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MWNC Decries Unfair NC Certification Procedure

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  • Chris Howard
    Mount Washington Neighborhood Group Decries Unfair City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Certification Procedure For immediate release: For further
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2003
      Mount Washington Neighborhood Group Decries Unfair City of Los
      Angeles Neighborhood Council Certification Procedure

      For immediate release:

      For further information:
      Denise Weinstock (323) 227-1177

      The Formation Committee for the independent Mount Washington
      Neighborhood Council announced today that if the City of Los Angeles
      Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (Department) issues an
      authorization to the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council to proceed to
      elections, the Formation Committee will have no choice but to pursue
      a friendly court action to clarify the City's authority over forming
      neighborhood councils. "We have hundreds people who have signed
      petitions and posted yard signs calling for the removal of our Mount
      Washington neighborhood from the ill-conceived multi-neighborhood
      Arroyo Seco organization. It appears that the Department is poised to
      force our unwilling stakeholders into the Arroyo Seco," observed
      Susanne Brody of the Formation Committee. "We think a court would
      share our concerns about the fundamental unfairness of the City's
      process," she said.

      The controversy over the City's recognition of the Arroyo Seco
      organization under the provisions of the voter-adopted City Charter,
      implementing Plan and ordinance stems from an informal policy of the
      City commission responsible for officially certifying neighborhood
      councils. The Board of Neighborhood Commissioners (BONC) has
      developed a practice of requiring some proposed neighborhood councils
      to modify their bylaws as a condition of receiving official City
      recognition. One would think that these BONC-proposed changes of the
      governing rules of a neighborhood council would return to
      stakeholders of the forming councils for review and concurrence
      before final certification by the City. Not so. The Commission
      recently has empowered the persons who submit the original
      application for certification, the "Contact Persons," to speak for
      and commit stakeholders to changes of their organizational bylaws.

      The case of the Arroyo Seco certification hearing was perhaps the
      most bizarre in the City. BONC called a single Contact Person to the
      microphone. Under the City's ordinance, Contact Persons act as an
      official communication link between the City and the forming
      neighborhood council but have no other authority. The Commissioners
      asked this Contact Person if he thought the Arroyo Seco would agree
      to eight changes to the organizational bylaws. As hundreds of people
      in the hearing audience verbally objected, the Contact Person agreed
      to the changes. BONC, in a split vote, adopted a motion that
      purported to certify the Arroyo Seco group based upon the "consent"
      of one Contact Person to amend the bylaws of the organization.

      BONC Commissioner Ronald Stone observed that night it did not seem to
      be a good idea to certify a neighborhood council that has more
      opponents in the hearing room than supporters. Commissioner Stone's
      observations were valid as 300 of the 400 persons at the hearing
      opposed Arroyo Seco's certification.

      Following the controversial certification hearing, City Department
      staff instructed Arroyo Seco leaders to write the bylaws amendments
      and to not take "actions without consulting stakeholders." When the
      BONC-proposed changes were ready for stakeholder review, the
      Department paid for a 1,200 piece mailing of stakeholder meeting
      notices and for a parliamentarian to run the meeting. At that April
      26th stakeholder meeting, the proposed bylaw amendments failed to
      garner a 2/3 majority vote to amend the Arroyo Seco bylaws. A motion
      was also passed requiring the Contact Persons to send a letter
      informing BONC that the stakeholders had rejected the BONC-proposed
      bylaw amendments.

      A week later, the Contact Persons for the Arroyo Seco submitted a
      letter that reported the vote at the stakeholder meeting. But they
      asked the Department to ignore the parliamentarian's ruling that the
      bylaws amendment failed. Instead they submitted their bylaws and
      asked the Department to administratively approve them enabling
      movement toward elections.

      Ignoring its previous instruction to Arroyo Seco to "consult the
      stakeholders you represent," on May 8th the Department issued a
      letter that declared that Arroyo Seco was certified as of last
      October when the Contact Person verbally agreed to the changes to the
      bylaws. And despite the Department's previous investment of taxpayer
      funds to hold the April 26th stakeholder meeting, the letter of the
      Department also declared it was "unnecessary" to return to
      stakeholders for concurrence in the bylaws changes agreed to by the
      Contact Person.

      "The events surrounding the attempted certification of the Arroyo
      Seco, which forces us into a bigger, weaker council, violates the
      very spirit of neighborhood empowerment set forth in the City
      Charter," said Denise Weinstock, a member of the Formation Committee.
      "One of the BONC changes was to modify the number of seats on the
      board of directors of the Arroyo Seco group. Are you telling me that
      the City's process of certification includes the right to
      unilaterally change the power structure of a neighborhood council -
      all without asking the stakeholders? It makes no sense."

      The Department is now reviewing the bylaws turned down by Arroyo Seco
      stakeholders to determine if they nonetheless conform with the BONC
      suggestions. An oral report on the "progress" of Arroyo Seco
      Neighborhood Council is scheduled at a meeting of BONC on July 1st in
      the Northridge area.

      + + +
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