TONY CASTRO’S LA- President Barack Obama’s disappointing failure to champion immigration reform, what The Washington Post called his “immigration train wreck,” may be the consummate example of the failure of the Obama presidency on Latino issues. It is also a tell-tale sign of the potential trouble the Democratic Party could find itself in…
EXCLUSIVE TO CITYWATCH--City planners, developers, community members and other stakeholders are having a block party in the Miracle Mile: no champagne but plenty of stress served to order, depending on who you're aligned with. Issues with development: take a seat. Raising hundreds of millions of dollars for development, take several seats. Here…
GELFAND’S WORLD--It was a long public hearing at my neighborhood council the other night. Outraged, obviously frightened homeowners were pitted against advocates for the homeless. At least that's how it started, but it's not how it ended. It's curious, but in this contentious culture of ours, it turned out to be possible to have a meeting of the…
ALPERN AT LARGE-You know, it's indeed possible that there will be enough voters who won't remember (or care about) the current shenanigans and budget games in the City of LA--enough to allow a 2/3 vote to pass a new sales tax measure in November 2016. Then again, maybe enough voters will remember, and the initiative will (like its predecessor…
JUST THE FACTS-I’m talking to you as a man who policed Los Angeles streets for over 30 years and established policy for another 14 years -- two years as an elected Charter Reform Commissioner and 12 years as an elected Los Angeles City Councilman. Take a look at the latest Los Angeles News and Breaking Headlines. They tell a frightening story…
THE CITY-I was going to do my usual flip and cynical kind of a piece on the Airbnb hearing, but the issue is too important, and just maybe, all is not lost. The Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee hearing was scheduled in the Public Works Hearing Room, but so many people attended that they had to move it to City Council Chambers…
WAITING ON LA--Here’s photographic confirmation that bikeshare has arrived in LA: Not the City of Los Angeles, though; not quite yet. That’s a live bikeshare station in Santa Monica, on Main Street, next to one of the two bike corrals that grace the block south of Ashland. (There’s another and very busy bike corral two blocks north.) This is a…
MY TURN--I think there is such a thing as the "Dog Days of Summer" since my usual sunny disposition ... glass half full demeanor ... seems to be out of sorts of late. There is a litany of things that are annoying me, aside from the heat. I am disappointed in our local government ... not all of them, but a majority. Like many of you I studied the…
PRESERVATION POLITICS-Who doesn’t like Marilyn Monroe? Councilmember Krekorian, that’s who! Why else would Councilmember Paul Krekorian support the demolition of one of the most significant homes of Marilyn Monroe? With the blessings of Mayor Garcetti, who believes in eradicating as much of Hollywood’s history as possible, and with the support of…
Ken Burns-American Filmmaker-‘We broke it but you’ve got to fix it.’
111 Great (and Almost Great) Ideas for Neighborhood Councils in 2013
Written by Greg Nelson
THE CITY - If you don’t want to read this column, and instead skip to the list of 111 ideas that neighborhood councils could adopt in order to change city government, click here and get to work.
I have bored myself to death with all that I’ve written about the unlimited potential that neighborhood councils have to swing a big stick and fundamentally change city government, from changing its rules and laws to electing its leaders.
Neighborhood councils weren’t created to duplicate the work of homeowner associations, chambers of commerce, or the City Council.
Their purpose is to form the foundation of, and nurture a system of participatory democracy. That means that the neighborhood councils need to take themselves beyond local issues and occasionally reacting to an objectionable proposal from city hall.
It is perhaps with foolish optimism that I begin 2013 with an accumulation of as many of the ideas as I can remember that I’ve previously recommended to neighborhood councils.
The opportunity for massive numbers of people to participate in civic discussions must replace the small cabals that pretend to speak for the public but rarely make any attempt to reach past their own beliefs and crusades.
President Obama won re-election by assembling an army of volunteers and a motley crew of the brightest computer geeks in the country to successfully target those who were most likely to vote for him, and ensure that they voted.
Neighborhood councils may never be able to raise much money as well-heeled special interests in support of their favorite candidates and measures, but they can organize their own volunteer army to tip votes in the City Council or on the ballot in their favor. Each council did it during the process of getting certified.
When building a movement it’s always best to begin with goals that have universal support, as opposed to issues that are guaranteed to divide the members.
The list attempts to provide some suggestions. If only one person is able to get one of the ideas adopted it will be a significant victory for grass-roots democracy.
Many of the items are guided by the belief that the City Council can do much to improve the way it does its business … the public’s business.
Those ideas begin with neighborhood councils insisting that the City Council adopt as an operating principle the same goal that the new City Charter gave to the neighborhood councils: to promote public participation in government.
It was alarming to see the Council President cut off former Mayor Richard Riordan’s attempt to answer a question the president asked him about pension reform by telling Riordan, "I get the last word here."
If that’s the way a former mayor is treated, what chance does anyone else have of being heard?
The City Council’s goal appears to be to meet only the bare minimum legal requirements for openness and transparency. It can do better, but it likely won’t even have the discussion unless there is public pressure. And that’s what neighborhood councils are expected to do.
It’s difficult for anyone to hold City Council members accountable when their attendance records are so well hidden.
And it’s nearly impossible for a person to present an idea or complaint to the City Council without taking time off work or away from their family, travel to City Hall, pay for parking, wait hours to be heard, talk for two minutes, and too often have none of the members paying attention.
For solutions to these and other problems with city government, click here.
(Greg Nelson is a former general manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, was instrumental in the creation of the LA Neighborhood Council System, served as chief of staff for former LA City Councilman Joel Wachs … and occasionally writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at email@example.com)