PERSPECTIVE - The Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC), as with similar coalitions in various NC regions, can conduct its meetings free of the Brown Act’s regulations.
Overall, this is a good policy. LANCC meets once a month. Its members have enough on their plates beyond neighborhood council business. It is essential to have a process that allows LANCC to expedite time-sensitive matters (NCs could use a relaxed version of the Brown Act for the same reasons, but that is another story).
But this policy can be taken too far, as was the case this past Saturday, August 3.
Here is an excerpt from the agenda regarding mural ordinances under consideration by the City Council:
Discussion and possible action, Mural ordinance The PLUM Committee moved both (mural) ordinances versions as amended without recommendation to the full City Council, which is scheduled to consider them on August 20, 2013.”The Council File number is 11-0923.
Many Neighborhood Councils have considered this issue and a number have filed Community Impact Statements (listed on the agenda item below). Most, but not all, have objected to including single family residences and to a “one size fits all” approach for every neighborhood in the City.
There were absolutely no details provided for a proposed motion prior to the meeting, although the agenda did mention “possible action.” Such vague terminology would suggest no motion had been drafted, especially one by the officers who form LANCC’s steering committee.
But a motion regarding the mural ordinance had been drafted by LANCC’s Secretary Alisa Smith:
Mind you, she did not bring anywhere near an adequate number of copies to share, or bother e-mailing it in advance, so most attendees had to rely on an oral presentation of the points – not exactly the best way to digest a complex motion.
The proposal did not gain any traction at first. For that matter, an alternative motion was made and passed. That motion directed LANCC to send an e-mail to all neighborhood councils to consider the issue and take a position as soon as possible due to the rapidly approaching hearing by the City Council.
It was a sensible motion and it should have ended the discussion on the subject.
Not quite. Terrence Gomes, President of LANCC, allowed Alicia Smith to have a second bite of the apple.
She offered a revised version of her motion.
The revision excluded single-family homes from the immediate lifting of the ban. Well, that leaves duplexes and 3-4 unit residences as fair game for murals. In a city like Los Angeles, there is usually no clear delineation among single- and multi-unit neighborhoods and very often there is a mixture on the same street.
The points in her motion regarding conflict resolution would also create a bureaucratic nightmare for the city and the neighborhood councils.
Even though any ordinance removing a ban against murals would allow communities to opt out, how long before that provision would be challenged in the courts? I raised that question and Len Shaffer, the former chair of LANCC and a retired assistant DA, affirmed that it was a plausible scenario.
The City Council could interpret this half-baked motion as a show of support for allowing murals in residential neighborhoods.
The motion was passed, probably in large part just to move the meeting along. It will be distributed among the neighborhood councils with a recommendation to give it consideration.
Earlier, Smith had referred to the existing mural ban as a form of “suppression.” I guess she must think Los Angeles is North Korea.
We have countless ways of expressing our First Amendment rights, but there is a line between free expression and creating a nuisance.
Imagine someone walking through your neighborhood, shouting about a grievance. Is it free speech?
Probably, so as long as he moves on. But what if he stands in one place for hours on end and continues to rant and rave? You would have cause to report him to the LAPD for creating a disturbance.
A mural is 24/7. It is silent screaming – all day long. Noise is not necessary to create a disturbance.
A mural can be offensive to anyone, for any reason, even when the artist does not have the intent to offend. Residents should not be subjected to visual blight in their neighborhoods.
(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as Treasurer for the Neighborhood Council Valley Village. He blogs at Village to Village, contributes to CityWatch and can be reached at: email@example.com) –cw
Vol 11 Issue 63
Pub: Aug 6, 2013