ADVOCATING FOR YOU-I am often asked why people are so disengaged when it comes to their local government. And I always have a simple answer: "They hate spinning their wheels." People get involved, put their time, effort and heart into something and then feel like they’ve accomplished nothing when it’s over. In my short time within the Neighborhood Council System, I’ve seen this over and over.
The Budget Advocates are ready to break that cycle and reinvigorate stakeholders. And we’re going to show you how easy it is to play your part to help.
Throughout the 97 Councils and dozens of area alliances, in town halls, special committees and at City Hall meetings where concerns range from homelessness to revising the City's General Plan, there is something that is rarely in the spotlight. And fundamentally, it determines how well everything in the city operates.
It’s the Budget.
Plain and simple, the efficiency of all your services, support for the homeless, traffic alleviation and constant efforts to improve the quality of life in Los Angeles all trace back to the structure and composition of our City's budget.
The Budget Advocate team -- made up of only 36 people in a city of 4 million -- is tasked each year with reviewing the Budget. They meet with top level personnel in each department to understand their operations and business and then provide insight or ideas to improve and realign priorities based on their own expertise in various fields of employment and study and -- importantly, on the feedback they get from our respective communities.
The only problem is … year after year, the same thing happens: nothing. And why is that? Why can't the Budget Advocates make some real headway in helping guide the City toward sustainable and transparent budget policies?
Because the input from 36 individuals, as valuable as that may be, pales in comparison to the support and influence other bodies have within the Council Chambers and Mayor's Office.
So, how can we change that in 2017-2018?
Two weeks ago, the BA team received a truly groundbreaking email. Founder of Lawmaker.io, Amit Thakkar, contacted Neighborhood Councils announcing the kickoff of an inspiring new challenge issued in partnership with LA City Council Member David Ryu, focusing solely on the task of increasing government transparency.
Clearly, this was something the Budget Advocates had to explore, so I reached out to Amit. After sitting down with him for only an hour, I have confidence we have something that can help implement meaningful change – and quickly.
Essentially, LawMaker is an online platform designed to increase people's ability to engage with each other on citywide issues – issues that often fall victim to the silo effect where countless small groups end up working independently to solve the same problem, rather than rally around each other and accomplish their priorities one-by-one.
I like to describe the LawMaker platform as “crowd sourcing policy and legislation” because the challenge we've been issued is just that.
Here’s what you can do now:
Step #1: CLICK on the LawMaker site.
Step #2: Watch the short video titled, “What if there was a lobby for the rest of us?”
Step #3: Scroll down to “City of Los Angeles Challenge.”
Step #4: Click on the Budget Advocates’ Proposal: “The Path to Real Transparency Monthly Budget Review with the Mayor's Budget Team.”
This proposes that City Council should hold a minimum of one full meeting per month after 6 p.m. hosted and attended by members of the Mayor’s budget team, the CAO, the Office of Finance and on a rotating basis, operations officials from the departments themselves could be a simple first step to getting some real transparency within the City’s Budget process. The Budget Advocate team and interested members of the public would be there to ask serious and detailed questions.
Allowing this type of accessibility and transparency is key to creating an informed public that understands more about the long-term financial health of our City.
Step #5: VOTE if you like what you see and encourage others to join you.
And that’s not all! You can get family members, friends, neighbors and everyone in between to UPVOTE other policy suggestions on the site. Or, you can read through some of the other policies that catch your eye and upvote to help them gain momentum. It’s like a campaign on Kickstarter or Change.org.
Taking these steps can help in the work to get our City’s services back to what they should be: Well-maintained, flat roads…trimmed trees…safe neighborhoods…ample police and emergency service support…help for the homeless…relief from unbearable traffic...all of it.
The winning “challenge” will have its proposed policy formally reviewed by Councilmember David Ryu and potentially adopted by the City Council. The work that we and the rest of the City put into this is going to pay off.
So, I’m asking you to do your part. Follow the link and read our policy in detail. Decide if you think it’s worth another minute to click the mouse and maybe change the future of the City of Los Angeles.
The challenge ends December 11th, so take the time NOW to make a difference!
Talk to you soon…and, again, let us hear from you!
For more information, email us here: LABudgetAdvocates@gmail.com
Follow us here: https://www.facebook.com/LABudgetAdvocates/
(John DiGregorio is the Treasurer of the Panorama City Neighborhood Council. He serves as a Budget Advocate and is Vice President of Communications and Outreach.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.