IMAGINE VENICE--When Crayola can kick a color like the beloved ‘dandelion’ to the curb, how can we whine about the oh-so-much less monumental changes in our beloved Venice?
15 CANDLES—(Editor’s Note: It has been 15 years since Los Angeles certified its first neighborhood council … Wilmington. Former and present neighborhood council leaders have been invited to provide their perspective on LA’s NCs, what difference they’ve made if any and what their future holds.) It was 1999, City Hall was perceived as becoming alien, insular, exclusionary, and non-responsive to regional issues, only to serve their own interests and lacking real tangible outreach or civic engagement.
At the dawn of the Succession Movement, voters approved a City Charter that established the Neighborhood Council System and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (the Dept) “to promote more citizen participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs” and in May 2001, the City adopted the “Plan for a Citywide System of Neighborhood Councils (The Plan). This effort would finally empower NC’s to have Advisory Capacity decision-making influence while connecting residents to their local, regional, and city depts. on community-based issues – a real voice in the democratic process.
In the beginning, emotions ran high, participants scurried to become involved, outreach to local residents was at a fever-pitch, angry citizens arguing over historical boundary, grasping NC mandates, and the definition of advisory capacity leadership.
Now 15 years later with 97 NC’s and counting, they have taken their position as Neighborhood City Halls that have become alien, insular, exclusionary, not representative of their regions or communities only to serve their own individual interests lacking real tangible outreach or civic engagement. And to think it only took 15 years, 100’s of thousands of tax-payer dollars, and a further erosion of engagement and empowerment only to create another level of bureaucracy mandated by City Charter.
There is only one difference – there is no city agency that can enforce, mandate or hold NC’s or their boards from actions, decisions, or exclusionary practices accountable. When was the last time you received a local NC newsletter, announcement or notice in your mailbox or at your front door?
Are you being engaged or empowered to participate? Do you see change? Do you feel connected to City Hall?
(Bradley is a citizen advocate and was the founder of the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council.)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Now that two neighborhood councils have been subjected to the new sub-division policy, let's review the outcomes and the flaws in the system:
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Grievance panels and election challenge panels are one and the same. And they don't work.
In 2 different election/referendums, the appointed panelists were over ruled by the general manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE).
NEIGHBORHOOD SUPPRESSION-At a recent hearing of a Neighborhood Council Election Challenge Review Panel, the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE), the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council (DLANC) and the Skid Row Formation Committee testified before the Panel regarding three challenges on the Skid Row Neighborhood Council subdivision election. A special shout-out to General Jeff and his committee for their hard work in organizing an under-represented group of stakeholders in Skid Row. DONE and the DLANC were allowed 10 minutes each to speak against the challenges; the Skid Row Formation Committee, who filed the challenges, was allowed 10 minutes.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Dear Council President Wesson and Board President Kevin James: We are writing you, as community advocates, to urge you to use your power to right a wrong that has tainted the City Council race in District 7 and threatens to undermine the public’s trust in city institutions.
The Board of Public Works was created to prevent the politicization of public works services, to ensure the city invests in public works projects according to residents’ needs, and to stay away from the corrosive influence of political machines, political campaigns and cronyism.
On Thursday, April 27, a person affiliated with Sylmar Graffiti Busters, a contractor with the Department of Public Works, was caught on security cameras trespassing onto private property in Sylmar (located at 13701 Sayre Street, 91342) and illegally removing campaign signs. The representative can be seen on video driving a Sylmar Graffiti Busters truck and wearing a vest like those worn by workers associated with this city contractor. In the video, the person walks onto private property through a gateway to remove signs that were legally placed there. The signs belonged to Karo Torossian, one of two candidates vying to become the next representative of Council District 7. As you know, the election is on May 16.
This breach of public trust was so blatant that CBS 2's David Goldstein investigated the misdeed and reported on it in a May 9 segment titled “Controversy Swirls Around Campaign-Sign Removals In LA City Council Race.”
