You may have already heard that the Silver Lake Neighborhood
Council (SLNC) meeting was shut down by the community on Wednesday, September 4,
and police were called in to clear the room. What I want to offer are the facts
as I remember them that night. I am a
member of the SLNC and submitted the motion that the community drafted.
Video tape of most of the meeting is available for viewing. (See below.)
SLNC members Teresa Sitz, Charles Herman-Wurmfeld and Amy Clarke met with community members in July to discuss and oppose a “gang” injunction being placed in Echo Park, Silver Lake, Frogtown and Historic Filipinotown. The Glendale Boulevard Corridor Gang Injunction Project – the official name – is a civil lawsuit that denies six “predominantly Hispanic” rival gangs the right of free association. Because the injunction is a civil suit there is no right to a court-appointed attorney, so “gang” members, or those so branded by the Office of the City Attorney, have to hire and pay for their own attorney, a significant burden for youth and families struggling to make ends meet. The injunction leaves 300 blank spaces to be filled in with the names of gang members at a later time. It is these blank spaces that we fear will lead to the racial profiling of our youth.
On July 24, SLNC board member Teresa Sitz emailed fellow board member and head of the Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee Nadine Trujillo and asked the committee to address the issue of the gang injunction. Ms. Trujillo replied that the agenda for the next meeting was set and perhaps the issue could be presented to the council at the August governing board meeting.
Board presentations are allotted 5-10 minutes and there were already two board presentations scheduled for August. The community agreed that the issue deserved more than 5-10 minutes so wrote a motion to the board which was sent to the Co-chairs Clint Lukens and Renee Nahum and placed on the August agenda.
At the August 7 Governing Board meeting the Chair, Clint Lukens, asked for the motion to be read. Ms. Sitz first asked that board members Paul Neuman, Anne-Marie Johnson and Renee Nahum recuse themselves from the issue due to a conflict of interest. Ms. Sitz was asked to provide an explantation. She replied that Neuman and Johnson were both employed by LA City Council members (Koretz and LaBonge respectively) who had in the past voted to fund a program that supported injunctions, and that Nahum was married to Neuman and so had a material interest through her relationship with him. The three said they had no conflict and chose not to recuse themselves.
The motion opposing the injunction was then read by a community member. The City Attorney’s Office testified in favor of the injunction and community members testified against it, with few exceptions.
At that point, SLNC member Paul Neuman authored a substitute motion to refer the issue to the Public Safety Committee, which had already rejected it. He said he felt the issue deserved further vetting and a public forum.
From that point on the motion was out of the hands of the makers and everything that happened after that was due to decisions made by Co-chair Renee Nahum, Parliamentarian Anne-Marie Johnson, and Public Safety Chair Nadine Trujillo, and perhaps some others. With the exception of an amendment, ruled insignificant by Parliamentarian Anne-Marie Johnson, and reading the motion to the audience, the original makers of the motion never again had control of the motion, or decisions made by the Co-chair, Renee Nahum, regarding the treatment of the public concerned with the issue.
THE PUBLIC HEARING
Six panelists (three in favor of the injunction and three opposed) met with the SLNC and the community at the Holy Virgin Mary Church on August 19 for a public forum produced by the Public Safety Committee. It was an orderly and productive event with only two or three community members voicing their favor of the injunction.
Ms. Trujillo communicated to us that a vote on the motion would not take place at the public forum, though a quorum of board members was present that night.
A vote on the motion had been twice denied and community members were called back to an SLNC meeting for a third time.
Ms. Sitz emailed Chairs Renee Nahum, Clint Lukens and Parliamentarian Anne-Marie Johnson the day before the meeting to ask if the community would be allowed to speak. Being in contact with some community members, Ms. Sitz hoped to reset expectations regarding speaking. She did not receive a reply. About ten minutes before the start of the meeting Ms. Nahum informed Ms. Sitz, “as a courtesy,” that community members would not be allowed to speak on the issue.
About 120 community members arrived - about 30 from the Youth Justice Coalition and four members of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council (that council recently voted to not support the inunction). The rest of the audience was mostly Silver Lake residents.
