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Westwood Neighborhood Council election endorsements

By Editorial Board

June 2, 2016 2:33 a.m.

Editor’s note: The Daily Bruin Editorial Board endorsed candidates for the student director, faculty or staff director and rental residential group director seats in the Westwood Neighborhood Council election to be held June 5.

The editorial board represents the official stance of the Daily Bruin and is composed of four standing members – the editor-in-chief, managing editor, news editor and opinion editor – in addition to six staff representatives.

The endorsement process took place the week before voting. Endorsements were primarily based on a 30-minute interview that two to three members of the editorial board conducted with each candidate. During these interviews, candidates were able to discuss their platforms, knowledge of the Westwood Neighborhood Council and prior experience.

The board selected endorsements for the seats after discussing each candidate and taking a vote. All endorsed candidates received a majority vote from the board.

We encourage students to do their own research into this year’s candidates – and to vote in the elections Sunday.

Student director: Angus Beverly – Endorsed

The board endorses Angus Beverly for the Westwood Neighborhood Council’s student director position because of his two previous terms on the council and experience as a UCLA student.

Beverly has been involved with the council since 2010 and has been re­-elected twice. He has also helped five other students get elected to the council. As a UCLA alumnus and current law student, Beverly remains invested in student issues and retains his connections to student organizations on campus.

Beverly plans to focus on Westwood traffic issues and has plans to help improve student transportation. Beverly sees these issues as connected to student concerns and has expressed his intention to remain the traffic chair for the council. He wants to improve the availability of parking in corporate buildings and push for the creation of more crosswalks on Hilgard and better lighting in the North Village. Beverly says his goals are specific rather than numerous in his efforts to better accomplish them.

Beverly emphasized his concern for student issues, which has only grown as a graduate student. He wants to address these issues using holistic and collaborative approaches and by maintaining connections with USAC members. He hopes to reach out to them in future, and has already reached out to Graduates Student Association members. While he maintains a specialty in transportation issues, he envisions the council as a collective discussion body rather than consisting of isolated positions.

Beverly is a qualified candidate with enough experience to perform well both as student director and a responsible council member. His understanding of the roles collaboration and realism play in accomplishing his specific goals has earned him the board’s endorsement.

Staff or faculty director: Lisa Chapman – Endorsed

This board endorses Lisa Chapman for the Westwood Neighborhood Council’s faculty or staff director seat. Chapman should be re-elected to the position because of her experience as the council’s current staff director and vice president, along with her ideas to improve the council for next year.

In an interview with the editorial board, Chapman said she sees addressing homelessness as one of her top priorities. While she is supportive of Los Angeles’ efforts to deal with the issue, she believes homelessness needs to be dealt with at a local level as well. Chapman’s experience with homelessness as the chair of the Westwood Homeless Count, which conducts studies to help determine funding for homeless assistance, makes her well-poised to help address it.

We also commend Chapman’s balanced approach to the issues facing Westwood. Although she is a UCLA staff member, she has not always sided with the university. Likewise, although she lives in Westwood, Chapman’s positions do not always match those of most Westwood homeowners. This independent approach will be important when the council has heated discussions in the future.

Furthermore, Chapman’s proposal to increase interaction between the the council and UCLA administration and students by organizing meetings between the parties is admirable. Seeing that the relationship between Westwood and UCLA has been contentious at times, any and all efforts to mitigate differences are welcome.

A longtime member of the Westwood community, Chapman has proven her commitment to its well-being and her ability to work for its improvement.

Staff or faculty director: Reuben Ayala – Not endorsed

The board does not endorse Reuben Ayala for faculty or staff director. Although he would bring a fresh perspective to the Westwood Neighborhood Council, he has only laid out broad and sometimes vague goals for improving general council relations and neighborhood infrastructure.

Ayala said he would focus on improving how the council operates, suggesting it would be wise to look beyond city limits and emulate the successes of other neighborhood councils in order to address the issues facing Westwood. While this sentiment is commendable, he did not provide specifics to his solutions, which are necessary to instill confidence in his platform.

Details about improving student accessibility through social media engagement and online voting were some of Ayala’s strongest plans.

The board is assured that Ayala possesses the ability to facilitate communication between the many stakeholders in the council’s activities and the council members. But, without specifics for his ideas, his ability to improve the council’s infrastructure is limited.

While Ayala’s desire to effect change at a local level is genuine and his involvement across the Greater Los Angeles area is impressive, this board did not see enough of a vision to confidently endorse him for this year’s faculty or staff seat.

Rental residential group director: Ian Cocroft – Endorsed

As an undergraduate student government member, Ian Cocroft has successfully promoted safety in Westwood Village, both through his own strategic navigation of city politics and as the Westwood Neighborhood Council’s student member. The board believes he can only continue this successful advocacy if elected as one of the council’s rental residential directors.

Similar to other candidates for the rental residential director seats, Cocroft said he was concerned with regulating short-term rentals, improving parking and improving relationships between the council and city officials.

Cocroft stood out with his plans to ensure renters’ conditions are maintained by holding the city and landlords accountable for enforcing building codes and other regulations. The board believes it would be feasible for Cocroft to achieve these goals considering the work he’s done advocating for improved lighting in North Village in his one-year term as the Undergraduate Students Association Council Facilities commissioner.

Cocroft is poised to expand his work on improving safety. Other than working with the city, he said he wants to develop better relationships with the Los Angeles Police Department, improve pedestrian safety on Hilgard Avenue and participate on the council’s Public Safety Committee.

