It’s Broken, So Fix It or Scrap It

A Perspective by Joseph Mailander

I’ve just finished a column for The Foothill Record. If you’re interested, you’ll read it soon enough. The column uses the City of LA controller’s recent visit to your Neighborhood Council as a starting point to demonstrate the favor shown by City Hall to a “small cadre” of individuals in S-T over the past decade.

I don’t have a stake in your election, which features some of the same old names, some new names, and even a slate of new challengers. I was first invited to look at your community’s politics nearly a decade ago, and it seems worthwhile to take a long view. What I found was that the Neighborhood Council enabled City Hall to shape your community’s politics for City Hall’s own purposes. This is indeed how many Neighborhood Councils themselves have been employed throughout the City.

This was not what Neighborhood Councils were supposed to be. They were supposed to stand apart from City government, not be subsumed by it. So I would call what you have – and what the City has – a broken system.

One thing I’ve noticed in the past year has been how much more effective it has been in your community to stand outside the system rather than to work within it. When you take a look at what Brian Schneider’s group has been able to accomplish, you see that.

But that kind of successful outside-the-box effort is also more evidence of a broken system. That’s the kind of thing that happens when a system is broken and can no longer respond to real community concerns.

“That man’s the best conservative / who lops the mould’r’d branch away,” Tennyson wrote.

My recent conversations with the City of Los Angeles have indicated to me that the City is not interested in the least in fixing its own broken system of community “empowerment”; in fact, they’re only interested in perpetuating it.

But my recent conversations with your community have demonstrated to me that most of the people in your community also remain in denial that this system is broken too, even when they see people outside the system getting more things done.

And my ultimate feeling is that a slate, a person, an old cadre, or a new meeting hall is not a solution to a broken system; no, you first have to admit that a system is broken, and identify what’s broken about it, before you can set to work fixing it in any particular way. Whether it needs new people, new statutes, new venues, new financial arrangements is not soluble until you can form consensus that what exists is indeed broken and needs fixing — or scrapping

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