Dan Stroncak
Dan Stroncak


Derek Waleko

Cat White, Andy Hurvitz, Dan Stroncak

Not often is Van Nuys convinced it is a community, but last night, about 40 of us pretended it was, and gathered in the Columbus Avenue School to hear LAPD’s Senior Lead Office Vince DiMauro talk about the crimes that are a trademark of our district: prostitution, gangs, tagging, noise, and vacant properties.

Two political candidates for the special City Council District #6 Election (May 21, 2013) showed up: Derek Waleko and Dan Stroncak.

We were in a well-ordered academic hall, which I had last seen at my elementary school, Lincoln Hall in Lincolnwood, IL some four decades ago.

An upright piano, lunch tables stacked into the walls like Murphy beds, a state and a national flag on either side of the stage, a cop speaking kindly to attentive citizens, present among us were these venerable elements of American civic life and values.

And then Donna from the Mary Magdalene Foundation got up to present her plea for the prostitute as victim, which set off some incendiary cerebral explosion in one of the candidates, who found her characterization of whore as human indefensible. His outburst provoked some other outbursts, but the uproar lasted only briefly, and back into good manners we went.

Middle-aged and older women provided, as they usually do, the moral backbone of the meeting. Voices, articulate, erudite, educated, spoke of grating and gross indecencies in the hood: thumping boom-box music parties, tagging, pot smoking derelicts, trash, litter, burglaries. Looking around at the room, at some of the carefully lip-sticked pale faces, nice tailored burgundy jackets and lovely little pink cardigans, one temporarily forgot that outside these school doors life was grosser, poorer and coarser.

Some of the attendees last night came out and admitted to being long-time residents of Van Nuys. One man moved here in 1958, others had been here since 1965, 1973, 1979. They had stayed here, lived and loved it, every bit as much as Sandra Tsing-Loh hated it. And it was those lovers of Van Nuys who go to community meetings. And dare to imagine that life can lawful and orderly, clean and respectful, decent and courageous.

Optimism, inserted into despondency, can be revolutionary.

One thought on “A Community Meeting.

  1. For those of you who truly are “defenders” of your fair community, I congratulate you on your decision to participate, voice your opinions and share with community the ongoing struggles of a living, breathing city. Honestly, after having lived here on the border (well, it’s changed about 8 times in my lifetime) of S.O./V.N., I have watched in bewilderment as those responsible for the destruction get to walk away “scott-free” and with a pocket full a money.

    Yup, that’s right…developers are your enemies-right behind those who sell out for the “big money” as they give up their generational homes for apartment buildings. If you think this is loaded with prejudice, you are damned right it is. Those who are living in such housing developments rarely know the first thing about taking care of a home, a business or the like; but even those who are responsible are liking living in said building only to save enough to get out. So you end up with more of a batch full of desperate people who are sucking the life out of a space for everything it is worth. For children, as with medium to large sized dogs, you cannot expect them to grow up normally when confined to such small spaces, no play areas and few safe outside places to go.

    Yes, I have many prejudices and know names as well. And though I cannot disclose any of them, my father was a building contractor who had to deal with some of said people in power. And the entire San Fernando Valley, right from the start was conceptually doomed to fail. It was always about a few people making money, protecting said investments and then advancing the most profitable execution of development-that is, building as many units per acre as possible. We were doomed to deal with over crowded cities, and then fewer and fewer businesses (overtly taxed to death to pay for said over-populated, under-employed folks), while purposely underwhelming these well-meaning residents with fewer and fewer park spaces, greater spacing for roadways, freeways and every other way one could imagine contractor the available space for actually living quarters.

    I need look no further than my own neighborhood (listed as part of Van Nuys for the better part of 50 years). The old horse ranch that belonged to Jackie Coogan’s brother became a market in the 1950’s, followed by a federal post office with some 300+ employees and maybe 200 parking spaces in 1987. Right about the same time, someone paid someone off to build a condominium development across the street from us on a SFR zoning…and they, then began renting out their extra rooms…and the next guy from El Salvador build his garage into two rentals and then added another rental to his shed and now has about 6 families living therein (also SFR). There is always an excuse for why people do such things, But what it actually does to a neighborhood is far beyond the excuses. We now have an increase in temperamental kids roaming at night, cars fighting to park along the side of houses-dumping their trash at every turn-nuisance claims and thefts and a far less friendly, safe neighborhood then we used to have. The new residents, having paid far more to move in, are building bigger and bigger “McMansions” to what purpose i cannot gage. but they eliminate most of the area cover; next door, as across the street, they both paved their front yards in…words cannot even come close to expressing these measures.

    So I look to the residents of Van Nuys and I truly give you a ‘thumbs up’ for trying. It is also nice to have the police involved with such gatherings. I realize it tends to leave many with a more negative sense-only hearing the bad-but government officials are there to serve their constituents (and I add-THE HONEST ONES!-as response in part to what I read above).


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