Live Blogging the Neighborhood Council Town Hall
12:34 We’re just about ready to wrap up for the day. Don’t forget that you can always go on to our website, cd2.lacity.org and this site for more information and to keep the conversation going. Thanks to those who followed along and to the great input we received online!
12:08 Groups are shifting now and this is a good opportunity to tell you that each session, which is moderated by our staff, includes a note taker who is jotting down each item of discussion. This week, we will synthesize this info and put it up on this blog, allowing you to not only read these ideas, but rate them as well. Stay tuned and, if you have not done so already, you can sign up to receive updates via email by clicking on the button to the right.
12:03 Others say an “elections task force” should be formed to find out exactly what the issues are. “This will take time,” resident says, while another says there needs to be “outside independent reviews” of NCs to ensure that outreach is actually being completed and that everyone knows local NC elections are being held.
11:59 We are moving on to the election functions of neighborhood councils, the final stop on our mini-tour of breakout sessions. This one is led by Nate Jones and Heather O’Connor, who each work in our Sunland-Tujunga office. Some are frustrated by the job of DONE in administering elections, saying that NCs should operate their own elections, not the department.
11:49 Pat asks: What should the core mission of DONE be? Lydia Grant, from Sunland-Tujunga, says, DONE should post a list of all meetings online. Another NC member says, they should teach us how to be community organizers, train us and then “get out of the way.” Others say DONE should change their name to something that better reflects neighborhood councils. “When I hear DONE,” one says, “I think, are we finished?”
11:42 Pat kicks off the session asking what support functions does DONE provide? One says, when I started working in the NCs, I had no idea who/what DONE was. Another says “they tell me what we can’t do,” while another praises DONE’s efforts to reach out. “I have to tell you,” she says, “I saw very little people there where all these things were discussed.” That said, says another, their communication can be better.
11:36 Groups are now shifting and so will we. Next on our stop is a session led by staff members Pat Davenport and Geoff Yazzetta on DONE support functions. In this group, we have NC members from Baldwin Hills, Studio City, Encino, Venice, Watts, Sherman Oaks, etc.
11:22 Nelson says that if they redo the website, DONE should include NC input, upload files of old NC transcripts, upload videos and make it more user-friendly. Another says that, re: training requirements, community organizing leadership training would be important for NC members. And if DONE can’t do it, she said, they should get someone else who can, such as unions. Another says the conduct of meetings is an issue and that there is some confusion about parliamentary procedures and the Brown Act.
11:17 We’re moving on to training requirements, led by staff members Jackie Keene and Daniel Lopez. This is another robust discussion of about a dozen NC members, including Greg Nelson, a former leader of DONE. Jackie asks, “How can we make training sessions better?” One says, make DONE’s website more user friendly. “We can’t find the training [manuals]…and the wording and linking are not consistent or easy to navigate.”
11:15 Some funding issues, this group says, include hindrances from the City Controller’s office as they try to clamp down on rogue NCs and the department that oversees NCs., called the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, which has been decimated by staff shortages and budget cuts. Still, one says, it’s not that theyre understaffed, it’s that they “don’t know what they’re doing.” Not so, says another. They’re doing their best in a bad situation.11:10 The first question Damian asks is: “Does your funding program work?” Answers range from “It’s been a disaster” to “It works.” What about yours? But, when asked if the city hinder their funding process, everyone in this group says there are too many complications.
11:05 We are going to cover parts of each breakout session, starting with the funding program for NCs. Damian Carroll, our district director and Mshak Ghazarian, a field representative overseeing Van Nuys, North Hollywood, etc., are leading this session.
10:57 Participants will soon begin breaking out into individual groups to talk about, as we mentioned, NC funding, NC elections, training requirements for NC members and support functions within the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment. To those in the audience, Krekorian says: “This is not the time when any view is subject to being criticized. We are all here to learn from each other.”
10:52 Krekorian: “Now more than ever…this is the time when we have to reach out and lean more heavily on the leaders of our neighborhoods, not frustrate them…we need to take advantage of the eyes and ears of our community…yes we know the city is facing fiscal challenges, but the one place we don’t want to cut back is the very program that provides energy, vitality and encourages participation in 92 different neighborhoods around this city…but we all know the status quo is not sustainable.”
10:49 Weare’s suggestions? Grants for NCs and holding participatory forums such as these to hash out concerns/issues/solutions on a regular basis, which he says “empower NCs.” He also recommends improving the structure of NC meetings, including allowing individual NC members to set up their own sub committees without them getting voted down to improve the “positive cycle of participation.” He wraps up to applause an CM Krekorian is back up at the podium.
10:46 Other NCs problems, he says, are outreach and lack of administrative resources, citing the fact that Portland gives $10 for ever $1 L.A. spends on NCs. Interesting fact. Also, he says, NC meetings are set up too much like City Council meetings, including the fact that NCs tend to rule themselves by the traditional rules government often adheres, such as speaker cards, etc.
10:42 Weare says NCs “play a critical role in reducing the really egregious forms of corruption,” citing the troubles in Bell and Vernon, small cities that lacked oversight. Still, he says, people don’t recognize NCs as a legitimate form of local empowerment. Why is that? NCs have not gotten political support from the upper echelons in City Hall. “NCs have gotten a lukewarm response from mayoral administrations,” he says. “You really need to ask yourself, how can we help the mayor.”
10:40 Weare says “there’s plenty of improvements to be made in the NC system…though at best they are a mixed success…the question was, [when they started 10 years ago] if you build it will they come? And the answer has been a resounding Yes…I’ve seen lot’s of real success stories out there.”
10:39 Krekorian now introducing Professor Weare, who has been studying the NC movment for “about as long as they’ve been in existence,” Krekorian says.
10:37 Krekorian, chairman of the city’s Neighborhoods and Elections Committee, tells the crowd that this forum allows residents a greater chance to voice their opinion than committees do. Later, he says, they will get a chance to expound on how neighborhood councils can move forward.
10:34 Councilmember takes to the podium in the beautiful Founder’s Room of USC’s Galen Center. He welcome the crowd: “Im glad you could all come up here to participate in this continuing dialogue about local empowerment.” Note: neighborhood councils from across Los Angeles – from Sunland-Tujunga to South L.A. – are present.
10:10 Good morning from the campus of USC. It’s sunny and 61 degrees outside – a great day to talk about the future of grassroots democracy in Los Angeles. Soon, we will begin live-blogging the town hall, which will include remarks from our host, Councilmember Paul Krekorian, USC Professor Chris Weare, the deputy director of the Civic Engagement Initiative and Research Associate Professor within the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development and other special guests.
Then, the participants gathered here will break out into four sessions to talk about neighborhood council funding, elections, training requirements and support functions within the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment. If you could not make it out here today, please feel free to join the conversation online. We will begin shortly…