DONE WATCH--"If you can't spot the sucker in your first half hour at a poker table, then you are the sucker." ('Rounders' 1998).
We have lots of uh-oh aphorisms in our vernacular, but let's add one: "When half the City Council sponsors a motion, it's a message!" If "REFORMS" is writ large at the top, it's not a vote of confidence.
Councilmember David Ryu's Health, Education, and Neighborhood Councils committee (HENC) dropped this council motion bomb back in May, pretty much declaring DONE needs to clean up its act. Reading like the Riot Act, this treatise is a sort-of checklist formula for a much-needed, pain relieving, NC administrative policy enema. But the bigger question is whether this is the necessary first step in reforming a department that should have been put down like 'Old Yeller' years ago?
So, for your consideration (when NC's may be formally commenting on this), we've curated 10 gems both on and off the current "Reforms" menu, here in the DONE Watch Zone:
- What's in a Name?
Clearly, the "DONE" and "BONC" acronyms are a challenge. Instead of rising to it, both groups have managed to turn these unfortunate labels into well-worn jokes, e.g., "BONCed by DONE." Sure, better names would help a little, but isn't it like slapping lipstick on a pig? Yes, stellar performance can overcome shoddy naming, the 'Beatles' was a sappy name for rock band, but DONE's past performance has not overcome "DONE", nor will it anytime soon, absent a regime change.
- Making Lemonade
After blowhard, Stephen Box, pissed off nearly everyone, he's been relegated to high-paid obscurity as DONE's "Public Information Officer"; somebody put Boxy in a corner. However, his zeal to spend millions "re-branding" a government agency (who does that?) may not have been a total waste; think "Your 'Neighborhood Councils Department (NCD)' Empowering LA!"
- Community Interest Stakeholders
DONE, BONC, and the City Attorney (plus José Huizar) all got a rude awakening when private lawyers in Westwood showed their mandatory "Ongoing and Substantial" stakeholder language actually validates just about ANYBODY as one. Good luck in the 2019 election cycle where Liu sold the idea of cramming over 90 councils into one election cycle. One where anyone can gross-up legal voting blocs to "flip" NC's: political parties, angry college students, gangs, developer-backed YIMBYs, ethnic groups, Scientologists, even white nationalists! All you need is a local mailing list of "like-minded" people and a Venti Latte or a Chicken McNugget receipt to get handed a valid NC ballot.
- NC Sub-Divisions
The DONE-BONC-CITY ATTORNEY "NC Triangle of Death" proves the road to hell is paved with good intentions (and bad policy making).
- NC Regional Grievance Panels
The same Triangle of Death in action with similar outcomes. HENC gave DONE and the City Attorney 60 days to "report back" on their ordinance creating these "quasi-judicial" kangaroo courts. That was 333 days ago. Crickets.
- Extended Board Terms / Selections in 2018
Three NC's opted to have "selections" instead of extending their board members' terms in office. It was the only option DONE offered in yet another city hall shell game to bolster an unwavering support of online voting (it's easier). In order to "prepare for expanded online voting in 2019," read: not botch it a third time, Liu successfully lobbied to have all NC elections pushed back a year, claiming it was too late to do adequate outreach. Yet, months later Los Feliz's NC managed to field 33 candidates for nine open seats and rung up 600+ voters (at about 25% the cost what DONE says it should). Oops. DONE also rejected requests to reimburse the three NC's miniscule added Selection costs for poll operations, balking at the idea of letting the City Clerk oversee a scant three polling places in 2018. In one move DONE dealt NC's a triple whammy undermining their legitimacy in the eyes of the public by: 1) Allowing Board members to extend their own terms like a Banana Republic. 2) Advocating online voting even though it's illegal for California officials by arguing NC's are actually 2nd-class "sub-municipal" officials and State Law need not apply to them. 3) Allowing Selections outright as a quick fix (they're easier).
- Opposing one NC Election Day (on Election Day)
DONE and the City Clerk are in lock-step saying they can't facilitate a citywide NC election day on any one day, even if it's the first Tuesday in November, when everything is already in place and poll hours are quadrupled across the city. This would skyrocket NC voter participation while saving millions in outreach, poll management, vote certification, etc. Not do-able? Even though tech savvy people, albeit ones not trained in municipal job justification, say a barcode, a tablet app, and an NC kiosk at a polling place gets the job done. The database that ID's someone's NC from an address already exists. So, why can't this be done, again? Uh, DONE, again.
- Cheerleaders vs. Real Leaders
Cheerleaders are great to have around. Rah, rah, go team! Especially for people who tend to take their eyes off the ball because they don't quite understand the game.
- Recognizing Success
In a recent Aspen Institute interview, Grayce Liu said (among other things), she measures NC success by the number of Community Impact Statements they file. Does the DONE General Manager realize an NC can file dozens of these things each month by "supporting" innocuous council motions for things like formal proclamations (the ones with the nice calligraphy) or the installation of street signage across the city? Chalk one up for quantity-over-quality. Warning: Do not click the article link if you're an NC Board member over 40.
- Denying Failure
Recently, Liu opined that the fact NC's failed to spend over $400K in funding last fiscal year is a good thing because the number is down from the previous year. That's like saying, "Awesome! We're starting to suck less at this."
(This advertorial was paid for by the DONE Watch Coalition, founded by Laura Velkei and supported by a coalition of Los Angeles neighborhood council activists.)