UPDATE--Answering the call to be a Neighborhood Budget Advocate is not for the faint hearted. Recently the budget advocates met with Mayor Garcetti to discuss the White Paper, (research, recommendations for fiscal responsibility of city departments and offer alternative options for revenue generation), and of that group attendance more than 10 are new to budget advocacy. Who would be attracted to what some call a complicated game of find the money molly? 

We asked Amy Foell – Los Feliz Neighborhood Council, Ivette Ale – Voices of 37 Neighborhood Council and Brigette Kidd – Zapata-King Neighborhood Council three new budget advocates the following questions; 

What interested you in the role of the neighborhood council budget advocate? 

Amy Foell: I decided to educate and empower myself and my community through public service. It’s important to understand how our tax dollars are being utilized. Many Los Angelenos are not aware of how City Hall is spending our money collected from taxes. 

Ivette Ale: As the Treasurer and new member of my neighborhood council, I was seeking opportunities to learn more about the City budget and ways I can better serve. I attended Budget Day and I learned that Budget Advocates was a body that had a "seat at the table" in city government and to amplify the voices of stakeholders in my district

Brigette Kidd: My initial goal for running for a seat on the Zapata-King Neighborhood Council was to find out how I could get trees trimmed in the area that overshadowed light poles and stop signs which was safety issue; and also made some locations easy for tagging. I knew it wasn’t where you lived, but how you lived that could make a difference. 

Budget advocates play an important role by providing recommendations to how the City can run more efficiently, what was your role in the White Paper that was presented to the Mayor on March 8, 2017? What did you learn? 

Amy Foell: I researched assigned departments, interviewed department heads and co-wrote sections of the White Paper. I covered the Economic & Workforce Development Department as well as the Department on Disability. Each department has their own personality and level of openness towards BA’s objectives. I believe our City can bring in much more revenue by harnessing solar power and other sustainable practices. 

Ivette Ale: As the chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee, I organized a discussion with department leadership and drafted the subsequent recommendations for the Cultural Affairs Department. I learned that there are issues that span across several departments. For instance, access to the City's internet backbone and standardizing technology is a consistent problem across the board, for example the Cultural Affairs Department lack of tech support prevents the department from capturing revenue and maximizing use of facilities. 

Brigette Kidd: I chaired the Information Technology Committee. As Ivette mentioned technology is a major problem. The ITA is making some strides with the creation of the 311 app, but inefficiencies are from lack of communication from one department to another and that each department has different technology goals. The major road block is unifying departmental goals to create an intuitive, reliable and easy to update technology system that protects critical assets (water, utilities, sewage), and communicate across all departments while providing transparency and clear costs to tax payers. 

Why is it beneficial for others to get involved as a budget advocate or budget representative for their NC/area? 

Amy Foell: It would be great if every citizen had to take a turn as a budget advocate for LA. I would wager the positives would offset the negatives. Folks would gain a greater understanding of the various departments, monies allocated and spent. Amazing ideas and solutions would develop and voter turn-out would dramatically increase. This utopian vision may be a stretch goal, but a woman can dream. Just over a year ago today I was completely unaware of neighborhood councils and budget advocates. Today I’m a District B representative for Los Feliz neighborhood Council, co-chair of the environmental affairs committee, and a budget advocate. The learning curve is steep but anyone can do this because we all care about our home

Ivette Ale: Looking around the room at a budget advocate's meeting, it is evident that there are gaps in community representation. Becoming actively involved in budget advocates provides an avenue to legitimize, vocalize and amplify the concerns of our areas. But regardless of political background and identity, at the heart of budget advocates is a desire for transparency and accountability. It is an underutilized body with the potential to be transformative with increased, diversity and participation.  

Brigette Kidd: Learning how to challenge effectively. As a budget advocate you can challenge budget issues with research and facts. Get involved because you are either adding, subtracting multiplying or dividing. 

If you are interested in getting involved in your local neighborhood council or becoming a budget advocate check out Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate Responsibilities.  

