The old proverb about not being able to see the forest for the trees can be applied to the package of four motions, introduced by Council Member Paul Krekorian, that are intended to reform the neighborhood council system. That appeared to be the prevailing message from the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition, at least in my opinion.
The coalition met on July 2nd. About thirty members representing a broad cross section of neighborhood councils attended. Not a bad turnout for a holiday weekend.
Mr. Krekorian invested significant time in attempting to understand problems that have sucked much of the life out of the movement, which was created by a charter amendment in 1999 in response to a broad feeling of citizen disenfranchisement from the city’s government.
Neighborhood Councils are appreciative of Krekorian’s efforts. He has spent more time representing the interests of the councils and their stakeholders than any one or group of elected officials heretofore.
Nevertheless, the four motions appear to be little more than a laundry list of concerns that were raised at workshops and in response to questionnaires developed by the Council Member; all of them have been raised before.
There is no cohesive strategy in the package. Krekorian should have taken a step back and reviewed the motions in the context of the entire system before submitting them. He would have been better off asking the various Neighborhood Council coalitions to develop a strategy to fix the broken governance at DONE and used that as the foundation for a formal motion instead of the grab bag the reform package represents.
The very content of the motions should have made it apparent to Krekorian that there is one, basic, all-encompassing problem that needs to be resolved before anything else – the management of DONE.
Think about it – why does any organization require a motion to provide training; to have a satisfactory accounting system; implement a process to settle grievances; to facilitate communications with stakeholders?
These are fundamental management responsibilities.
Any sensible person reading through the motions would wonder why the head of the department hasn’t been fired if such conditions existed for so long…..and they have existed for a long time.
BH Kim, who was recently confirmed as the permanent general manager of DONE ( a position he has filled since the passing of Carol Baker Tharp in 2007), was there. When asked if his department could implement the motions, his answer was “yes.” There was no hesitation in his voice or qualification, but the response from the attendees was utter silence. The silence did not represent consent – it was shock, with a dose of politeness towards an official who sacrificed a Saturday morning to listen. However, Kim did catch an earful about his department when each of the motions was dissected and discussed.
Without competent management at DONE, the motions may as well be a letter to Santa Claus. Without a change at the top, the neighborhood councils will still be fighting for most, if not all, of the motions’ objectives two years from now. By then, the system could be on life support as its best and brightest throw in the towel.
There are many people in City Hall who would welcome that.