The Basics: Neighborhood Councils Explained
- Beth Cone Kramer
ADVOCATING FOR YOU-Los Angeles is a city of many neighborhoods, 97, if you consider the number of neighborhood councils currently working to make the Mayor’s office and City Council more responsive to local needs. Each neighborhood faces unique issues but there are also problems shared by just about every resident in this city. The city is expansive, from downtown to Gardena, from Hollywood to the Valley.
The challenge in running a city of nearly a hundred different neighborhoods is in addressing the needs important to constituents. Back in 1999, voters in Los Angeles approved a new City Charter that established a Neighborhood Council System to encourage citizen participation in government to make sure it would be responsive to the needs of the people.
Neighborhood Councils, certified by the city, are comprised of members who live, work, own property or have some connection to a particular neighborhood. Board members are elected or selected to their positions by the neighborhood they represent. Members meet at least quarterly and councils receive resources and funding from the city, as well as support by the City’s Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE).
According to the Charter, each neighborhood council is to receive notice of upcoming official decisions and have the opportunity for input. One integral issue facing all neighborhood councils is the city’s budget. According to Article IX, Section 909, each council “may present to the Mayor and Council an annual list of priorities for the City budget.”
Neighborhood Council representatives meet with the Mayor to discuss fiscal priorities before the budget is submitted to City Council for approval. In addition, Neighborhood Councils are informed of upcoming issues that may be of significance to their neighborhoods. They are given the opportunity to voice the opinions of their neighborhoods to the City.
The conditions for a neighborhood having a council is to have a minimum population of 20,000; the average population of each council is 38,000. Currently, additional councils are in development across the city. These Councils “must establish bylaws and go through a certification process with the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners [BONC] and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment [DONE],” according to the EmpowerLA website.
(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a CityWatch columnist. This is part of an ongoing series on the work of the 2017-2018 Budget Advocate Committee.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.