Eagle Rock NC Elections Mired in Medical Marijuana Controversy
Supporters of medical marijuana dispensaries win council seats.
Some of the neighborhood council elections (Region 8) that took place Saturday all around Los Angeles had relatively high voter turnout totals. But all of them were dwarfed by the 792 people who cast their vote in Eagle Rock.
With growing tensions in the community over pot shops, one of the main impetuses for the large draw was the issue of medical marijuana dispensaries. Although members of the council, which serves as an advisory body to LA City Council, are not in favor of the dispensaries, the large turnout helped two supporters of the dispensaries win council seats. According to the Los Angeles Times, more than 300 of the nearly 800 votes were cast by outsiders who were eligible to vote just by presenting a receipt at the polling place of something they bought within the area. Some of the voters might have been lured by promises of free medical marijuana, according to the Times.
Still, election poll worker Jay Handal, who chairs the West Los Angeles NC and a familiar figure in the NC circuit, was pleased with what he saw during the day.
“The neighborhood council system is the very best opportunity for the people in the city to have a real voice in their communities,” Handal said. “And coming out and seeing families, coming out and seeing people of all color and persuasion and just coming out to vote, I think it’s finally getting to the people that they can exercise their right to vote, and they need to. And they’re coming out, and they’re doing it. I think it’s terrific.”
According to Empower LA project coordinator Stephen Box, the total number of votes cast in some elections Saturday was as much as 74 percent higher than in 2010’s neighborhood council elections.
To those who didn’t get out to Saturday’s elections and don’t think their vote counts, Handal pointed to Silver Lake’s neighborhood council election from the previous week in which two candidates for a seat tied in the voting, and a winner was chosen by drawing straws.
“All I can say to anyone who doesn’t believe their vote counts is look at Silver Lake,” Handal said. “If you want to truly participate in your community, for a better community, get off the couch and come out and vote.”
Seven more neighborhood council elections are scheduled to take place this Saturday.
Two formal complaints have been filed in the controversial Eagle Rock polls.
Mark Haskell Smith, a candidate for director of Sub-District 5, has challenged the Eagle Rock NC elections with two formal complaints filed Monday with the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment. In the first complaint, Smith accuses Peter Hilton who ran for post of president of repeatedly slandering the competing 'Green Slate' of candidates by calling it a 'criminal syndicate.'
Smith’s next complaint is against Michael Larsen the current ERNC president. Larsen is accused of endorsing a slate of candidates, 'the Eagle Rock Neighbors,' in violation of election rules. "He was seen at the ERNC booth during the Eagle Rock Music Festival handing out flyers for the slate he endorsed."
Read the complaints:
This article originally appeared in CivicLA.
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