If you’ve ever wanted to run for the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa (NCWP) and make your voice heard when it comes to issues that impact Westchester, Playa del Rey and Playa Vista, now is your chance! Elections happen every two years, and the candidate filing period is now open through March 23.
The 15 positions up for election this go-round include the following seats: Education, Community Organization, Service, Youth, seven based on residence, two based on business location and two At-Large.
Read below to hear from three passionate volunteers who currently serve on the NCWP to learn about their experiences being neighborhood representatives and visit ncwpdr.org/run2021 for more details on how to apply.
Important NCWP election dates:
March 23: Last day to file to run
April 9-June 1: Stakeholder vote-by-mail request period
June 8: Election Day
Naomi Waka has been a member of the Neighborhood Council for more than two years. She currently serves as the group’s Treasurer and as the Chair of the Budget & Finance and Community Services Committees. She holds the Senior Citizens’ Director seat.
Q. What made you want to run for NCWP? A. Without knowing I’d ever run, community interest and concern motivated me to regularly attend NCWP committees like Planning and Land Use, Airport Relations and Ad Hoc Homelessness, as well as board meetings. I became very interested in the work, finding a way to participate, contribute and engage for better outcomes on behalf of our neighborhoods.
Q. How are you positively impacting the community by volunteering to serve on the board? A. I serve the NCWP in a few capacities, but if I had to choose one, it would be my work with Community Services as it affords an opportunity to tackle issues of concern to our community. I also enjoy the work with Budget & Finance, reviewing and evaluating Neighborhood Purposes Grants requests. I must say, the community inspired me during COVID with organizations pivoting to meet new needs and people coming together to help one another.
Q. What would you tell someone interested in running for neighborhood council? A. If you are new to the neighborhood council system, there is a learning curve. Take advantage of all the training and opportunities provided by Empower LA and DONE (Department of Neighborhood Empowerment). As a board member, you’ll learn much about civic engagement, the role of NCs as detailed in “A Plan for a Citywide System of Neighborhood Councils,” our bylaws, standing rules and how to work within that space to serve stakeholders.
Q. What’s something people might not know about the NCWP you’d like to share? A. We act in an advisory role to the City, City Council and City departments. Within that role, there is much opportunity to engage and advocate for stakeholders. The work of the NCWP generally begins at the committee level and then any motions are then brought to the board for their consideration.
Cord Thomas was elected to hold the District 9 seat representing Westport Heights during the 2019 elections. He currently serves as the chair of the Outreach Committee and serves on the Governmental Affairs and Public Safety Committees. He also represents the Neighborhood Council on the L.A. Neighborhood Council Coalition and on the Neighborhood Council Sustainability Alliance Advocacy and Energy Committees.
Q. What made you want to run for NCWP? A. As a recent resident of Westchester, I quickly became concerned about the development activities along Sepulveda and La Tijera Boulevards, especially the large developments that were beginning and some that were planned, but were not designed to serve the community’s desperate demand for affordable housing. In addition to this, my immediate neighborhood was experiencing a growth in burglaries and vehicle-related burglaries and thefts. Because of my concerns with the development atmosphere to the detriment of those with the greatest housing needs, I started to attend Planning and Land Use Committee meetings. There, I developed an appreciation for the hard work the committee members put into working to secure concessions from the developers for the benefit of the community. I was convinced that I had to do my part to help my community and all its stakeholders.
Q. How are you positively impacting the community by volunteering to serve on the board? A. In my brief tenure on the neighborhood council, I have had the opportunity to support local nonprofits through the Outreach Committee such as the Emerson Avenue Community Garden and have lent my voice to community service concerns like the unhoused populations forced to live on the streets. I hope to continue my positive contributions to thecommunity in the future through efforts to improve the quality of life of our stakeholders through increasing access to outdoor recreational facilities, reducing air pollution sources and increasing the volume of air pollution sinks such as trees.
Q. What would you tell someone interested in running for neighborhood council? A. If you are concerned with what you are seeing in your neighborhood, whether it’s deteriorating road conditions, increased traffic, inadequate housing opportunities for disadvantaged communities, sustainability in buildings and transportation, or access to recreation facilities in our neighborhoods, to name a few, getting involved with the neighborhood council is a great way to work toward making a difference. The NCWP is a strong voice for the community to the Los Angeles City Council, not just to Councilmember Mike Bonin, but all councilmembers.
Q. What’s something people might not know about the NCWP you’d like to share? A. The neighborhood council has many ways it can improve our community from issuing Neighborhood Purpose Grants (NPG) that can support any registered nonprofit in the council’s region, to submitting community impact statements (CIS) to City Council motions. These become a matter of public record and can significantly influence the vote of the Council and the future of our city.
Sylvia Wilson has served on the NCWP since August 2019. She is the Residential Director for District 7, representing North Kentwood and serving the entire footprint of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa. She is on the Education and the Outreach Committees.
Q. What made you want to run for NCWP? A. I ran for neighborhood council to be a voice for my neighbors and a voice for families in the neighborhood, as well as to help bridge the gap between the City Council’s agenda and our community’s needs. We have so many issues that need our support and require our help with solutions for our unhoused community, public safety, continued vigilance with LAWA in terms of noise abatement and their future plans for the airport, our neighborhood schools and so much more.
Q. How are you positively impacting the community by volunteering to serve on the board? A. I am positively impacting the community through my position on the board by listening to the people in the community and bringing their concerns to our representative on the City Council, Mike Bonin, through his field deputies. I am also using the knowledge that I have learned volunteering on the board by putting concerns into action. Based on ongoing concerns about Westchester Park, I organized families and friends to do a “Love Your Park Clean Up Day.” We plan to keep this going and doing at least one per month, giving our community members, including our kids, the chance to have a positive impact on helping put words into action. Also, I have been able to share with the neighborhood council and people within our community many opportunities and resources for those suffering during the pandemic to get help through organizations like Grass Roots Neighbors, Nourish LA and now the YMCA. I have spent a lot of time, especially working with Grass Roots Neighbors, to help our many local families whose lives have been impacted negatively by COVID this year. Many community members have used these resources to volunteer with these amazing organizations and to have had a small part in that makes my heart smile.
Q. What would you tell someone interested in running for neighborhood council? A. I would ask them why they want to run to see if they understand that the job is really about serving their community, first and foremost. I would make sure that they know that even though they will be elected to serve as a Residential Director, or another elected position on the council based on where they live or based on where their business is located within our footprint, they will represent the entire community and they will vote on issues that impact the entire community, so they have to see the big picture of who they will be working for. And we do work for our neighbors who are our constituents. If they have the honor of serving on the neighborhood council, every time they vote, they need to keep this in mind because each time you vote on an issue, it’s about what is best for all of the people you serve. I think about that every time I am about to participate in a vote and I ask myself, ‘How would our community want me to vote on this?’
Q. What’s something people might not know about the NCWP you’d like to share? A. One thing people might not know about the neighborhood council is that you don’t have to be elected to the board to be heard on important issues that impact our neighborhood. All of our meetings are public and people have the right to make public comment for two minutes on each agenda item before the board. Then after those items have been heard, you can make public comment on issues that you would like to be heard by the board that are not on our discussion calendar for the same amount of time. You also have the opportunity to serve on one of our committees. Check out our NCWP website for more information. Get involved, your voice is important.
For more info, visit ncwpdr.org/run2021.
Posted March 2021.