Jim Smith – Venice Peace Park
Rachel Gomez – Venice Beach Drum Orchestra
Laura Shepard Townsend – Hail the Beachhead!
Vernon Courteaux – Unjust OFW Ordinance
One of the great things about the Free Venice Beachhead is the sense of continuity and history that it gives to readers. Venice has had a long and exciting, and sometimes, tragic history during its nearly 110 years. For instance, the first Beachhead, in 1968, told the story of Abbot Kinney. For many Venetians, it was the first they had heard about the magnificent creator of the city of Venice. And through the years, the paper has given us a blow-by-blow description of the ongoing saga of the community’s fight against L.A. developers’ plans to run a freeway through the center of Venice, turn the canals into a yacht harbor, and, in general, bulldoze everything in sight.
That’s why I was dismayed to find a couple of uncritical references to “Centennial Park” in the past few issues. This park is the plot of ground directly east of the Abbot Kinney Library, which for many years was a refuge for Venetians who had nowhere else to go.
In 2004, the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council (GRVNC), of which I was the elected treasurer, found out that our unelected city councilmember Cindy Miscikowski was going to have this lonesome plot of ground declared a park.
Miscikowski had been imposed on Venice by the L.A. City Council, in an arrogant act of disdain for Venice, when it summarily transferred our well-liked – and elected – councilmember, Ruth Galanter, to a vacant seat in the east San Fernando Valley. In her place, they brought in Miscikowski, who had been representing Pacific Palisades and Westwood.
We told Miscikowski that we would like the people of Venice to pick a name for the new park. On February 26, 2004, the GRVNC sponsored a town meeting at the First Methodist Church, which hundreds of Venetians attended. In a secret ballot vote, “Peace Park” was picked as the overwhelming choice for the park’s name. The name, Peace Park, was doubly significant because of the gang war that had been afflicting Venice, and because of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. We informed Miscikowski, of the results and thought that was the end of it.
Without the knowledge of anyone on the neighborhood council, Miscikowski then called together a small group of Venice hi-rollers at the Abbot Kinney Library to pick another name for the park. The name picked by the few people at the meeting was Centennial Park. It is true that the 100th anniversary of the founding of Venice was coming up in 2005, but this plot of land had played no part in Venice history. It had always been just part of the Venice Blvd. center divider.
This same group, with Miscikowski’s blessing, created a counter-centennial committee to the already existing committee which was called the Peoples Centennial Committee, and which held many events around Venice in the months leading up to the 100-year parade on July 4, 2005. The Peoples Committee held a great parade from our old city hall to the Venice Circle (from which pedestrians are now banned). Most of the community organizations and long-time active Venetians were part of this committee. At no time did the Miscikowski committee contact us to suggest working together. They were kissing L.A.’s official ass and didn’t have time for the locals.
The arbitrary change of name from Peace Park is still a sore spot with a lot of locals who have been active in Venice since 2004. What annoys us even more are not just the constant efforts by L.A. City Hall to split our local movements, but the willing cooperation of those in Venice who will sell out their neighbors in exchange for some phony recognition and/or crumbs from their downtown masters. This probably goes on in other areas, but it has been particularly acute in Venice, perhaps because, as a group, we are so outspoken.
The machinations of L.A. officials and their local minions began with a simple name change, went on to divide our 100-year celebration, and within a few months had brought down the most pro-Venice and active neighborhood council our community has ever had. If you’re new to Venice, and think this is all a paranoid delusion, then read their emails which we obtained in a public records request: .
With the current wave of gentrification destroying Venice house by house, it is more important than ever to know who provides the political cover for policies that will forever change Venice. The biggest mouth in Venice belongs to the Beachhead. We’re counting on you to keep the community informed.
Ibrahim Butler of The Venice Beach Drum Orchestra finds himself in court once again. Enough is enough!
Once upon a time, in 2003, Joseph Shemaria, an attorney and an Ocean Front Walk property owner located at 319 Ocean Front Walk, thought it would be a good idea to sue Ibrahim, a local artist, musician and activist for his inability to rent his 3-unit property.
What an interesting idea…Venice Beach ocean front property owners suing artists and musicians for adversely affecting their occupancy rates. Hmm.
Actually, Shemaria did sue Ibrahim, of the Venice Beach Drum Orchestra – an array of international West African drummers, teachers and multi- talented musicians. His suit was based on his inability to rent his boardwalk real estate and his belief that Ibrahim alone caused his loss. The case went to mediation and an agreement was struck that allowed Ibrahim to continue playing music with stipulations.
Nine years passed with no complaint from Shemaria. Within that time, L.A.M.C. ordinance 42.15 came into effect allowing amplified music, performance and First Amendment free expression to exist from 9 am until sunset seven days per week throughout the year on Ocean Front Walk.
