Jim Smith

Tisha Bedrosian, First President of the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council

By Jim Smith

No one worked harder than Tisha Bedrosian to create a neighborhood council in Venice. And no one had a more controversial term, or resigned before it was over.

The 50-year-old Bedrosian died July 19 of cancer. She had ceased to be an active player in Venice politics in 2004. However, from 2000 to 2004 she worked tirelessly to build the neighborhood council. It was one of the first councils to be certified by the city.

Current leaders of the neighborhood council could learn something from her drive and organizing ability. She told Betsy Goldman of the Venice Vanguard in 2004 that there were 200 volunteers in the group. It was also reported that the email list included more than 900 contacts. Meetings frequently were attended by 100 to 200 or more residents.

In spite of a cheery beginning, the neighborhood council was beset by infighting, which some blamed on Bedrosian. One officer of the GRVNC was quoted in the Beachhead in 2003 as stating that “Tisha’s style was divide and conquer, not consensus building.”

Bedrosian aligned herself with the Rose Avenue Working Group led by Rick Feibusch. The group focused on getting the homeless off Rose Avenue, and went after merchants who sold to them. It ultimately succeeded in convincing the landlady of the St. Joseph’s homeless drop-in center at Rose and 4th Street to evict the group.

Divisions were not long in coming at the neighborhood council. In November 2002, a motion to elect board members by Instant Runoff (IRV) passed overwhelming. In the ensuring weeks opposition emerged to the election process, which guarantees that the winner in an election has a majority, not just a plurality. Bedrosian called a special meeting at the Venice Foursquare Church in December to reconsider the motion, an unheard of step at that time. After a rancorous debate, a vote was taken which resulted in a tie, at one hundred votes pro and con. Bedrosian, who was chairing the meeting, then voted to break the tie by voting against IRV.

Many of those attending were incensed, not just at the loss of IRV but by what they considered the high-handed reconsideration and conduct of the meeting. A short time later Venice Progressives, a new organization, was formed to contest the upcoming elections. Bedrosian’s allies quickly formed their own group variously called “Grvnics” (groovnics) or “Team Venice.”

In the first election of the neighborhood council, June 13, 2002,, Bedrosian ran unopposed and won 416 of the 621 votes casts. Her groovnic allies won 11 additional seats on the 21-member board. Venice Progressives contested 12 seats and won eight and tied one.

In the election held one year later, in which half the seats were up for reelection, Venice Progressives won a clear majority on the Board.

Bedrosian and two others, John Caldwell and Chris Williams, resigned their seats before the new board was seated. Lincoln Place Tenant Association President Sheila Bernard replaced Bedrosian as president.

After her meteoric rise and fall, Bedrosian was seldom seen at neighborhood council meetings or other public events in Venice.

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