Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Contentious Neighborhood Council Election Season Draws to a Close; Ballots Due Today


Tuesday, March 16 is the last date to vote in our two local Neighborhood Council elections. Balloting for seats on both the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council and the Mid City West Community Council closes today, with ballots needing to be deposited at local drop boxes (in front of the John C. Femont branch library, 6121 Melrose Ave., for the GWNC, and the Fairfax branch library, 161 S. Gardner, for the MCWCC) by 8 p.m…or USPS postmarked by midnight.  (This year, due to the pandemic and for the first time ever, all NC balloting is being done by mail or collection at official dropboxes.  There will be no in-person or online voting.)

The voting deadline brings to an end contests that have gone far from smoothly in either community, with ballot acquisition snafus in the GWNC area leaving many stakeholders confused at best and ballotless at worst…while two candidate factions in the Mid City West area have battled fiercely over the claim to the “progessive” label, website domains, and other claims of misdeeds.

Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council



Each neighborhood council is allowed by the city to designate the number of seats on its board of directors, and what portion of the community each of those seats represents.  The individual NCs also define voter eligibility and documentation necessary to confirm voting eligibility for each of their board seats.

The GWNC has 21 seats – 15 for representatives of individual neighborhoods in the GWNC area, one At Large representative, and five “special interest” seats representing Renters, and Educational, Business, Non-Profit, and Religious organizations.  Stakeholders are entitled to ballots for two of these races if they live, work, or own property in the GWNC area – one for a geographic representative, and one for one of the other five races.  Stakeholders who do not live, work or own property in the area are allowed to vote in just one race (either for the At Large representative or one of the five special interest seats, depending on their affiliations).

To obtain a ballot for the GWNC election, stakeholders had to request the ballots they qualify for through the City Clerk’s election website…which sounds fairly simple, but turned out to be anywhere from mildly confusing to downright impossible for many would-be voters  Ballot applicants reported getting lost in the registration process, having difficulty figuring out what kinds of documentation they needed to upload to verify their stakeholder status for each ballot, and even (especially in the Hancock Park community) when registered correctly, receiving either incorrect ballots or none at all.

The problems were widespread enough that the GWNC board held a special meeting on Thursday, March 4, at which city officials helped sort through the registration issues and promised to make themselves more available to handle questions before voter registration ended on March 9.

But by then, the damage had been done, and at its regular monthly board meeting last month, the GWNC also passed a motion to write to both the City Clerk and City Attorney, “detailing significant problems with the design and management of the GWNC election, cataloguing failures to peroperly perform the City Clerk’s obligation to operate a fair Greather Wilshire Neighbohood Council election which has created a circumstance disenfranchinsing voters.”  The letter was also mandated to “include a demand that the election be stopped and restarted with corrections made to the design and management of the election process and implementation.”

In discussing the motion before the vote board members recounted the difficulties experienced by registrants, including comments that documentation requirements seemed stricter this year than in past elections (for example, business cards were no longer accepted as proof of connection to a local business, because they’re not dated), and that city officials did not make themselves adequately available, early enough in the registration period, to handle stakeholder questions (for example, some people were told to call the City Clerk’s office for help, but then – when they did – were told the election staff was not taking phone calls).

A few board members and stakeholders argued against the motion, saying that stopping the election at this late date would lead to further corruption of the democratic process, that the city’s confusion was a consequence of the GWNC’s own over-complicated voting/documentationi requirements, and that the Council’s bylaws on the voting process should be simplified and/or expanded to allow individual voting for even more seats than is now permitted.

But in the end, the motion to register the complaint, and the request to pause the election, passed with 11 votes in favor, five opposed and two abstentions.


Mid City West Community Council



The big story coming out of the Mid City West area during this election season was not about ballot technicalities, but the way many candidates this year have aligned themselves under one of two competing banners, both laying claim in different ways to the term “progressive.”

One group – running as the “Mid City West Progressive Slate” – includes 35 candidates (close to half of the more than 70 candidates registered for the election, including most of the current MCWCC board members).  The other group – calling itself “Mid City West Community First,” comprises 31 candidates and says it represents grass roots neighbors and not the interests of developers or other special interest groups, which they claim are the driving force behind the competing slate.