The Ocean Front Walk has become one of the most visited tourist destinations in the state of California because of its diversity of original art, music and people like Ibrahim.
Ibrahim and The Venice Beach Drum Orchestra have been entertaining and uplifting the Venice community and tourists for decades with its original drum beat and electrified sound Saturdays, Sundays and major holidays from noon until 4:30 pm. So what’s the problem?
Fast-forward to 2012. Shemaria again decided to take up court time with a contempt of court order against Ibrahim. Today, this case is still in the court system.
Is this a waste of precious court resources and time? Is Shemaria’s pursuit of legal recourse against Ibrahim a personal issue?
Interestingly, Shemaria has never complained or pursued legal action against any other artist or musician on the Ocean Front Walk. Shemaria has never complained about his property being located next to a bar with weekly musical entertainment that plays until 11 pm.
It is important to note, when the judge asked Shemaria about his desired outcome of this suit, he replied that he wanted Ibrahim to move to another location and away from his building.
So I say, Enough is Enough!
It is time that the entire Venice community acknowledges and supports the very artists, musicians and free speech expressionists that attract the millions of visitors to Venice each year.
Today, let’s all move towards creative peaceful resolutions where unity and community spirit thrive.
Ibrahim is scheduled to appear at the Santa Monica courthouse for trial on November 3 at 9 am. Your support is welcome.
Peace and Blessings!
HAIL the Free Venice Beachhead!!!
Readers, whether you agree with an article or a perspective or not, you are free to write a letter, and chances are, the Collective will accept it and print it.
Today, most of the newspapers, periodicals and news stations are owned by just a handful of owners.
There is extreme treachery, brought home succinctly while I have been researching for the 3rd book of my Destiny’s Consent series. For background, I had been reading every Venice Evening Vanguard from September to December, 1924.
There, article after article enthusiastically endorsed the cementing over of the Venice Canals. It only made perfect sense!! After all, who traveled around by boat??? The Vanguard wielded huge sections of ads, with beautiful pictures of the new toy, the automobile, to entice populations away from public transportation, the efficient and 40 mph Red Cars.
Everyone agreed that Venetians would get rich; property values in the city would increase by $10Million!!! As I read, I decided to put myself into the noggin of anyone reading this newspaper, without knowing what later transpired when the steam shovels and trucks showed up to annihilate Abbot Kinney’s canals.
This was absolutely not the TRUTH of the matter!!! When the shoveling of dirt began to fill in the canals, hundreds of people, shoveling BY HAND, were managing to keep up with the machines. Finally, the volunteer army gave up.
But here’s the rub. Reading these newspapers, supposedly representing Venice, there was not one, not ONE article with an opposing view. Only one article reluctantly admitted that there was ‘some controversy’ at a town hall meeting.
So, Venetians, do not take the existence of the Free Venice Beachhead for granted, lest there be no Beachhead…the ‘paper that is a poem’.
Laura Shepard Townsend
I’d like to once again bring an injustice to your attention. I’d like to offer you a different take on it from someone who has been arrested for merely making and selling a $5 dollar bracelet along the Venice Boardwalk.
“Poverty is a sin against our humanity and a cumbersome drag on our economy”. That is a quote from L.A. Councilman Mike Bonin’s website. I find this very hypocritical when the L.A. City Council has thrown the local artisans under the bus with an ordinance that does not allow original handcrafted jewelry to be sold along the boardwalk. This will affect many people, single moms, low income families, starving artists and even the tourists and local Los Angeleno’s who only want the right to make a choice for what they want to purchase.
The ordinance supports the shops on the east side of the boardwalk, who import mass reproduced knock-offs from other countries while criminalizing the local handcraft artists. Why are only a few shops allowed to dictate what millions Los Angeleno’s can purchase when visiting the beach? If the L.A. City Council was truly interested in the community they would recognize the many great artisans that are local and the ones that travel through and stop in Venice to show their handcrafted work. Instead we have a very few people deciding what all of us can make, sell and or buy along the Venice Beach Boardwalk and it just so happens those people who want to dictate what we make, sell or buy are making huge profits selling imported mass reproduction knock-offs on the east side of the boardwalk. Do they care what the public wants?
We need to highlight the hypocrisy of this ordinance and the City Council’s ineffectiveness to create real positive solutions, like permits for artisans, or regulating the commercial activity. Instead they have chosen to criminalize its citizens and local artisans.
The public does not know what is going on, all of the people I have explained this law to think it is appalling. For more info, visit: http://bit.ly/1javVHp.
Vernon Courteaux 310-621-5035
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