NEIGHBORHOODS LA-When organizing Trade Exhibitions in my prior life, I would always stand in the empty exhibit hall or seminar room - either the night before, or early on opening day - and wonder if anyone would come to “my party.”
I must confess that I was in that same mode right before the beginning of the LA Neighborhood Council Congress, themed “Bridging the Gap” last Saturday (September 28) at City Hall. With over 650 plus registrations, and a well-organized agenda, the same old “what ifs” surfaced. As an example WHAT IF the 101 closed down; a truck spilled gasoline on the 10 or the 405 crumbled under the weight of its cost over runs …
I once read “worry is the investment you make in things that may never happen.” None of those horrible things happened. In fact, it was a perfect Los Angeles day not too hot, blue sky, slight breeze and a massive number of enthusiastic Neighborhood Council leaders from throughout the City. Just about everything went right. Cindy Cleghorn, Chair of the Planning Committee and her fellow organizers had every base covered. She was smiling ear to ear the entire day. (See photo.)
I only played a small part in the event. Aside from putting together and moderating a workshop on “Neighborhood Councils … the Next Ten Years”, my responsibility was issuing the invitations to our elected officials. That was an interesting experience. Almost every scheduler from council member’s offices called me back or confirmed in a short amount time. They were accessible, enthusiastic and (thankfully!) not at all full of their own importance.
Mayor Garcetti hit all the right notes. The previous Mayor’s office seemed to consider the NC’s more of an annoyance than a partner. On the other hand the NC’s did have a tendency to react to things negatively instead of reacting to make positive changes. The new Mayor’s “Back to Basics” campaign is working. Pothole repair trucks are out every day fixing the worst problems.
The free “MyLA311” app is genius. Download it from the City Hall website. If you see something (like a pothole) that needs fixing, take a picture with your phone and report right from your smartphone. Not only do you get a confirmation of receipt, but also when it was fixed, or why it couldn’t be fixed.
His Honor is admittedly a tech nerd. He wants each department to have a website with information on what they are doing and a way for the stakeholders (us) to measure their results. He expects an NC partnership to make LA a better place to live. The pothole blitz is a good example: potholes are targeted as a result of individual NC’s suggestions. Councilman Paul Koretz (District 5) was complaining about a huge pothole on his street that needed fixing. I told him to take a picture and send it to his Neighborhood Council.
Other NC Congress Highlights:
General Manager Grayce Liu welcomed everyone and spoke warmly about some of the accomplishments and challenges that lie ahead. One can tell this lady loves her job!
City Attorney Mike Feuer and City Controller Ron Galperin answered some tough questions (ideas for future articles) and both discussed their relationship and involvements with Neighborhood Council activities. Council President Herb Wesson greeted the group with words of encouragement and a willingness to work together. Other Councilmembers who spoke at the “Meet Your City Officials” seminar were: Felipe Fuentes, Nury Martinez, and Mike Bonin.
Councilman Tom LaBonge provided buses for many naval sea cadets (whose help during the day was invaluable). Those bright young faces in their white uniforms got a real look at democracy in action. The Poly High Cooking Club from Polytechnic High School provided breakfast and lunch with amazing speed. It was great to see the pride on their faces when people complimented them on their cooking and service.
Chair Cindy Cleghorn said, “More than 30 workshops and seminars - most with standing room only - bridged the gap by offering education with real life, real time experience in the areas of Transportation, City Planning, Dealing with Difficult People, Community Partnerships, Streets, Sidewalks and Alley repairs, Lobbying Like a Pro, LADWP, Bringing Business to Our Communities, SB1818 / Affordable Housing and the Next 10 years for Neighborhood Councils to name a few.
“It is estimated that about 50% of those present at the Congress attended for the very first time. This Congress was financed by many of the 95 Neighborhood Councils who contributed to a generous budget, especially Del Rey NC who made the largest donation. Office Depot provided signage. There were almost 30 vendors with products and services for the NC’s. Both breakfast and lunch was served and there was no cost for any delegate including parking at City Hall. Tom Soong, EmpowerLA Community Strategist attended most of the committee meetings held on weekends and made sure everything went OK. That is dedication!”
I loved everything about it except for the walking around City Hall in heels. I met so many new people who are doing marvelous things for their communities. There was warmth, respect, humor, abundant knowledge, sharing and lots of laughter.
The seminar I moderated was standing room only due to my super panelists: Councilman Bernard Parks, Grayce Liu, Victor Medina, Kevin Taylor and Yvonne Ellet. We went over the time limit and there was some very interesting conversation, questions and suggestions.
The Board of Neighborhood Commissioners (BONC) together with EmpowerLA gave awards to NC’s from the seven planning areas for outstanding projects in their community. Yvonne Ellet and Kevin Taylor were two of the NC’s who received this award.
My next article will have more details about The Next 10 Years seminar along with the two action items approved by the delegates. The EmpowerLA award winning projects (mentioned above) in the next Congress wrap-up article will also be featured. They are definitely worthy of your adapting to your community.
● Mayor Garcetti Keynote (Video)
(Denyse Selesnick is 2nd Vice-President Tarzana Neighborhood Council and a contributor to CityWatchLA covering Neighborhood Councils.)
Vol 11 Issue 81
Pub: Oct 8, 2013