DEEGAN ON LA-What does it take to access the corridors of power in City Hall, establish a by-name relationship with key departments, be recognized on sight by your councilmember and staff, and possibly even share an elevator ride with the Mayor and buttonhole him about your community’s issues?
It takes two things: knowledge and position. So get yourself elected to your Neighborhood Council and then get yourself trained because one feeds into the other in our citywide NC system of 96 Neighborhood Councils. With over 1,800 board members representing neighborhoods across the city, the NCs are city-chartered grass roots organizations that have been empowered for a decade. They help connect residents to the world of city planning as well as other processes.
Los Angeles City Charter Section 900 defines the purpose of Neighborhood Councils as: “To promote more citizen participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs.”
Cindy Cleghorn, Chair of the Neighborhood Council Congress 2016, points out that “about half of Los Angeles’ Neighborhood Council board members were elected to a Neighborhood Council for the first time in the most recent cycle of neighborhood council elections that were completed earlier in the summer, and that brings a new class of board members into the system that will need to learn how to navigate the civic ecosystem.”
Describing the Congress, Cleghorn says, “The Congress is a once a year opportunity for Neighborhood Councils across the City to come together at City Hall for a day of education and communication for the entire NC System. It is an opportunity to speak one on one with our city's elected officials, department officials and each other. Also, to take advantage of a wealth of specialty workshops created by and for Neighborhood Council leaders. This year’s Congress seeks to advance the Neighborhood Councils’ advisory power needed for the enhancement and/or preservation of our communities.”
Several hundred “newbies” and NC veterans are expected at City Hall on Saturday, September 24, for the 2016 Congress of Neighborhoods. Presented by the Neighborhood Councils of Los Angeles and the city’s Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE), this year’s theme -- “Neighborhoods First: Your Voice, Our City” -- examines how local focus can create citywide impact.
The Congress is an all-day free education featuring a range of sessions that will teach participants about their roles and responsibilities as board members, and introduce them to some of the intricacies of working the system, now that they are freshly-minted political and civic insiders.
Registration at www.NCCongressLA.com went live on August 22. Over 700 Neighborhood Council leaders from across the City are expected to attend the annual event.
What will they learn? The menu of choices is tantalizing, with over 40 workshops and discussion panels held during four 75-minute sessions. Participants will be able to choose from topics in the areas of:
- Leadership skills
- Planning and land use class series
- Managing your City funds
- Writing & sharing Community Impact Statements
- Purposeful aging
- Code enforcement
- Outreach, social media and PR
Ethics training (which is required of all Neighborhood Council members) will also be available. Classroom space fills up fast, so early registration is encouraged.
Each year, leading City officials like the Mayor, City Councilmembers, the City Controller, and the City Attorney have spoken at the opening and closing sessions of the Congress. Headline speakers are still being confirmed, but so far, City Council President Herb J. Wesson, Jr, and City Councilmembers Paul Krekorian (CD 2), Bob Blumenfield (CD 3), David Ryu (CD4), Paul Koretz (CD 5), and Marqueece Harris-Dawson (CD 8) are scheduled to appear.
It’s a fact, known through observing the success of many previous Congress events, that participants come away smarter and more informed about their board positions and the role of NCs. Also indisputable, is that their new knowledge directly impacts how much better they are able to work for the communities they serve. For many, attending a Congress is just the beginning of a political curriculum that helps prepare them for service to community and city – and could possibly be a stepping stone in their own political careers. Who would want to miss that?
The Congress runs from 7:45 am - 4:30 pm, on Saturday September 24, at City Hall. It includes four workshops, breakfast, lunch, and opening and closing sessions. Attendees may come and go as their schedules permit.
Here's an outline of the day:
7:45 am – Breakfast
8:30 am – Welcome
9:25 am - Session 1 workshops
10:50 am - Session 2 workshops
noon – Lunch
1:20 pm - Session 3 workshops
2:45 pm - Session 4 workshops
4:05 pm - Closing session
Everything is free if you RSVP, including admission to over 40 workshops, exhibit tables, catered meals and parking! Sign up at www.NCCongressLA.com. This is about the only time you’ll ever get a free lunch at City Hall.
Attend the Congress, and go home empowered!
(Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the Mid City West Community Council and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at email@example.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.