The Atwater Village Neighborhood Council put on hold an idea to provide voters relief from unwanted political mailers after some members questioned the dubious legality of the measure and its potential for degrading the council’s credibility.
In the wake of the huge amount of political mailers sent out during the recent city elections, the Atwater resolution called on the City Council to create an opt-out mechanism allowing residents to elect not to receive political mailings from organizations other than candidates or no political mailings at all because of the environmental impact. After debate, the issue was sent back to the Community Greening Committee.
“There are better ways to address the issue,” said council treasurer Lara Pranger during last Thursday night’s meeting.
The measure, similar to the Do Not Call Registry, raised First Amendment concerns because the vetting of mail was based on the content delivered, according to board member Alex Ventura. The definition of political mailer came into question because the resolution didn’t state whether the halt only took place during elections or if it covered other issues as well.
The board member said the move had the potential to “disenfranchise” candidates without the organizational strength to conduct door to door outreach, the technical knowledge to manage effective internet campaigns or felt like running an election the old fashioned way.
“As much as we dislike mailers, they do work or they wouldn’t do them,” said Ventura.
Pranger described the resolution as a “hollow request” because the council had no jurisdiction over the delivery of mail, although she and many other members supported the spirit of the idea.
“I would like it expanded to all unsolicited mail,” she said.
Sorting through mail to determine if it was political in nature would also heap dollars onto the cost of non-political mail, the board hypothesized.
Co-chair Torin Dunnavant, whose committee brought the resolution to the board, continued to urge the passing of the resolution, while acknowledging its pitfalls, throughout the debate.
“This request is more resounding than saying, ‘Hey y’all. We don’t like this,’” said the board member.
Unlike a general declaration of opposition to the reviled mailers, Dunnavant believed the stance was more substantial because it articulated reasons behind the stance. The resolution, supported based on research by Mar Vista’s neighborhood council, pointed out the practice was very wasteful and offered a specific solution to the problem that “flooded stakeholders mail boxes and living room floors.”
“It’s important to send a message to our politicians that we don’t like the waste of resources,” he said.
Stakeholder Patrick Terrill thought it made more sense to urge environmental groups to only support candidates who promised not to use mailers. Other Atwater Village residents criticized the resolution because calling for an impractical vetting mechanism with dubious legality damaged the credibility of the council.
“We’re imposing something we know won’t go through,” said Secretary Mario Cardenas.
Each member of the board and stakeholder confirmed their opposition to the mailings, employing phrases like “completely out of hand” and “really excessive.” Dunnavant described the mailers as arms in a “turf war” to gain support.
Tony Cella is a freelance reporter who has covered crime and grime in Los Angeles, New York City and the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. Click here to contact Cella with questions, comments or concerns.