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

Tsiolkas on short list for the Commonwealth Writers Prize

first_imgChristos Tsiolkas is clearly one of Australia’s most important contemporary writers. His latest book The Slap won the 2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in the South East Asia and the Pacific category last week. When Neos Kosmos English Edition (NKEE) contacted Tsiolkas in his Preston home, he was clearly excited with the news, “If I win the main prize, I said to mum and dad, I will be demanding the Parthenon Marbles back from the Queen.” The Slap is about the events that evolve after a man slaps a child who is not his own at a suburban BBQ in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. This action has a shocking effect on a group of friends. The characters in The Slap it is said, are all someone we all know, or a mirror to contemporary suburban and multicultural Australia. As Tsiolkas says to NKEE: “The Slap begins at a suburban BBQ, the host is Greek and his partner is Indian; that is our reality.” He points to the changing class and cultural dynamics of our suburbs.“The  most interesting things are really happening here in the northern suburbs, that is where class is changing. Elite and official Australia is more behind the times than suburbia,” he adds.“The suburban Coburg that I grew up in has changed so much. The nature of class is changing in these suburbs, as is the nature of  Greek community changing dramatically.”When talking about The Slap,  Tsiolkas underscores  “The fact that the most interesting thing about contemporary Australia happen in the suburbs and it has it taken us so long to recognise that these Australians  are us says something about how insular official Australia is.” Tsiolkas’ first book, Loaded, a drug fuelled odyssey of growing up gay and Greek in the suburbs was made into a film Head On. His last book Dead Europe , a disturbing contemplation on racism in a contemporary Europe also won literary awards. The Slap is now in the running for the overall Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. It is published by Allen and Unwin and can be found in all good bookstores and from Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more