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The Indispensable, Virtually Invisible Topanga Town Council Does It All
February 7, 2013 - By Flavia Potenza
The Topanga Canyon Town Council is virtually invisible, but effective.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE TOPANGA TOWN COUNCIL
Fire safety is just one of many issues involving the Topanga Town Council.
It is safe to say that no other volunteer organization in Topanga does as much as the Town Council (TCTC), yet how many of us know how much all of us benefit from its work.
Not to disparage the work of other groups and the essential services they provide, but the miniscule board of fourStacy Sledge, President; Rebecca Goldfarb, Vice President; Tanya Starcevich, Secretary/Treasurer; and Michele Johnsonhas the task of linking us to our government, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors and Zev Yaroslavsky, as well as supporting, sponsoring, facilitating and dispensing information about the organizations and services available to our 10,000 residents.
A BIT OF HISTORY
In 1976, Judith Woodbury wrote to the Topanga Messenger to suggest that Topanga form its own Town Council. Jan Moore, then the driving force behind the Womens Club that presided over the Community House, picked up the ball and arranged several Town Hall meetings. An ad hoc committee was set up, bylaws written, and in 1977, the Topanga Canyon Town Council became a non-profit California corporation, whose function was to act as an informational conduit to support and assist government agencies and other volunteer organizations in Topanga.
As president, Stacy Sledge stands on the shoulders of those who went before with important accomplishments such as establishing the TCTC hotline, (310) 455-3000, that during the floods of 1980, acted as liaison with government agencies and has expanded well beyond that now [See related article, Hotline Team Annual Dinner Meeting, on page 4].
T-CEP was born in 1994 and shared the hotline phone number with TCTC, says Sledge. Because the hotline was now more robust and under T-CEPs banner, we finally gave that line to them and bought (310) 455-3001. We also acquired 1-800-Topanga when we learned it belonged to the Ohio Historical Society who gave it to us. Its sitting there waiting to blossom as part of positioning ourselves for the future of Topanga communication.
In that decade, TCTC also coalesced with the community to beat back Disneys Canyon Oaks development, now Summit Valley Edmund D. Edelman Park. During the 90s, it established the Slow Down Through Town campaign, which it hopes to resurrect again, and created the Topanga license frames and Access Stickers that created some revenue.
In 2002, with approval of the California Highway Patrol, TCTC produced the Topanga Days Parade when the Community Club was unable to. In 2004, it was officially renamed the Topanga Memorial Day Parade.
Over the last 10 years, TCTC has established relationships with Caltrans, Edison, Verizon, park rangers, fire departments, Sheriffs and CHP. A lot of what we do crosses over, says Sledge. As a result, we dont need to reinvent the wheel every time leaders have an organization change.
PHOTO BY STACY SLEDGE
Topanga Town Council members proudly display the OneTopanga.com sign at the 2011 Memorial Day Parade, a mainstay of the community.
Sledge, along with Rebecca Goldfarb, has now overseen the evolution of the Access Stickers into the Access Cards that now meet the criteria of CHP and sheriffs for verification. The card displaying the Zone ID facilitates identification by the agencies and expedites resident access during a canyon-wide emergency.
We were the first to have an authorized emergency ID card with the Zone number that is for all Topanga residents, and especially useful for children and their nannies and elders with their caretakers, Sledge explained. We make sure every year to check and verify everybody in the community.
Every year TCTC changes the card to honor one of Topangas animals and the organizations that serve them with a picture on the card.
Coyote was first in 2009, Sledge noted, then bobcat, 2010, and Owl in 2011. Last years Frog honored the Topanga Creek Stream Team and Rosi Dagit. This year it is Smoke the Fox and Mollie Hogans Nature of Wildworks.
Sledge says that the license plate frames and Access Cards bring in about $5,000 to $8,000 a year. Along with funding from the county to help with the Porta Potties, most of it is spent on marketing the Access Cards, Canyon Sages and OneTopanga.com, she said. In 2009, TCTC sponsored the creation of the Canyon Sages, the first group dedicated to Topangas Senior community, coordinated by Michele Johnson.
This group has blossomed since it began, Sledge said. Canyon Sages launched from the Topanga Community Clubs Senior Dinner, but we found there was a need to go beyond that to facilitate services for our elders. It now has 250 members. There were more than 100 at the Holiday Social in December.
Perhaps the most ambitious undertaking under Sledges stewardship, is the Town Council website, onetopanga.com, that invites people to explore and get to know their community, Sledge said. This will become our main way of communicating because we are not a response organization; we are a connection link between the county, state, businesses and the community.
Volunteers are stretched for time. More people will be able to be involved if they submit events to the Calendar, express their concerns, ideas, conduct or attend webinars, submit Topanga photos, etc. The website makes it easier for people to donate time and talent without having to attend a lot of meetings.
We want mini-managers to handle music, a kids section, news and About Town, etc. Volunteers can do one little piece of the website. For example, Karla Morrison of Morrison Heating and Air, updates non-profit events in the Calendar; Michele Johnson lists Canyon Sages events and Bruce royer of Tuscali Mountain Inn is helping with the Topanga Directory, debuting in a few weeks. Now we are looking at putting business events on the Calendar, hoping to launch that in 2014. The design of OneTopanga.com is so everybody can contribute a tiny bit, Sledge says.
The mini-management concept allows volunteers to start thinking on a smaller scale; how much or how little money, time or energy can I give?
WHAT DOESNT TCTC DO?
But wait, theres more!
TCTC serves on the Topanga Emergency Task Force that wrote the Topanga Survival Guide, and is now assisting the county with the updated version. Additionally, it facilitates the Adopt-A-Highway program; promotes the Historical Societys book, The Topanga Story; promotes the Beach Bus program; works with the county to maintain and clear trash from the Boulevard; and assists T-CEP and the Disaster Response Team (DRT).
We are also working with the Water District committee on the 13-year plan for Water District 29, says Sledge, to find ways of updating and funding the continuing amount of infrastructure repair that needs to be done.
Its not just about rate hikes but getting grants and special funding over that 13-year period. Zevs office has really maintained Topanga far above par through upgrades, installing water lines and infrastructure to serve the needs of the community.
FRIENDS OF THE COUNCIL
Becca Barkin, who heads Friends of the Council, says they are looking for one-event volunteers for individual projects, e.g., Canyon development watchdogs; access card events to refer people and take photos; website projects; volunteers for the Stream Team, etc. There are people who just support the graffiti program (tagging comes and goes in waves).
By partitioning out small segments of a big project, says Sledge, it helps us to better manage the volunteer projects under our banner. Currently, there are only about 15 to 20 Friends on the Council. Having Friends of the Council was the smartest move we ever made, Sledge said. You dont vote, you dont go to meetings but still participate in furthering our projects and programs and people love doing that. Its growing.
TCTC has worked hard to create some structure to the organization and has set a five-year completion goal to ensure its longevity and ease the way for those who, in the future, will stand on the shoulders of the current members' accomplishments.
I could not have led this organization the past four years without each of our Town Council Board Members dedication, passion and indispensable expertise, Sledge concluded, anticipating, perhaps, the day when she can proudly pass the baton.