Empower LA Is Movin' On Up

NC'S OUT & ABOUT - EmpowerLA spent last week on the road, moving from their Little Tokyo digs to their new home on the 20th floor of City Hall. The move represents a significant savings in rent and also puts EmpowerLA staff closer to the center of LA’s civic activity.

It could be argued that the move symbolizes more than simply changing offices. There has been a noticeable shift in stature of the Neighborhood Council systems. D.O.N.E. is done. EmpowerLA has moved to City Hall.

It was in fact a busy week for EmpowerLA’s General Manager, BongHwan “BH” Kim, who spent his days moving the office and his evenings attempting to move mountains.

Tuesday night found BH in Hollywood where he joined 75 community members at NU-LA’s Town Hall Meeting. The meeting represented several neighborhoods from LA’s most diverse council district.The NU-LA agenda addressed everything from Emergency Preparedness, College Prep classes, Local Hire Initiatives, and Code Harassment issues.

BH arrived unexpectedly, stating once he learned of the event he decided that the aggressive grassroots agenda would be “much more interesting” than his other scheduled meeting. He delivered a strong call to action that commended the audience for getting involved and encouraged them to partner with the Neighborhood Councils. He also urged NU-LA members hold their City leaders accountable to the charter mandate of engaging local communities in the process of governing.

On Wednesday night, BH joined a standing-room-only crowd in City Council chambers for the final session of LA’s Redistricting Commission before they voted on the maps that would go to City Council. Much of discussion through the redistricting process has been to align the Council Districts with the Neighborhood Council boundaries.

BH called on the Commissioners to recognize the work that had been done a decade earlier when the Neighborhood Council boundaries were first established and called on the commission to honor those boundaries. He also stood with the hundreds of stakeholders from the Wilshire Center Koreatown Neighborhood Council who called on the Commission to keep WCKNC united and within Council District 13.

On Thursday evening, Empower LA partnered with the Center for Nonprofit Management for an evening of inspiration entitled “Making an Impact.” BH moderated a panel discussion on connecting with City Hall and Stephen Box conducted a workshop on advocacy.

Neighborhood Commissioner Doug Epperhart joined neighborhood council leaders from around the city in a night of advocacy training. Participants expressed hope that similar trainings would follow. Communication, community engagement, and ways to hold City Hall accountable were suggested future topics.

As the week ended, Empower LA settled into their new digs, complete with a new phone number (213) 978-1551) and a 20th floor view of the city.

Empower LA’s new address is:

Los Angeles City Hall
200 North Spring Street, Suite 2005
Los Angeles CA 90012
Mail Stop 968
Main Line: (213) 978-1551
Fax: (213) 978-1751

In the midst of a busy week of moving and shaking, Empower LA staff continued to work on facilitating a proposal for neighborhood council elections and a developing a plan for the upcoming Congress of Neighborhood Councils.

Meanwhile, the new City Council’s Education and Neighborhoods Committee will be holding a series of Special Meetings seeking testimony from Neighborhood Council participants and stakeholders to better understand the issues and concerns surrounding the implementation of the Citywide System of Neighborhood Councils including, but not limited to, the following: funding program, election of NC officers, board member training, grievance system, standard by-laws and fiscal records, the role of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment and the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners, and governance structure.

Council Member Bernard Parks, Chair of the Education and Neighborhoods Committee, is reaching out directly to the NC community to elicit comments, concerns and recommendations relative to the structure and operations of Citywide System of Neighborhood Councils.

The upcoming E & N Committee Meetings are:

February 28, 2012
West Los Angeles Municipal Center
1645 Corrinth Ave., Room 200, Los Angeles 90025

March 1, 2012
Constituent Services Center
8475 S. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, 90004

March 5, 2012
Marvin Braude Constituent Center, Council Chamber
14410 Sylvan Street, Van Nuys, 91401

March 8, 2012
Downtown City Hall, Room TBD
200 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles, 90012

EmpowerLA’s move to City Hall represents a symbolic page turn in the evolution of the Department. The strongest advocate of protecting and elevating the Neighborhood Council system continues to be its longest surviving General Manager, BH Kim.  Never far away is the equally devoted Grayce Liu.  Their quiet persistence at giving voice to real LA’s neighborhoods was never more clear than last week.

(John F John, Jr is a 23 year resident of Los Angeles, a grassroots activist, and a veteran of the Neighborhood Council system. He is a speech writer, public speaking trainer, and advocate of giving voice to all citizens through the power of words.  [email protected])