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Change: Uncomfortable But Necessary

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NEIGHBORHOODS LA-There are many changes taking place in the City of Angels right now. Mayor Garcetti is trying to drag the City government into the 21st century technologically …and some are kicking and screaming. Most people do not embrace change enthusiastically. The Mayor is also shaking up some departments with new Department Heads. 

 

Even with a new LA Fire Chief (James Featherstone is serving as interim Chief) to be announced, there is a dramatic change in attitude. LAFD has historically been aloof to community outreach. LAFD is now reaching out to Angelenos to get their opinions on how to make the Fire Department more responsive. It is not only response times to emergency calls, but also involves public safety and working with the community. 

At the recent Los Angeles Neighborhood Coalition Council (LANCC) meeting, chaired by Terry Gomes (South Robertson NC), LAFD’s Chief John Drake and Captain Kristin Crowley discussed the department’s development of its strategic plan, which USC will help complete by the end of this year. LAFD has the third largest total in the City budget (five hundred million dollars) but has no strategic plan.They are reaching out to stakeholders to develop a partnership and invite everyone to participate in a survey to determine the future. If you are interested in participating- and if you are reading this article I know you are- please visit www.surveymonkey.com/s/lafd.   

My colleague and CityWatch Watchdog Jack Humphreville, also discussed the Coalition for Fair and Sustainable Pensions.  This group is actively working to get the Pension Reform act of 2014 on next year’s November ballot. It would provide California cities, counties and other government agencies with clear authority to deal with increasing retirement costs by allowing changes to pension and retiree healthcare benefits going forward, insuring employees get paid the benefits they earned. 

Sometimes the most interesting items come at the end of the meeting, when NC’s present get a turn at the microphone to discuss what is on their minds. Cindy Cleghorn, Chair of the successful LA Neighborhoods Congress held in September, reminded everyone to fill out the post-congress survey which may be downloaded at www.empowerla.org. 

Coincidentally, David Rockello, President, Rampart NC, brought up a subject I had been mulling over, since the Congress was held. As a “retired” event planner, our mission was to improve every event and trade show to the best of our abilities. David, as well as many other people agree, the afternoon session, which covered awards and a fifteen minute two motions vote, was a wasted opportunity to explore real issues and solve problems. 

David even went so far as to prepare a complete suggested LANCC motion (with all of the “where as’s” and ordinance reference numbers)- to satisfy the “legalese” necessary to hold a proper town hall. Terry Gomes promised to put it on the agenda as an action item, next month. 

With more than 750 people in attendance at the Neighborhoods Congress - from 80 plus Neighborhood Councils -  the Neighborhoods Congress it is the perfect place to have a real discussion on the issues, challenges and potential of the Neighborhood Council system.  He suggested a facilitator outside the Congress Planning Committee or any of the other related groups, be responsible for conducting a real town hall meeting. 

It is probably the only time that 80 plus NC’s are together under one roof.  The facilitator should be trained in not letting it dissolve into a circus. It will be interesting to see how LANCC treats the suggestion and if it will pass it along to the Congress Planning committee. 

Some additional thoughts from the meeting and the Congress: 

The Eight Alliances of Neighborhood Councils are the group closest to stakeholders. Collectively, they represent the almost four million people living in Los Angeles, and as such, are more aware of both the challenges and potential of their neighborhoods - and how to best perform the NC mandate under the LA Charter.  They should take a more active role in the Congress next year. 

Many people have suggested the Alliances take on a project to be presented, discussed and voted on at the next Congress. The representatives should meet during the year, discuss how to approach the project and come up with ideas that truly represent the City. Working on a joint project promotes understanding of differences between groups and also promotes a bonding experience. As an example it is not just “that NC in the Harbor Area” or that LANCC group… it is my friend Yvonne from ECW, or Ivan from Venice. 

I can speak from experience. The Tarzana Neighborhood Council just completed a very successful Public Safety and Disaster Preparedness Fair with four other Neighborhood Councils in our district 3: Canoga Park, Reseda, Woodland Hills/Warner Center and Winnetka.  The end result was “What is our next joint project?”. 

Now we come to BONC- there are five new commissioners, and two returning commissioners.

I have had a chance to meet some of the new ones and have hopes that it will become a revitalized Commission which lives up to its charge and reaches its potential.   Their role in the Congress was minimal.  It is important that recognition be given to the EmpowerLA award winners.  It would seem that additional value would be for BONC to present its achievements for the past year to the full Congress. 

BONC seems to serve more as a punitive body, instead of being NC Cheerleaders. On the other hand, the procedural nine points given to the NC Planning Review Committee and that are awaiting approval from the 95 NC’s- are important - BUT the Commissioners need to get out and visit individual NC meetings in their area of representation. How about some listening- instead of just reporting BONC thinking?  Perhaps if they had asked they might have had more than nine points. 

As a suggestion, it would be great to see BONC outline its strategic plan for the next six months on its website; describe what duties each of the Commissioners has been assigned; and allow its constituents to have a way of measuring its effectiveness. The Mayor is requiring this from all his Departments. It should be the standard for all of the Commissions as well. 

Thank you for your comments….positive and negative.  If you have something you would like explored, please let me know.

 

(Denyse Selesnick is Vice Chair/Outreach for the Tarzana Neighborhood Council and a contributor to CW submitting articles on NC Land.  She can be reached at [email protected]) [

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 11 Issue 89

Pub: Nov 5, 2013

 

 

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