MARK, MY WORDS - Sometimes in life, it is necessary to compartmentalize our emotions. Politics is an obvious example with its built-in bureaucracy and tendency to attract self-serving sociopaths and lobbyists who have clearly placed the needs of community members at the end of their priority lists. With every political action, there is a reaction...a butterfly effect that we may not or cannot recognize in real time, but it is there. So how do we effectively move the needle without causing a zombie apocalypse? The answer is one thoughtful gesture at a time.
Full disclosure, I did not vote for Karen Bass. Throughout her campaign, I heard her repeating all the same placating nonsense that got LA into the mess we are in now...billions being spent throughout California on failed homelessness policies, idle talk of “affordable housing” that is not affordable, a city council that is more interested in their own preservation than the safety and quality of day-to-day life of constituents. Then, our new mayor did something remarkable and unexpected. She fired Raquel Beltran. Well, “soft” fired anyway, allowing her to “resign” after a series of attempts to bully neighborhood councils into subservience to the almighty LA City Council. (“Hail to the cheats!”)
Too dramatic? Maybe, but how much longer are we expected to stand by and watch our municipal government dismantle this great city with their limited toolbox of corruption, ineptitude and spending unencumbered by transparency or their missing moral compasses? We spend the most and get the least in LA, and for some reason, return over and over again to an insidious ballot box where we collectively deposit our masochistic desires expecting different and more favorable results. What was that definition of insanity again? Moving on.
But it is important to give credit where it is due. Call it what you will, but Beltran’s “retirement” was decided in the new mayor’s office and I, along with many happy Neighborhood Council representatives, am very appreciative. In the atmosphere of animosity that our Neighborhood Councils are forced to operate in, it is encouraging to know that someone in our city government had the decency to do the right thing at least once. I am cautiously grateful and hope that this could be a fresh start to a better relationship between at least the mayor and her constituents.
I spoke to a veteran of a Neighborhood Council yesterday and they were so relieved that Beltran was no longer an obstacle, they fought back tears of joy as they excitedly listed all the ways to reinvigorate the Neighborhood Council system and get our communities back on track. This is LA politics however, so I am now compelled to worry about where we will go from here. Can we put aside our cynicism just for this moment and send letters to the mayor expressing our appreciation? We could, with measured optimism, let her know that her gesture did not go unnoticed and that we are here to help move the city forward...together.
Raquel Beltrán’s last day as General Manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment was March 2.
The Mayor’s Office has appointed Vanessa Serrano to serve as Interim General Manager until a new General Manager is appointed.
It is crucially important that we all take part in our collective destiny now. The next appointed head of the banana republic we call the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment will have a very difficult job and must have the skills and desire to do it. This can only be accomplished by first understanding what the job is and is not. What it is, is simple. It’s in the title...to empower neighborhoods. What it isn’t, is strong-arming neighborhood councils at the behest of elected officials who think our tax dollars are a bottomless pot of gold at the end of their personal rainbows.
I don’t know Beltran and I harbor no ill will towards her personally. I do hope she finds another job somewhere, as long as it is not in LA government.
She and her agency have caused a great deal of damage and frustration for many a neighborhood council member and as a result, hindered the welfare of LA communities. I only hope that Mayor Bass follows up her gesture of goodwill by replacing Beltran with an honest person who understands the intended mission of D.O.N.E. and is not afraid to push back against a city council that is more interested in hobbling the neighborhood council system than it is empowering it.
LA Neighborhood Councils are now at a crossroads. They can celebrate a win and go back to business as usual or take this opportunity to remind people who they are and what they are capable of doing. This is the time to remind Los Angeles the importance of independent, representative councils. To defend the rights of communities and determine their own bylaws. To let the City know in no uncertain terms, that neighborhood councils are the voices of the people, not the politicians.
(Mark Dutton is a lifelong musician, music producer, and writer. He was arguing politics with his parents since he was a pre-teen. Majored in psychology and left college in his 3rd year on a 30-year magic bus trip around the world playing and writing music with some of the best in the biz. Mark is a contributor to CityWatchLA.com.)