Tue, May

Be Bold! It’s What the Public Wants


THE NEWS: UPON FURTHER REVIEW - News Item:  A city councilman introduced a motion that requested the Police Department and a couple of city officials to prepare a report on the feasibility of the City Council banning high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Comment:  Here’s some free political advice for all elected officials.  Never, never call for a report.  It’s wimpy.  It looks like you’re not sure if you have a good idea or not.  It’s tiptoeing into the pool when you could be doing a cannonball.

Critics aren’t going to be less angry with you.  You’ll never please them by saying, “Well, I only asked for a report.”

Be bold.  Quietly research your idea.  That’s why City Council members have more staff than any other elected official in the nation.  Check it out with people you respect.  

Then submit a motion flat out calling for an action.  There will be reports prepared anyway after the motion is submitted, so you don’t need to ever ask for them.  

And while the reports are being prepared, and the issue is still timely, you can be at the center of a discussion around the idea, and not just an advocate for more studies.
News Item:  According to Rick Orlov at the Daily News, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he will be supportive of whoever the next mayor is, and he will not “comment on everything they do,” a slam at former mayor Richard Riordan.

Comment:  If Villaraigosa wants to continue with a meaningful role in public service after he leaves office, commenting on what the new mayor does, and proposing actions for the mayor would be a very productive thing to do.

As a former mayor he would be intimately familiar with city issues, and he would be better able to speak freely, absent the pressure to balance his opinions against their political ramifications.
Villaraigosa could choose to be, once again, a community activist.
News Item:  The two City Council members who made the hasty proposal to place a $3 billion street repair measure on the ballot decided to back off the idea after neighborhood councils said it wasn’t fair that they would not have time to review and comment on the idea.

Comment:  Not only might a decision to place the measure on the ballot have been unfair, it might have been illegal.  The new City Charter, enacted in 1999, includes language that guarantees neighborhood councils a reasonable enough time to weigh in on city hall’s decisions before they are made.

However, this wouldn’t have been the first time that the City Council waited until just before the legal deadline to introduce a ballot proposal.  

A few years ago, the City Council, at the urging of the mayor, the Department of Water and Power, and its biggest union, placed a measure on the ballot that would have created a solar energy program.

But the proponents held onto the idea so long that even some council members complained that they didn’t clearly understand what they were voting on.

I don’t think that the two council members were purposely trying to silence the public’s voice.  They’re both new, and I think they simply fell into the culture at the City Council that makes no effort to promote public participation in government, and doesn’t clearly understand why neighborhood councils exist.

Neighborhood councils should not leave the next step to the City Council.  The councils should assemble their best and brightest brains and draft some specifics that will back-up their most valuable City Charter right.

(Greg Nelson is a former general manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, was instrumental in the creation of the LA Neighborhood Council System, served as chief of staff for former LA City Councilman Joel Wachs …  and occasionally writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected])

Vol 11 Issue 6
Pub: Jan 18, 2013

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