst kind of Yellow Journalism. The Daily News has been the worst, but the LA Times, the LA Weekly, and our local TV news has continued to parrot the portrayal of this community as a slum. To quote a Living Colour song that has been sort of an internal anthem for me in my involvement with the formation of this Neighborhood Council and after formation, "I call this place my home, you call this place a slum."

Living Colour -- "Open Letter To A Landlord"

The best way to push back against this portrayal is to show the local media, in vivid, newsworthy media opportunities, that we are not a crime ridden, frightening place. On the contrary, we are a colorful, diverse community that has roots in Mexico, Central America, South America, Africa, Asia, Oceania, Europe, in other States of the USA, and in the Provinces of Canada. We have no annual celebration to attract positive media attention: why not start one? A Fiesta Panorama, a sort of block party for the entirety of Panorama City, would be great. We have restaurants to show off. We have culture. We have public, private and charter K-12 institutions of learning. We have preschools. We have trade schools. There continues to be talk of a satellite campus of Los Angeles Valley College being established here. We have so much to offer, that we need to stop apologizing for our community and start crowing about our community. Like the song goes, "You've got to fight for your neighborhood." In a town where appearances often are as or more important than substance, we need to raise our profile as a community.

These are but two things I'm interested in, moving forward.

More of my platform:

* I am against proliferation of uncontrolled medical cannabis dispensaries on the one hand, but for the continued availability of medical cannabis for those who need it. I have seen, through the struggles of my late husband, that when faced with life threatening and painful symptoms of a disease like the blood cancer multiple myeloma, cannabis is good medicine. We need a framework that will allow the exemplary dispensaries to continue operation to make that medicine available, but which will also screen out the bad actors and keep dispensaries away from preschools and K-12 schools.

* I am for smart growth of business and residences, and for bringing more and better transit options nearby so that people can leave their cars and the pollution they create behind in favor of green public transit. We have existing hubs like Van Nuys Metrolink/Amtrak Station, and the Van Nuys Corridor which links to the Orange Line and further to the rest of the Metro Rail system. We can become advocates of building on this foundation.

* I'm for encouraging industry to put their bare roofs to work with solar power generation. You need only look at a Google Earth satellite image of Panorama City to see the potential lying fallow just above our heads. The Target store in Pacoima has a completely solar roof. During the Summer they make enough electricity to run the store off the grid for hours at a time. Why can't we do that at Panorama Mall, at El Super, at Food 4 Less, and The Plant?

All those bright spots you see in this picture are ROOFS. They don't call The Plant a "Big Box Mall" for nothing. At the top of this satellite image is part of Panorama Mall. And there are countless industrial buildings within our Neighborhood Council boundaries.

* I am also for attracting creative media companies to set down roots here in Panorama City. There are industrial and commercial buildings currently vacant here. There is also a perennial need to find space for shooting movies. Why not bring the two together? We have everything Hollywood, Burbank and Glendale has, plus we have what they don't have: Enterprise Zone classification. Converting massive industrial buildings to sound stages, equipment rental stores and post-production houses would give a shot in the arm to Panorama City's economy and bring in a new, upscale type of stakeholder that could uplift the community.

We need to also open our community wide to location shooting. The building that now houses the "Kings Of Credit" furniture store was a primary location for the movie "Stealing Harvard." The Panorama Mall has been a movie and TV shooting location on several occasions. We have great residential neighborhoods. With other communities becoming "location hostile" we have a possibility of bringing business here to benefit all of us.

Space prevents me from going on, but these are a few elements of what I want to see in my neighborhood. If your vision dovetails with mine, keep me on the Board as Center-East's renter board member. Help me fight for our neighborhood.

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