NC WATCH-I’ve always told my children … and now my grandchildren … that “whine” belongs in a glass - not your voice! Perhaps my mental faculties are playing tricks on me (it’s been a complicated month) but it seems that some of my fellow Neighborhood Council (NC) colleagues are whining a lot more than usual.
According to some of my fellow CW scribes, the “grey beards” or the NC founders, are getting discouraged and plan on leaving because of the current situation. They feel that their original vision for the Neighborhood Council was to be independent of City rules and regulations, and truly represent stakeholders. Their vision included being an unencumbered “people’s lobby”. What was appropriate ten years ago may not be today. Perhaps it is time for them to leave and contribute to Los Angeles in other ways.
If one wishes to be free of City regulations, some of which are truly out of date, you can’t be a City agency. You may form a 501 C3, 501 C4; establish a real lobbying company, or become part of any number of private not for profit organizations that serve the City in various ways. In my last article I ranted about my frustrations with NC priorities. For example, being more worried about Roberts Rules of Order and the Brown Act than accomplishing anything for stakeholders.
Let’s be honest— EmpowerLA General Manager, Grayce Liu is the one that has to be diplomatic and she stands between the City rules and regulations and her ‘clients’ … which are all of the Neighborhood Council Boards.
We forget sometimes that we are the CLIENTS of EmpowerLA and the rest of the City Departments. Of course, there are City officials who also forget that we are their clients – NOT their employees.
Tuesday night I attended the Tarzana Home Owners Association annual meeting. I have been a Tarzana Homeowner for almost 25 years and never attended any of their meetings. Truthfully, I have a very low threshold for these types of gatherings. (Perhaps it stems from sitting through boring NC Board meetings for years). The program featured Bob Blumenfield (photo) , Council Member District 3; City Attorney, Mike Feuer; City Controller, Ron Galperin; and Grayce Liu. Their subject was “ A Vision for LA”. With two of the four speakers being experienced politicians, my expectation was for a smooth performance with lots of generalities and no substance.
To my surprise, not only did they discuss the “vision” but also shared their thoughts on implementation of the vision. Council Member Blumenfield, who admits to being a “techno geek”, is continuing to push his plan to get our entire City wired for the Internet. He also spoke about the budget and the difficulties in paying for infrastructure projects as well as tree trimming and sidewalk repair.
City Attorney Feuer was eloquent about his mission for neighborhood public safety measures. He has already installed City prosecutors in almost all neighborhoods. He also wants to incorporate a system where neighborhood leaders could be part of a volunteer group to handle domestic disputes and other local matters in conjunction with that Neighborhood Prosecutor.
Controller Galperin is responsible for the new transparency in City finances. He said that when he took office ten months ago and saw the old antiquated systems and software, the job was discouraging. He was told that installing an accessible website, which would show each check the City writes and to whom, along with a list of salaries and benefits paid to City employees, would take millions of dollars and at least a year. His department did it for a minimal amount of money in two and a half months. This is Galperin’s first elected office (aside from Neighborhood Council Board) but he is a quick study. His genuine enthusiasm for his job is obvious.
Grayce Liu discussed how NC’s are becoming more influential. City Departments now approach her for meetings with NC Boards where in the past they ignored her requests. She spoke about being a conduit to “working” with City Hall, as opposed to “fighting” City Hall. The NC elections have just finished and voter turnout increased overall more than 35% with some areas of the City doubling and tripling their numbers from two years ago. This means that NC’s are gradually becoming a factor to be reckoned with.
This younger team of City leaders is not looking at just keeping the status quo. Will they accomplish everything? Of course not! But instead of sitting and bemoaning deplorable financial conditions and antiquated systems, they are actively thinking out of the box and finding alternative solutions. As Galperin put it … ”We actually like each other and enjoy working together.” A good example is the City Attorney and the Controller’s office working together in the issuing of multiple subpoenas to the DWP. We may yet find out how the $40 million dollar “training fund” was spent.
Mayor Garcetti seems to be spearheading the movement for City Departments to work together instead of being so territorial. NC’s should take a lesson from that. NC City Alliances should work together to produce their “LA VISION”. There are so many projects the 95 Neighborhood Councils can initiate … that it is mind-boggling. All we need are a “few good men and women” to start a movement. There is enough wiggle room within the LA Charter NC mandate, that great things can be accomplished.
As we draw close to the end of the fiscal year I’d love to see a real evaluation of the past year’s NC accomplishments and even more important … get a realistic look at next year so we may lose the whine and, instead, celebrate with a glass of wine.
(Denyse Selesnick is a contributor to CityWatch covering activities, policies and foibles in NC Land. She is also Co-Chair of the LA Neighborhood Congress Program Committee and a long time stakeholder and former Board member of the Tarzana Neighborhood Council. She can be reached at DenyseSelesnick@yahoo.com)
Vol 12 Issue 42
Pub: May 23, 2014