It was a mighty silent night in Venice.
Though nearly 400 residents turned out for a town hall meeting with Los Angeles City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter Wednesday night, there was no debate, minimal dissent and none of the rip-roaring rhetoric for which the community is famous.
The usually voluble Venetians, some of whom have been Galanter’s harshest critics, sat quietly as the first-term councilwoman reviewed the state of the community as she saw it.
The meeting was the last of a series held by Galanter in recent months around her 6th Council District as she prepares to run for reelection next spring. She and her staff bill the gatherings as a chance for her to hear from constituents or help them with their problems with the city.
“It’s for the normal people. It’s for the average person who doesn’t get a chance to interact with their government very often,” explained Galanter Press Deputy Rick Ruiz.
The Venice event was considered to be potentially troublesome for Galanter, who sometimes turns testy when confronted by pointed criticism. But if there is, as some critics say, a groundswell of discontent in Venice with Galanter, there was scant evidence at this gathering at Penmar Recreation Center. Neither, however, was there an outpouring of support.
“Meetings in Venice are not generally very calm,” Galanter marveled afterward. Usually, she said, “if you have two people in Venice, you have 28 opinions.”
But as some residents pointed out after the meeting, the only way to have a dialogue or express dissent was to cause a scene. The carefully controlled format allowed for no give-and-take. Only written questions were accepted and culled by the staff. Galanter chose which ones to answer and seemed to paraphrase rather than read them directly from the paper, they said.
The majority of the 18 questions she answered during a 25-minute period were innocuous inquiries that enabled her to expound on what she has done for the district. “I support what the community wants,” was a common theme. There was also discussion of trash cans for the beach, why city recycling has not come to Venice (it is scheduled to start next summer or fall) and when the Venice Pier might reopen (not yet determined).
Before taking questions, Galanter gave an overview of major issues in her district. She started out with bread-and-butter issue of safety, praising Neighborhood Watch for saving her life when she was attacked in her home during her 1987 election campaign.
She talked about changing the name West Washington Boulevard to Abbot Kinney Boulevard to honor the founder of Venice. She noted that the Venice Historical Society is doing well.
Eventually, Galanter got around to the volatile development issue. She joked that any building of more than two units was sure to cause a controversy in Venice. No one laughed. She said she has succeeded in scaling down two of the largest projects in her district--the recently approved Channel Gateway in Venice and the vast Playa Vista development, which is in the planning process.
Cloaked in her incumbent mantle, Galanter is surrounded at these events by representatives of city departments, who are available for personal consultation on matters such as law enforcement, street lighting and maintenance.
While the subject of the coming City Council elections was diligently avoided, politics was plainly in the air. As Galanter expounded on her achievements, one of her declared opponents, Mary Lee Gray, mingled with the crowd.
Supporters of Gray, a field deputy for county Supervisor Deane Dana, distributed campaign brochures outside the door.
A spot check of people at the meeting showed some who were trying to figure out what was going on in Venice and some who had particular problems they wanted resolved.
Alessandra De Clario, for example, said she came because she was sick of drivers speeding down her street. She described the forum as “cute and politically oriented,” but she said she was not happy with Galanter’s written response to her complaint that said Venice was “designed for another era.”
Engineer Ed Barnett and retiree Harleigh Webber were favorably impressed with the evening. “I think she’s doing a good job,” said Barnett.
“I thought she did very well tonight,” Webber said.
The only discord in an otherwise mellow night occurred when Marina Peninsula resident Donna Chaet screamed out at Galanter during the meeting and noisily confronted her afterward with complaints about problems on the peninsula. Galanter received applause when she told Chaet, “If you’re not happy, take a walk and come back in five minutes.”