Saturday, July 31, 2004

Mayor's Budget Day - Strike Two.

If anything proves the Neighborhood Councils are a work in progress, today's Mayor's Budget Day did. Last year, each Neighborhood Council was asked to list five categories they would like to see better funded. Then each of the five regions of the eighty odd NC's were to meet and vote on their collective five highest priorities. The biggest hitch was that the priorities were so broad - and also already in the budget - it was impossible to quantify if anything actually happened because of our lists.

Now this year the Mayor's office tried something a little different. They gave us four categories of priorities and asked us to rank them, and to then sub-rank smaller categories within each of the larger categories.

Unfortunately, the categories make no sense. Under economic development were homelessness services and low income housing while under livable neighborhoods (which would seem to suggest... housing, but which was not addressed there) were social programs such as the status of women, civil rights and AIDS assistance programs, which should have a fifth section of their own. And infrastructure issues were mysteriously split between neighborhoods and mobility.

But the biggest problem is that we are not being asked which (often politically motivated) programs we would like to cut or drop. Nor are we going to be engaged in the examination of the programs we are being asked to endorse. Plus nothing as sensitive as pension reform is even hinted at. Lastly, there is no way of quantifying if any of our input has any impact at all. Not surprisingly, not a single member of a Neighborhood Council was involved in the development of the survey.

Friday, July 30, 2004

LA Cowboy... Returns!

Shortly after I started this blog... my life abruptly changed, a not too uncommon occurrence in my life; hence my recent hiatus.

To my surprise, I found myself elected the president of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council (DLANC). I also was appointed by the Mayor to DWP Green Ribbon Commission. Additionally, I was already serving on a number of committees that deal with many of the city's agencies.

So, more than just being an observer - I am now, increasingly - more of an active participant in many of the issues facing this city.

To back track - the City of Los Angeles a few years back started an experiment in democracy called Neighborhood Councils. More than eighty of a projected over a hundred councils have already been certified citywide and each council is elected by the stakeholders of each community. Depending on the individual council, seats can be held by business owners, residents, workers, non-profits, the arts, social service agencies - among many other stakeholder groups - and - in our case - even the homeless.

Importantly, this is the first time the city has charter mandated stakeholder groups that directly communicate with the Mayor and the City Council, along with city agencies. It is also, even more importantly - the first time each of the different groups that make up all the communities of LA can sit down and... talk to each other and get to know and, most importantly - understand each other.

It will also be the first time that any one other than the lobbyists and special interest groups will consistently be at the table every time any issue of importance comes before the City Council or before any city agency. But rather than detail the history/current status of the Neighborhood Council - check out the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) website at for further information.

So along with the life, politics and culture of Los Angeles I had planned on essaying about - this blog will, from now on, also report on (and, sometimes, opine on) the birth pains of this new grass roots experience in local, town hall style democracy. Neighborhood Councils.

So - Cowboy Up!

It's going to be an interesting ride.