A Call for Civility - A Love Letter to Venice

Lively debate makes Venice exciting and invigorating. But let’s not throw civility and decency out the window.

by Linda Lucks

Venice is always  a place of lively debate. Some people have joked, "Ask three Venetians their opinions, and you'll get four answers." Most people in the Venice community engage in civil discourse and fair play, even while strenuously disagreeing with each other. The debates are exciting and stimulating, a great example of grassroots democracy in action.  

However, when people throw civility and decency out the window by engaging in questionable tactics such as personal attacks, this causes fear and, in some cases, incites violent speech and action.  When civility goes, our beloved neighborhood feels it, our reputation in the City is damaged and democracy itself is threatened. It is crucial that people who wish to express their personal opinions feel safe to do so without fear of reprisal or be subjected to intimidation in person, by mail, or on the Internet.   It is one of the hallmarks of our country.

This is the American way  - fostered at Venice Neighborhood Council meetings where everyone is expected to follow a Code of Civility signed by board members, and free expression without interruption or intimidation is the rule.

On a national level, it has been some time since Nixon compiled his enemies list, but not so long since we watched the "swift boating" of a presidential candidate. More recently, stories of internet bullying with dire, sometimes fatal outcomes are all over the news.  Undemocratic and mean-spirited behavior in Venice is unproductive and harmful and needs to be called out for what it is. 

Venice is a microcosm of the world in the challenges it faces. I am saddened when the level of discourse in Venice is abandoned over any issue, but particularly the issue of what to do with homeless people on our streets. I ask myself every day what more I can do to make my community better. I give my heart and soul to Venice by volunteering on the Venice Neighborhood Council, working with and for anyone, including organizations, individuals and our elected officials with an interest in and a stake in Venice. For 20 years I volunteered to create the Venice Garden & Home Tour (coming on May 5) which  benefits a neighborhood child care center and, most recently, on veterans issues and consulting for twor more of our local social service organizations whose work I have admired for decades.  

Venice has always spawned creativity, drawing people with many ideas and thoughts on how to accomplish them. However, for people to come forward with constructive ideas, they must feel safe to do so.  In the past we've mostly been able to work through our disagreements without invoking the kind of vitriol we see today.  And I am encouraged and gratified by the outpouring of support and good cheer  when discourse devolves..

I ask Venetians to seek solutions with good hearts, not with hatred; to demand more of ourselves, our neighbors, agencies, government and to come together to help solve the regional problem of homelessness, a problem of which Venice has borne more than its fair share There is so much to do and so many ways to become involved.  Please look around for organizations and individuals to work with who will work in constructive ways and please don’t be afraid to speak up and come forward.  We need you.   

The Venice Neighborhood Council provides a safe place to express oneself, and civility is expected of all who walk through the doors. Our next meeting is on May 15, at 7 p.m. at Westminster Elementary School. I hope to see you there. It’s your Venice- Get Involved.  

