CD2 Policy

A free flow of democratic expression

The Future of Grassroots Democracy in Los Angeles

Among the drastic cuts now being discussed is the scaling back – or even elimination of – the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment. That could include severe cuts to Neighborhood Council budgets throughout Los Angeles.

On Tuesday, the Education and Neighborhoods Committee, chaired by Councilman Paul Krekorian, will meet to consider the future of the Neighborhood Council program and the way that our communities interact with city government.

While the budget will require sacrifice from all participants in our democratic process, Councilmember Krekorian believes in neighborhood activism, neighborhood empowerment and the direct participation of our most passionate citizens.

That is why Krekorian set up this blog and is willing to consider all of the following proposals in the Financial Status Report and the Chief Administrative Officer’s Three Year Plan to Fiscal Sustainability:

  • A report from the CAO regarding the transfer of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment to another city agency and changes to the Neighborhood Council Funding Program.
  • The elimination of the Neighborhood Council “rollover” policy and the transfer of $1.61 million in rollover funds to the city’s Reserve Fund.
  • The elimination of the Bank Card system and conversion to a demand warrant system for remaining Neighborhood Council funds.
  • A DONE, City Attorney and CAO evaluation of redefining the allowable expenditure categories for Neighborhood Council funds.
  • A memo to Neighborhood Councils from the General Manager of DONE relative to a 50% reduction to Neighborhood Council funds starting in 2010-11.

But we want to hear what you think by Monday night. Please leave a comment below and let us know…

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February 12, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

15 Comments »

  1. Congratulations on the blog! It looks great and I look forward to working with you.

    Stephen

    Comment by SoapBoxLA | February 12, 2010 | Reply

  2. I hope funds to Neighborhood Councils don’t have to be reduced. At the Upper Nichols Canyon Neighborhood Association, we appreciate our productive and supportive relationship with the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council.

    To read more about how we build community and address emergency preparedness, safety, and quality of life issues in Upper Nichols Canyon, read yesterday’s HuffPost blog on our association.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-sigman/creating-community-in-la_b_458262.html

    Comment by Cristin Lindsay | February 13, 2010 | Reply

  3. Thanks for setting this up – what a great way to communicate with stakeholders.

    Cutting funding for neighborhood councils would be foolish. The relatively small amount used to support the system generates a tremendous amount of volunteer labor and other donations. Plus local input makes for higher quality of life.

    I live in Tujunga-adjacent far north Glendale and we appreciate the work of the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council on issues of mutual concern here in our gerrymandered Crescenta Valley.

    Comment by Sharon Weisman | February 13, 2010 | Reply

  4. Dear Paul:

    It seems fair to reduce NC’s budget by 50% (as you noted), and taking away their bank card where funds are not accounted for. But I think before across the board NC cuts, find out which NC’s are efficient, use and account for the City’s money wisely, clearly understand biz ethics and conflict of interest — and work for the interests of the community as a whole, not a select few or small group of meddling neighbors. The NC’s that do not hold up to this simple scrutiny should be merged with NC’s that do work well – or perhaps be removed from the Dept of Neighborhood Empowerment and City’s budget altogether.

    Comment by Stuart McDougal | February 13, 2010 | Reply

  5. I have seen the incredible work that these NCs do. Nearly all of it goes unnoticed by the public. It seems the City Council gets credit for what gets done in the City, while the NCs should be getting credit for what doesn’t get done – such as buildings being constructed that would violate zoning laws. No one ever hears about stuff like that.

    I am asking to consider this when it comes time to vote for the future funding of the Neighborhood Councils. The funding for these NCs is vital to their existence. Without funding, they can’t do their job.

    Thank you so much for your tireless service to our amazing city. I wish you all the best.

    Comment by Aaron DeVandry | February 14, 2010 | Reply

  6. People who participate in their. Neighborhood Councils and/or are activily involved in their communities are the best persons to judge their NC’s efficiency. Elections are coming up for the STNC on March 27. Your voice counts, Remember to vote. For more infomation on your communities participation in the budget, visit: http://www.budgetLA.com

    Comment by Nina Royal | February 14, 2010 | Reply

  7. Thanks for providing another marvelous way to stay informed and be involved. While the NC budgets could take some budget cuts (reluctantly, but to share the pain), they should not be massive. And due to the volunteer nature of the boards, some may be less able to participate if they can’t afford to fund the minor costs, such as copying for meetings, etc. As a former board member of the Sherman Oaks NC, I spent quite a bit without seeking reimbursement, but was able to afford it and chose to. However, I never witnessed any abuse of funds, just very careful consideration to see if it was a necessary expense or if there was another way to do it. We tried to use the majority of the funds to support worthwhile community projects in schools, parks, the Library, as we and our stakeholders believed were priorities that required our help when the City could not. The other large expenditure was for outreach, especially in the earlier years, when NC’s were practically unknown. If the City and the DONE cannot do all that is necessary to publish local NC information, it is incumbent on the NC’s to do their own. Our local newspapers did a fine job of partnering with us to publish news, information, events, etc, until they were out of business.
    Thanks so much, I look forward to more topics of discussion

    Comment by Gay Lannon | February 14, 2010 | Reply

  8. Paul, The NC’s are the best use of volunteers the city has.
    I hope that the accounting can be improved but leave the funding in place. NC’s go to great lengths to represent their residents well, let’s not impede their ability to do the task they have been asked to do.

