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Thursday, Jun 8, 2023

Response to Neighborhood Council Letters

As a regular reader of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal I am sorry that you chose to give such prominence to the Letters to the Editor, October 25, in response to the Shelly Garcia article on neighborhood councils (“Neighborhood Councils Struggling,” Oct. 11). These letters were mean-spirited and totally lacking in professional civility. And I am afraid the paper added fuel to the fire with the inflammatory headline ” remarks blasted ” Clearly the articles struck a nerve with the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association (SOHA) folks. Surely “they doth protest too much.” Let me first correct a few misconceptions that were left in the articles and the Letters to the Editor. I never represented myself as the current Chair of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council. That required a simple correction by the paper and that correction was printed. I was the interim chair from its founding in July 2001 until elections were held in May 2003. The reporter may also have confused my current position as Chair of the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils with the Sherman Oaks Council position. Neither letter writer Larry Slade nor letter writer Ellen Vukovich ever attended a meeting of the Interim Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council in the 18 months of its existence. I know because I have the sign-in sheets for every one of those meetings. For either of them to dispute the “existence of contention” between the Neighborhood Council and SOHA shows they were given some very bad information because they obviously had no real firsthand knowledge of the facts. In my interview with Ms. Garcia I was asked about the relationship between the Neighborhood Council and SOHA. My responses were in a historical perspective, referring to the time from the inception of the neighborhood council through the first election of the certified council. I did not talk about the current relationship. It is a fact that the leadership of SOHA made it known from the beginning that they saw no reason for a neighborhood council in Sherman Oaks, and that some members of SOHA’s board of directors came to most of the interim Sherman Oaks council meetings and were obstructionist in their remarks and manner. At one point I invited Tony Lucente, a member of the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners (BONC), which oversees neighborhood councils, to speak at our monthly meeting. I asked him because of his unique position as both a member of BONC and as president of the Studio City Residents’ Association. I wanted him to encourage SOHA to work together with the neighborhood council. When SOHA determined they could not prevent the neighborhood council’s creation, they put up a slate to fill the elected positions on the council. Their success in achieving a working majority of the council’s elected members has led to a close, (some might say too close), relationship between SOHA and the neighborhood council. Perhaps the Business Journal can continue to cover the issues here as we work for the future of our community. Jill Banks Barad Board member Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council — I am writing this letter for two reasons. The first to comment on Shelly Garcia’s article “Neighborhood Councils Struggling” (Oct. 11), and the second to address the Letters to the Editor attributed to her article. I was saddened to read Garcia’s article about our neighborhood councils. It’s unfortunate that her only position was to spotlight the negative aspects of our fledgling councils and the people who have volunteered their time and energies to make them a positive part of their community. As an elected board member of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council, I have first-hand knowledge of our difficulties and successes. All neighborhood councils are comprised of people with varying levels of experience in dealing with local government and how they affect our communities. We are still a work in progress. I believe that DONE (Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, and also a work in progress) understands that some of the original precepts are in need of revision and are addressing them. I began my association with the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council by attending interim council meetings a full year before certification. I was also the vice chair of the original Rules and Elections Committee. I mention this to back up my personal displeasure in reading the Letters to the Editor generated by Garcia’s article. When Garcia wrote that Jill Banks Barad was the current chair of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council, I knew that was an obvious misprint. All that was needed was a simple correction. Two of my colleagues took a different course and used that obvious reporter-generated mistake to “blast” a fellow board member. The written venom far exceeded any reasonable response. Moreover, it affects the valuable working relationships any neighborhood council needs to survive and grow. Barad was also “blasted” for her out-of-context comment “the homeowners group fought the neighborhood council.” Here again was poor editing. All I had to do was read the word “fought” to understand that Barad was referring to the past. I know this first-hand because I was at those interim meetings and heard