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Op-Ed: Neighborhood Councils Aren’t Being Very Neighborly

In a city as diverse as Los Angeles it is easy to see that getting input to the city councilmembers from different groups and stakeholders could be a challenging yet crucial task. File photo: Dogora Sun, Shutter Stock, licensed.

LOS ANGELES, CA – The City of Los Angeles is home to nearly 4,000,000 residents. To represent these millions of people the Los Angeles City Council is comprised of 15 city councilmembers, one for each of the 15 council districts, and a mayor who is elected at large by all LA city residents voting in the election. Some quick math and one can see that each city councilmember represents over 250,000 Angelenos.

In a city as diverse as Los Angeles it is easy to see that getting input to the city councilmembers from different groups and stakeholders could be a challenging yet crucial task. In 1999, to assist in the governance process Neighborhood Councils were created under the guidance of Empower LA.

To date there are 99 Neighborhood Councils. These Councils allow residents to form in matters unique to each Council and that allow each Council freedom to prioritize the greatest needs of it members and constituents.

While the actions of the Neighborhood Councils are advisory in nature and not binding upon the LA city councilmembers, the Neighborhood Councils are a valuable engagement and grassroots resource for the city councilmembers who may find it prudent to heed advise given.

Furthermore, the neighborhood councils are overseen by the Empower LA Neighborhood Council commissioners. In the oversight process a pathway for filing grievances has been developed for submission via and online portal. However, after the grievance has been filed there are almost no actionable solutions by Empower LA for the problems and incidents raised, even when statements made could be threatening, dangerous, and have negative consequences to Neighborhood Council members.

Despite the Empower LA Commissioners issuing a February 2, 2021 Resolution On Civility and Positive Human Relations in the Neighborhood Council System with unequivocal language stating that, “the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners, the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, and the 99 Neighborhood Councils will work to address systemic intolerance and racial injustice with the Los Angeles Civil, Human Rights and Equity Department in a practical application “will work to address” is vague, ambiguous, and lacking clearly articulated steps for just how such grievances of intolerance will be met with a response.

It has become so bad that even though city officials are authorized to intervene in matters of intolerance and have been trained for this they still are avoiding enforcement. To which end, as Neighborhood Councilmembers we must ask ourselves what good are the words of a Resolution that states, “the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners call on all Neighborhood Council Board members to promote the peace and prosperity of their community, exercise good judgment and promote good will, seek good accurate information and double check facts, and seek to ensure the prosperity of all of our citizens and respect for one another’s diversity” if those words are never seen to be put in practice?

If we are, in fact, intended to lead our communities and be voices for those in Los Angeles, then we must first do a better job of demonstrating self-governance, autonomy and accountability amongst ourselves. For if we can’t live up to our own standards, then how are we to lead others to do so? Until we can adhere to these basic, fundamental, and foundational principles we are merely inviting criticisms, law suits, defamation claims and divisiveness that is the antithesis to why the Neighborhood Councils formed. We can and must do better!

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