LA Neighborhood Councils – Let’s Go Back To When The NC Represented The Old West
As Leonard Pitts sums it up so well in this fascinating adventure that dates back to the beginnings of neighborhood councils in Los Angeles, The “Quiet Revolution”: A History of Neighborhood Empowerment in Los Angeles, in a 2003 Southern California Quarterly: ââ¦ Neighborhood empowerment has had a long and difficult history in Los Angeles. It has developed in response to real problems and has manifested itself in many forms over the past century. In fact, it is almost useless to try to name the âreal authorsâ of the empowerment of the neighborhoods. He had many fathers, many mothers, and even a few midwives.
Pitt goes through a bunch of victories achieved through community organizing over the years and leaves us with this anachronistic reference:
âWhile neighborhood associations won’t solve all problems, they could dramatically improve the delivery of public services. Bill Christopher has a litmus test. A few years ago, he says, there were only 200 people in town who could pick up a phone and do something at Town Hall. Soon there will be around 2,000 elected board members who could do the same, and that would be a major achievement. “
It took me so long to write this response to Greg’s recollections that most of my points were covered by our reviewers:
By Jed Pauker:
I would really like Challis Macpherson to be here to comment. A flawed follower of the Brown Act itself, Challis lived and breathed the principles of community representation, adopting the model of the Venice Neighborhood Council land use committee operations throughout the city so that others CN can benefit from lessons learned from grappling with Venice’s challenging development landscape.
Before reading this article, I had thought that, as reported by Challis and other founding members of VNC since my first contact with GRVNC, it was the credible threat of secession by several organized communities in the San Fernando Valley that had forced the town hall to create the NC system in an effort to preserve the tax base of a region disgusted with the so-called Gang of Fifteen approach to governance.
As such, I very much appreciate the relationship of Greg Nelson on the conceptual side of the NC initiative. While I agree that NC needs a lot of work – as evidenced by reported takeovers by business development interests of several NC boards, VNC’s transparency and accountability have only benefited from attention to Brown’s Law and ethical obligations. In fact, these attributes are often the only accountability tools available to stakeholders when board or committee members seek ways to use their elected or appointed power to serve their own interests.
With that in mind, I look forward to understanding how a Sunshine Law could replace existing stakeholder protections.
And Arnetta White Mack:
Many people in Los Angeles, especially in southern Los Angeles, have always believed that Mark Ridley Thomas’ Congress of Empowerment was the forerunner and inspiration for the creation of neighborhood councils. Here is some information taken directly from the history section of www.empowermentcongress.org….
“The Empowerment Congress inspired the creation of the City of Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, guiding City Councilor Ridley-Thomas to bring forward the motion to create the department in 1997. In 2004, the city’s new agency had established a network of 90 neighborhood councils Today, many of these neighborhood councils serve areas known by resurrected names through a congressional empowerment effort, the âNaming Neighborhoods.â Concerned that many distinct communities have been lumped together under the name ‘South Central’, often with pejorative effect, the Empowerment Congress has organized efforts by residents to research the history of their neighborhoods and discuss their identity and their common aspirations at neighborhood club meetings, neighborhood assemblies and workshops at the annual summit. â
A memory of the work of MRT?
From the history of the Empowerment Congress, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year (1,700 engaged Angelenos attended the celebration):
âThese fires of 1992 ignited the civic determination of the voters of Ridley-Thomas. Their nascent neighborhood improvement efforts that began the previous year were formalized in the Empowerment Congress, with a simple motto: Educate, involve, empower. ”
The city workers survived the start of Riordan’s reign for several good reasons: They do a good job, even better in times of crisis. We had a big helping hand from Jackie Goldberg and a progressive majority on city council. Challenged to compete, the workers organized labor-management enterprises all over the city, starting with the garbage workers, and succeeded, saving jobs and services for generations.
Engaging our customers – the people who pay the bills – seemed like a natural extension of surprisingly positive work to maintain jobs and services and keep them public. This is why municipal unions advocated for elected and empowered neighborhood councils, even when entertainment unions worried about the closure of film shoots by neighbors and building trades unions worried about threats. For the development.
Was much of the impetus given to neighborhood councils aimed at defusing the threat of secession? Damn, yes. Is this a good idea? So and again.
Just browse the pages of neighborhood councils or existing regional or thematic alliances such as the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition to get a glimpse of how far we’ve come.
Want more historical meanders? Dr Raphael Sonenshein worked hard to document the charter reform efforts of the late 1990s and to attempt to explain the city in its structure of a city:
âWe, the people of the City of Los Angeles, to establish a responsive, efficient and accountable government through which all the voices of our diverse society can be heard; to ensure an equitable representation and distribution of government resources and a safe and harmonious environment based on the principles of freedom and equality, promulgate this Charter. – Preamble, Los Angeles City Charter, adopted by voters, June 8, 1999.
Tony Butka remembers it with typical eloquence and explained it precisely, on these pages, in his August 2016 article Gelfand’s Idea for Neighborhood Councils is Crazyâ¦ Let Me Count the Reasons:
âThe neighborhood council system, during those heady early days under Greg Nelson, was like the Wild, Wild West. DONE had decent staff, BONC was rarely heard, and Greg’s guiding principle was that each NC should be able to go their own way in this great experience – from bylaws to meetings to how they wanted to organize themselves. This was the essence of the Charter – âPromote greater citizen participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs …‘
“It was even fun.”
The Brown Act is not the problem, with all due respect to Greg Nelson. Among these, there are many. But just look at how many Los Angeles communities can get things done at City Hall.
I remember the first time I saw a lobbyist in a $ 1,000 suit at a ward council meeting.
Tony’s findings remain the best advocacy available; I have high hopes for the next 15 years of organizing the LA neighborhood:
âI’m saying let’s go back to the days when neighborhood councils, not city council, represented the Wild Wild West and did what they could to achieve their Charter mandate – âPromote greater citizen participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs …‘”
(Julie Butcher writes for CityWatch and is a retired union leader who is now enjoying her new home in La Crescenta and her first grandchild. She can be reached at [emailÂ protected] or on her new blog ‘The Butcher Shop – No Bones about It.’) Prepared for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.