We can reach no other logical conclusion than that this illegal act was perpetrated to benefit the campaign of Torossian’s opponent in the election, former Board of Public Works Commissioner Monica Rodriguez. Rodriguez has close ties with the organization in question and we have on good authority that she has met privately with their leaders and directors to discuss how they can help her campaign.
We hereby request an immediate investigation into this incident, and we demand answers on how the Board of Public Works plans to punish those involved in the misuse and misdirection of taxpayer dollars for private gain. Our communities already suffer by receiving an unfairly small share of city resources, which makes it all the more insulting to have beautification dollars being wasted on dirty campaign tricks to benefit a former Board Commissioner. This violation threatens to undermine our trust in city institutions and run contrary to the founding mission of the Board of Public Works.
We urge you to act quickly and do the right thing. This wasn’t a mistake. This wasn’t a fluke. It was a deliberate action taken to influence the outcome of an election. We would like a response in writing on or before Friday, May 12, detailing how you plan to address this matter. Please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(This letter, sent under the name ‘CD 7 Residents Against Corruption’, was signed by: Chandra Prater, Abby Diamond, Hon. Patty Lopez, Dale Gibson, Doreen Przybyla, Pati Potter, Mary Ellen Eltgroth, and Alfredo Diaz)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Maybe there really is no there here — not now — maybe there never was.
Did we just all fall in love with the irascible Venice of our dreams? We imagine ourselves as the unique one — the interesting — the doers — we bask in the idea that we are the vibrant happening town overflowing with artists, one-of-a-kind, seriously intent on cultivating the feeling of being in a real place.
We smugly look at the ‘others’ with sad eyes. They, who hold urgent meetings to deal with a cracked sidewalk. We, the noble ones, superior human beings determined not to be swallowed up in that ‘good life.’ No utopia for us here! We’re Venetians! We thrive on the internecine development fights occurring on a near daily basis.
We thrive on the latest outrage inflicted on us by the city. We beat our chests to get the LAPD to take a report about a mugging on ‘the coolest street in America.’ And, we remind you, some schmo just paid 8 million bucks for a tear-down. We can only guess that he thought it was worth the price of admission to drink the best wine, eat the best sushi, crow about the endless new restaurants selling one kind of faux food or another, and who gives a damn if he has to wait a couple of days for the LAPD to get an officer out here to take a police report.
Over there, where the sidewalks don’t have a crack, three cop cars respond at once to the most minor crime. The biggest story there is the guy with his RV parked on the driveway for months — who knows, maybe they Airbnb there too. But, we unique ones — we’re tough! We’re tolerant. We’re patient. We’re loyal. We take all comers. One moment we grouse about the kid sleeping on a shop’s front porch, the next, we are trying to figure out if his puppy is getting its shots.
Maybe that’s our secret. We are not a myth. You can throw anything at us—we deal with it all like conquering soldiers — we don’t quit. Just don’t make us live where all the houses are white and the roofs are red. We reject their architecture police. We crave the distinct place. The big idea! Where else will you find impromptu cocktail hours form on a Sunday afternoon where regulars migrate like they were magnetized — all living that idea that this place is real. In this crazy topsy-turvy world our craziness is almost charming. No matter how Aspen-like we are becoming, the kernel of uniqueness is alive. But we sure have to put up with a lot of **** to live this vibrant madness. We don’t want that groomed HOA controlled neighborhood here — don’t clean us or polish us!
Corner lots sell for 8 million, lofts rent for 40K — one creative marketing company is even renting two of them on the street now — hot dog trucks park illegally for days, the line is around the block for $5 ice cream scoops and $4 donuts. And yet, they come. They come because they feel alive and that’s why we are not a myth—where else can you say that?
We old Venice denizens just want the cops to show up when we call them… and the Rooster truck to take a hike.
(Marian Crostic and Elaine Spierer are Co-founders of ImagineVenice)
NC BUDGET ADVOCATES--After the releases of the City o Los Angeles Budget Summery on April 20, 2017, we went out into the community to get their perspective on the city's Budget Proposal. But after speaking with several Angelenos, who had a lot say but did not know where to take their concerns I spoke to Gloria Gonzalez a senior resident of the Eastside of Los Angeles. We asked Gloria, What are your thoughts on the Mayor's third proposed Budget?