    Comment by STA | February 14, 2010 | Reply

  9. Until 2005 I didn’t realize neighborhood councils existed. A land use matter brought the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council to my attention. As I attended meetings, learned more about the process, and met the people volunteering their time to help our community, I was impressed. Last year I joined the STNC Land Use Committee and since working with those volunteers. I have to say I am even more impressed.

    NCs are a valuable tool. It helps build a stronger sense of community, bringing people together who might otherwise have never crossed paths. It engages us in the city hall process and gives people a voice, something that has been sorely lacking for Angelenos.

    Comment by Karen Keehne Zimmerman | February 15, 2010 | Reply

  10. Honorable Councilmember Krekorian:

    For your consideration, the BudgetLA recommendations from Saturday, Feb 13 as voted on by the 88 participants representing ~60 neighborhood councils.

    (1) Motion (Krekorian – Hahn – et al) relative to directing the City Administrative Officer to study, with appropriate stakeholders, the transfer of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment or the Neighborhood Council (NC) Funding Program.

    n INVESTIGATE transferring neighborhood council funding administration to a nonprofit entity. The NC funding program can be simplified and operated at a lower cost while providing faster and more efficient service.

    n SUPPORT maintaining Neighborhood Empowerment as a separate department.

    n SUPPORT transferring elections back to neighborhood councils.

    (2) Motion (Krekorian – Hahn – et al) relative to the consideration of eliminating the Neighborhood Council “rollover” policy and transferring all suspended “rollover” funds totaling $1.61 million to the Reserve Fund.

    n OPPOSE this recommendation.

    n The $1.61 million amount refers to the balance in the fund as of June 30, 2009. In many cases, councils had submitted demand warrant requests which were being processed at this time. In some cases, DONE required as long as three months to complete requests for payment. Unless a full accounting of which payments should be assigned to the 2008-2009 fiscal year is performed, there is no way of knowing what each neighborhood council’s actual “rollover” is. In fact, the $1.61 million amount may be off by as much as 50 percent.

    n REPLACE current policy with a one-year “rollover” retention.

    (3) Motion (Krekorian – Hahn – et al) relative to the consideration of eliminating the Neighborhood Council bank card system and convert to a demand warrant system.

    n OPPOSE this recommendation.

    n The bank card system provides councils the ability to pay for small purchases such as office supplies. As with any account linked to a credit or debit card, records of transactions are immediate and usually accessible within a few hours. The abuse of the system involved cash advances. This component has already been removed. If the bank card system is eliminated entirely, it will force council board members to pay for small purchases and seek reimbursement via the demand warrant system, resulting in an increased workload for the controller’s office. Requiring neighborhood council volunteers to, in essence, loan money to the city creates a particular hardship in low-income areas.

    (4) Motion (Krekorian – Hahn – et al) relative to the consideration of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, City Attorney and City Administrative Officer evaluating and redefining allowable expenditure categories for Neighborhood Council funds.

    n AMEND this recommendation.

    n Instruct CAO, CLA, and DONE staff to meet with neighborhood council representatives to explore funding, staffing, and organizational proposals affecting the neighborhood council system.

    (5) Motion (Krekorian – Hahn – et al) relative to the consideration of the General Manager, Department of Neighborhood Empowerment issuing a memo to Neighborhood Councils regarding a proposed 50 percent reduction to the annual allocation amount for 2010-11.

    n OPPOSE this recommendation.

    n The Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition has endorsed a proposal that will maintain the level of funding for neighborhood councils by saving money in other areas of the NC system. The work of neighborhood volunteers and leveraged expenditures are needed now more than ever as the city’s workforce shrinks.

    Comment by SoapBoxLA | February 15, 2010 | Reply

  11. Excellent! Glad to hear the cash advance component of the bank card has been removed. Cash = no accountability, and frankly – regardless of good intentions, cash with no accountability just creates poor perception – bad for all NC’s, and LA City.