Furthermore, as a recent student, Cocroft is better positioned to form relationships between students and the council, not to mention Westwood in general. He said that while he doesn’t want to focus only on student issues, he’s interested in representing their interests and encouraging their participation through public forums and outreach.

Cocroft’s experience also balances his opinions with insight to business and homeowners’ interests that many students fail to consider. On the controversy about a proposed Westwood Boulevard bike lane, many residents have been adamant it move to a parallel street. Cocroft said he thought the city should have studied all possible options, including the busy Westwood Boulevard, before deciding for or against any particular route.

This careful deliberation is welcome in any form of governance and will also help Cocroft in his attempts to form relationships with city officials who can help improve Westwood’s future. Cocroft certainly has the potential to excel as a representative for all residents in Westwood.

Rental residential group director: Eugene Tseng – Endorsed

The board endorses Eugene Tseng for Westwood Neighborhood Council’s rental residential director because of his previous experience working on the council and his vision for solving the issues Westwood faces.

Among all the rental residential director candidates, Tseng presented the most comprehensive plan to address the challenges of short-term rental housing regulation in Westwood, a key area of concern for residents and students living in the neighborhood.

Tseng plans to lay the groundwork for properly taxing short-term rentals, such as Airbnb. He has demonstrated his understanding of the potential complications with Los Angeles zoning laws. This understanding is essential to formulating sound and sustainable solutions to this challenge. His experience working with State Senator Ben Allen provides him with a mature insight into the realm of public service.

In addition, Tseng worked as part of the USAC external vice president’s office before graduating from UCLA in 2014. His work connecting students to internships with California senators gives him an appreciation of student needs and allows him to bring a younger voice to the council.

Hence, the board urges him, if he is elected, to work with other council members on parking concerns and attracting more businesses to the village, as his insight can be valuable to forming long-lasting solutions. Tseng expressed interest in these problems, but did not bring up specific details for how he plans to address them.

All in all, Tseng’s experience and comprehensive plans have earned him our endorsement for the rental residential director seat.

Rental residential group director: David Lorango – Endorsed

The board endorses David Lorango for one of the Westwood Neighborhood Council’s rental residential director seats because of his passion for the community and his vision to improve housing and revitalize Westwood Village.

As a part-time political consultant for local politicians and incumbent member of the council, Lorango understands the council’s unique position to advise and influence the city council’s decisions affecting Westwood.

Lorango plans to focus his efforts on housing affordability and regulating Airbnb’s presence in Westwood. Additionally, he said he would work with the council on a master plan to bring broadly-appealing business into Westwood Village, adding that local businesses, such as Target and Ralphs, are profitable because they cater to both students and Westwood’s permanent residents. Building off of this, he plans to work with business alliance group BizFed to create a coalition of investors, developers and businesses.

It is clear from these platform elements that Lorango possesses a keen eye for marketing and business development, which is essential to reinvigorating Westwood Village.

Lorango also emphasized his experience working with California legislature members, along with key members of WWNC. He has advised councilman Koretz, state senator Ben Allen and state assembly member Sebastian Ridley-Thomas on housing affordability issues, and also performed research on abuses of disabled parking passes in the Westwood neighborhood, thus giving him deep insight into the inner workings of legislative and council processes.

Lorango’s prior experience on the council and in the community, along with his vision for improving Westwood, has earned him a firm endorsement from this editorial board.

Rental residential group director: Trenton Jolly – Not endorsed

The board does not endorse Trenton Jolly for a rental residential director seat on the Westwood Neighborhood Council. Despite his experience within the undergraduate student government, Jolly must become more knowledgeable of issues pertaining to Westwood, as well as to renters, in order to be a successful council member.

Jolly did not present specific ideas for improving Westwood, and drew upon others’ ideas, instead of his own, for tackling neighborhood problems as a council member. He mentioned wanting to improve the street lighting in the North Village, which the city has agreed to do, and working with Undergraduate Students Association Council President Danny Siegel to make Westwood Village more student-friendly, a platform that may be too broad and unfeasible.

While Jolly can provide connections between USAC and the WWNC, the board believes all council members should have knowledge and an understanding of problems surrounding the community to create optimal solutions – both of which Jolly does not seem to have in much depth.

The board recommends Jolly be involved with the WWNC by attending meetings, and suggests he run for this position again in the future after he has gained more experience.

Rental residential group director: Ken Cluskey – Not endorsed

The board chooses not to endorse Ken Cluskey because his vision for the neighborhood is neither unique nor specific. Cluskey would serve the community better as a vocal resident than a council member.

While he identified key issues that the new council should work on, such as modernizing the outdated Westwood Specific Plan, studying solutions to ongoing parking problems and lobbying for regulations on short-term rentals, these issues are no secret and have long plagued Westwood.

The board appreciates Cluskey’s passion for political participation, both in his own engagement in public comment at Los Angeles City Council meetings as well as his goal to involve students more in neighborhood governance. Ultimately, however, his plans to navigate LA’s bureaucracy and involve students are too naive to succeed.

For example, while it’s easy to say the council should focus on common goals to improve collaboration between different stakeholders in the community – an argument Cluskey echoes – the reality is much more complicated.

Cluskey has the potential to be a great council member if he takes the time to familiarize himself with Westwood’s various stakeholders and the obstacles to common ground. Until then, he’s best off stimulating collaboration as a stakeholder himself.

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