Neighborhood councils are weak but they are all we have to defend ourselves against the power of city hall and the developers and unions who control of it.
The weakness was apparent to me last week at a meeting of the commission charged with reviewing the performance of the councils, which have been stumbling along since their creation a few years ago.
The councils are supposed to give neighborhoods a voice in the struggle for power. But all they can do is recommend. Nobody has to listen.
I won’t be offended if you think I’m crazy. Why else would I spend a Thursday evening doing this? Just write it off to the obsessive behavior of a retiree.
What struck me is that a large number of the audience at Mark Twain Middle School in Mar Vista seemed to be people like me, older white people with nothing better to do. The USC Civic Engagement Initiative did a study which found the same thing I noticed at this meeting—the councils do not represent Los Angeles’ ethnic and social diversity.
Mar Vista and Venice, which was also represented at the meeting, are diverse areas that have huge problems with traffic, gangs, growth, ethnic tension, the environment and all the other matters on the civic agenda. I left before the meeting ended but I saw neither the area’s diversity in population nor its problems represented.
This review of the neighborhood council system—run by the Neighborhood Council Review Commission—should come up with ways to strengthen the groups and broaden their membership. The next step for the commission is to tackle how to give these councils real power in solving their neighborhoods problems.