Editor’s note: This is one of several articles in a series of profiles on Venice candidates.
What would you prioritize if you were voted in?
It's difficult to say exactly what the first priorities will be should I become elected. There are so many different issues the residents of our community are concerned with. Some people are very concerned right now, with character, mass, and scale while others (like myself) are concerned about the degenerating conditions on the boardwalk. Others are concerned with crime and police patrols. Others still, are concerned with the parking situation in Venice, which continues to become more dense with cars and traffic coming to our neighborhood that is quickly re-developing with a great dining and nightlife scene.
Everyone I've spoken with has a valid concern and they are all equally important. I think in considering this, the time of year will play an important role. In that regard, I think I would focus on the boardwalk and parking as the first on a list of many topics to deal with. Since it's the winter time and things have slowed down a bit, I feel like now is the best time to tackle the issue before the spring and summer return with all of the hustle and bustle that we know and love here in our community.
Who are your primary supporters?
I'm not entirely sure I could point to any one individual organization as a primary supporter. My family and friends have probably been my biggest supporters of my candidacy to date. Otherwise, my neighbors and community have been my supporters. Local business people, leaders, and just general familiar faces have been supportive of my candidacy. It's not an organization, but I'd have to say Venice has been my biggest supporter.
What issue do you feel most strongly about and what’s your position?
The Boardwalk/OFW is the issue I feel most strongly about. It's where I live and mostly work. It's been referred to as the heartbeat or engine of Venice. It's a source of revenue for Los Angeles, and possibly the most popular destination in California. I personally love living here. I love the sights and the freedom we have here on the beach.
That said, it's slowly becoming problematic. The issues of camping and vagrancy have come to such a head, that we've had to actually close down/restrict access to the OFW from midnight to 5am. When it happened, it was a bittersweet time. This was kind of a catch all solution implemented to curtail camping and vagrancy. Unfortunately it has also had the unintended effect of restricting safe transportation for residents and patrons of local establishments. Since it's enforcement began, people have still generally been able to travel the boardwalk past curfew, though there have been times where police enforcement has been overly harsh.
Not that I fault the police at all, but I've had people recount to me times they've been stopped by the police for traversing the boardwalk (sometimes forcefully) while other times I've heard groups of people/bikes/skateboards freely going about without incident. All the while, I can't get enforcement of anti-vagrancy laws/issues. I can barely get the police to contain the vagrants that sit right at the edge of the boardwalk and cross streets that are awake until very late hours (2am+) and then are awake and screaming profanities at 5am.
I can't say I fault the police, since they have received different objectives from different people at different times. I would like to encourage the city to listen to the residents about what we want, and provide consistency in enforcement. We already have no camping and vagrancy laws on the books. Instead of closing down the boardwalk, I would suggest we start there and enforce those laws. I know I am not alone in dealing with this situation. I would also like to improve the current situation regarding vending on the boardwalk, possibly implementing a form of registration and three strikes rule.
Additionally, I'd like to see a reduction in the number of vending spaces, a creation of larger performing spaces (that are located away from residences to create minimal impact), and a rotation of the spaces (for instance, you can be in one space for 2 days, then you must move north at least 5 spaces, never to be in the same space twice in a month. Or something similar). I feel like this would create some fairness and allow other artists/vendors into high traffic areas that are otherwise camped out by the same people day after day, week after week. I feel like this would also help to alleviate some of the camping and vagrancy issues, since it will make it more difficult to stay in the same place and become too comfortable.
This is just one issue out of many we are dealing with on the boardwalk, that actually affects all Venetians. I am just as passionate about other issues involving our community, since I want to see all of my friends and neighbors enjoying their homes and properties as they are entitled to, and I will do my best to bring that passion to our council, to hopefully represent all of Venice, and make it an even better place to live, work, and play.
Rick Duncan is running for President of the Venice Neighborhood Council, a two-year term. To read more candidate profiles, click here.