Local Politics Again in Peril

As a budget-cutting measure, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is expected to fold the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) into another city agency, and the system of Neighborhood Councils that depends on the agency for support is up in arms.

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From a Daily News report on the plan to fold DONE into the Community Development Department:

Al Abrams, vice chair of the Board of Neighborhood Councils, sent out an open letter over the weekend warning of the impact of the action, especially taking money away from Neighborhood Council elections.

"Their goal: Take the balance of money that is left in the elections account and leave the NCs to `do their own thing,"' Abrams wrote. "They're hiding behind the statements of `giving back the elections to the Neighborhood Councils.' This is a false and insincere attempt to gut the NC system.

"The truth is this will be disastrous for NCs. Without a staffed department there to help them, which is about to be `scrubbed clean' and without any funding for any elections, NCs will be left out in the cold to fend for themselves."

The Neighborhood Councils have been part of L.A. government for over a decade now, and have had some impact on local politics, especially regarding the Department of Water and Power: A 2004 Daily News report on the Neighborhood Councils rising against a DWP rate increase.

Attorney Noel Weiss says that Villaraigosa can't even legally perform this sort of restructuring of city government as easily as he wants to:

the transfer of the powers or duties of a Department created under the Charter to another Department, office, or Board must follow the protocol set out in Section 514 of the Charter.

There are very strict requirements to be followed. It does not appear the Mayor has come close to following them in (post-haste) moving DONE's functions into CDD (a Department created under Ordinance).

Nothing can be done officially or lawfully without first having the City Council consider the Mayor's proposal (and it has to be a detailed proposal, accompanied by proposed Ordinances and budgetary transfer instructions); whereupon the Council must either reject, accept, or modify the Mayor's suggested change within 45 days. If the Council does not act, then, and only then does the Mayor's proposal go into effect.

Ron Kaye sees the move as part of a concerted effort to cripple citizen power against feckless and corrupt city government:

Today, NCs, homeowner and resident groups and others active in community life form hundreds of cells of energy creating a new LA. They have come together to create something greater than themselves, something most of them don't yet fully realize has happened. They are a force that counter-balances the special interests that run City Hall, a force to be reckoned with, a force to be feared.

So the response of the Mayor and Council is to crush them.

Past City of Angles blogging on the Neighborhood Councils evading budget cuts back in May. The Citywide Alliance of Neighborhood Councils web site.

The image associated with this post was taken by Flickr user LadyDucayne. It was used under user Creative Commons license.

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