City news junkies will soon start hearing more about the "912 Commission." More formally called the Neighborhood Council Review Commission, it is required by the City Charter revamp that created neighborhood councils. During this year, the commission will take in evidence and, as I understand it, ultimately give its opinion on whether the experiment is working. Executive director Raphael Sonenshein, the Cal State Fullerton professor who was in on the birth of the councils, gives a primer at CityWatch:
Buried in Article IX of the new Charter was section 912, mandating the creation of a city commission to examine and make recommendations regarding the system of Neighborhood Councils seven years after the new Charter took effect. And so, in 2006, the city council created the Neighborhood Council Review Commission, known to many folks as the “912 Commission”, to carry out that critically important task.
The 29 members of the NCRC are people like you who are reading this: active, thoughtful, engaged volunteers who are going to meetings instead of going to a ballgame, hanging out with friends, or spending the extra hours at the office. Woody Allen once said that 90% of life is showing up; the daily life of participatory democracy is what showing up is about. I was honored to be chosen by this commission to be its executive director several months ago, and I have been working hard to collect research, and to help the commissioners organize their process of deliberation.
For me, this is a tremendous opportunity to complete a mission that began a decade ago, when I served as executive director of the appointed Charter Reform Commission. I was then an avid reader of the forerunner of City Watch, a newsletter called Charter Watch inspirationally produced by Mark Siegel. I would like to tell you that we knew all the answers back then, but the reality is that we took a chance on something that we hoped would helped close some of the distance between neighborhoods and city hall. Now I have a chance to play a role in finding out whether that has happened and what can be done to help the system realize its potential. And Mark Siegel is one of our 912 commissioners!
The rest is at CityWatch, which ramped up its web presence in November. The site's slogan is "an insider look at City Hall." Nice to see a believable daily website that specializes in Los Angeles City Hall, knows its stuff and is actually read and respected in the building. Veteran City Hall hand Marc Haefele is a columnist, former Joel Wachs aide and Department of Neighborhood Empowerment head Greg Nelson contributes, and even Brady Westwater posts his takes. Editor Ken Draper says he plans to add as many as a dozen more voices this year.