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Your GPW Editor-on-Occasion is Petra Fried in the City.
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Monday, February 14, 2011

'Los Feliz Forward' a major step backwards

Special to Griffith Park Wayist.

The Disappointing Priorities of Los Feliz “Forward”

By John F. John Jr.

Maximize your assets
Minimize your liabilities

This is a business strategy so basic it seems silly to even mention it. However the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council governing board, led by the Los Feliz Forward slate, is sadly operating in exact reverse. It was never more apparent than in the back-to-back votes during the last month’s meeting of the Executive Committee.

First vote was to suspend all activities of the Parks River and Open Space committee providing they don’t offer a suggestion for a committee chair. Putting the procedural absurdity of this vote aside, this action would effectively kill the GGPNC’s greatest asset.

PROS provides oversight to one of the crown jewels of our city, Griffith Park. And not just a crown jewel, Griffith Park is a national treasure as the largest urban wilderness in our country. It is a destination for tourist from around the world. It is the location of truly iconic images such as the Hollywood Sign and Griffith Observatory. It is the home to a delicate plant and wildlife ecosystem.

PROS played a major role in achieving cultural historic landmark status for the entire park. The PROS committee is comprised of more local volunteers, regional leaders, and community activist than any other GGPNC committee. PROS is also our council’s most stalwart watchdog over city bureaucracy.

There is no stronger advocate for preserving the spirit of Griffith J. Griffith’s open ended gift to our city than the PROS committee. That is why it is absolutely mind boggling to me that the GGPNC would vote to suspend all activities of this strategic group.

Admittedly it should have come as no surprise. I have been an observer or the GGPNC board meetings for nearly four years. I have witness the repeated attacks by a few angry men against the former chairman of the committee. I have watched senseless debates over every single dollar that gets appropriated to PROS projects while money handed to other committees have very little questioning or oversight.

In recent action I watched the executive committee orchestrate a backward trip through time in order to overturn a vote from the prior board. Last June, the Executive Committee agreed on a plan to freeze nearly $38,000 of public funds. They did this under the agenda heading Other Comments and Announcement, hardly the open and transparent meetings they claim to hold. Included in this were nearly $15,000 allocated to the park.

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Later in the general board meeting Mark Mauceri moved to take back the money appropriated for the PROS newsletter. This was after two members of PROS reported that the news letter was only ten days from completion.

The newsletter was, “something we take a great deal of pride in” said Dr. Napier a long time Los Feliz resident and board member, “it is one of our most valuable resources”. However, that little gem of outreach had been targeted for years by Mauceri and (CD 4 candidate Tomas) O’Grady.  At the meeting last June they finally succeeded in its repeal. They both laughed openly at the chair as she tried to save it.

The way those two meetings were agendized, and the ram it through arguments presented by Ron Ostrow and others should have given me clear warning where the priorities were for the new board. Anyone who has worked with budgets knows there are a multitude of paths to achieve desired goals. Unfortunately for the park, the new board’s choice has been to slash funding rather than to find creative solutions.

Read the painful minutes of this procedural shenanigan and note that only the Los Feliz Forward slate voted in favor.

The focused effort against PROS is as much personal as it is philosophical. The former chair, Bernadette Soter, is a quiet powerhouse and formidable opponent at a board meeting. Ms Soter knows how to elbow her way through a debate involving limited funds. The obsession with PROS, I believe, is driven by the need of a few angry men to finally win an argument, any argument over Soter. They are willing to weaken park oversight in order to finally get their way.

Make no mistake about it; suspending PROS does nothing good for the park, the neighborhood or the GGPNC. It is a procedural one up where winning is more important than outcome.

Second vote and only moments later was the appointment of Mark Mauceri as the chairman of the newly-formed Recreation committee. The process for vetting a proper chair seems to change from committee to committee. PROS was required to attend an outreach meeting where Mauceri only had to show up with form letters signed by a few of his friends.

Without getting into a long list that will just burn a hole in the lining of my stomach, I will say from my perspective that Mr. Mauceri has been the GGPNC’s greatest liability.

Mr. Mauceri has never been far from the controversies that have surrounded the GGPNC in recent years. He pretty much failed as Secretary, a mess that is still being sorted out. He has conveniently lost minutes, misrepresent board positions and engaged in repeated shouting matches. He is the author of truly hateful emails. Here are some examples. He has written emails that denigrate a person’s race and sexual orientation. Later he proudly admits to the fact and suggests that more - and worse - could come.

No single person has generated more animosity with the long time residents attending the meetings. His east coast brand of aggressiveness has driven away valuable volunteers. I can’t imagine what the Executive Committee was thinking when they unanimously appointed this controversial figure to chair a committee.

Demote PROS.

Promote Mauceri.

It is the reverse universe. It is the exact opposite of what should be happening. The above two votes moves Los Feliz backwards not forward. The Executive Committee’s inability to effectively navigate the political waters of our council is very troubling. Their willingness to ignore the inherent controversy in a figure like Mark Mauceri and instead focus disproportionate time on PROS is a detriment to the neighborhood.

I say all of this with the knowledge that most of the Los Feliz forward members are sincere and vital volunteers. It is unfortunate that they are being led by the misguided few. Their leadership will talk a good talk and their response to my opinion will be as confusing as it is long winded and disingenuous.

I urge all members of Los Feliz and beyond to show up for the public meetings and help me defend Griffith Park from the limited vision of a few angry men.