by Amelia Anderson
Held Saturday down at City Hall? Well, it’s sort of a pow wow of LA Neighborhood Councils in party mode. And I don’t mean Dem Repub kinda folks. I mean some serious head celebration in the sharing of ideas and of the fact that the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council System is the largest grassroots civil engagement system in the nation!
So, what exactly are Neighborhood Councils, anyway? Well, back in 1999, the ‘Empower LA’ movement birthed the Neighborhood Council System that was voted into the City Charter by Angelenos who wanted their local voices heard at City Hall with a mission to increase citizen engagement and make government more responsive to local needs.
Under the establishment of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, Neighborhood Councils have grown into the nation’s largest and most innovative initiative in civic engagement and citizen-based-government. With a network of 97 Neighborhood Councils, LA promotes public participation in government, and works to improve responsiveness to local concerns. Visit EmpowerLA.org.
The Board of Neighborhood Commissioners was set up to have a policy-setting and oversight function for both the Neighborhood Councils and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment. Seven Commissioners are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council selected from diverse backgrounds and geographic areas of the city.
The Commission ensures that the City Charter and the Plan for a Citywide System on Neighborhood Councils are realized by setting policies of inclusiveness and are representative of all community stakeholders. The Commission strongly believes that the individuality of Neighborhood Councils should function as a catalyst for change in addressing the needs of their communities.
Who are selected to sit on the Neighborhood Council Boards? Anyone within a given community may run for office. Like property owners, employers and employees of local businesses, and those who are active in local clubs, parks, and educational endeavors. Non-profit or religious organizations are included; as well as community members who are undocumented or have criminal records.
Currently, 1800 volunteer elected board members citywide act as self-governing independent advisory bodies to the city government on areas of concern for their communities Many have celebrated their 15 year anniversary!
Because Neighborhood Councils represent different and unique communities, their Boards can vary in size from 9 to 35 members and can include special seats such as Youth, Seniors and even Horse Owners, with members serving 2 to 4 year terms. With 43% women on boards and acting as executive officers, Neighborhood Councils have one of the highest percentages of women in elected office.
What do Neighborhood Councils Do? They weigh in on the delivery of city services and monitor the city budget.