    Now how ’bout getting NC’s that are way behind on their books (some 2 – 3 years behind) current. As well as current with their Business Ethics/Conflict of Interest training. This is very important, especially in light of reduced budgets (and those losing jobs).

    Additionally, identify those NC’s that are serious about their accounting and use City money wisely and efficiently; and those that are up to date with ethics/coi training to help those NC’s that are struggling in these areas.

    Comment by Stuart McDougal | February 15, 2010 | Reply

  12. Honorable Councilmember Krekorian:

    For your consideration, the BudgetLA recommendations from Saturday, Feb 13 as voted on by the 88 participants representing ~60 neighborhood councils.

    (1) Motion (Krekorian – Hahn – et al) relative to directing the City Administrative Officer to study, with appropriate stakeholders, the transfer of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment or the Neighborhood Council (NC) Funding Program.

    INVESTIGATE transferring neighborhood council funding administration to a nonprofit entity. The NC funding program can be simplified and operated at a lower cost while providing faster and more efficient service.

    SUPPORT maintaining Neighborhood Empowerment as a separate department.

    SUPPORT transferring elections back to neighborhood councils.

    (2) Motion (Krekorian – Hahn – et al) relative to the consideration of eliminating the Neighborhood Council “rollover” policy and transferring all suspended “rollover” funds totaling $1.61 million to the Reserve Fund.

    OPPOSE this recommendation.

    The $1.61 million amount refers to the balance in the fund as of June 30, 2009. In many cases, councils had submitted demand warrant requests which were being processed at this time. In some cases, DONE required as long as three months to complete requests for payment. Unless a full accounting of which payments should be assigned to the 2008-2009 fiscal year is performed, there is no way of knowing what each neighborhood council’s actual “rollover” is. In fact, the $1.61 million amount may be off by as much as 50 percent.

    REPLACE current policy with a one-year “rollover” retention.

    (3) Motion (Krekorian – Hahn – et al) relative to the consideration of eliminating the Neighborhood Council bank card system and convert to a demand warrant system.

    OPPOSE this recommendation.

    The bank card system provides councils the ability to pay for small purchases such as office supplies. As with any account linked to a credit or debit card, records of transactions are immediate and usually accessible within a few hours. The abuse of the system involved cash advances. This component has already been removed. If the bank card system is eliminated entirely, it will force council board members to pay for small purchases and seek reimbursement via the demand warrant system, resulting in an increased workload for the controller’s office. Requiring neighborhood council volunteers to, in essence, loan money to the city creates a particular hardship in low-income areas.

    (4) Motion (Krekorian – Hahn – et al) relative to the consideration of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, City Attorney and City Administrative Officer evaluating and redefining allowable expenditure categories for Neighborhood Council funds.

    AMEND this recommendation.

    Instruct CAO, CLA, and DONE staff to meet with neighborhood council representatives to explore funding, staffing, and organizational proposals affecting the neighborhood council system.

    (5) Motion (Krekorian – Hahn – et al) relative to the consideration of the General Manager, Department of Neighborhood Empowerment issuing a memo to Neighborhood Councils regarding a proposed 50 percent reduction to the annual allocation amount for 2010-11.

    OPPOSE this recommendation.

    The Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition has endorsed a proposal that will maintain the level of funding for neighborhood councils by saving money in other areas of the NC system. The work of neighborhood volunteers and leveraged expenditures are needed now more than ever as the city’s workforce shrinks.

    Comment by Enci | February 15, 2010 | Reply

  13. I agree with everything that is going to be presented tomorrow at the E & N Committee except I just can’t get past the “non profit” group taking over the financing. It’s TOO MUCH MONEY for one thing and I have too many questions to just blindly go along with that. I’m not familiar with non-profit who wants to handle the financing so it’s not personal. I’m just not sure why it’s necessary and I fear that once these recommendations are given to E&N, there won’t be any discussing them further before it goes to council.

    Comment by Queen of Questions | February 16, 2010 | Reply

  14. Dear Councilman:
    I support the CAO report. DONE should be eliminated and its duties assigned elsewhere. Steps should be taken immediately to reduce abuse at the NC level and credit cards revoked. Too many NC’s are not representative of their communities because so few people participate. At a time when our infrastructure is crumbling and the City is going broke, we can’t afford to waste money on frills.

    Comment by CH Magnuson | February 16, 2010 | Reply

  15. Councilman Krekorian.

    Thank you for investing the time and energy in neighborhood councils and in engaging in the lengthy process of evaluating the many issues. Long day, lots of ground covered, excellent outcome.

    Thank you for rejecting the CAO’s recommendation regarding the 50% reduction in the annual allocation amount for 2010-2011.

    As always, we look forward to working with you to make this a Great City!

    Stephen

    Comment by SoapBoxLA | February 16, 2010 | Reply


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