negative comments from well-known SOHA members. Prior to certification, Barad was chair of the interim Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council. She selected the meeting place, brought in guest speakers, formed committees and ran each meeting. Certainly there were other people involved, but those people looked to her for direction. Barad founded our council and brought it to life. Letter writer Slade never attended any interim meeting; neither did letter writer Vukovich. Letter writer Gerston was an occasional attendee. While it is true (in my personal opinion) that early on, SOHA was not a positive supporter of the neighborhood council’s, today it is different. In fact, half our current board is made up of SOHA members. Time and genuine effort has affected positive change. With support and constructive assistance we will continue to serve the communities we represent. Ron Merkin I was surprised and disappointed to see such counterproductive letters in the SFVBJ. These types of letters do not belong in any professional business journal. Your readers deserve better than this. Why would the editor choose to run incredibly lengthy “over the top” letters in response to a few lines in an article? Your readers deserve an answer. Laurie Lavine Valley Glen — I was very disheartened to see the Letters to the Editor October 25 regarding the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council (SONC). I was involved from day one in July 2001 when Jill Barad organized the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council. I went to the meetings as a business owner and board member of the Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce. Jill worked with the late Tami Ginsburg, who was chamber president at the time, to develop the first data base and organize the early meetings in the community. There was no Larry Slade at those meetings in 2001 and in fact I never saw him until the SONC elections on May 12, 2003. He is absolutely wrong about the founders of SONC. The people he listed came to meetings and served on committees, but they absolutely were not the founders. Jill Banks Barad was the impetus behind SONC. There is no doubt in my mind that she was the founder. In addition, Jill was the chair of the Interim Council from July 2001 until elections as a certified council took place in May 2003. Jill conducted all the monthly meetings and brought in speakers. We had City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, council members Wendy Greuel and Jack Weiss, and many L.A. city department heads. We had anywhere from 30 to over 100 people at our monthly meetings. It was Jill who coordinated the efforts so that SONC was certified in October 2002. I was there and participated. Carrie Konjoyan Former Board Member Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council In her letter to the editor of October 25, Ellen Vukovich notes that Richard Close, long-time President of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association, signed the ballot measure to create the new City Charter which created neighborhood councils. That does not, however, mean that Richard Close and the Homeowners Association support neighborhood councils. In the December 15, 2000 Daily News of Los Angeles, Mr. Close said the new panels are less likely to unite L.A. than enhance the drive for a separate city. Mr. Close said, “These appointed panels will be packed with yes people in order not to contradict the council member in any given district and create a compromising situation.” In the October 31, 2002 Daily News, Mr. Close said, “the city set up a system of neighborhood councils that minimizes the impact of the residents who live in a neighborhood… It’s an unfair system.” The obstructionist actions of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association during the early efforts to create a neighborhood council in Sherman Oaks reflected Mr. Close’s skepticism about neighborhood councils in the new charter, contrary to any other implication in Ms. Vukovich’s letter. The reality of neighborhood councils citywide is that over 80 percent of elected members are residents of the local communities (DONE data) and few City Council members would believe the councils to be packed with yes people. Ross Hopkins Sherman Oaks — I am writing this note to refute the allegations concerning Jill Barad and the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council. At the time that the idea for this council was being considered, Jill called me to meet and discuss the prospects for such a group. I, at that time was the president of the Encino Community Council, the forerunner of the certified Encino Neighborhood Council, and when the Encino Council became official, I remained as president for an additional two years. Jill was not only the sole founder, she was the catalyst for the first open discussion on the subject. This meeting was held at the Sherman Oaks Hospital. The panel consisted of Les Himes, David Larsen and me. The attendees were there by invitation made by Jill and as a result of this meeting an interim group was created. In summary Jill was the founder and chairperson of the interim council until the certification and prior to the first election, for a total of 18 months. She should be acknowledged and thanked for its existence. I hope that this clears the air and ends this most divisive dialogue. J. Richard Leyner Immediate Past President Encino Neighborhood Council

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