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.