The Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils (VANC) handed out its first-ever Razzie Award Thursday night, and although invited, no member of the city's Redistricting Commission stepped forward to accept.
The Commission's work resulted in maps which divided communities, cut some City Council members out of their districts, chopped up some Neighborhood Councils into two or three districts, and seemed to satisfy few.
VANC chair and founder, Jill Banks Barad, quoted one commissioner who said, “'some decisions defy logic and shows a lack of respect, but the process of politics is ugly,' and he voted for it anyway.”
"As they say at the Oscars, we accept this award on their behalf," she said.
Under the twinkly lights of Carla's Cafe on the production backlot of the CBS Studio Center in Studio City, awards were presented to Neighborhood Councils that had made a real impact in their communities, as well as a pair of city hall individuals who "Got It," and a citizen David who fought a city Goliath.
More than 200 guests representing 33 Valley Neighborhood Councils -- about one third of all the Neighborhood Councils in the city -- networked and enjoyed a light buffet, as politicos and candidates buzzed the room at VANC's 9th annual mixer.
"Best of" award recipients included:
- Sun Valley Area Neighborhood Council and Panorama City Neighborhood Council for "Best of Civic Participation for serving the Needs of their Communities." The two Councils worked together to organize free Citizenship Workshops in their communities for Green Card holders. More than 1,000 people were processed for citizenship.
- Reseda Neighborhood Council for "Best of Neighborhood Council Outreach." This Council produces a monthly newsletter for 8,300 stakeholders which is distributed at 200 locations by 20 volunteers. It sends a weekly email to 2,500 subscribers, and posts news on Facebook and a website. It also established a $25 on the 25th program which urged stakeholders to spend $25 in the community on the 25th of every month. It corralled 100 merchants to offer discounts, built a directory of 900 businesses, and had three different outreach events in progress Thursday evening at the same time as the awards ceremony.
- Sun Valley Area Neighborhood Council for "Best of Improving the Quality of Life in their Community." Council members went out into the streets at four in the morning in groups of three and four to find the homeless where they slept, to help them find housing and access community services. Then they worked with in North Hollywood to support the construction of a in their community for permanent housing for homeless. The facility .
- Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council for "Best of Partnering with City Departments." The Neighborhood Council created a “Pothole Lottery” inviting stakeholders to identify the worst potholes and alleyways in Sherman Oaks. They submitted that list to the Bureau of Street Services which agreed to fix each. The Council created a partnership with Street Services by allocating part of their own funds to pay for the asphalt trucks and repair crews. One resident remarked that he had waited 54 years for the dangerous pothole in the street in front of his house to be fixed.
The VANC "Got It!" Awards went to:
- Nazario Sauceda, director, Bureau of Street Services. Nazario responded to local concerns by thinking outside the box encouraging the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council to initiate the Pothole Lottery. He said, “you give us a list and we’ll fill the potholes.” Councilmembers were stunned, and couldn’t believe that the city would respond so positively. “He Got It!”
- Grayce Liu, of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment. Although Grayce works for the city in the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, she defies the term "bureaucrat." Instead of starting with “no, you can’t do that,” Grayce Liu looks for a way to say “yes,” and let’s find a way to do it. "She Gets it!"
The "David and Goliath" Award went to Jay Beeber of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council. The city is phasing out the red-light camera program due to one person’s persistence. Jay Beeber, a Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council board member, pushed, nagged and prodded the L.A. City Council, and it worked because he knew the subject, did the research and had the facts on his side. It took two things: knowledge and tenacity, and he had both to beat City Hall.
The Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils was founded in March 2003. "It is an independent organization open to participation by all elected Neighborhood Council board member and committee chairs," according to VANC's fact sheet. Its membership includes representation from 34 Neighborhood Councils in the San Fernando Valley. VANC members jointly take stands on crucial Valley and citywide issues, host political speakers and candidate debates, and organize Neighborhood Council training sessions.