Tue, Mar

LA’s Neighborhood Councils: Whatever Happened to the Truth?


VOICES-The post began “A very important election is coming up and we need a change. I am talking about the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council election.” 

As a sitting board member, I sighed. The allegations went on providing more than a little misinformation about what has transpired in terms of current board activities and Tiny Houses in particular. 

I should not be surprised or dismayed by the blatant misrepresentations being passed along as truth, but I am. 

Still, I am even more concerned that the skills (technical and soft) and resourcefulness of the candidates seeking board membership are seen as irrelevant in this selection cycle. 

The City defines the role of neighborhood councils as bodies in which “Neighborhood Council participants are empowered to advocate directly for real change in their communities.” 

The key word in that definition is ADVOCACY. In fact, it should be clear that the councils have almost no formal power beyond: 

  1. Acting to influence the policy decisions/votes of the elected and salaried officials who represent the citizens of Los Angeles and
  2. Disseminating information to the community to increase overall civic engagement. 

The level of personal vitriol directed at the current board (comprised of pure volunteers) makes absolutely no sense in light of the very limited power and minimal budget given the neighborhood councils. 

The board is also not authorized to behave as personal henchman carrying out the agenda of any singular constituency. The commitment must be to effectively advocate for solutions and services in this very diverse community. 

Advocacy requires more than emotional responses to the challenges that face this community. The work should be pragmatic and involve recommending solutions that address root problem(s) rather than simply assuaging individual feelings. Real skills and resourcefulness is needed. 

Given the upcoming urban renewal plans for this community, board members who understand recent innovations in community development, business, transportation, quality of life improvements and social services are needed. They should be people who are more thoughtful than incendiary. 

“Thoughtful” is less exciting, but it will certainly lead to better long term results. 

A key attribute of an effective board member is the willingness to help this community face the changes that are coming and do so in a way that moves the community forward as one rather than as polarized factions. 

Board members must be able to see from more than one point of view, analyze data to support information based decision-making and communicate complex policies in simple terms. 

This is indeed an important election….I have been in San Pedro for 10 years now and have heard many times how neglectful the city is with regard to this community. 

Clearly, angry protests and emotional pleas for respect, change and attention are not being heard by City Hall. Take a chance on different results by doing something different. 

Vote based on actual candidate qualifications and a correct understanding of the role of your neighborhood council. Then get involved and stay involved. 

Help your neighborhood council agendas not be hijacked by single issue constituencies. There is much to do and the future can truly be bright.


(Debra Hunter is a member and a candidate for Central Neighborhood Council. This article was posted originally at Random Lengths.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.