The Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition meeting on Saturday was in sharp contrast to the Citywide Alliance of Neighborhood Council meeting held just a few miles away.
While the Citywide Alliance gave two career politicians the opportunity to inflate their resumes for a possible run for mayor, LANCC focused on a far more serious issue – the city’s budget.
You might say the dueling agendas represented a classic case of form over substance. The Citywide Alliance appears to be more interested in perpetuating the careers of established elected officials rather than dealing with the pressing issues facing the second-largest city in the nation, one mired in an unprecedented financial crisis.
Deputy Mayor Larry Frank attended LANCC and presented the challenge faced by the city. His summary was an updated version of the one he shared at the Budget LA forum.
While Frank’s information was not new to almost all in attendance, it sparked spirited venting over the mismanagement of the city.
The most provocative statement of the day came from Jay Handal, chair of the West LA Neighborhood Council and a member of the mayor’s Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates committee.
He suggested that neighborhood councils use their funding to educate the public on the mismanagement of the city by our elected officials.
Handal’s idea is food for thought. Neighborhood councils can sponsor outreach activities and community projects all they want, but until they hold the mayor, city attorney, city controller and council members accountable, there will be little or no improvement in the quality and delivery of important services.
But how do we make that happen?
For starters, while NCs can take positions on issues and ballot measures they cannot endorse or oppose individual candidates. That always seemed unfair to me since elected officials routinely endorse their peers.
Still, I see nothing that could prevent the neighborhood councils from publicizing the voting records or statements of city officials regarding important issues. After all, we are talking about public records, not privileged information.
Such an education campaign would be most effective if conducted under a master plan devised by all the neighborhood councils. Realistically, each of the regional coalitions would have to take the lead with respect to their areas. It would certainly require a special congress or two to launch a unified effort.
That may sound easy on paper, but neither the neighborhood councils nor their board members are a homogenous group. There are board members who are very comfortable with the ruling establishment at City Hall. These people would surely raise a fuss if the voting records and positions of their favorite officials were presented in an unflattering manner.
I can go on about the obstacles a campaign of this type would face, but the concept should be placed on the agendas of every coalition in the city. It’s worthy of consideration and, who knows, something could come of it.