"I see the city of Los Angeles make promises to help the residents and increase services in someway year after year but nothing ever gets done and we hear the excuses about lack of funding, etc. I have been a resident of Los Angeles for over 50 years and I have never seen the city in such a state of disarray. The homelessness situation is out of control and waiting in line at any grocery and/or retail store takes hours. The infrastructure of Los Angeles is just deteriorating and I wish the Mayor and City official would do more to increase the value of our city. Los Angeles is starting to look like a 3rd world country, I can't walk down the street without someone asking me for change, someone living on the street or a rogue street vendor trying to sell me something. Every year the Budget Summary mentions something about addressing these issues but nothing is ever done about it."
Q: So what can the Budget Advocates do to make sure these issues are addressed?
Whether it's the Budget Advocates or anyone else, someone needs to hold the city responsible for the current state of Los Angeles. Regardless of what is going on behind closed doors in meetings, on boards etc. The city just looks bad and somebody needs to be held accountable.
I told Gloria to take her concerns to the city council meetings and her local neighborhood council meetings. Go to EmpowerLA to find out when neighborhood councils meet, go to LA City to see a calendar of public meetings where you can voice your concerns.
Be up to date on what's going on in LA … especially your community … and get your questions answered.
Also check out your the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate meetings twice a month, the first Monday of the month at 7 PM in City Hall and the third Saturday of the month at 10 a.m. to discuss the City's Budget and the City’s finances.
Make your voice heard! Get Involved! It’s why Neighborhood Councils were created and made a part of the City Charter.
(Adrienne Nicole Edwards is a member of the NC Budget Advocate Committee.)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Despite challenges from two local residents to unseat the current council person, our councilman gets to continue his benign neglect of Venice for another six years.
There is nothing sexy about our issues. None of them will grab any headlines. They are just the mundane; people camping on sidewalks, selling out of cars and on blankets on the sidewalk, Airbnb’s continue to decimate our housing stock, food trucks are parked illegally all day running their compressors and spewing food smells into homes as they pay the ‘rent’ from that rare parking ticket. Enforcement issues continue to pile up — unenforced.
The enforcement issue is very unique in Venice. This couldn’t possibly happen in Brentwood. Their residents wouldn’t put up with the stuff we endure here for a minute. You won’t see a campground on any one of their sidewalks. The scofflaws here are so certain that nothing will happen to them, they continue their creative ways to avoid compliance of city codes, whether it is using property (despite numerous citations) as a moneymaking billboard or a restaurateur determined to avoid compliance with his building permit(s.)
Problems linger and linger. The effort to stop the Bonin-supported land grab of the Sr. Center at Westminster Park for a homeless storage operation continues. Short-term rental syndicates still plunder our housing stock and the ABC is still considering an alcohol license for a so-called ‘bakery’ that slams right up to residences. Alas, the ‘gold rush’ continues. There is so much money being made in Venice now that it is just about blasphemy to speak against our new warlords.
Many individual groups are working to fix things in this community. Not much progress is being made despite lawyer involvement in a multitude of neighborhood struggles. Residents put in endless hours working to protect our quality of life in this town but they are pretty much on their own.
The big money people get what they want in Venice. Snapchat (photo above) comes to the head of the pack for the antagonism that operation generates. They are like an octopus. Landlords give them other people’s precious parking spaces and they take over entire residential buildings and units for their commercial use.
Their quasi-military force is now seen all over Venice. Created to protect the “Snapsters” from the unwashed who might hassle them a bit while at the same time, they claim to like our “culture” and love “being part of the community.” You are what you do and the truth is quite the opposite. They demand protection to live and work here.
Their security force, in the minds of many, represents exactly who our super new rich people are. They are our new elite. We call them our eiliterati. They certainly are not Venetians. They eat our food, drink our wine and throw some money around where it shows for PR purposes. They keep the streets around their venues cleaner. But does Venice need theirs or any private security force patrolling our public streets?
