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LA: Are the Country’s Richest City Council Members Under Worked?

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MY TURN-Now that we have learned our elected City officials are the highest paid in the country it is time to evaluate if we are getting our money’s worth.  I realize that there are many Angelenos who feel that they never get their money’s worth, but that is a more emotional rather than rational response. 

It was brought to my attention that one of the City Council Members duties is to sit on a committee designated by the City Council President.  Since we are constantly hearing how transparent LA has become  with all of its finances on line etc, I thought it would be a relatively easy task to see what are the duties and responsibilities of these various committees. 

We all know that there is little love lost between Council President, Herb Wesson and Councilman Bernard Parks.  Wesson removed Parks as Chair of the prestigious Budget and Finance Committee and basically gave him the booby prize; Chair of Neighborhoods and Education (NE). 

I literally spent hours trying to find out what the NE Committee is supposed to do since they hadn’t met for eleven months.  Here is the back story on why the meeting occurred. Apparently, one of Councilman Parks constituent groups wished to change the name of their neighborhood. He asked President Wesson if he could just bring it to the full Council without going through the NE Committee.  

Terrence Gomes, Chair of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition ( LANCC) had asked Wesson, on behalf of the Coalition, to have an NE committee meeting scheduled, since it was almost a year since they last met.   According to Gomes, the Council President was surprised at the inactivity. 

Councilman Parks was informed that the name change had to go through his NE committee before it came to the full Council for approval.  Thus a meeting was scheduled and some of the Neighborhood Councils most pressing issues were put on the agenda. 

Because I try to deal in facts and not innuendos or rumors, I thought it would be relatively easy to check out the Committee’s minutes, accomplishments, members etc.   I went to LACity.org  and ended up in web site hell.  In order to find out  what the NE committee was supposed to do, I needed a file number. You can’t just click on a Council Committee and get their information. 

Fortunately, a very helpful Richard Windsor in the City Clerk’s office, sent me the council file number and the date the committees were approved. 

For those of you who are curious as to what being a City Council member includes, check out ,  File  13- 2083 which was passed on July 2, 2013, right after the inauguration of the new elected officials. 

It lists each committee and what their jurisdiction includes.  If one wants to see who is on the committee and when they are supposed to meet,  its back to the City website.  I consider myself to be somewhat savvy on obtaining research online.  I was ready to pull my hair out!  When I called Councilman Park’s office to see if they could shed some light … they had no answers. 

I went to the meeting at City Hall at 1:00 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon.  There were a surprising number of people there for workday.  Obviously the name change was important to this neighborhood group and there were several stakeholders wanting to weigh in on the resolution to split some Neighborhood Councils into more like groups. 

The three Council members on the NE committee were in attendance: Nury Martinez (photo above) is up for re-election March 3), Mitchell O’Farrell and Chairman Bernard Parks (photo right) who is termed out this June … along with Darren Martinez from the City Attorney’s office. 

Councilmember Nury Martinez spent most of the two hours texting and after two hours excused herself because she had “another meeting.”  Since she hadn’t met with this Committee since last March one would have thought she would at least for appearances sake stick it out.  Councilman O’Farrell looked both amused and slightly bored.  He sits on four other committees which undoubtedly are more interesting. 

It was apparent that this Committee wasn’t considered a priority.  That exacerbated my hunt for what the Neighborhoods Education Committee was supposed to do. 

The City Council is organized into committees overseeing the functions of government.  They  have regularly scheduled meetings either weekly or twice a month—- EXCEPT for the NE Committee which is supposed to meet monthly… not yearly! 

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 Committees are to bring recommendations to the full Council for approval or disapproval.  I was told that most of the work gets done at the committee level.  There is more opportunity for stakeholders to participate.  That makes sense, since if anyone has sat through a  regular Council meeting on Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday almost nothing substantial seems to get accomplished. 

According to the Ordinance, this is what the NE Committee is supposed to oversee: 

“City schools; Department of Neighborhood Empowerment; City’s Child Care Coordinator; siting and location of new schools; after school programs; childcare issues; city’s day care programs; school governance and school board ethics; joint use opportunities with school facilities;  school safety issues;  Neighborhood Councils; community naming or renaming; and civic participation and empowerment.” 

I will not insult either your or my intelligence by saying that the above issues needed no involvement of the City in the last year.  School issues and the lack  of civic participation has been front page news constantly.  I cannot think of any excuse the NE Committee members have for their lack of attention. 

It is true that Councilman Parks is winding down.  He misses quite a few Council meetings.  The word on the street is he is finishing his legacy in his District and the rest of the City be damned.  He has a long history as a public servant, first in the LAPD, then as Police Chief and then Councilman for three four year terms.  He was a fiscal conservative as Chair of the budget and Finance Committee and has always been outspoken and a controversial figure. 

He also gets to “double dip” his pensions… collecting from both the Police pension fund and the Council pension fund.  I think he is tired of the battle and is now coasting till June 30. 

Some of you will undoubtedly accuse me of being naive (again) but I would think that neighborhoods and education are priorities for any City…and especially Los Angeles.  

To sum it up…I think it is a damned disgrace that our well compensated elected officials  can choose to ignore their responsibilities.  Someone on Wesson’s team should have alerted him about the inactivity.  He is the Boss and should know what is happening with his appointees. 

So, whoever is the next President of the City Council remember that Neighborhoods are the ones that elect you in the first place.  Please appoint Council members who really care about their responsibilities and will enthusiastically tackle the challenges within their jurisdiction. 

As an aside I did contact both Martinez and O’ Farrell’s office to see if they had any plans for the NE Committee.  So far no response! 

As always comments welcome.

 

(Denyse Selesnick is a featured CityWatch columnist.  She is a former Publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: [email protected]. )

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 16

Pub: Feb 24, 2015

 

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