Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The speech I gave at the last Granada Hills South Neighborhood Council meeting.

I’m here to ask the Neighborhood Council for a letter of support for the plaza proposal. I’m not asking for money, I’m not asking you to become a community partner, because that’s not an option anyway. I’m just asking for a letter of support. Because the Neighborhood Council is the only organization that exists to act as a voice for the community.

Every other community organization that Granada Hills has exists primarily to advance the interests of businesses. I don’t want to present this as community versus business, because that’s really the opposite of what this is. It’s not hard to see how foot traffic and appealing spaces invite people to linger in our central business district, how a feeling of pedestrian safety enhances a business district’s appeal.

Last time I spoke at a General Meeting of the Neighborhood Council, it was quite rightly pointed out that I hadn’t yet done enough outreach to the business community. So I walked door to door on Chatsworth, between Zelzah and Yarmouth. And I got 14 signed letters of support from local business owners. And those 14 letters matter, but also, so do the opinions of the stakeholders who live and shop in this community, and whose needs those businesses exist to serve. Not the other way around.

But the Rotary Club Foundation Board voted against the plaza proposal, and their reason for doing so was QUOTE: “We don't know of one business that is in favor of the project.” They also mistakenly believed that the plaza would block the alley.

Then I learned that Granada Hills BID voted against the plaza, after their executive director answered zero phone calls and zero emails from me. Afterwards, when I spoke at their public comment, and mentioned the fact that we’re closing in on 1000 petition signatures, the BID President told me, QUOTE, “I couldn’t care less if there’s 30,000 names on a petition.” END QUOTE. Because their sole mission is to serve commercial property owners.

Then the Chamber president said in a comment to a plaza supporter on Facebook, QUOTE “you have no skin in the game. The businesses there and the landowners are the only opinions that matter to the Chamber.” END QUOTE. Okay, fair enough — that’s the Chamber’s purview. But where can the public go to have their opinion matter? To have their skin in the game? Neighborhood Councils are the public’s only voice.

Going out on food truck nights, we’ve got all these petition signatures in favor of the plaza, but opponents say, “That doesn’t matter; people come from all over the place to the food truck nights.”

So I say, “Would you like me to show you how many of the signatures are from people with a 91344 zip code?” And they say, “That doesn’t matter; those people aren’t business owners.”

So I say, “We’ve got fourteen signed letters from business owners.” And they say, “That doesn’t matter; they’re not property owners.”

My question for you is this: when do we start to matter? There’s this constant shifting of the bar. And we’re constantly hearing this message: you don’t matter.

We’ve raised money on Kickstarter, and while it’s not a staggering sum, if you believe that every dollar is a vote, that matters.

We’ve got high school kids walking through there every day, and they could use a safe place to be in after school. They matter.

We’ve got tons of pedestrians walking through there every Friday night. They matter.

BID’s sole mission is to represent business interests. Rotary represents business interests. The Chamber’s sole mission is to represent business interests. So this Council is really the only option the public has for a voice. Where the public gets to matter.

It would be really great if there could be at least one organization in this town that says to the Kickstarter donors, the petition signers, the 14 business owners, to the public, to the community: you matter.

Thank you.

2 comments:

  1. So, what was the response of the Neighborhood Council?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I got a polite round of applause. Afterwards, two people told me that it was a well-written speech. That's about it.

    ReplyDelete

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