They are grazing here.
We need to mention our latest newcomer: Adidas is moving into the old Hal’s restaurant space… they announced their arrival on the front of the building with signs that proclaimed they will be “defining Venice.” Adidas heard the very loud cries of community outrage and quickly removed the signs. Not much more can be said about that huge display of corporate hubris — especially while authentically Venice-grungy Abbot’s Habit is in its final countdown to make room for the next new soulless shiny object.
In the meantime, all that fairy dust will continue to float on our ocean breezes. When it floats out to sea and stays there, what will Venice be left with beside lots of vacant buildings and apartments?
Maybe that will be a good thing.
(Marian Crostic and Elaine Spierer are Co-founders of ImagineVenice)
ENOUGH ALREADY--Neighborhood Councils are being asked by the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) to weigh in on the elections starting in 2018. This is necessitated by the City Clerk’s inability to conduct the NC elections in 2020, which requires a shift to odd numbered years starting with 2019.
The choices being offered by DONE are:
(1) Conduct the 2018 elections as scheduled. Board members elected would have a three year term.
(2) Extend the current board term for one year and conduct the elections in 2019
(3) Conduct the 2018 elections for a one year term and then have another election in 2019.
Option Number 2 should not be considered. What publically elected official/governing body can vote to extend their term after an election? It is self-serving for NC Board Members to be asked to vote on their own term extension. The NC Stakeholders should be a major part of this decision. As Stakeholders, we feel totally disenfranchised by this unfair option.
Options 1 or 3 are acceptable, as neither of them changes the rules after-the-fact. These should be the only options under consideration.
Where is the Outreach to the Stakeholders? Shouldn’t they be engaged in the decision that affects the terms of their NC Board Members? When the Stakeholders voted in the 2016 election they were told it was for two year terms (with the exception of the few NCs with four year terms).
The unspent NC funding allocations from 2016 (estimated at $2.4 million) should be carried over exclusively for the 2018 Election Outreach. This is a more meaningful use of these dollars, as it promotes more civic engagement on a local level. Outreach was always the primary purpose in the Charter for the use of the NC funding. It is time to get back to the basics.
We respectfully urge that there be no extension of terms and funding allocations remain with the NCs for the 2018 Election Outreach.
(Judy Price Valley Glen community activist. Lisa Sarkin Studio City community activist.)
NC BUDGET ADVOCATES--According to International Monetary Fund (IMF) California is now the sixth-largest economy in the world, surpassing France, thanks to the healthy state economy. This claim to fame dims when looking over Los Angeles city finances.
According to the white paper released by the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates on March 8, the City's revenues have increased by $1 billion (22%) over the last four years but the City has made little progress in addressing the financial issues that have historically impacted its budget for the last four years. The City continues to have a Structural Deficit. A structural deficit occurs when expenditures such as salaries, benefits, and pension contributions increase faster than revenues.
In January 2017 the City Administrative Office (CAO) Stated Los Angeles has a $224-million budget deficit heading into this 2017-18 fiscal year. Due to the recent labor agreements, high dollar court settlements and funding for housing/homeless services piling up expenses. This deficit jeopardizes expansion of city services in the future, the CAO report suggests. Several Los Angeles city departments could also be impacted by projected $245 million deficit.
The city's deficits comes from lawsuit payouts, including a $210 million settlement to resolve a 2012 case in which advocacy groups made claims that required accessibility features for disabled residents were not included in housing that received public funding.
In 2016 the city controller's office issued two reports showing a projected budget deficit of $170 million, from "property tax in-lieu of sales tax" receipts, a bond repayment mechanism known as Proposition 57, a ballot initiative passed 13 years ago.
