The leadership of the Echo Park neighborhood council is up for grabs. Council President Ari Bessendorf has decided against seeking a second term following an outburst at a recent meeting that apparently prompted treasurer Eva Mejia to resign, leading the city to temporarily freeze the council’s funds until a new treasurer is appointed and trained. Meanwhile, former council President Jose Sigala is now running to replace Bessendorf in the April 12 election and will face off against an executive of the Dream Center, a large Echo Park charity affiliated with Angelus Temple, and a neighborhood activist.
Bessendorf, an attorney, said his outburst at an executive council meeting last month was not appropriate behavior for a council president. Bessendorf said he will complete his term as head of the Greater Echo Park Neighborhood Council but withdrew his candidacy in the April election because he did not want the incident to become a political issue during the campaign. Bessendorf in an email said:
At the Executive Committee meeting of February 17, I succumbed to the combined pressures and yelled at our replacement treasurer, who then resigned. I am disappointed that I didn’t live up to my own standards. It is not the first time my passion has gotten the better of me, and it has forced me to re-evaluate my role as President.
Despite efforts to build a “a culture of transparency, respect and accountability,” Bessendorf said he and fellow council members were under “enormous pressure” to deal with numerous challenges. “We have worked hard to put the NC on firm footing to serve the community and there are many great candidates running who will be able to carry the work we have done forward,” Bessendorf said.
A new council treasurer, Susan Reimers, was selected Tuesday night during a special council meeting.
In his first run for public office, Bessendorf was declared the winner of the 2012 neighborhood council election, beating then Vice President Francisco Torrero by only two votes. Torrero was a close ally of former President Sigala, who decided not to run after he launched a losing campaign to succeed Eric Garcetti as councilman of District 13.
Sigala will face Clint Carlton, Public Relations Manager for the Dream Center, and activist Kwazi Nkrumah in the contest for council president . Click here for more details and statements submitted by the candidates running for presidents and other board seats.