DONE WATCH--Throughout 2018 nearly every LA neighborhood council had their bylaws surreptitiously changed. Most of them still don't know anything about it. Does yours?
If you haven't cross-checked your most recent bylaws against the new "official" versions hidden found here, you may want to do that, like right away.
In keeping with its tradition of smoky mirror transparency, the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) "amended" NC bylaws en masse and handed them back to the City Clerk (with new "revised" dates) to be read as gospel for conducting 94 elections across the city in 2019.
To be fair, there is some obscure city administrative code allowing DONE to go in and do this kind of quick fix editing. The problem is DONE gets lots of stuff wrong, a lot of the time, and DONE's staff appears to have once again gone way "above and beyond" their charge. These types changes are restricted to election-related information, e.g. changing: "election in even numbered years" to read: "election in odd numbered years." Alas, as DONE knows better, it seems they tweaked some other things? This is reminiscent of when they changed every council's bylaws a few years ago with new quick fix passages... riddled with misspellings and awful grammar!
As one of the first NC's up in the 2019 general election queue, the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council (HHWNC) found something wasn't quite right when the City Clerk initiated candidate registration. According to HHWNC President, Anastasia Mann, the online registration system blocked people because it had the wrong map boundaries programmed into it, essentially telling applicants they were ineligible to run. Another councilmember caught the error, but only the City Clerk knows if they ran down any prospective candidates that may have been turned away. As we're all aware, no one on the city's payroll admits fault. Ever.
"They have our map wrong. That's for sure," Mann said.
Guess what DONE updated in HHWNC's bylaws on August 1, 2018? The official boundary map. Guess what DONE updated in almost all-- if not every-- neighborhood council's bylaws? All of your official boundary maps! Begging the question, have any other NC boundaries been programmed into the City Clerk's system wrong, too?
Many councils may simply now have just a new map, albeit one embossed with two new City Clerk logos, because, hey, that's a super crucial change. However, Los Feliz found more than just logo changes after comparing the bylaws on its website (the ones for "public record") and DONE's phantom edition.
According to Dan McNamara, LFNC's VP of Administration, he was aware of a slight modification pending to their Barnsdall Park area, but the council later found boundary lines redrawn for Griffith Park too, ones they hadn't been told about. Oops.
Why DONE's online map ID's the dead center of Griffith Park as being in Atwater Village is anyone's guess.
Atwater Village is east of the L.A. River, the center of Griffith Park is not. OK, whatever.
Check. Your. Bylaws.
Longtime LFNC Boardmember, Linda Demmers, ran a line-by-line comparison of her council's bylaws against DONE's. She flagged changes on their title page and in their table of contents (errors, actually) showing someone tinkered with more than just a map without any public discussion, you know, like for transparency? Demmers found this a bit intrusive, saying, "For me it was the principle that Bylaws are sacred to a neighborhood council and that only the NC can make revisions."
Check. Your. Bylaws.
When queried on how this could've happened, DONE's Neighborhood Empowerment Advocate ("NEA"), Julien Antelin, emailed LFNC officers in December stating unequivocally, "Don't believe the urban legends saying that DONE changes bylaws without telling board members."
To prove his point, Antelin re-sent an earlier email from November that began: "Dear Los Feliz Boardmembers," which, again, to be fair, did describe DONE'S bylaw map change. See? Except no one on LFNC's Board was actually addressed, cc'd or bcc'd on Antelin's advisory email. D'oh! Both haughty and misinformed, another DONE field rep who gets it wrong. Who trains these people?
What's certain is no one on LFNC's Board got DONE's email, ergo knew anything about their bylaws being changed (and a new version being "out there" somewhere). Maybe it was an honest mistake? Except for numerous other councils we contacted whose bylaws were tweaked who also never got any notification about it, either.
Alligators inhabiting city sewers is an urban legend. DONE screwing stuff up is our unfortunate urban reality, especially when it comes to NC elections. Studio City: 2016, anyone?
An NC's bylaws are an integral election component specifying who can run, who can vote, where they need to live or work or own property or occupy some "substantial and ongoing" space under our still-defective stakeholder definition. If what an NC thinks their bylaws say differs from what the City Clerk says they say, it's a recipe for an Election Day disaster. Folks, consider this fair warning.
(This paid content is from DONE Watch, a coalition of Los Angeles neighborhood council activists, founded by Laura Velkei in 2017)