The Venice experiment

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There are now more than 80 city-sanctioned "neighborhood councils" around Los Angeles, each with $50,000 a year to spend on whatever. In many cases, the elections to choose board members have been suspect, to say the least. With so few people voting, slates have been able to easily dominate some councils, not unlike student elections in high schools and colleges. Jessica Garrison reports in Monday's Times that in Venice, the exercise in advisory democracy has gotten especially messy.

It started about the time a dog named Raku voted in Venice's neighborhood council election. Then, it got weirder.

As the volunteer council debated how far the funky seaside community should go to retain its bohemian character as housing costs soared, liberal council members were attacked as "Stalinists," while other residents were targeted with signs that urged: "Yuppies go home."

The feuding became so heated that a council member once delivered paper towels soaked in urine to a homeless activist on the boardwalk...

After a contentious battle over the council's June 27 election, city officials cut off the panel's funding earlier this month, thrusting it into a bureaucratic netherworld that one resident likened to "the night of the living dead."

You, the voters of Los Angeles, decided the councils would be a good idea, back in the city charter reform package that passed in 1999.


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