In 2014, the city reported being $95 million in the red due to overtime wages. The deficit needs to be addressed directly and in the 2017 white paper the NCBALA suggested implementing a Back to Basics Plan. The Budget Advocates urge the Mayor and the City Council to develop and implement a "Back to Basics" ordinance. The resulting increase in transparency and accountability will begin to restore Angelenos' trust and confidence in City Hall. This Back to Basics Plan should include, but not be limited to, the following:
- Create an independent "Office of Transparency and Accountability" to analyze and report on the City's budget, evaluate new legislation, examine existing issues and service standards, and increase accountability.
- Adopt a "Truth in Budgeting" ordinance that requires the City to develop a three-year budget and a three-year baseline budget with the goal of understanding the longer-term consequences of its policies and legislation. (Council File 14-1184-S2)
- Establish a "Commission for Retirement Security" to review the City's retirement obligations in order to promote an accurate understanding of the facts and develop concrete recommendations on how to achieve equilibrium on retirement costs within five years. This Commission will also address the Buffett Rule and the investment rate assumptions of the pension plans.
For more detailed information on the White Paper and NC Budget Adovcates: NCBLA.com
(Adrienne Nicole Edwards is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. She can be reached at: A.Edwards@NCBALA.com.) [[hotlink]
NC BUDGET ADVOCATES--The Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates (NCBAs) are in the throes of "Budget Season". Budget season begun last year on September 28 when Mayor Garcetti released his 2017-18 Budget Policy and Goals to the General Managers of all City Departments other than the three Proprietary Departments (DWP, Harbor, LAX), and the two pension plans, LACERS, and Fire & Police Pensions. In October, the NCBAs issued a Preliminary White Paper where they urged the City Council and Mayor to implement the following budget recommendations of the LA 2020 Commission, a blue ribbon panel formed at the request of City Council President Herb Wesson:
- Create an independent “Office of Transparency and Accountability” to analyze and report on the City’s budget, evaluate new legislation, examine existing issues and service standards, and increase accountability.
- Adopt a “Truth in Budgeting” ordinance that requires the City develop a three-year budget and a three-year baseline budget with the goal to understand the longer-term consequences of its policies and legislation.
- Be honest about the cost of future promises by adopting a discount rate and pension earnings assumptions similar to those used by Warren Buffett.
- Establish a “Commission for Retirement Security” to review the City's retirement obligations in order to promote an accurate understanding of the facts.
Then In November, the city of Los Angeles departments submitted their budget requests to the Mayor and the City Administrative Officer (“CAO”) as well.
On March 1, Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin released the City's annual revenue forecast. The Controller’s report highlighted increases in City revenues that fail to keep up with increases in City spending and the need to exercise caution in new spending both for the current fiscal year and for the Mayor's soon-to-be proposed budget for 2017-18.
A week later, the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates met with Mayor Garcetti to present the White Paper, "Back to Basics". The 88 page white paper was submitted to the Mayor and other city officials with several recommendations for the upcoming fiscal year.
On April 20, the Mayor released his Proposed Budget to the City Council. The Mayors Budget highlighted Key investments in the FY16-17 proposed budget supporting the Mayor’s long-term budget priorities of A safe city: By Strengthening our public safety workforce, PROSPEROUS CITY: By addressing the homeless crisis and quality housing at all levels, A LIVABLE AND SUSTAINABLE CITY: Restoring the condition of the public realm and the quality of our environment, A WELL-RUN CITY: Building a customer-focused City workforce and upgrading technology.
Now it's crunch time, the Budget and Finance committee will begin meeting to consider the Mayor’s budget on Wednesday. Within two weeks, the Adopted Budget is approved by the Mayor and the City Council and July 1, 2017 is the beginning of the new fiscal year.
The Budget Advocates will engage in further discussion about the contents of the White Paper with the City Council Budget & Finance Committee and will be making a presentation at Budget and Finance meeting on May 1st in the early afternoon. If you as a Los Angeles resident would like to weigh in on the white paper or add your suggestions, please contact the NCBA's Co-Chairs Liz Amsden at LizAmsden@hotmail.com or Jay Handal at email@example.com. #NCBALA
(Adrienne Nicole Edwards is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. She can be reached at: A.Edwards@NCBALA.com.)