MEMO To Black Lives Matter: Ignore the Politicians, Partner up with the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates!

EASTSIDER--I don’t mean to be harsh.  Really I don’t. But the recent City Council’s falling all over themselves to Black Lives Matter is a fake strategy. 

In their usual embarrassing manner, the Mayor and the Council pretend they care.  On June 4th, Mayor Garcetti announced he would cut $150 Million from the LAPD Budget and repurpose it:

 “The mayor proceeded to announce $250 million in cuts to the proposed budget and to reallocate those dollars to communities of color, “so we can invest in jobs, in education and healing.” L.A. Police Commission President Eileen Decker then announced that $100 million-$150 million of those cuts would come from the police department budget.” 

Then on June 10 comes a usual Garcetti waffle.  After the Peoples Budget LA Proposal, Hiz Honor said:

“I don’t support that,” Garcetti said of the People’s Budget LA proposal, and the plan to almost entirely gut the LARD’s budget.”

For those living under a rock, you can see the actual Peoples Budget Proposal here. 

“The results are clear: we want more low-income housing and more services for unhoused Angelenos; more mental health services; rent suspension and cancellation during this pandemic; more funding for public schools and resources to ensure all students can continue learning during these uncertain times; and investments directly benefiting Black communities. We want human-centered services. We do not want more police” 

It offers a chance to repurpose and maybe even start to balance the fake budget that the City passes each year.  With great fanfare and fantasy mathematics. 

Anyhow, It’s one hell of an opening move as to how LA City should really spend our taxpayer’s dollars, and it comes in “interesting times” for the Mayor and the Council.

After all, recent events like George Esparza rolling over on the real estate developers’ conspiracy with the City Council and the Mayor, simply proves what has been evident for a long time. 

That is, you can make the case that the Council & the Mayor have been running the City like a criminal enterprise, fueled by big time developers greasing the wheels for their monstrous projects. 

To me, the real fun question is whether or not the now indicted Jose Huizar will roll over on higher ups like Herb Wesson or the Mayor himself.  After all, he’s facing 20 years, and he is not known as a standup guy. 

I do have one hope for the Black Lives Matter/Peoples Budget folks.  Stay as grassroots outsiders.  Do not under any circumstances partner up with the City.  The machine is going to stall and duck and weave and pray you run out of steam and go away.  Don’t. 

Gettin’ Neighborhood Council’d

I say this because of our experience back in 1998, when the Valley was hell bent on getting out of the City and creating their own government.  It was called ‘Valley Succession’, and it scared the pants off every elected official in Southern California. 

What the City did, and we fell for it, was to have a highly touted Charter Change which created the Neighborhood Council system. It was supposed to create a mechanism for the (now) 99 Neighborhood Councils to keep an eye out on the City and hold the elected officials’ feet to the fire. 

Somewhere along the line, the fire went out. 

Failing to really read the small print, the Neighborhood Councils didn’t get it that they were subordinate to City Hall through a General Manager directly appointed by the Mayor, and a Commission also all hand-picked by the Mayor. 

Cut to today and it’s pretty pitiful. The City gave the Neighborhood Councils a few bucks each (under $40k/year), and most neutralized themselves from within, playing mother may I with the Department on spending the trifling amount of money for small projects. 

These days, there are really only two good things that have come out of the system.  First, the Citywide DWP MOU Committee has done a very good job in partnering with the Council Controlled Department to help our communities, and has discovered a community of interest with DWP in trying to keep the Mayor and City Council’s hands off the Department.  Which they like to treat like a free line of credit paid by ratepayers. 

The second good thing has been the Neighborhood Council’s Budget Advocates, which over time have developed some serious chops in splicing and dicing the City’s Budget.  They ask hard questions, and, of course, write CityWatch articles detailing the slime. 

Of course, as the Budget Advocates became more sophisticated and knowledgeable, the Mayor became more uncomfortable giving them a meaningful place at the table. These days they are cast aside into the desert, and only get to make a pitch to the City after the money has already been divvied up in back rooms. 

The Takeaway

So, working within the system doesn’t work.  But here’s a tip for the Black Lives Matter/Peoples Budget movements.  If you can partner up with the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates, you have created a scary entity. The perfect outside mass movement with the insider budget knowledge the Budget Advocates have developed over a lot of years.  Now THAT will get the City’s attention. 

Just Sayin’


(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.)