Fri, Apr

Has Putin Become the GM of DONE?


GELFAND’S WORLD - In his lying and making of excuses, Putin is just following in a long tradition that reached a peak in the Nazi’s use of the Big Lie.

In the modern day, it was used in this country by the former administration. At the moment, Putin and his henchmen are caught in a logical loop where they explain that they will blow up Ukrainians until the victims come to their senses and realize their deep love for mother Russia. At the moment, the love doesn't seem to be developing, but the death toll is. 

At a lesser extent, but worthy of taking note, we see the same approach, albeit without murderous intent, among our city's appointed commissioners and at least one departmental General Manager. I refer to the proposal currently before the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners that originally -- back in 2020 -- would have in effect forbidden neighborhood council board members from engaging in online communications such as Facebook when it came to anything about neighborhood councils. Second class citizenship was the intent, even if it was to be camouflaged by legalistic boilerplate. 

The proposal was accompanied by a proposed BONC motion that would enact it. The proposal has morphed somewhat during the ensuing months, but the draft motion does not seem to have changed. 

It's this draft motion that I present to you as Putinesque, even though it was written before the current Ukraine situation. There are a couple of paragraphs I would like to share with you here: 

"WHEREAS, neighborhood councils have requested guidance on the use of their websites, social media, and newsletters to allow them to engage with their stakeholders without infringing on the rights of the public; 

"WHEREAS, neighborhood councils have requested guidance on the permissible discussion of neighborhood council matters by individual neighborhood council members on private social media and websites;" 

So that's where it all came from -- we asked them to take our rights away. 

Sure thing. 

There is even that phrase "without infringing on the rights of the public," which certainly didn't come from us. 

OK, I can imagine that there were some inquiries over a few real world issues. One neighborhood council had a problem because their former webmaster walked away and did not share the key codes that would have enabled the replacement webmaster to update the site. This is the sort of problem that can be fixed by sending an email to each board president, advising that they make sure that they have full and permanent access before they make their first payment. Not that hard. Instead, DONE and BONC proposed to rectify the situation by creating a cumbersome new bureaucracy with an appointed neighborhood council official and DONE ownership of the sites and the codes. 

Not a huge deal, although it wouldn't have worked because it demanded that we each appoint somebody who would be on duty 24 hours a day for no pay. Lotsa luck with that. 

But the proposal (originally section 9) would have put limits on board member use of social media, the process of liking or friending somebody else's post, and a few veiled threats for what would happen to you if you did so. 

And supposedly we came hat in hand, begging them to enact these rules. 

Curiously, I don't remember our local group or anybody I know asking DONE and BONC to start doing all this rule making. I don't recall any neighborhood council in the harbor area doing so. 

Importantly, I don't recall any neighborhood council board passing such a request by majority vote. There may have been requests by individuals for some such guidance, but the experienced people have learned to avoid asking DONE and BONC to start their rule-making process, because they always muck it up somehow. 

And guess what? The record that you can find on the DONE website (empowerLA.org) shows exactly that. Here's how it works: A neighborhood council board can, after open discussion and majority vote, pass a statement known as a Community Impact Statement, or CIS for short. It represents the official position of the neighborhood council. 

It turns out that over the past year or so, a total of 22 neighborhood councils considered the draft policy on digital communications. Of this total, 13 opposed it outright. Besides favoring the proposal (exactly one neighborhood council out of the 22), there are two other categories which say, in effect, "we will favor this proposal if certain changes are made," or "we oppose this proposal unless certain changes are made." The remaining 8 CIS's were divided equally among these. Thus 17 out of 22 CIS's opposed completely or mainly. One favored, but if you read the actual CIS, it too points out that changes need to be made. The remaining CIS statements make clear that the parts of the proposed rules that deal with our personal freedom of speech have to go. 

In brief, fully three-quarters of the CIS statements were either in complete opposition or pretty strong opposition, and the remaining one-fifth had problems with the proposal. 

I will point out that most of the detailed boiler plate from the original draft that would have forbidden us to speak or print things has been removed. But we had to fight the authoritarians and their authoritarian mindset for more than a year. The proposal should never have been made. We are tired of having to defend our simple freedoms and our independence from these people. And the BONC motion claiming that we asked for them to waste our time and limit our freedoms has to be modified to take out those half-lies. 

The Stockholm Syndrome and its analogue at the neighborhood council level 

The term "Stockholm Syndrome" was invented after a group of people were taken hostage. When they finally were released, it turned out that some of them had developed a liking for their captors. Somehow being around the captors caused some of the victims to identify with the captors. 

I'm not saying that the neighborhood council system is captors and the captured, but there is something weird going on in this election year. We've been bossed around and bullied by the system for years now -- everything including stupid required trainings to newly invented trainings to threats against our elected board membership. The city took over our board elections and the result has been pretty much of a disaster. And it goes on . . . 

But we do have city elections coming up and these include the mayor and about half of the City Council members. And what are our neighborhood council participants doing? 

Hint: The thing we should be doing is talking to every mayoral candidate and demanding that the BONC membership be fully replaced along with the General Manager of DONE. We should be saying the same thing to the City Council candidates. 

I am not seeing a lot of that. But the same people who are always advising restraint -- don't poke the elected City Council representative because he/she will retaliate -- they are still giving the same advice. It may not exactly be the Stockholm Syndrome, but it is a learned response that has seeped through our system and needs to be drained out of it. 

Right now is the time for an attitude modification because the next couple of months before the primary election are critical moments. It is the time when it is most likely for us to get such commitments. 

To repeat, here is a short list of commitments we need to get from each candidate: 

1) Replace the BONC members with people who are recommended by working neighborhood council participants and 

2) Replace the DONE GM with someone who has been vetted by, among others, neighborhood council participants in an open process. The part about the open process is critical. 


On Saturday, the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC) passed a motion demanding that participants in the neighborhood council system be afforded the due process rights that the city supposedly promises. This has been one of the worst abuses by the city and its agencies. It's time to fix it.


(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)