Council Member Paul Krekorian, in his appearance last Thursday at the monthly meeting of the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils, expressed regret that his recently introduced motions were being interpreted as a plan to reform DONE rather than as a first step in an extended process to improve the NC system and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.
He was referring to the criticism his package of four motions received in the Daily News, Citywatch, and at a meeting of the Los Angeles Alliance of Neighborhood Councils .
Although the motions call for actions to address serious shortcomings and neglect on the part of DONE, the implementation places way too much reliance on the present management of the department.
Krekorian should know better. DONE has a long history of inept management; to assume the current general manager and key staff will somehow turn the operation around is gross optimism at best and fantasy at worst.
This is not to say that certain department employees can’t play a role in improving the operations at DONE. As I have stated before, BH Kim has qualities that could be put to good use, especially in the area of outreach. As critical as I am about his performance as a manager, I admire his commitment – he does not shy from contact with board members and stakeholders.
At the VANC meeting, I stressed autonomy for the NCs and a reduced role for DONE as an alternative approach. Any group elected by the NCs as a governing board would be far more effective than the bureaucrats who would have disabled the system were it not for the individual sacrifices of key NC activists and coalitions.
Krekorian countered that DONE will play a diminishing role due to the staff cutbacks the department has undergone. However, the Council Member is confusing quantity with quality. It matters little how many people are employed at DONE; what does matter is their ability to provide satisfactory service. They were never able to deliver even when there was a full staff on board.
Soon after Krekorian had to leave, Kim defended his performance as the GM over the last few years. He said no one knows how bad things were when he took over the department and how difficult it was to deal with situation.
I believe Kim underestimates the members of the NC community. We knew from years of dealing with his department just how bad service and support were.
No one expected Kim to produce miracles, but when one assumes responsibility for cleaning up a trainwreck, the first step is some basic triage – identify a small handful of essential tasks and strive to improve delivery to a minimum standard. He did nothing and DONE sank deeper into the quagmire. We should expect a little more for $155,000 per year.
Kim went on to describe problems he was having with some employees. Apparently, there is a feeling among some staff at DONE that their role is to “police neighborhood councils.”
He said it would take over a year to fire them.
With that assertion, Kim made an excellent point in favor of autonomy for neighborhood councils. It will be difficult for NCs to become a more effective voice for their stakeholders when a suppressive culture is allowed to exist at DONE.
So, onward and downward we go.
We will be in the same room, talking about the same issues two years from now.