Thu, Aug

Are Neighborhood Councils at a Crossroads or an Off-Ramp?

PERSPECTIVE - I really wanted to write a post about the unraveling economy and how it could affect California and Los Angeles.  I’ll save that for next week.

The NC system was rocked by the allegations against Al Abrams, until recently the President of the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners.  I have no comment concerning the allegations.  They are personal issues that should have no bearing on the ninety-five chartered councils spread throughout the city.

Unfortunately, some at City Hall may use this disturbing development, regardless of how it plays out, as another weapon against the grassroots organizations, as they did with the handful of  crooks who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from under the nose of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment a few years ago.

Yet, these same downtown dons show no emotion or outrage with the mayor when departments reporting to him are implicated in charges of  bribery, sexual harassment and incompetence.  They look after their own … and the neighborhood councils are not part of their city families.

The neighborhood council concept was born out of charter reform following the failed secession movements [link] of the Valley, Hollywood and Harbor areas of the city. The charter change was a bone thrown to the disaffected residents who supported breaking up the city.  It was a bone with no marrow.

Yet, that did not stop highly motivated activists from making the most of the meager offering.  

From the defeat of Measure B to the termination of the red light camera program, NC members have used the system to challenge the establishment responsible for running our city into the ground. Even the existence of a Board of Neighborhood Commissioners controlled by the mayor and the ineptness of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment could not suppress them.

There is so much more NCs can do if they are allowed to be governed by their own.  For one thing, an oversight board elected by NC board members would clean up the system – and there is cleanup needed.  

DONE has ignored non-performing councils (for example, 30% have not even bothered to submit a budget). Board members from functioning councils would not tolerate slackers.  They know that dysfunctional bodies hurt the brand and would not hesitate to take appropriate action combined with an offer of assistance.

If necessary, an empowered, autonomous oversight board would cut off funding in part or entirely for wayward councils.

If not an autonomous board, a conservator for DONE should be established to restructure the department and train the staff.

So it’s either a crossroads, where one direction eliminates DONE’s authority and most of the department and another restructures it into an effective source of support, or the off-ramp – where dedicated NC members decide to bail out of the traffic and go home.

(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as Treasurer for the Neighborhood Council Valley Village.  He blogs at Village to Village and can be reached at:    [email protected] ) –cw

Tags: DONE, neighborhood councils, Board of Neighborhood Commissioners, Al Abrams, City Hall, secession, Valley, Hollywood, Harbor, Charter

Vol 9 Issue 63
Pub: Aug 9, 2011