By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
The 2016 election for the West Los Angeles-Sawtelle Neighborhood Council was held on June 5 at West L.A. Farmers Market, preceded by some political intrigue.
With a total of 432 people voting, the results are as follows:
Small business representative — Eric Nakamura of Giant Robot was elected with 360 votes. Lawyer Helga Hakimi received 48 votes.
Large business representative — Naomi Kageyama of F.K. Nursery was elected with 370 votes. Current board member Moe Mostashari received 30 votes.
At-large representative — Five were elected: Current board member Greg Ericksen with 222 votes, lawyer Jamie L. Keeton with 184 votes, current board member Rosie Kato with 177 votes, former ski patrolman Ron Migdal with 173 votes, and architect Jian Kerendian with 150 votes.
Ignacio Garcia Perez fell short with 147 votes. He campaigned with Nakamura, Kageyama, Kato, Kerendian and Migdal as the “Sawtelle Six.”
The other at-large candidates were Daniel Osztreicher (108 votes), Haggai Mazler (95), Arman Ghorbani (85), Derek Rudack (51), Violet Emma Rogers (41), Scott Garner (31), Melanie Jill Kirschbaum (28), Scott Gladstone (26), Kathryn Schorr (23), Alan Shinkman (21), Dylan Wright (21), David Lorango (20), Naveed Mahboobian (16), and Robert Leifer (14).
Candidates and voters must be stakeholders in the neighborhood, such as residents and business owners. The council board has 15 seats, one of which is currently vacant. There are 96 neighborhood councils across the city, which receive $37,000 in public funds each year to support their activities. Issues that the councils address include crime, gangs, streets, safe spaces for children, and economic development.
One of the items currently under discussion for West L.A.-Sawtelle is a proposed Whole Foods mixed-use development project at the corner of Barrington Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard.
Kato was re-elected despite an anonymous campaign against her. Full-color flyers distributed on June 4 called her “self-centered” and “delusional” and read, in part: “Stop the havoc in the Neighborhood Council … Two years of chaos is enough. If you want a functioning board for the betterment of [the]neighborhood, a no vote for Rosie Kato is a must! … Her actions have caused many volunteers to simply quit or at least quit trying to help make progress in our community.”
The flyer included photos and descriptions of five candidates: Ericksen, Keeton, Mazler, Migdal and Osztreicher.
Signs reading “Stop Rosie Kato. She has failed this community” were placed along Sawtelle Boulevard.
In his blog about the campaign on www.yomyomyf.com (You Offend Me, You Offend My Family), Nakamura described the signs as “a sickening sight that fortunately didn’t work.”
He added that the “slate” of five candidates on the flyer was created without their consent.
Nakamura expressed hope that if the responsible parties are found, they will be “dealt with harshly.”
Ericksen told The Rafu Shimpo, “I did not know about the flyer or approve of its contents.”
Migdal told The Rafu, “This was absolutely done without my knowledge and without my approval. I posted as much on Nextdoor, citing that I wanted to run on my own positions and it never was and never would be my intention to derogate or denigrate any other candidate(s). I am happy to succeed or fail on my own merits and I condemn those who try to sway public opinion by speaking poorly of others.”
Kato, who was first elected in 2014, said that she had no idea who circulated the flyers, but that some of the candidates listed contacted her and said they knew nothing about the campaign against her.
She found it “disheartening” to see the flyers and signs distributed throughout the district, including such locations as the West L.A. Regional Public Library, Felicia Mahood Senior Center, Nora Sterry Elementary School, and West L.A. Civic Center Mall.
The flyers were not placed in people’s mailboxes, which would have been a federal offense.
Kato said she has contacted the City Attorney’s Office and EmpowerLA — the department that oversees the neighborhood councils — to find out if city agencies are investigating this incident.
The Rafu Shimpo has also contacted EmpowerLA but has yet to receive a response.
The council meets on the fourth Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the West L.A. Civic Center Building, 1645 Corinth Ave., Room 200. For more information, visit https://empowerla.org/wlanc/.