Tue, May

Neighborhood Councils: New Proposed Code of Civility and More Mandatory Trainings

VOICES-So for those of you wondering what the City Council's rules of decorum are, check out page 3 of their rule book.  (See Bob Gelfand’s and Denyse Selesnick’s CityWatch columns on this subject.) 

Note that all of the directives are aimed at members of the public not interrupting the Council's proceedings. Nothing in there about members being polite to each other, listening to public speakers or any other of the proposed dozen and a half rules that the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners is considering imposing on neighborhood council boards. 

Makes sense given how much volunteer board members, most elected officials themselves, take home every year from their work. Oh wait …  

I remember DONE proposing similar language over a decade ago. 

Our board chose to include a streamlined version of the then advisory language, ("Section 1:  Code of Civility – The (Hollywood United Neighborhood Council) HUNC, its representatives, and all Community Stakeholders shall conduct all HUNC business in a civil, professional and respectful manner."). 

To its credit, BONC has adopted a code of civility similar to the one it is considering inserting into each NC's bylaws. 

As far as the mandatory trainings, this was an issue that was taken up by the recent NC Plan Review commissions. There seemed to be support for this idea in so far as the examples cited, but I am troubled by a few aspects of the commission's draft. 

First, how long will these new trainings take? A lot of boards have several members who have not yet finished their financial or ethics courses. Will adding a number of new requirements help in convincing these individuals who are currently behind to catch up? 

Can the commission at least get a rough estimate if the new trainings will double, triple or quadruple existing training time? Is it really necessary to give DONE a blank check to add even further trainings later? 

Is there a way to streamline trainings? The existing ethics training is designed to take two hours and includes a large portion of information that is aimed at government employees, not community volunteers serving in an advisory capacity. Albeit with some financial powers. 

There is a lot of overlap between bullying, sexual harassment and civility trainings. Will the City Attorney's office be the lead in developing training videos? They can't possibly have enough staff to train 95 boards. 

Are we at all concerned about the potential loss of talent from the NC system over an over abundance of training? If DONE could figure out a way to list either the date of completion of both the ethics and financial trainings on each NC's board roster page, instead of mixing and matching these approaches, I might feel somewhat more trusting on these issues. 

I'd like to cut BONC some slack for its recent decision to end the ridiculous requirement that each NC, with an average of 40,000 residents, post five times as many agendas for each of its meetings as the City Council and its multitude of staffed commissions, which represent over 4 million Angelenos. 

Perhaps they should attempt to apply the same line of thought here. If the City Council has no rules requiring its members to attentively listen to public comment why require that of NC boards? There has to be a happy medium path that can be taken here. After all, rules that are imposed from above are not likely to be fully accepted by those forced to follow them. 

Perhaps a half-dozen new rules would be sufficient? Whatever it chooses, the commission should give serious thought to the many inadvertent consequences its actions might result in.


(Erik Sanjurjo, an elected member of the Hollywood United NC Board, has been active in neighborhood council politics since the late 1990s. The views stated above are his own as his board has not yet had an opportunity to weigh in on this matter.)





Vol 12 Issue 47

Pub: June 10, 2014