City Council scrutinizes neighborhood panels

first_imgThe changes proposed by the Neighborhood Council Review Commission come after 15 months of study and include plans to streamline the council system. The system was created in the new City Charter that was adopted in 1996. Today, more than 89 neighborhood councils – each with an annual budget of $50,000 – operate throughout the city. But the system has drawn complaints that many of the councils are isolationist, cantankerous and caught up in internal battles that distract people from policy involvement. “The system is still young and developing,” said Altagarcia Perez, who chaired the Neighborhood Council Review Commission. “What we found is that our system is unique among cities. None have to deal with such a diverse population. We believe our system needs to be reconstituted to make it possible for the neighborhood councils to function.” Addressing one of the key problems for many of the groups, the commission has proposed transferring councils’ elections process to the City Clerk’s Office. The move would provide uniform rules and ballots, while still allowing the councils to decide the size of boards and qualifying stakeholders who can vote. But the issue of stakeholder status – and who is eligible to serve on the neighborhood councils – has been contentious. The commission has proposed the councils be as open as possible to bring in renters, business owners and others who work in the councils’ communities. But Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who has dealt with the issue in the Playa Vista area of his district, said opening the system could mean a large developer could stack a council to back policies that support a project. “Let’s face it, a lot of these neighborhood council are just powerful homeowner groups,” Rosendahl said. “I don’t see where the renters are involved.” But Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who has supported the neighborhood councils since serving on the Elected Charter Reform Commission, said the groups should be as open as possible. “Hopefully, it will be about more people becoming involved and holding city government accountable and making their neighborhoods and the city a better place,” Hahn said. Raphael Sonenshein, who served as director for the commission, said the goal of the report is to make it easier for people to become involved in neighborhood councils. “This really is about empowering people,” Sonenshein said. “It is designed to get people involved.” [email protected] (213) 978-0390160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Amid growing concerns about the effectiveness of Los Angeles’ network of neighborhood councils, the City Council on Tuesday began reviewing broad changes that could reinvigorate the panels and strengthen the system of grass-roots democracy. After a two-hour presentation in which council members voiced their own frustrations with neighborhood councils, the proposed changes were sent to the council’s Education and Neighborhoods Committee for analysis. “We will bring this back as quickly as we can, but we have to realize we are a long way from perfection,” said Councilman Richard Alarc n, who chairs the committee and has been a longtime supporter of neighborhood councils. “The neighborhood councils are at a new stage. Like all democracies, they have to be prepared for change.” last_img read more