Community Council Contenders Beat the Clock

By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief

In a tense moment rarely seen outside TV dramas, seconds before the deadline, two new contenders have entered the election to reshape the town’s community council.

There are now eight candidates for four seats on the Pacific Palisades Community Council’s executive, transforming what was originally assumed to be a fait accompli of familiar faces into a fierce, furious and surprisingly bitter race.

Last week one of 23 board voters, representing the normally peaceful Friends of the Palisades Library organization, abruptly quit the board.

Some close to the organization say members have grown weary of mounting rancor, personality clashes and intense personal phone lobbying—at least one has described it as bullying—in this small-town council race.

The newcomers were nominated at the PPCC on Thursday, May 24, at 8:44 p.m.—a minute before the deadline expired.

The two challengers are Joann Barry, who was nominated by PPCC chair Maryam Zar for treasurer, standing against incumbent Richard Cohen, and Cathi Ruddi, also known more formally as Catherine Ruddy, who was nominated by Kelly Comas of the Design Review Board as secretary. That means she stands against chair emeritus Chris Spitz. (Their self-penned resumes are to the left.)

They only emerged hours before the meeting. But the race began weeks ago when Spitz, who has served on the PPCC for 11 years, advised the PPCC’s nominating committee that she and three like-minded colleagues—Cohen, former chair George Wolfberg for chair and current Highlands representative Peter Culhane for vice-chair—should be considered as a group (or slate). And they would not serve without the other three.

Some on the nominating committee bucked against the unprecedented tone, but still nominated half the slate—Spitz and Cohen—much to the apparent irritation of Spitz.

The other half of the “gang of four” was nominated by other board members: splenetic emails followed.

The election will follow a moderated debate at the next PPCC meeting on June 14. There will be many arcane questions. Who will be the debate moderator, who on the board can vote, who do they represent, can board members absent that night dictate their vote?

Every vote counts, which may have explained intense telephone lobbying and the shock when the library organization walked away. Outgoing Chair Maryam Zar may appoint another community organization in its place, such as the garden club.

The full line-up of contenders, in alphabetical order, are:

  • Chair: Lou Kamer and George Wolfberg
  • Vice-Chair: Peter Culhane and Rick Mills
  • Secretary: Catherine Ruddy and Chris Spitz
  • Treasurer: Joann Barry and Richard Cohen

The first crop of resumes was published in the Palisadian-Post on May 17, available online.

The vote for the executive will be followed in late summer by a Palisades-wide vote on area representatives. Sue Kohl, who represents the Alphabet Streets, was the first sitting candidate to officially register for the option to stand again.

In the past, such area elections, with embarrassingly low turnout, have also decided by a handful of votes. But with “hot” issues in The Highlands and The Riviera, and maybe new ways of voting, some are hoping for heightened public interest reflected in a larger turnout.

It is, Zar said, critical for the authentic and democratic voice of the town to be heard at city hall, Sacramento and maybe to reach to Washington, D.C.


Joann Barry for Treasurer

I moved to the Palisades in 2010 and felt at home immediately. This community has the same charms as the one in which I was raised in the Midwest, where neighbors become friends and evolve into a broad support system. I want to join the committed volunteers who work to ensure thoughtful advocacy for issues that matter to all of us.

In running to be your treasurer, I bring 25 years of investment management experience, most recently at Tradewinds, a former Nuveen affiliate. Currently, I am an equity market specialist at Bloomberg LP.

I pledge to be diligent and prudent in all financial matters relating to the PPCC. I also pledge to listen and learn and consider all sides of issues before the council.

(BA – University of Illinois in Economics, MBA – Rice University in Finance, CFA – Chartered Financial Analyst)

Catherine Ruddy for Secretary

Catherine Ruddy is the immediate past president of the Pacific Palisades Woman’s Club. She has been responsible for organizing the annual PPWC Home Tour on multiple occasions, raising over $200,000 for community grants. A resident of the Palisades since 2004, she practiced law for over 35 years, focusing on commercial litigation. She is a trained mediator and has served as a volunteer arbitrator for the Los Angeles County Bar Association and a judge pro tempore for the Los Angeles Superior Court.