An Open Letter to the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners (BONC)

Dear Commissioners: Congratulations to both newly elected President Karen Mack and Len Shaffer who was re-elected Vice President at this week’s BONC meeting. Having seen the elections on the agenda, I thought it worthwhile to see you all in action. I was especially looking forward to hearing from the three new Commissioners: Lydia Grant, Victor Medina and Olivia Rubio.  

The Neighborhood Councils (NC’s) are gearing up for elections in 2014. They are encouraged to get as many candidates as possible, and Mayor Garcetti has promised to install the new Boards of those NC’s gaining the biggest electoral turnout. Given such a strong impetus, I was somewhat surprised that you had allotted a paltry ten minutes for the BONC election of officers– with only one candidate for each of the two offices.  


There was no statement as to why Commissioner Mack wanted to be President or what your plans are for BONC. The same is true for Commissioner Shaffer. It appears that the election of BONC officers was pre-determined before the meeting began! 

BONC is comprised of seven members, allocated by region, but only 4 worked for most of the year. In reality, EmpowerLA does most of the work BONC should be doing. 

For those of you who had read my previous saga in the August editions of CityWatch (I sent you individual copies), “Is BONC BUNK?” I ended with a list of suggestions gathered from both the EmpowerLA General Manager Grayce Liu and views from NC’s. 

New members and new officers should equal a fresh start, no? I thought the meeting was going to be worth fighting the traffic from the Valley to get to City Hall. Unfortunately, it was more of the same old stuff, different day. Most of the discussion concerned the NC Planning Review Committee report. The final decision was ultimately tabled until December 12 so more NC’s may send in their recommendations. 

The meeting was a very, very long two hours and it looked like one of the Commissioners was either deep in thought or taking a nap. There was some animation when it was suggested that BONC put together a sub-committee to devise an “Outreach” program for the 95 NC’s to utilize, but that was about it. 

My Dear Commissioners give me a break! There were exactly six NC members in the audience including a new NC President who was briefly there, and Glenn Bailey (Encino 2014 NC Election Chair), who gave a report. Three of the audience were from the Tarzana Neighborhood Council - including me! Perhaps you should formulate an outreach program for yourselves. 

At the same time you might also consider having a Strategic Plan, which could then be posted on the BONC web site. After all, NC’s are required to post a Strategic Plan along with several other mandatory documents. The Mayor has requested that all Departments are held accountable for their goals…why should you be the exception? 

Don’t you think that with three - and soon to be four - new Commissioners it would be a logical first step to let your constituents (us) know what your plans are from now to the end of the fiscal year? 

And, you might get more attendance if you hold meetings when people are more likely to come - and if you invite them. 

Talk to Stephen Box, Director of Outreach and Communications at EmpowerLA for outreach suggestions. He has given NC’s creative and timely ones. He might even be able to do a 7 by 7 outline (an outreach pamphlet to help NC’s promote elections). 

How about updating your web site so the information is current? Why not have a weekly blog where commissioners discuss what is going on in his or her territory? 

Hold Town Halls in your area to learn what your NC’s need. Since the majority of people work during the day, consider holding the meetings in the evenings or on weekends.  When the subject matter is important enough, people show up. For example, the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC) holds its meetings on Saturday mornings and usually has a full house. 

I did a quick survey to find out how many times a Commissioner visited an NC meeting in his/her area. The results are more than disappointing. Most Commissioners have never attended any Alliance meetings. There are exceptions, especially with the newly appointed commissioners. As an example, Lydia Grant in her six weeks in office has attended more than 33 separate meetings. She has even been to some in my area. 

Visit some of your region’s NC’s during the month and report back to the Commission about topical issues. BONC’s Commissioners should be “the early notification system” for the NC’s.  While we are at it - when you go to a different area each month why don’t you send out an invitation for the NC’s to attend? Yes, it is posted on the EmpowerLA website but you have to “Outreach”. 

As far as I know, and I have been a Board member for more than three years, we have never received a notice or invitation to attend a BONC meeting in Sherman Oaks. How about you sending the invitation with a request for any items the local NCs would like on the Agenda? 

If you think I’ve been unfair or too harsh – please tell our readers why. You are supposed to be the leaders of this group. What we are asking is a lot of work, but if you want the title, you have walk the walk. Just talking the talk won’t cut it. 

To the new Commissioners:  I have high hopes. Don’t be afraid to rock the boat.


(Denyse Selesnick is a Board member of the Tarzana Neighborhood Council and Vice Chair of the Outreach Committee. She is a former publisher/journalist and is a contributor to CityWatch covering activities in NC Land. She may be reached at [email protected]







Vol 11 Issue 94

Pub: Nov 22, 2013