CityWatch, Feb 14, 2012
Vol 10 Issue 13
TURNING THE POWER ON - Several blind men are asked by their King to examine an elephant and then to describe its appearance.
The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a giant fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe.
The King, in his infinite wisdom, informed the blind men that they were all correct in their evaluations, although their observations were limited to their individual experiences.
Those same blind men, if asked to visit different neighborhood councils, would probably come back with a wide variety of experiences, all of them true but typically limited in accuracy.
The first man might experience a social group, one that is focused on creating community. The second man might discover a local enforcement authority, intent on upholding codes and laws in the neighborhood. The third man might experience a de facto planning commission, focused on land use issues and parking requirements. The fourth man might find himself in the midst of a beautification society, focused on landscaping and gardens. The fifth man might find himself in an empty room, victim of bad outreach and erratic scheduling.
The last blind man might find himself in the midst of a crowd, surrounded by empowered neighbors who were united in their commitment to monitor the deliver of city services, to meet with city leadership, to advise the Mayor and City Council, and to involve the community in the civic engagement process.
The King, in his infinite wisdom, might acknowledge the truthfulness of each man’s experience, but if he was a fan of Charter Reform, he would take note of the sixth man’s experience and ask the crowded neighborhood council how it was that they were able to keep focused on civic engagement and neighborhood empowerment.
It has been ten years since the first neighborhood councils were certified and the last decade has been a series of uphill battles for relevance, many of which take place as if the City Charter wasn’t clear on their purpose.
The purpose of neighborhood councils, as defined in the City Charter, is “To promote more citizen participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs.”
The Charter goes on to explain that, “Neighborhood councils shall include representatives of the many diverse interests in communities and shall have an advisory role on issues of concern to the neighborhood.”
Lest there be any confusion over priorities, the Charter identifies and prioritizes two areas of responsibility, the city’s budget and the delivery of city services.
As the City of LA prepares to engage in another round of budget triage, calling into question each department’s function and performance, it is imperative that neighborhood councils get in touch with their City Charter mandate and evaluate themselves accordingly.
For the neighborhood councils who wish to enhance their ability to engage their community and make their government more responsive to local needs, help is on the way.
On Thursday the 23rd of February, the Center for Non-Profit Management will be partnering with Empower LA in a dynamic training workshop that will focus on strategies and techniques for effective neighborhood council advocacy.
Participants will leave with a plan for turning their Neighborhood Council board into a powerful advocate when dealing with City of LA agencies, departments, committees, commissions and elected officials.
Community leaders will:
• Learn ways to achieving goals as a group
• Discuss a plan of action around your top priorities
• Hear success stories from Neighborhood Councils who are making an impact
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Center for Nonprofit Management - California Endowment Building
1000 N Alameda Street,
Los Angeles, CA 90012
5:30-6:00pm - Registration, Refreshments
(Dinner available for purchase - $10)
6:00-8:30pm - Program and Panel
Reserve your seat today at:
(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net.)