The MCW Progressive Slate promises to bring “diverse voices into the decision-making process, promote an “anti-racist agenda focused on social and racial equity, create “complete streets” for walking/biking/driving, address homelessness, increase housing opportunities, protect renters’ rights and rent-stabilized housing, increase access to parks and open space, address climate change and sustainability, promote local arts and culture, address the “disproportionate impact of systemic racism on Black and Brown members of our community,” support local schools, non-profits and COVID-19 relief and recovery, beautify local neighborhoods and ensure “high-quality city services to enhance quality of life.”

Meanwhile, MCW Community First promises to “better represent the neighborhood’s voice” in issues such as the 42-story Mirable development planned for 5411 Wilshire Blvd., which the majority of the MCWCC voted to support last year, despite strenuous opposition from a large segment of nearby neighbors (1,400 of whom signed a petition opposing the project).

According to a statement on MCW Community First’s website, the “Mid City West Community Council for too long has been dominated by special interest forces that masquerade as “Progressive Values” while operating like a private club to advance their personal goals for your neighborhood regardless of what you have to say about it. There’s nothing remotely “progressive” about a neighborhood council doing end runs around the stakeholders they’re supposed to represent.”

The emergence of two opposing candidate slates, divided by an issue such as development, is not unusual in local election campaigns.  But things started to get much testier on March 4, when the MCW Community First candidates sent out a letter announcing that someone had launched a new website incorporating the MCW Community First name – – but pointed it to the MCW Progressive Slate website, deliberately “misdirecting people looking for information about MCW Community First.”

“We think that’s pretty low,” said the MCW Community First statement. “They must be feeling desperate.  It sure doesn’t sound very “progressive” to us.”

The offending URL was apparently deactived later that same day, but the fuse was lit, and the next day, MCW Community First fired its own shot, sending a letter to Academy Museum Director Bill Kramer noting that Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Vice President of Building Operations Andrew Werner, who is currently a member of the MCW Progressive Slate, presented a parking variance request for the Academy Museum to the MCWCC board at its February 9 meeting.  According to the letter, several other Progressive Slate members, who are also currently-seated MCWCC board members, voted to support the variance request, and refused to heed requests from several local residents that they should recuse themselves based on their candidate slate affiliation with Werner.

MCW Community First candidate Barbara Gallen also cried foul again on March 6, when she filed a grievance with the City Clerk’s office (under her own name and not that of the MCW Community First group), complaining that the Miracle Mile Democratic Club was improperly urging its members to use that membership to establish MCWCC stakeholder status and turn out to vote for the Progressive slate in the MCWCC election.  Gallen’s letter noted that several members of the Progressive Slate are also members of the MMDC, and contended that involvement with the MMDC should not qualify neighborhood council voters based on that membership alone.

Gallen said the MMDC activity should not be allowed because it  is a partisan political organization (not a “Community Benefit Organization” open to or benefitting people of all political affiliations),  because it did not also reach out to MCW Community First before making its endorsement for the MCWCC, because two MCW Progressive Slate members are also MMDC members, because the MMDC’s purpose is to support and endorse candidates of the Democratic Party in partisan races (which the NC elections are not), and because the MMDC does not maintain a physical office (only a mailing address at a member’s home).

The  MCW Community First group also forwarded Gallen’s complaint to City Council District 4, asking that the City “immediately disqualify any candidates and voters who base their Mid City West stakeholder status on MMDC” and calling on the City “to immediately notify Miracle Mile Democratic Club to cease and desist from messaging their mailing list that MMDC membership gives them standing to vote in this election.”

While this is not the first time local infighting has overshadowed a neighborhood council election (see this story about the even more contentious 2005 GWNC election), but if history is any guide, the controversy could have the benefit of energizing would-be voters and boosting election turnout (that 2005 GWNC election attracted more than 2,500 voters, a local record that still stands).

So if you care about the issues at hand – in either the GWNC or MCWCC election – and you haven’t yet returned your hard-won ballot, don’t forget to vote. Drop your ballot at a U.S. Post Office for postmarking by midnight tonight, or take it to the specific dropbox for your election before 8 p.m.  Ballots postmarked or delivered on time will be counted for up to 10 days after the election closes; ballots delivered after the declared deadlines will not be counted.


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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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