Over the next few months, the LA Standard will be publishing articles on the political process. The series introduces the different levels of politics, including neighborhood councils, city council members, mayors, county supervisors, state assembly members, state senators, governor, members of the United States Congress and the President of the United States. The purpose of this series is to highlight what each politician does, which politicians people should contact for various issues and how people can participate in the political process.
By Jason Lewis
Neighborhoods are constantly changing and problems will always arise, causing community members to wonder who is making the decisions or why certain developments are happening. While most people don’t run for political office, anyone who cares about what’s going on in their neighborhood can find ways to get involved.
Neighborhood councils can be an entry point into the political process. In the city of Los Angeles, the Empowerment Congress was established in 1992 by Mark Ridley-Thomas, a member of the Los Angeles City Council. Each municipal district has its own neighborhood council.
“As a longtime resident and elected official, I deeply appreciate that participatory democracy requires all of us to engage in civic life,” said Ridley-Thomas. “Neighborhood councils play a vital role in ensuring that community members have a voice in municipal government. They advocate for critical issues such as homelessness, housing, public safety, and provide a powerful example of how to build and unify communities by creating opportunities to educate, engage and empower residents. .
Lots of people are speaking out on social media about the issues they see in their communities, but that’s not the platform to bring about the changes people want to see.
“A lot of times you’ll see people leaving on Facebook or Nextdoor,” said Gina Fields, chair of the Empowerment Council West Area Neighborhood Development Council, which covers Baldwin Hills and Leimert Park. “Okay, you can complain about that if that’s your goal. But if your goal is really to solve the problem and try to move the neighborhood forward in a positive way, you need to get involved. You can’t just sit at home with your thumbs typing negative things on your phone about what’s going on in your neighborhood.
Neighborhood councils act as an intermediary between the municipal district and the city, and they can strongly influence the policies and programs that the member of the municipal council in their district creates. But one problem that some neighborhood councils have is participation. According to KimMarie Johnson-Roussell, chair of the Park Mesa Heights Community Council, which covers Hyde Park, View Heights and Angeles Mesa, there are about 40,000 people in their municipal district, but only 89 people voted in their recent election, and only about twenty people participate regularly.
“These neighborhood councils where people are running (in greater number) in the elections of the neighborhood councils, the councilors of these neighborhoods tend to participate more in the community than those who do not have such a large participation”, he said. she declared.
“Westchester Community Council has a range of lawyers on its council. When it comes to planning and land use, due to the strong presence of lawyers and their ability to be above the city councilor, they are heard. Just about whatever they come up with, their city councilor works with them because not only do they have a bigger voice, but they also have a powerful voice. At Park Mesa Heights, we have lawyers and skilled people who can roll up their sleeves and get things done. “
Development is a big topic in South Los Angeles, as luxury condominiums and high-priced apartments spring up along the Crenshaw / LAX Metro track. Many blacks take this as a sign of gentrification and feel caught off guard when they find out that a new development has already been approved. People can stay more informed and have more influence over development by participating with their local neighborhood council, including through their Land Use Planning and Beautification (PLUB) committees.
“There is so much going on in our area,” said Fields. “There is so much development. The Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza; there are new buildings coming throughout Crenshaw every day. There is a plan within two years to develop more than 3,000 residential units in our region. It brings a lot more people to our region. Potentially 6,000-7,000 more people. This puts a strain on our infrastructure. This poses parking and traffic problems. Our objective, particularly with our planning, development and beautification committee, is therefore to ensure that development impacts us positively rather than negatively. One of those ways is to make sure that we work with the developers so that when they get to the neighborhood, that they hire locally, that they provide affordable housing so that the people who live in the area can continue to inhabit the region.
“A lot of developers are forced to come to a planning and land use committee meeting and tell us what the plans are; tell us what their ideas are on what they are building. And then listen to what we want and what we need. This is one of the most powerful things we have is our PLUB committee. If people really care about how our neighborhood is developing and moving forward, I urge them to attend these PLUB meetings, to really hear what is being built, and to really express their opinions.
In some cases, neighborhood councils have to kick a developer out of their community.
“We play with these developers as they come in,” Johnson-Roussell said. “Our town planning and land use planning committee is very aware of everything that is planned in the community.
Neighborhood councils help solve problems. Empowerment Council West worked with Councilmember Ridley-Thomas to house 75 homeless people who lived around Lemiert Park. The Park Mesa Heights Community Council runs community cleanups to help pick up trash in their neighborhoods. Cars on Crenshaw Boulevard have been a problem for decades, causing many complaints to locals. Neighborhood councils can work with law enforcement, local businesses, and community organizers to ensure that cultural events can take place without causing problems.
“We understand that it’s part of the culture, but we also have to keep it safe,” Fields said. “So it’s about finding a way that classic cars can exist there, but without the people making donuts in the middle of the street. We prefer the neighborhood to work together on these positive changes, rather than having people calling the police against each other. “
The closure of Ralph’s on Crenshaw Boulevard and Slauson Avenue has left Hyde Park and Angeles Mesa without a major grocery store story. So the Park Mesa Heights Community Council stepped in to bring attention to the issue so that it could be resolved. Ralph’s still owns the lease for the location, Johnson-Roussell says, but they won’t release it, preventing building owners from finding a new grocery tenant. The Park Mesa Heights Community Council is working to raise awareness of this issue so their neighborhood can once again have access to fresh food.
Local politicians usually attend neighborhood council meetings or send a staff member to report and answer questions. This gives community members a chance to interact with their local political representative. Los Angeles Police Department officers and city officials also present reports and answer questions at these meetings.
View Park-Windsor Hills is part of Los Angeles County and therefore not part of the City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Council System. The United Homeowners Association II defends their cause. Ladera Heights is also part of Los Angeles County, and they have the Ladera Heights Civic Association.
Meetings of the local neighborhood council
-Leimert Park, Baldwin Hills– 1st Saturday, 9:30 a.m., Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza