Council Passes the Buck: ‘We Didn’t Create the Mess at DONE’ … AuContraire, You Absolutely Did!

DONE WATCH-First, a little history. Since its inception, the “Department” has been plagued with complaint after complaint ranging from complete lack of response to utter ineptness. Motion after motion that could be misconstrued or abused has followed, creating a greater window for abuse and plenty of excusesto be used by the same bureaucrats trying to hold on to their six figure jobs. 

There are dozens of Council Files in which motions were filed and went nowhere, and requests for surveys and reports that went unanswered by DONE causing the closing of files. (Go to City Clerk Connect and type in “department of neighborhood empowerment, DONE” for the search criteria.) So, what happened? 

City Council was clearly motivated in the early years: it had a desire to help neighborhoods have a voice. It was also clear that the looseness of the City Charter language on the NCs was designed to give flexibility to the SELF-GOVERNING Boards and it even stated so. DONE’s role was ONLY to assist, nothing more. But left unchecked and creating new interpretations of the charter to defend the indefensible, we get GM Grayce Liu and her band of merry “yes men.” 

Under Ms. Liu’s tenure, the Department has become embroiled in scandal after scandal ranging from the utter failure of online voting, voter fraud, translation issues dumped on NCs, lack of “policy” dissemination, inability to define and measure stakeholders, implementing policy that effectively silenced grievances, and allowing fraudulent documentation. And then there is the biggest turd of all, sub-divisions that promote and create segregation, gerrymandering and the silencing of communities. 

After our research and communication with both DONE and NC Board members, the overwhelming take away is that Grayce Liu and her upper management inclusion of the appointed (?) representatives from the City Attorney’s office, are completely and observably unfit to serve. That’s on you, Mike Feuer.

The Department asking for staff to be funded to disseminate information that is already being disseminated directly by existing City Departments, wreaks of desperation and inevitable dissolution. Policy changes and attempts to distract NCs from Liu’s dirty deeds have resulted in the DONE Budget being slipped past the NCs requesting more and more staff…to do what, we’re not exactly sure, since it appears to be a moving target. Voting and Funding were moved to the City Clerk, so are they now are the purveyors of information? Hardly.    

Liu’s sole focus since her appointment has been to hire more staff to “police” the NCs on Brown Act violations. But during the 15 years of the Neighborhood Council System’s existence,there has not been one verifiable instance of DONE or the City Attorney defending a Brown Act violation against an NC. Why? It’s common knowledge among NC veterans that complaints about Brown Act violations are directed to the State by the City Attorney. 

In the last couple years, Liu has added getting out the vote and election outreach to her rhetoric because she’s running out reasons to ask for money. Oddly, that hasn’t seemed to curb her grandiose asks. This round, she asked for almost two million dollars! When boards acquire new blood, people who genuinely want to serve, they dive in only discover what they actually signed up for. One board we spoke to complained that they can’t keep newer board members because those new to the system simply can’t deal with the unmitigated BS and misinformation coming from DONE and the City Attorney’s rejects, Hawkins, Martinez and Rudin. 

Every ordinance approved by the City Council relating to DONE, including the sub-division disaster, was voted on in the affirmative by City Council. Every document approving the legality of the documents was signed by Darren Martinez; even Mike Feuer passed the buck on writing to Martinez if there was a problem.  

Well, Houston -- that’s you City Council– there is a problem. 

You have been told time and time again, year after year, that this department is a trainwreck. When legal failures are presented, Darren gets the department, months after the violation, to bury a “policy” in some back-linked page of the unnavigable website that is offensively called Empower LA. 

Huey (or Rudin, sadly a competent attorney who should be pursuing a position somewhere else before her career is ruined by these hacks), Duey, and Louie have been given the keys to do whatever the hell they want without repercussions and have used the vague language in the charter to justify the gangster-like, immoral and unethical behavior of the department and its conflicting positions. As a reminder, the annual budget (paid by taxpayers) just for the NCs is almost $4.1 million and this does not include the bloated and unnecessary salary of the GM and her unqualified staff. When Council staff defends horrible policy because the “City Attorney said so” -- instead of taking it back to their respective Councilmembers and asking,“what we can do to solve this?” -- we have a problem.  

So, Councilmembers, when you tell staff to tell stakeholders that you “didn’t create this mess,” you, City Council most certainly DID! You are also the ONLY ones who can fix it. A handful of you have taken an interest and know what we are saying is real, so help us get there. Garcetti is not going to be President any time soon so quit hiding behind his skirt. 

Community leaders are willing to put in the extra work to solve the problem, but the City Council must step up. Poor government only makes community leaders louder or more determined. We would have thought you’d have figured that out by now. In CityWatch recently, Tony Butka wrote a fabulous piece on next steps  and to his list we would add that the NC themselves should be empowered to co-create that solution.

 

(This advertorial was paid for by the DONE Watch Coalition, founded by Laura Velkei and supported by a coalition of Los Angeles neighborhood council activists.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.