Thursday, February 24, 2011

Open Letter to NWNC President Tom Johnson, Councilman Smith and PRNC President Mel Mitchel

Re: The Joint Porter Ranch / Northridge West Neighborhood Council Vote on Wilbur Ave. Traffic configuration.

Mr. President, I charge that the process you, Councilman Greig Smith and Porter Ranch President Mel Mitchel have outlined is tantamount to the smokey backroom political environment of years, thankfully, long gone and therefore should be revised immediately.

In a recent letter to me President Johnson, You have claimed that our brave soldiers died fighting for the right to vote without "intimidation" and in private.

I agree.

BUT, You are forgetting that as Neighborhood Council members, WE are the GOVERNMENT representing the people. Those soldiers you speak of fought and died for the rights of the people to know what their representatives are doing, not the rights of the government to hide their vote from the people they are accountable to. We are elected board members. We all took an oath to protect the best interests of our neighborhood. Being a voting representative in a democratic system can certainly be a scary venture at times, but people depend on us as their elected representatives to have the courage and conviction to vote publicly and with accountability just as we depend on our city, state, and national representatives to have the courage to vote publicly. In fact we demand it of them. Our soldiers, our forefathers and founding fathers fought hard and many many many people far braver than you and I died so that the government could be more transparent and more accountable to the people it serves. They certainly did not die so the government can hold a third world dictator style secret vote. The least we could do is show some courage and responsibility for our choices that affect the public safety and treasure.

This vote is perhaps the single most important vote the neighborhood council will make for years to come. Lets not blow this by shrouding it in mystery.

I know I will make my vote public even in the face of the many people present who will not like my vote. Lurking among the people opposed to the road diet are the ones who viciously race through the bike lanes in the morning with no care for the neighborhood, the system and the rule of law. Who is actually being intimidated here? If I can handle it, so can you and everyone else among us who represent the people of NORTHRIDGE West.

President Johnson I greatly respect you and I greatly appreciate what you do but I humbly reserve the right to openly criticize this proposed process and your defense of it. You are our President, you should be working on behalf of OUR neighborhood and fighting for transparency and fairness. THAT privilege is what people are fighting and dieing for right now in Africa and the Middle East as they rise up against their own secretive and oppressive governments. They look to us for inspiration. Let us not forget that this is America, land of the FREE and home of the BRAVE.

  • I ask that each board member's vote be made public and be held accountable to the public they serve.

  • I ask that each board vote separately on the matter not as a combined vote. Porter Ranch has it's interests, the people you, myself, and the rest of the board serve have theirs.

  • I ask that before this meeting is announced that the rules are made clear as to how the vote will be tallied.

  • I ask that the definition of a majority vote is made clear.

  • I ask that at least 3 weeks public notice be given to constituents before the meeting and that the process is completely defined, open, fair, transparent and all clarified in the meeting announcement.

-don ward
Northridge West Neighborhood Council


  1. Howard Bennet2/24/11, 5:59 PM

    I can't quite wrap my head around the fact that Porter Ranch gets to decide how our street looks. I know the folks up there carry a lot of influence over Mitch Englander and Greig Smith, but that shouldnt be enough to warrant spending money on re-striping a street that the residents actually like. when is this meeting supposed to happen?

  2. It isn't a matter of "them" in Porter Ranch vs "us" the lower socioeconomic brothers down south. Wilbur is a sig-alert of gridlock since the lane diet. The new striping is not the solution. I am open to compromise but it is NOT accurate to say those of us South of Devonshire are wedded to this deprovement.

  3. @Anonymous, I completely agree that it should not be "them" vs. "us". If you are a local resident you have every right to voice your opinion and it should count. Unfortunately in our situation, the voices of the people living south of Devonshire have been suppressed and excluded at every level. First with the lack of communication by the LADOT, then with the lack of communication with the people that live on the street and in the neighborhood, then again with the active exclusion of people who live in the neighborhood to be named to the committee and now with the proposed secret ballot vote of the Neighborhood Council vote.

    I'm all for compromise and in fact I have had an alternate design drawn up that was completely ignored. I will be posting that alternate design in a blog post shortly.

    Finally, I disagree that Wilbur is a "sig alert of gridlock" because of the road diet. Even during the 15-20 minute period in the morning when there is back up on Wilbur south, it is still at most a one light wait. This issue can be solved in other ways than by creating an induced drag race situation at the Devonshire south light.

  4. So eloquently put. This is our neighborhood not Porter Ranch's. It doesn't matter how many lanes there are on Wilbur - it is against the law to drive faster than the posted speed limit. Also, I don't know why anyone would protest a crosswalk. What's up with that? Just something else to argue about? What is the justification to not want to have a crosswalk painted on the street? Absurd.

    I suggest we put a signal at every cross street along Wilbur from Rinaldi to Nordhoff. Maybe that will discourage the stunt drivers from Porter Ranch from using our neighborhood to gain the additional 2 minutes in their morning commute. None of their lives are that important that they have to be where ever they're going 2 minutes faster. I think the commuters that insist on speeding through our neighborhood should take a refresher course in driving a car. Driving is a privilege not a right.


  5. California's Ralph M. Brown Act (, the law that guarantees open and transparent meetings of our city council, commissions and neighborhood councils, expressly forbids secret ballots.

    Secret meetings and secret ballots a violation of the law.

    "California Government Code Section 54953(c) No legislative body shall take action by secret ballot, whether preliminary or final."

    The battle over the right to participate in our city government has seen cyclists challenging the DWP Commission (and winning) the LADOT (and winning) the Police Commission (and winning) and City Hall (and winning) by invoking the Brown Act to ensure that the people of LA have the right to participate in open and transparent meetings.

    We shouldn't have to fight so hard to invoke CA State Law, especially one that is almost 60 years old.

    That being said, let's take every opportunity to remind those who serve us:

    "It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly. The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created."

  6. Howard, I'm a resident of Northridge and I don't like the Road Diet one bit so please don't write blanket statements that residents like the Road Diet.

    Don, what you deem as a short one light wait on Wilbur is considered a long wait for someone else compared to how it used to be when there were 4 lanes in place. Yes, the issue can be solved by reverting back to 4 lanes.

    Bettina, it is NOT against the law to drive faster than the posted street speed limits. They are suggested speed limits, not maximum speed limits. The only place a maximum speed limit exists is on our freeways (65mph). People CAN and DO driver faster than the posted street limits and can even fight and win a case in court if they are not going too much faster over that limit, permitting that the traffic conditions are light and weather conditions are favorable, etc.