(for purposes of ID only, Lucks is  president of the Venice Neighborhood Council and a member of the Los Angeles Board of Neighborhood Commissioners sets policy for the  City’s 95 neighborhood councils.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Another WorldView May 14, 2012 at 07:52 PM
"Yes - it is absolutely partly because having a homeless encampment on Rose lowers property values " I think that is the long and the short of it. if you cared about these folks, in reality, you wouldn't first have pushed them out of their cars, and onto the streets - from which you now want them removed, as well. It's not like they can live out in the unincorporated areas of the county - as we saw just a few months ago, with the removal of a shanty-town out there, by County officials. "increases noise/nuisance/crime " Housed folks are noisy too. Housed folks commit crimes, too - though the presence of walls between them and the world, mean that they are more likely to get away with it. I find the wave of gentrifiers seeking to remove their neighbors to skid row or the valley to be a nuisance. "we want people to have a roof over their heads." Well the Storage space between 3rd &4th , Rose and Sunset, seems like anawfully big land-bank. Perhaps we can use that to create the no-income housing that these folks need. I'll leave it ot you to rally your neighbors to the cause. That done, and with Ryavec's backing, certainly Bill will be close behind. "We can be concerned about our personal property/safety" People sleeping on the street are no threat to your property or safety.
Another WorldView May 14, 2012 at 08:14 PM
"I think you've been fooled by the Social Service folks." Wrong. "They are not your friends." I've met some of them. They seem like decent folks - unlike the disingenuous carpetbaggers and gentrifiers who've been hijacking our local political process, for more than a decade now. " You are somebody they can count as 'homeless' so they can get more funding." What makes you think that I'm homeless? "They don't want [them] to ever be in a better environment. They want [them] living on the street so they can point to you and say - 'see, we need more funding'. I call bullshit, on that. MOre likely than that, is that Ryavec (and the grouping around him) is(are) acting as a shill for large real estate speculators, who 'bought low', thanks to the character and 'ambiance' of the neighborhood (which has always had its fair share of the UnHoused and working class folks - in my lifetime), and now want to 'sell high' after removing the folks that helped them buy-in 'on the cheap'.
Another WorldView May 14, 2012 at 08:22 PM
"If you can agree that a good common end goal is to help people transition off the street - I think we can all agree that we need to work together on a path toward that end." I agree to that end only to the extent that those folks want to "transition off the street ". If the terms and conditions of that deal don't pass withthem, then they won't fly with me either. If you really cared about this stuff, my guess is that you would be looking at WHY people are on the street in the first place (and try to put aside all of your broad-brush pathologizing of these people - and look at the system which creates the UnHoused population, as a function of the monetary/moral/political economy, when you do so). "If however you are seeking services that enable people to stay on the street comfortably and indefinitely than you will always be at odds with the 'housed' residents." I know for a fact, that you do not speak for all Housed [things identified by government]. Those just and moral people, will seek to ease the suffering of the least among us, regardless of where they happen to be - and for unselfish reasons.
concernedneighbor May 14, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Maybe we're saying the same thing then...but from different sides of the fence. 3rd street was immaculate this morning and silent last night. If 20 people can sleep there at night, clean up the sidewalk and go about their day - then I have no problem with them sleeping on 3rd - as long as the situation stays clean and safe. - I hear there are plenty of open beds but they all the way up on Lincoln (and yes, there are rules). I'd like to know the real story here - if there are beds people should be in them. If there aren't beds we should work together get more. - I don't know much about Mark Ryavek's personal finances but I'd guess Steve Clare and his crew make plenty of money from real estate transactions like what you describe above. - Housed folks do commit crime and make noise. If you put 20 'housed' folks on 3rd they would make a mess. After a night of drinking they'd probably commit stupid crimes and harass people. The un-housed aren't much different from the housed (un-housed might have more drug/alcohol and mental health issues) - that's the point - nobody should be sleeping out on the street. - I would like to know more about the causes of the homeless here in Venice. What is the split between the truly down and out, drug/alcohol abusers, mental health issues, gutter punks, and homeless 'by choice'? Some can and should be helped. Some are beyond help. Some don't want help.
concernedneighbor May 14, 2012 at 11:16 PM
- I hate that storage place between 3rd and 4th. I would pledge my support for tearing that place down and rebuilding something that included a facility with beds and services for homeless folks trying to transition off of the street. - Gentrification is a done deal. The genie is out of the bottle. I certainly don't (and never claimed to) speak for all of the 'housed' residents in Venice - but I would guess the tide is turning across most of Venice. Sympathy/acceptance for the 'un-housed' is definitely waning. As real estate prices (and property taxes) increase the residents will continue to expect a 'safer' environment for them and their families. You can't stop it. Nobody can stop it. I would suggest it might be a better tact to have the un-housed do a better job of self regulating. Keeping streets clean, not drinking in public, smile and say hello. It would send a much better message then 'hey, we've always been here so leave us the F alone' - Finally - and most importantly - how would you suggest we stop the migration of the 'un-housed' from other parts of LA and the rest of the West. Even if we came together and solved the 'problem' in a way that works for the residents and the un-housed currently here in Venice - how do you stop more people from coming? I think you might also agree that the 'gutter punks' that are relocating here from out of town are the ones that do the most damage to the un-housed cause by committing more violent/drug related crimes.


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