Speaker cards were not made available until a few minutes before the meeting started. Guests were handing scraps of paper with requests to speak to the presiding Chair Renee Nahum. Many of these addressed the agenda item of the gang injunction.
When it came time for public comment a small group of speakers (fewer than 10) took their turns at the podium, speaking on a variety of non-agenda items. Ms. Nahum then closed public comment and moved to the next item on the agenda.
At that point, Kim McGill from the Youth Justice Coalition approached Ms. Sitz and informed her that a large number of people had not been allowed to speak during public comment. When the field representative of Assembly Member Mike Gatto finished speaking Ms. Sitz stood and called, “Point of Order.” The Chair, Renee Nahum, recognized Ms. Sitz and she informed the chair of the problem.
Ms. Nahum told the audience that no one who referred to an agenda item on their speaker card would be allowed to speak. This was the first time the audience had heard of this. They protested. Ms. Nahum told them to fill out new speaker cards. They protested. The protest continued, growing louder.
Ms. Nahum told the audience that the board had already heard testimony at the public hearing and that the board was prepared to vote. The audience complained that all board members had not been present at the forum (the author counted 13 out of 21 at the forum). The chair replied that the minutes, 11 pages of public testimony, had been emailed to the board at about 10:00 a.m. that morning.
At that point members of the audience approached the podium, took the mic and began speaking on the issue without permission.
Someone on the board moved for a recess, the board voted and a recess was called.
After 15 minutes the board reassembled and Ms. Nahum told the audience that they would have 10 minutes – at 30 seconds each – to address the agenda item. The audience did the best they could in the short amount of time allotted to them.
After the testimony the chair called the question. Charles Herman-Wurmfeld read the original motion. Then he read the amended motion with changes ruled insignificant by the Parliamentarian. This meant that discussion on the issue would not be reopened. The board voted and approved the changes and then voting on the main motion began.
The audience was told by the chair to remain quiet after the vote was announced – that they could either leave quietly or stay for the rest of the meeting if they so desired.
Secretary Rusty Millar took the vote, then counted it. He announced the vote – 8 to 7 in favor of the motion (against the injunction). The audience applauded and there were a few cheers. After a few seconds the audience broke into a unity clap – a short group applause. (This can all be viewed on video of the events and took less than one minute total.)
I was told later – I did not hear this myself – that the chair, Ms. Renee Nahum, then announced that since the audience would not be quiet that she was going to cast a vote, and she did so – against the motion tying the vote.
The audience protested. It is not traditional for the chair to vote except to break a tie. There was a hushed private conversation behind the table between Renee Nahum and Parliamentarian Anne-Marie Johnson. The Parliamentarian ruled that the chair could vote. The vote was then tied 8 – 8.
Many in the audience rose to their feet and protested loudly. At that point SLNC board member Anthony Crump, a vocal supporter of the injunction, entered the meeting and asked to vote. I heard the chair say no. After again conferring privately with Johnson the Chair allowed Crump to cast his no vote. The audience complained that he had not been present for the meeting or for the additional testimony. The parliamentarian ruled in his favor. The vote was then 9 – 8 in favor of the injunction.
The audience protest grew and some members of the audience approached the board to speak directly to the Chair and other members. Nahum tried and failed to restore order. A motion to adjourn the meeting was made and a vote was taken. Three policemen present at the meeting took their place in front of the board tables. Other board members came from behind the table and mingled freely with the audience.
Police backup was requested by someone and at one point there were five police cars at the school. The police ordered the meeting hall cleared and the crowd dispersed.
Those are the facts as I remember them. I am fallible and if someone remembers what happened differently I’m willing to amend my statement. The events of the evening can be verified by watching the videos of the event. Please draw your own conclusions.
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/38270253 Part 1
Community Demands to Speak
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/38270963 Part 2 Meeting Resumes
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/38272071 Part 3/4 President votes and Board Member arrives to skew vote
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/38272333 Part 5 Meeting Shutdown
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/38272851 Part 6 Reactions from the Community and Documented Police Presence
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/38272871 Part 7 Community Member Reflects on City Processes