Peters has lived here for 18 years, and she is the kind of activist that leaves you thinking, "I'm glad somebody does that stuff around here, and I'm glad it's not me." That morning, she walked in to hear another activist spitting through a description of a corrupt, racist politician who takes illicit money from developers. "I thought, 'My God, who is she talking about?' " Peters said. "Eventually it dawned on me, 'She's talking about me!' "
Peters lost to Sigala, and her slate lost almost every race. Nine of the 10 people on Sigala's slate won their races. In two election cycles, the Latino community went from a single representative on the neighborhood council to a dozen, Sigala said.
Echo Park has a long and proud history of liberal politics; candidates on both sides considered themselves progressives committed to diversity and the working class. The caricature painted of those who lost, Peters said, was unrecognizable.
"People here seem to believe that because they are angry they don't have to be civil," Peters said. "From my perspective, we've lost a sense of community."
At this point, it is difficult to see how the two sides could come together.
This week, Peters and two allies challenged the results of the election with the Los Angeles city clerk. Their allegations included election notices mailed to the wrong addresses, mysterious bags of ballots brought to the polls and a flier distributed by the opposing slate that said it was the "official" poll guide, a misleading description, the challengers said.
It's little but sour grapes, said Francisco Torrero, the incumbent treasurer, who ran unopposed as a member of the winning slate.
"There was no hanky-panky," he said.
At the board meeting Tuesday, Councilman Augustine Cebada argued that the challenge itself was evidence of arrogance and racism. "Stop whining and crying!" he shouted. "It's over!"
Sitting in the audience, Morrow offered a weary smile. Morrow was among the losing candidates in the recent election, but he is still expected to serve on the planning and land-use committee, and he has acted recently as a liaison between developers and residents. At this point, he said with a sigh, "if you are neutral, you are treated with suspicion."
It will be difficult, Morrow said, for anyone to lay claim to the mantle of power, though many will try. Fewer than 800 people voted. And while in neighborhood council elections it is hard to estimate the number of potential voters -- the rules are more relaxed than in most elections -- it is believed that the council serves a minimum of 50,000 people. That means turnout was, at best, less than 2%.
"That's the thing," Morrow said. "Neither side can claim to really speak on behalf of the community."