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Tue, May

Report from Inside the BONC Retreat: Signs of Life!

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NEIGHBORHOODS LA-I’ve been pretty tough on the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners (BONC) in the last year.  I was underwhelmed by their performance and abilities to both engage Neighborhood Councils (NC) in the areas that mattered and equally important have influence with our local government officials. 

They were able to pull together a citywide Neighborhood Action Plan a year ago. This has been part of a larger effort that began in December 2012, when the Commission created three (3) standing regional committees to conduct a thorough review of the Plan for a Citywide System of Neighborhood Councils. These Plan review committees were comprised of Neighborhood Council leaders representing forty (40) of the City's ninety-five (95) Neighborhood Councils and were grouped according to the following Regions:  1) North/South Valley, 2) Central/East/Northeast, and 3) Harbor/South/West. 

 

As of now, only one item has been passed by the City Council. It is the definition of “community interest non-resident stakeholder” for NC Board election purposes. Basically the ordinance passed by the City Council says "that neighborhood council membership will be open to everyone who lives, works or owns real property in the neighborhood and also to those who declare a stake in the neighborhood as a community interest stakeholder, defined as a person who affirms a substantial and ongoing participation within the neighborhood council's boundaries and who may be in a community organization such as, but not limited to, educational, non-profit and/or religious organizations;" 

It is still confusing since it is subject to wide interpretation.  What we do know is that a Star Bucks coffee receipt is no longer substantiation to vote.  A developer can’t send in his construction crew to vote even if the building they are working on is in the designated area and pot shops can’t send their clients.  All of these things have happened previously.

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A hot button issue is the limitations put on NC’s when they wish to address the City Council on behalf of their Neighborhood or geographical Alliance. For those people not in proximity of City Hall it can take hours to get there, wait hours to speak and then have the discussion terminated.  They get treated like the general public and many times if public comments are too long NC’s are limited to one minute or ignored all together. 

Supposedly BONC will present the recommendation that official NC representatives appear BEFORE the general public and have five minutes to speak. It should go to the appropriate Council committee in the near future.

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The other issue, which is taking far too long to pass, is “Posting”- Now, a Neighborhood Council must post a physical notice and agenda in five different public areas for Board and Committee meetings.  This is a holdover from the dated Brown Act, which was passed decades before the advent of the Internet.

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So what is new? First of all there are currently four … soon to be five … new commissioners.  They are going to be fun to watch.  It has already started.   I attended their annual retreat held last week.  Unfortunately the audience could be counted on one hand.  Obviously they weren’t expecting a large crowd since there was very limited parking and room for an audience.  The agenda and the facilitator were thorough and very professional.  It was a chance to see the new Commissioners in action so here are a few first impressions. 

Joy Atkinson (South Los Angeles), the most recent addition, expressed shock that the Commissioners have no real power.  They can suggest, cajole, advise but cannot implement new policies. She has served on other Commissions and has no difficulty in expressing her opinion.  I think she will be an active participant and not terribly accepting of “no you can’t do that.” 

 

Lydia Grant (North Valley) is a whirling dervish of activity.  So far, since her appointment, she has attended 25 different NC Board meetings in and out of her territory.  She explains it by saying she wants to know what is actually going on instead of the Commissioners just listening to each other. She has been instrumental in getting Kevin James and the Public Works Department to ask for a Public Works representative from each NC. Street services are a big factor for Los Angeles residents. 

Victor Medina, (Harbor), gets impatient with minutia.  I detect a “let’s get this done” attitude rather than talking it to death.  

Olivia Rubio, (East LA/Boyle Heights) has an elegant way of listening- not always talking- but when she does- it is right to the point. 

The two long time Commissioners, Karen Mack, (Central Los Angeles) President and Len Shaffer (South Valley) Vice President, are going to find themselves in a new ball park. 

BONC is going to be evaluated like the rest of the City commissions and agencies.  If these seven appointed officials are going to truly be the NC conduit to our local government, they have their work cut out for them.  I am cautiously optimistic.

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I am still getting emails from all over the City regarding the “bullying” situation.  BONC, EmpowerLA and the City Attorney’s office are supposed to come up with some guidelines.  It is again a question of first amendment rights vs. bad behavior.  More grievances have been filed against the Neighborhood Empowerment Associates (NEA).  There has been no resolution to the grievance filed by the NEA’s against the peer volunteer mentoring group- Counsel for Councils (C4C).

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Some good things are happening. The Mayor is sending his second round of the “Pot Hole” Blitz to various neighborhoods.  Neighborhood Councils like Reseda, are having monthly “clean up the streets” programs. Public safety events are being held throughout the City.  

Department of Water and Power has a new General Manager. There may even be some answers to the missing 40 million dollar boondoggle. We even got some rain. 

As always I welcome your comments and suggestions.

 

(Denyse Selesnick is a Board member, 2014 Election Chair and Vice Chair of the Outreach Committee for the Tarzana Neighborhood Council.  She is a contributor to CityWatch covering activities and policies in NC Land. She can be reached at [email protected]

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 12 Issue 10

Pub: Feb 4, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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