Thursday, March 24, 2005

Mayor Hahn, the Neighborhood Councils... and Northern Kyrgyzstan.

While people's revolutions from the Ukraine to Lebanon and now the capital of Kyrgyzstan make international headlines, an increasing transfer of power from a handful of government officials in Los Angeles to the far more broadly based neighborhood councils is all but ignored by the LA press (i.e., the LA Times).

As an example, today Mayor James Hahn unveiled a new - and unprecedented - gift of power to the Neighborhood Councils, but it is unlikely you will hear any of this on the six or eleven o'clock news - and it is just as likely that there will be very little in the printed press other than a few brief paragraphs.

Among the Mayor's extraordinary proposals anounced are agreeing to place at least one Neighborhood Council member on each city commission - including those supervising the Police Department, the Department of Water and Power, Public Works, LAX, and all the other city agencies.

This once unimaginable move will not only give us a voice - and a vote - on each of these commissions, but it will also give us an advocate we can directly talk to about our individual concerns on the governance of each of these agencies. Plus with the Memorandum of Understanding between the NC's and the DWP possibly just days away from being preliminarily agreed upon - soon we will have agreements with each city agency on how they will work with us and how we will work with them, creating a true partnership between equals.

Mayor Hahn has also agreed to allow the NC's to help vet every new general manager - as he is already doing for the new Planning Director, and he also agreed to allow us to review the performance and budget of every city department. He also restated his agreement to allow the NC's to audit the city budget and to be involved in every step of its preparation.

All this was communicated today before an audience of NC activists from throughout the city and a gaggle of the local press. But when it came time for the press to ask questions - not one, and I mean not even one question asked of the Mayor addressed what he - or any of us present - said about the Neighborhood Councils. They were only interested in a sound-bite on what he thought about Maxine Waters endorsing his opponent or how he handled the replacing of Chief, now Councilman Parks, with Chief Bratton.

Finally, two widely respected South & Central LA activists exploded in anger at how the press not just completely ignored the Neighborhood Councils - but how they were only interested in what politicians felt about Bratton replacing Parks and had zero interest in talking to the people who actually lived in the gang threatened inner city. And these two plain talking Black women let the press know loud and clear how much they supported the Mayor's hiring of Chief Bratton and how much safer their neighborhoods are because of that decision. And the rest of us there loudly applauded them both.

But, again, don't look for this on the 11 o'clock news, or in the LA Times.


Kevin Roderick at LA OBSERVED has some excellent comments on the import of this story (though I do not recall him being there and it appears he is working off of the press release), but, even more illuminating, are his ruminations on what long term affects this might have on the Neighborhood Councils.

He correctly opines that as we develop real power, we are going to have to be increasingly vigilant on special interest groups and people with hidden agendas getting elected to the councils. The danger is that will just push their own narrow interests and not the interests of the community of large. Plus the rather loose voting requirements will also have to eventually be firmed up. And Kevin is the first - to my knowledge - journalist - to bring up this point that many of us in the NC revolution have been concerned about. More on this over the weekend.


Hal said...

I had to give up reading the LA TImes due to my doctor's orders - it was increasingmy blood pressure too much. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

This is why I voted for Hahn in 2001 and in 2005. He recognized that the most influential voices are the people who live in the communities, they are better equipped to understand what is needed. Instead the press suppresses this information for silly sound bits from that Poverty Pimp Maxine Waters.