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?
My priorities for almost all issues boil down to keeping the Heart and Soul of Venice alive even as we grow and change. I stand for retaining our signature inclusiveness, sense of community, unique aesthetic and edgy artistic soul as we morph into the future, especially with the huge recent monetary influx and notoriety. I want us to take a breath and grow and change in a conscious way that takes the whole community into consideration. We do not have to go the way of everyone else. We are Venice! We are amazing! We don't need to sell ourselves out to the highest bidder!
Who are your primary supporters?
My primary supporters are Venetians who desire that Venice retain our distinct Beauty on a core level. They are those who don't feature the "slash and burn" development we are being herded into of late or the criminalization of homelessness that is being touted as a solution by some, or other unjust leanings of recent note in our town. My supporters are those who believe that we can find creative ways to enable all Venetians to live together gracefully and retain our Soul even as we blossom. They know that Venice is different than anywhere else and that if anyone can hold strong together as the intense winds of gentrification blow through it is us. Yes. We are just that cool.
What issue do you feel most strongly about and what’s your position?
What I feel most strongly about in Venice right now is Justice. Whether it is the rights of people to protect their property from bottom line developers, the rights of young people to skateboard on our streets without harassment, the rights of our unHoused neighbors to carve out an existence in our community--especially since many are the artists that bring the very tourists who actually support out economy--or any number of other issues. In all these instances, we need to find real, solid solutions that work for our whole community. If it is not a win for everyone, it is not a win.
What's one thing most constituents don't know about you?
What most do not know about me is that I have personally seen this process of devolvement, that masks itself with seeming profit, before. That is why I am so adamant that we keep a watchful eye and absolutely not lower our standards! I was a part of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire for 30 some years and I saw what happened when a corporation took it over and systematically took all the magic away to satisfy their bottom line. The result? The Faire is pretty much just a sad parody of itself. I would hate that happen to our Beloved Venice! We are worth so much more than that! But the signs are everywhere and many Venetians I speak with think it is already too late.I really hope not, but now is the time to act.
We have an amazing thing going here that has wonderfully, naturally evolved. No corporation could come up with such an enigmatic, organic culture that captures the imagination of so many around the world. No city could afford to pay all the actors it would take to fill up the Boardwalk 24/7 with interesting characters doing interesting things so tourists could experience the wild, weird and wonderfulness that is our world famous Boardwalk anytime. We are currently the most visited place in California for a very specific reason. Before we destroy what "natural resources" we have, we should look at what makes the perfect storm that is Venice and why people flock here before we make the mistake the Renaissance Faire made and kill all charm and vitality and scintillating specialness to create a cultural and literal wasteland.
Instead, let's see what people love and see how we can enhance that. It is the difference of looking at Venice as a real community with individual happiness that is intertwined with community vitality with our collective future at stake, or going the route that most of America is going, that of pure self interest and making a quick buck while sacrificing everything that has any substance, any value, any beauty, any community, or anything that really matters.
We have a choice. The choice is ours. It is a serious one. Let us consider the implications. And let us do it now!
Why did you decide to run?
I have decided to run for VNC because, as I have mentioned, I see clearly that Venice has come to an absolute crossroads. We can make Her even more splendid or we can wreck Her beyond hope. This goes for our businesses, our neighborhoods and our humanity.
As a merchant on Abbot Kinney, believe me, I am watching the current land grab first hand. It is intense! And in the surrounding neighborhoods I see the same thing! Checks and balances absolutely need to be set in place. I saw what happened with Montana Blvd, for example. Sad. Melrose? Pitiful.
In addition, in March, when I saw an email that a local man sent out that showed the lack of anything like humanity, who was colluding with local officials to harass and abuse the unHoused people on 3rd Street with disastrous results, I wrote an open letter in the Beachhead (April 2012) asking our community for help with solutions rather than to work to further criminalize poverty. I was astounded by the backlash of hatred I faced from a small but vocal group in Venice for that one simple deed! Since then I have attended many community meetings and as I move further into local politics I am finding that we need strong leadership that truly represents the Heart and Soul of our community. Already we are fast losing what we love. I know you feel it too. We all do.
My fellow Venetians, we stand at a precipice. it is obvious to all of us. And we are the ones that hold the future of Venice in our hands. We can easily lose all our charm to the current slash and burn development or we can grow and change with some semblance of class, style and method. The influx of money and prestige is wonderful, yet not so much so if it crushes the very life out of us; if we do not use it to our advantage.
As someone who has been enamored with and totally succumb to the luscious culture of Venice for over forty years, I believe I have a sense of who we are. Let us take a breath, center ourselves, and remember who we are as we grow and change, just as you might advise a young adult to do in their life. On a whim or fad, if you see them risking their health or future to bow to some whim, or selling themselves out simply to make a quick buck, wouldn't you step in to do what you could to be a voice of reason? That is what I see my role to be on the VNC. A clear voice of reason. Not that I am anyone so special, but just that I happen to see this clearly and it happens to matter to me on a very deep level. Many, many, many people feel the same way I do, I know. So I ask you, if you are one of those people, to let me stand for your way of looking at things at the VNC. I have the passion and heart to be a part of the process.
A vote for me will be a vote to keep the Heart and Soul in Venice even as we grow. I will always stand for that. You have my word on it.
Deborah LaShever is running for one of 13 open positions as a Community Officer on the Venice Neighborhood Council. To read more candidate profiles, click here.