By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor
Voters on March 7, 2017, will decide whether to re-elect Councilman Joe Buscaino. Four candidates filed paperwork to gather signatures to get on the ballot, including Caney Arnold, an activist for the Bernie Sanders campaign; Dr. Cheyenne Bryant, the president of the Wilmington/San Pedro chapter of the NAACP; Noel Gould, an environmental and land use activist; and Random Lengths News Publisher James Preston Allen.
Arnold and Gould were the only challenging candidates to gather enough valid signatures to get on the ballot. The remaining candidates are mulling over whether to mount write-in campaigns.
RLn’s editorial staff thought it was important to include a biography and platform for the candidates running to unseat Buscaino.
Noel Gould is the owner of Aquarian Studios, a full service facility for both location and studio recording. Gould has nearly 34 years of experience as a recording engineer, but his passion lies in his community and environmental activism.
In an email correspondence with Random Lengths, Gould said he aims to form a council office that supports neighborhoods while seeking their input on pressing issues.
“The way the L.A. City Council operates now cuts residents out of the decision making process,” he wrote. “[The City Council ignores] them or provides improper or inadequate noticing for public input on projects and/or merely paying lip service when promising to deal with issues vital…to the community.”
He argues that issues such as homelessness, insufficient affordable housing and crumbling infrastructure result from a city hall culture that prioritizes expediency and short-term goals over policy.
Gould has a particular interest in the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, a ballot initiative that is on the March 2017 ballot.
Among other rule changes, this initiative seeks, would place a two-year moratorium on developments of certain density size in Los Angeles.
Gould elaborated further and said the purpose of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is to eliminate the practice of “spot zoning,” a practice initiative proponents describe as the bending of rules to approve mega-projects and other inappropriate developments that destroy neighborhood character. According to Preserve LA’s website, a Neighborhood Integrity Initiative proponent, the moratorium wouldn’t stop developments that adhere to zoning designations, nor does it affect downzoning for developments such as parks.
Gould noted that development interests have launched a counter disinformation campaign that claims that the recently passed City Measure HHH, which addresses homelessness and was passed duringthis past election cycle, would be blocked.
“The truth is the [Neighborhood Integrity Initiative] would place a two year moratorium on virtually all developments of certain density size in Los Angeles, except for affordable housing projects, thus guaranteeing that $1.2 billion will go exactly where the voters want and not become a giveback for developers to build more unnecessary luxury housing.”
It was originally proposed for inclusion on the Nov. 8, 2016 ballot, but proponents sought to put it before voters on March 7, 2017, instead.
The initiative, if passed, would amend city laws related to the general plan, which includes: prohibiting geographic amendments to the general plan; requiring periodic, comprehensive review of the general plan; requiring the city to make findings of general plan consistency for planning, zoning and building laws and decisions; and voiding existing zoning laws and regulations inconsistent with the general plan among other rules.
Gould describes himself as working in the trenches in holding the city and developers accountable, including spending the past three years fighting for issues vital to coastal protection.
Gould said that this moment in time is critical since the city is finally starting the process of writing a Local Coastal Program, a requirement of the 1976 California Coastal Act.
He said that once the Local Coastal Program is approved, citizens will no longer be able to appeal projects to the California Coastal Commission. Gould argues that it’s essential that the Local Coastal Program is written in a way that does not weaken any of the current coastal zone protections.
“We had some great successes when the city was issuing illegal Coastal Exemptions in the Coastal Zone, and the Coastal Commission reversed 12 of those exemptions and also wrote a very stern letter admonishing the city to correctly handle the permitting process.”
Arguably, this activism, laid some of the groundwork for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative.
Caney Arnold is a retired logistics and acquisition manager at the Defense Department. He has a seat on the Harbor City Neighborhood Council.
His party affiliation has switch from Green to Democrat to Green within the past 20 years. In the 1990s, he supported Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign. In this past election cycle he supported Bernie Sanders.
His is a multi-pronged platform based on environmental and social justice, grassroots democracy and government transparency.
His primary goals include greater inclusion of the neighborhood councils in the city’s legislative matters by keeping them better informed and seeking counsel from the neighborhood councils.
“I want to increase communication with neighborhood councils and constituents to ensure citizens have more opportunity to have input into the decision-making process,” wrote Arnold on his Crowdpac webpage.
“I want to ensure that all neighborhood councils in our district are given the opportunity to provide input on important community issues. I will ensure that my office actively seeks input from each neighborhood council before I make my vote on the city council. This is the reverse of how things are usually done now.”
Arnold noted that it is up to the neighborhood council’s to research actions being worked by the city.
“As volunteers, neighborhood council board members and constituents usually don’t have the time to do this research. My office will provide information packets to each neighborhood councils and formally request feedback.”
Dr. Cheyenne Bryant is the president of the San Pedro/Wilmington chapter of the NAACP, a motivational speaker and an author.
Bryant entered the race to address port corruption and the stagnation of the waterfront development, issues she believes to be the root causes of homelessness and economic stagnation in the Los Angeles Harbor.
Bryant has been particularly critical of the Port of Los Angeles contracting practices as “pay-to-play.”
She specifically called out the port’s selection of Clear Air Engineering, a company owned by former Harbor Commissioner Nicholas Tonsich. It will be a participating vendor of the Omin-Green Terminal project that was unveiled this past summer.
In one letter to Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners, she wrote:
The city Ethics Commission and the City Attorney ruled twice that Tonsich is in violation with his activity emission control activities at China Shipping and possibly TraPac. You received documentation regarding this from both Jesse Marquez and Janet Gunter.
Yet, this commission, the mayor, and the councilman have done nothing except take money from Mr. Tonsich, his family and his employees.
Bryant recalled a Harbor Commission meeting in December 2015. The Port of Los Angeles’ executive director, Gene Seroka, said the port has no contractual relationship with Tonsich’s company. She blasted the assertion as untrue. She said it was meant to mislead the commission and the public, noting that at the time Tonsich’s company got the contract, Tonsich had a long-term port lease on a building in the Wilmington Marina.
The conflicts between James Preston Allen and Councilman Joe Buscaino are well known.
In the past year, Allen has accused Buscaino of eschewing traditional media outlets in favor of social media, where he could avoid answering critical questions regarding his plans and initiatives.
“Media should be the bridge not the wall between the governed and those who govern— and when the government assumes the role of being the media, like [Branimir] Kvartuc (the councilman’s communications director), and others have done, they eliminate dissenting voices,” said Allen in his candidate position statement. “Hence, like Trump, Buscaino is living in his own self-generated delusion.”
For Allen, this particular habit of the council office has led to a lack of transparency in the Buscaino administration’s dealings, such as how he was able get so far along pushing the Nelson One development. The developer was on trial regarding a land deal that went bad.
Allen’s platform include: transparency and accountability; economic sustainability; green tech goal and zero emissions; affordable housing and job creation to address the homeless crisis; building a distinctive waterfront that retains San Pedro’s cultural history, character and successful businesses; and transportation that connects Los Angeles to its Harbor.