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Submission: Community participation in NWWNC board selection essential for change in Westwood

By Joshua Baum

October 23, 2018 10:35 pm

Community members finally have a chance to make a difference in Westwood Village.

For the first time in a while, that’s not an exaggeration.

Neighborhood councils are advisory bodies that give the Los Angeles City Council an ear into the local needs of the communities they represent. For years, the Westwood Neighborhood Council was the leading voice that drove the status quo in Westwood Village, North Village and the surrounding UCLA campus area.

Under its leadership, the neighborhood faced sky-high costs of housing, lack of entertainment options and near nonexistent engagement with the student body.

Seeing an unacceptable status quo in one of LA’s most storied neighborhoods, Westwood stakeholders voted in May to subdivide the WWNC to create the North Westwood Neighborhood Council. This was the culmination of a six-month campaign by Westwood Forward, a coalition of UCLA students, faculty and staff, as well as Westwood business owners and residents, to create a new council that would better serve the needs of the community.

Once an elected governing board is in place, the new council will be able to weigh in on important local matters, such as housing and land use, transportation, and public safety in the neighborhood. It will also receive a budget of $37,000 from the city to spend on Westwood’s needs as it sees fit.

The ball is now in the stakeholders’ court.

The Board of Neighborhood Commissioners, which oversees all neighborhood councils in the City of Los Angeles, officially certified the NWWNC on Aug. 27. Community members can now select which members of the community will sit on the governing board of this new council, potentially setting many of the precedents its successor boards will practice.

This selection will be held Thursday at the John Wooden Center, at 221 Westwood Plaza. Voters can cast their ballots from 12:30-6:30 p.m. at this central, on-campus location.

Moreover, the requirements for voting couldn’t be lower. All stakeholders 16 or older who live, work, study, own property, run a business or otherwise have a substantial and ongoing stake within the NWWNC’s boundaries – which include North Village, the Village and UCLA – are eligible to cast a public ballot. No advanced voter registration or citizenship is required.

The candidates who are elected to the new council will represent Westwood and the UCLA community not only to the LA City Council and the mayor but also to the LA County Board of Supervisors and the California Legislature, which frequently sends representatives to neighborhood councils. The board’s 19 open seats are meant to serve the community, and voters should take the time to research the candidates running for those seats and likely to be our next representatives.

Certainly, the outcome of this election is unlikely to make national headlines and will not affect the balance of power in Washington, D.C. – a seemingly more important political landscape than Westwood Village. Yet, this selection’s outcome will affect nearly every Westwood stakeholder’s life and their experiences in the neighborhood because the inaugural NWWNC has the ability to lay the groundwork for decades to come.

Community members have a chance to help create the Westwood they want to see. All they need to do is show up to the polls.

Baum is the outreach chair for the NWWNC Formation Committee and recently graduated from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs with a master’s in urban and regional planning.

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