Thursday, March 01, 2007

Mayor's Budget Day A Success!

Mayor’s Budget Day A Success.

Last Saturday, fourteen Neighborhood Council regional budget representatives met with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, his budget staff (including CAO Karen Sisson and Deputy Mayor of Finance Sally Choi), interim DONE General manager Lisa Sarno, Done staff members and Deputy Mayor Larry Frank to discuss the NC’s regional budget priorities.

These representatives had also met a few days earlier where they agreed they needed convey to the Mayor the exact general areas selected by our stakeholders as their highest priorities – and that for the very first time – Transportation had beaten out Public Safety as the most important issue facing this city.

But they all equally agreed there was a larger message the Mayor needed to hear; that no one was better suited to work with him and his staff to determine the needs of our communities than the neighborhood councils.

Several members spoke of ineffective programs in their neighborhoods starting with Central area rep Gloria Farias description of how multiple outside organizations are given small grants to solve local programs rather than one larger, more effective grant to a locally based organization while others spoke in detail of programs that could be discontinued in their neighborhoods to save the city money.

The Mayor himself then cited the billion dollar prison drug treatment program that has just been declared a total failure; a billion dollars spent with nothing to show for it. And he then asked us – how can anyone in government find out what is actually working?

Well – the committee was prepared to give him the answer.

The NC’s can be his best connection with the grassroots. We are the ones best able to know what is – and is not working – in our communities. And not just our physical communities – but our various stakeholder communities such as non-profits, healthcare, education, the arts, etc.

The representatives then presented a few of the major regional differences in our needs. South Los Angeles rep James Harris described how Economic Development was high on their list, particularly since their business districts are being replaced with housing without mixed uses, while South LA rep Joe Turner decried the lack of employment for the youth in their community – even after they have graduate from high school. Harbor area reps Joan Jacobs and Dennis McCarberry then went into detail how the recent upsurge in gang activity has made Public Safety an increasingly critical issue for them.

Westside reps Denny Schneider and Ron Galperin had several messages particularly how traffic gridlock is strangling their area – and they also suggested some innovative ways of increasing the city’s revenue stream though better management practices.

And the East region reps Heinrich Keifer & Josef Bray-Ali, and the North Valley reps, Vasden Singh & Kim Thompson discussed, among other things, how regional traffic solutions have been at odds with the needs of their local communities while South Valley reps, Stephen Nacvzinski and Venessa Martinez, bought up both local traffic and local housing and zoning issues. The East reps also brought up the subject of the Southwest Museum and the Mayor pledged that it would continue to exits as a public space – and not be turn into a storage facility.

The Mayor at the end then stated how impressed he was by the depth of knowledge of the representatives and how they not only discussed spending priorities, but had also suggested ways of cutting expenses and maximizing revenues. Our relevance to the process was not just stated – it was demonstrated.

The question now is – how can the NC’s gather more detailed information about our neighborhood’s individual needs and how can we best transmit that information to the Mayor and his staff in regards to the budget process? And how can the NC’s be involved in the budget process on an ongoing basis?

Well, that discussion begins Saturday March 3rd at the LANCC Congress when several of the regional budget representatives report to LANCC their impression of how the meeting went and begin the discussion of what the NC’s can do to build upon the success of that meeting.

The meeting will take place at City Hall at 10:30 a.m. Saturday March 3rd in room 1035 following the Mayor’s rally to kick off the Public Work’s ‘Keep Los Angeles Beautiful’ campaign on the steps of city Hall from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

LANCC Agenda at:

Keep Los Angeles Beautiful Info at:

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