Neighborhood Council Aftermath

Issues of race, nativism and anti-Latino sentiments come to the surface in Van Nuys

By Enrique Aragon
Published on LatinoLA: July 7, 2003

Neighborhood Council Aftermath

Neighborhood Councils were the centerpiece of the new City Charter approved by Los Angeles voters in June 1999. The objective was to promote civic participation by giving all individuals, residents, business owners, members of organizations and other community members a forum to address community issues.

Their mission: To promote public participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs by creating, nurturing, and supporting a citywide system of grass-roots, independent, and participatory neighborhood councils.

On February 8th, 2003, people in the City of Van Nuys, California voted to elect officers to their first official Certified Neighborhood Council. After the election, the losing candidates filed challenges alleging illegal electioneering and other allegations that the winning candidates had stacked the election by bringing illegal aliens, ?Mexicans?, and ?other foreigners? to vote. At various times the inflammatory rhetoric has even suggested that some stakeholders who voted were criminals, even gang members.

The allegations and accusations against the elected members of the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council, made up of a slight majority of Latinos, are a clear reminder of how easily some can fall into divisive politics, speech and behavior in our city.

The latest demographic figures show Latinos constitute close to 70% of the population of Van Nuys, and this electoral challenge against a primarily Latino ?diversity? slate was made by a group made up solely of Anglos.

Is this ultimately an attempt to prevent the silent majority from participating in the civic process? More than 100 days have passed since the elections, yet the newly elected board has until now been prevented from taking office and from working for the community.

Change can only take place by the active participation of people who care and take the time to support a just cause. Urban Diversity believes in civic?and civil?politics, and we are committed to ensuring that civic identity in Los Angeles has real meaning, and that it not become just another kind of identity politics.

To find out more about the ongoing situation and how you can get involved, please visit

To find out more about Neighborhood Councils in your area, please visit

About Enrique Aragon:
Urban Diversity ? Helping to Build Diversity in the Community where you live.

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