Sat, Apr

LA Neighborhood Councils: Why Can’t We Rock the Damn Boat?


NEIGHBORHOODS LA-Why is it when there are so many important issues to try to resolve, our Neighborhood Council leaders resort to debating minutia? 

  • Why can’t we make changes to the NC system to increase its effectiveness?
  • Why do we have to limit discussion on an open facebook page?
  • Why can’t we rock the damn boat? 

If I sound frustrated … I am! We seem to be falling all over ourselves and majoring in missed opportunities. Add to that the newest bone of contention … free speech vs. censorship. The City Attorney stated that NC’s don’t have to play nice with each other since we are elected officials  - and subject to the free speech amendment. Of course paid elected officials get paid to take the abuse and we get abused for free. 

We have a tremendous opportunity to take our Neighborhood Council system to the next level. It is like starting a business. You put in all the sweat equity at the front end and eventually get to break even or perhaps make a small profit. The next stage is the most treacherous because you want to expand, and that means taking greater risks and necessitates a different kind of talent. 

I’m fearful that we have too many “don’t rock the boat” thinkers and not enough visionaries. NC land is ready to go to the next level but where are the leaders? Where are the big ideas? We seem to be bogged down by one group … the founders who would like to have greater freedom to do whatever they want to do—which is nebulous- the second group are so obsessed by the  Brown Act, the Sunshine Act, and Roberts Rules of Order that they can spend an entire meeting discussing someone on the Board who posted a meeting notice ten minutes late.  The third group are not organized or loud enough...the “boat rockers” and visionaries. 

One of my fellow CityWatch scribes recently posted a question on why we can’t have an intelligent exchange of ideas using our social media outlets - culminating in a real Neighborhood Congress where important issues are debated – not  rubber stamping a foregone conclusion. 

Full dislosure: I am Co-Chair of the LA Neighborhood Congress workshop program taking place at City Hall on September 20th.  This is a well received and respected gathering of NC stakeholders and Board members. Talk about grass roots ... sixty-five Neighborhood Councils attended the last Congress out of ninety-five.  More than 700 delegates are expected this year along with the Mayor and elected officials. 

What an incredible opportunity to make waves, to inspire action, exchange ideas and come up with a smart way forward to the next level of success. Having sat through a couple of preliminary meetings, I am already so tired of hearing “It worked well last time so we don’t need to make changes.” 

Complacency is a major factor in business failure and in organizations losing their potency. Just because something worked before, doesn’t mean doing new things should be discouraged. We should strive to be better! 

Putting together a Citywide Congress is a huge undertaking. In my prior life my company would have charged major bucks to produce this kind of event.  The NC’s contribute money from their individual budgets. A large group of volunteers, along with a coordinator from EmpowerLA do the work. The LA Neighborhood Congress is the perfect place to “rock the boat”, as well as having a full complement of “How To” seminars and workshops. 

I feel a little like Don Quixote fighting windmills...but then again I’ve had a lot of experience in rocking the boat. 

I welcome your comments


(Denyse Selesnick is a Tarzana Neighborhood Council Board Member, 2014 Election Chair (for ten more days), Vice-Chair Outreach Committee.  She covers activities, policies and foibles in NC Land. She can be reached at [email protected]





Vol 12 Issue 20

Pub: Mar 7, 2014





Get The News In Your Email Inbox Mondays & Thursdays