THE EASTSIDER - Almost a year ago, I urged all candidates for Mayor to promise to replace the General Manager of DONE and the (unpaid) members of BONC upon becoming Mayor.
No one took the opportunity then, but now we’re down to Karen Bass and Rick Caruso. So who’s up for the challenge?
In that article, I made the straightforward case:
“Let’s face it. Burrowing bureaucrat that she is, GM Raquel Beltran has used the pandemic to turn the NC system on its head and transform it into an authoritarian top down institution. And she has created a BONC which serves as her tool to do as she wants.
Anyhow, why should a potential Mayor refuse to bring in new blood as General Manager of DONE, or appoint new BONC Commissioners? Hell, they get to appoint every single Board and Commission until someone gets around to changing the LA City Charter.
If they won’t commit, look out for an Eric Garcetti lite in practice. If any will take the pledge, get behind those who are willing to step into the future.”
Since there is no indication that either Karen Bass or Rick Caruso has focus on the Neighborhood Council System, a good start would be for their staff to take a look at a June 2021 post that provides a quick overview as to how the Department has currently turned the NC system upside down, even as the General Manager tried to sneak a one million dollar budget increase in using a bureaucratic maneuver.
The takeaway was (and is):
“So here you have it. Within two years of Grayce Liu’s departure, Raquel Beltran has created a closed universe that she owns, with no supervision. An activist, authoritarian BONC (for what reason we know not), where she can feed them what she wants, and get them, not her, to take the votes on more and more issues that DONE will administer in the dark.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out that when your executive officer is someone who comes from the NGO and Public Policy end of the spectrum, there are always questions of “who knows who” in the letting of a no bid contract. Prior to coming to DONE, Raquel Beltran was with the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, which seems to me to make this a legitimate line of inquiry.
With the Mayor everywhere but in Los Angeles looking for a gig, it just may be that we have to wait for the 2022 City Elections to see if anything gets better. In the meantime, the people who were responsible back in the day for our Neighborhood Council system will just have to weep.”
A Lincoln Heights Test Case
In the botched 2020 Neighborhood Council elections, a purely Social Media entity appeared on Facebook, called LincolnHeightsIntel. It was a synthetic creation designed to qualify as a “stakeholder” for the Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council elections.
The City Clerk refused to legitimize the group, however Raquel Beltran as DONE General Manager overrode the City Clerk’s decision and allowed the address less entity to participate in LHNC elections. As I wrote in December 2021:
“And here we go again, with Lincoln Heights as ground zero. It now appears that a social media group called Lincoln Heights Intel, has decided to run a slate of 10 candidates to take over the Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council as they allegedly fly the flag of Socialism! No kidding.
So here’s the part I don’t get: In Lincoln Heights, there are 26 Board seats. Yet when you look at the list of certified candidates, there are only 10 positions which have any candidates at all, and 6 of the 10 seats only have one candidate running.
Even if Lincoln Heights Intel lost every seat they are running in that has more than one candidate, they would still win a majority of the 10 seats, because all 6 of the uncontested seats have Lincoln Heights Intel slate candidates running unopposed.
Six out of ten is a majority, but even with all elected seats filled, they are still way short of the 14 needed to constitute a quorum and conduct business.”
As it finally worked out, the group captured a clear majority and took over the Neighborhood Council. Raquel Beltran precipitated this legally questionable power grab by putting out a 40 page piece of drivel called the 2021 Election Guide. It came with a “Documentation Guide.” Honest. As I pointed out in the same article:
“Germane to the rest of this article, they also announced a true bit of persiflage called “Documentation Guide” for “If you participate in a NC as a Community Interest Stakeholder”. A fair reading of this bit of nonsense essentially says that as long as someone says they “have involvement”in any “community organization” that has any interest in a Neighborhood Councils, by golly you to can get on the Board!
As we shall see later, a mostly social media entity, Lincoln Heights Intel” hoist DONE and the City Clerk by their own petards.”
Now that we have the context, let’s key in on one of the longstanding members of the LHNC, one Richard Larsen, who is an architect and was Chair of the Land Use Committee.
The Lincoln Heights Intel folks had no use for someone other than them interfering with their running of the Council, so they illegally removed him from the Board on some trumped up ploy. Larsen, not going quietly into the dark, tried to appeal the termination to DONE, and later, BONC. What he got was a couple of years of run around from GM Beltran, losing documents, denying grievances through inaction, and siding with her inappropriate creation, LincolnHeightsIntel.
When he tried to appeal to BONC, it never made an agenda. Recently, after over a year of looking for due process, GM Beltran suggested that he “file a grievance”.
It seems to me that promising to clean house at DONE and BONC is a more difficult proposition for Karen Bass than for Rick Caruso. She is, for better or worse, linked into the 15-0 LA City Council. They are perfectly happy to dump the Neighborhood Councils on somebody else, even if it’s a martinet named Raquel Beltran. Less for them to have to deal with.
I think that the idea of cleaning house would be a better fit with Rick Caruso, since he has no particular ties to the current City Council members, and has nothing to do with outgoing Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is too busy looking for another job to care about much else.
It could be a political plus. Have his people meet with the real activists in the NC Movement, like the Budget Advocates, LANCC leaders, and DWP Committee for starters.
For those who follow history, the Neighborhood Council system was a direct result of the San Fernando Valley as they sought to secede from Los Angeles City back in 2001. And many in the Valley have not forgotten.
It seems to me that the Neighborhood Council leaders provide a fast way for a potentially new Mayor to get up to speed on how things really work. It costs nothing, and there are some very good people in these citywide leadership roles.
sk what they think of the idea of replacing the General Manager and the BONC Board members.
(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.)