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OPCO Sets Record Straight

April 11, 2002

Dear Editor:

The OPCO Board recently received a copy of correspondence forwarded to your newspaper by Ocean Park Resident Jeffrey Weinstein ("Confusion in the Community, 'I Still Want to Slap that Guy' and Shaking Up OPCO, March 12, 2002). While OPCO always welcomes opinions from members of the community, the Board would like to respond to several inaccuracies contained in Mr. Weinstein's letter.

First, Mr. Weinstein suggests that the twelve candidates elected to the OPCO Board during OPCO's annual Congress held on February 24 were backed by the current board and none offered a "different point of view" from the current Board. In fact, the list of candidates appearing on the ballot reflected those persons who filed nomination forms with the OPCO Board prior to the Congress.

At any time prior to this year's Congress, the seven "alternative candidates" could have and should have filed an election nomination form with OPCO, to be placed on the ballot and be considered by the voting membership. OPCO did not print its ballots until 1:00 a.m. on the day of the Congress to give all the time possible to candidates to place their names on the ballots.

Regrettably, despite the public outreach that OPCO did prior to the Congress, the seven "alternative candidates," for whatever reason, failed to submit nomination forms to OPCO to have their names placed on the ballot. These candidates instead left this important but simple task until the day of the Congress, thereby excluding themselves from visibility on the ballot, and leaving it up to the voting membership to familiarize themselves with the candidates and writing the names of those tardy candidates onto the ballot.

Appearance on the ballot did not denote being backed by the current Board, nor did it denote that these persons held any particular point of view already represented on the OPCO Board. The voting membership had the opportunity to meet each candidate during the Congress and to listen to remarks from each candidate prior to voting, with one exception.

If Mr. Weinstein listened to each candidate's remarks, he would have ascertained that they in fact represented a diversity of opinions, priorities and personalities. The membership spoke and chose to elect those candidates they deemed qualified to represent their interests, rather than the seven "alternative candidates" of which Mr. Weinstein was one.

Secondly, Mr. Weinstein suggested that this year's OPCO Congress was well-attended by existing, as well as new, members who were "prompted to action by their opposition to the proposed Community Corporation of Santa Monica project at Pacific and Main Streets". In fact, the robust attendance and the success of the Congress was the result of the hard work performed by several community volunteers with a wide array of social and political interests, and a common goal of having a successful forum to hear from Ocean Park residents.

None of the "alternative candidates" contributed in the months preceding the Congress to make the event a success. OPCO represents a wonderful group of residents in Ocean Park and strives to work for resolution of issues important to the entire community. The Board should not serve as a tool of "single-issue" residents. Mr. Weinstein even admits that he and many others joined OPCO simply to oppose the CCSM project mentioned above, stating: "That is why many of us joined OPCO and sought election to the board."

Members of the community have at their disposal several avenues to address issues of concern to them. Joining the Board of OPCO is not the appropriate means to myopically pursue opposition of a single development project in Santa Monica. Again, the voting membership of OPCO, through their vote, indicated that issues other than the CCSM project at Pacific and Main Streets should be the focus of its Board.

Third, Mr. Weinstein states that OPCO is not in touch with the community, and "does not
embrace or incorporate alternative viewpoints." However, OPCO has been at the forefront of community representation for years, and has tackled a variety of issues based on the diverse demands of its constituents.

OPCO has offered various ways for people who live in Ocean Park to garner information and weigh in on topics including landmark preservation, the Fourth Street corridor, construction and development projects in Ocean Park, the Civic Center, Expo Line, the proposed Target store, traffic, safety, homelessness, Lincoln Boulevard development, airport noise, fluoridation, proposed cell towers, parking, and environmental concerns. OPCO has led the drive in the City to promote and increase resident notification requirements on projects, developments and issues of interest to Ocean Park.

To address the two specific issues raised by Mr. Weinstein in his letter, Mr. Weinstein asserts that OPCO Board Chair Rick Laudati spoke against the "Boulangerie Project" at the February 12, 2002 City Council hearing. Rather, the record reflects that Chair Laudati informed the City Council that although OPCO's Development Standards Review Committee voted to support the project, a full Board vote could not be taken prior to the City Council's hearing, and thus, there was no OPCO position on the project.

Also, Mr. Weinstein's assertion that "other issues important to the neighborhood, such as the 'temporary traffic improvements' along 4th Street, between Pico and Ocean Park Blvd., remain unresolved by the current board" does not truthfully convey the extent of OPCO's hard work on these issues. OPCO's Traffic Committee has been on top of these very traffic "sore points" for some time and got little response from the City until the Chair of OPCO and the Traffic Committee had a meeting with the City Manager and other staff to complain about inaction in January, 2002.

At the Congress the Chair of the Traffic Committee announced that the City was in the design and bid phase of replacing the temporary calming measures with permanent fixtures and would soon bring the plans to the community for review and input. Last month, the City finally proposed two dates for that community review, and has just last week confirmed the date for this meeting, which is April 18, 2002. Thus, we believe that Mr. Weinstein's statements in this regard are completely unfounded.

To characterize OPCO's agenda as narrow simply shows that Mr. Weinstein has not been participating in the organization prior to leveling criticism about it. His remark about the "same faces" running OPCO is similarly revelatory about his lack of understanding of how OPCO works, and its accomplishments. Of all the board and committee members active in OPCO, only one was even serving five years ago (then-Chairman Mike Strader, who has elected to return to the board for the new term). Six of the new Board members are "first-timers".

As far as accepting alternative viewpoints, this can only be responded to by explaining that the way OPCO works is to solicit input from residents on issues of concern. When issues are raised for consideration and action by OPCO, the community is notified of a forum for discussion of the issue. Information and documentation are presented to a Committee or the Board directly, and Board members form opinions, proposals, positions and strategies for action where warranted. OPCO's premise is that this is the process by which "coalitions" such as Mr. Weinstein's ideal are formed. In this case, the coalition includes several intelligent, articulate volunteers - and several new faces -- elected by their peers in the Ocean Park community.

If Mr. Weinstein is discouraged that he or the candidates he favored were not elected, he would do better to encourage them to perform some volunteer service and get acquainted with OPCO, or at the very least submit nominations for elections in a timely fashion. Those elected have made a two-year commitment to service, while Mr. Weinstein has not yet even given them their opportunity to work and be judged.

To date, Mr. Weinstein has not taken an active role in OPCO, but we welcome him to do so, and to share his insight and energy with the Board.

Sincerely,

The Board & Executive Committee of the Ocean Park Community Organization


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