The following italicized text is an excerpt from the latest Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association newsletter. My responses are in regular text. The following opinions expressed are those of the author and do not represent the views of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council.
On September 11, 2006, a total of 429 voters elected new Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council Members. Considering there are literally thousands of people qualified to vote, the turnout was very low. Each of the four Areas contain an estimated 9,000 residents. The most votes received by a candidate (except for Area 7) was 40 votes!!! In a couple Areas there were no candidates!
True and there are some things to learn from SOHA:
- Hold meetings in an easily accessible and comfortable environment
- Consistent presense in the Sherman Oaks Sun
- Consistent flyering of the monthly newsletter
- Warm food at meetings always helps too
One District was quite different. In Area 7, almost 300 people voted (68% of the total vote). Why was the turnout so much higher in Area 7? What is so different about Area 7?
The Association has learned that most of these voters ere related to the Buckley School (parents, employees, etc). Most of the voters did not live in Sherman Oaks!!! Why the interest of the non-Sherman Oaks residents? The Buckley School has plans to enlarge its campus and enrollment, and they need City approval.
The definitions of a stakeholder are tricky: you can be a resident, a business owner or participate in something "at-large" (such as attending a church or in this case, a private school). In the end, the definition may need reworking, but for now, it is the law.
One of the common criticisms of the Neighborhood Councils is that they do not represent the community; therefore they are not taken seriously at City Hall. When non-residents can elect members to the Neighborhood council, the focus of the Council can become the approval of a specific development rather than the protection and enhancement of the community.
Firstly, in response to specific developments vs. protection and enhancement, SONC looks at each and every development as they come in the Land Use Committee. When all said in done, everything that passes through goes to the protection and enhancement of the community, but if it is really protecting and/or enhancing, that's an opinion everyone must make on their own.
The Neighborhood Council system is not exactly solid. All those involved, from politicians to community members and volunteers, are building the ship as they sail it. This concept, in the 2nd largest city in the nation, is not something standard. There is no book on this; we are creating it.