 

(Adrienne Edwards and Brigette Kidd are Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates. More info at ncbala.com.) 

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NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--A year of record boardings on the San Gabriel Valley’s Gold Line train is suppressing bus ridership, causing a local independent operator to propose substantial reductions to lines that offer similar service.

As a response to a passenger shift from buses to the light-rail foothill extension running from Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border for a year, West Covina-based Foothill Transit is proposing to slash bus lines, including Line 187, one of the most popular east-west bus routes that runs from Montclair to Pasadena, across the foothill cities of the San Gabriel Valley.

Foothill Transit will de-emphasize the connection between Azusa and Pasadena by splitting the line into two: an eastern and a western segment.

“With regards to Line 187 as it relates to the Gold Line, the Azusa to Pasadena ridership has really fallen off,” said Kevin McDonald, deputy executive director of Foothill Transit. “We are keeping the eastern portion, which will go to the Los Angeles County Arboretum and the Santa Anita Mall in Arcadia.”

Under the proposed restructuring plan voted for public consideration by the governing board on Friday, the agency will cut Line 187 in half, which will continue to run from Pasadena to Azusa. The split will also create Line 188, which will from Azusa to Montclair. (Read the rest.) 

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NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--The city’s plan to put the unfinished Target project in Hollywood back on track moved ahead on Wednesday after the city council approved a plan in which Target will pay a $1.2 million in-lieu fee for employee child care.

The issue regarding how Target would satisfy the city’s requirement to provide childcare was one of the final steps for the project to receive approval to resume construction. However, the project still must clear a remaining hurdle in court before construction can begin again on the partially completed store at Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue.

The Los Angeles Superior Court must rule on a lawsuit filed by the La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association, which contends the city violated zoning laws in approving the project because it exceeded allowable height limits. A court hearing on the matter is expected to occur soon.

The Los Angeles Superior Court previously ruled in favor of the neighborhood association and construction was stopped in 2014. Target appealed the ruling to an appellate court, and the city altered zoning regulations at the site to allow for a taller building. The La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association filed a second lawsuit against the revised zoning plan last year, and the appellate court sent the matter back to the superior court for consideration. (Read the rest.) 

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NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL BUDGET ADVOCATES--The City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates met with Mayor Eric Garcetti on March 8th to present and discuss their White Paper for the coming city budget fiscal year 2017 – 2018. 

The White Paper will contain priorities, recommendations to improve revenue generation, collection and operations and the efficient use of our tax dollars. 

The Budget Advocates take on the arduous task and spend hundreds of hours in meetings with city department and agency General Managers, and senior staff to learn, study and analyze their departments' strategic plans, operations, budget proposals and then develop recommendations. 

The Budget Advocates will next meet with and present our findings to the City Council Budget & Finance Committee followed by a presentation to the full City Council in the coming months. 

Please contact me if you wish to receive a copy of the Budget Advocates White Paper.or more information on the white paper please visit NCBALA.com, track our progress while we wait to see how our Los Angeles City Mayor responds.

(Adrienne Nicole Edwards is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. She can be reached at: A.Edwards@NCBALA.com.) 

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HAWTHORNE--In a move that stunned local residents, the Hawthorne City Council voted to extend their own terms by an additional year in the March 14th, 2017 meeting.

Under the guise of compliance with Senate Bill 415, city leaders swiftly made a motion to bring Hawthorne Ordinance 2136 from the table and called for an immediate vote. Ordinance 2136 serves to alter the election cycle of the City of Hawthorne by extending current terms by one year to accommodate the switch to even-year elections.

Two weeks prior, Councilmember Haidar Awad called for the ordinance to be tabled indefinitely due to public outcry, leading many residents to believe the ordinance would not be voted on.

Councilmember Nilo Michelin quickly objected to the motion on March 14th to bring the ordinance off the table and called for discussion. He was censured by Mayor Vargas because he was out of his seat during the motion. After a second objection by Michelin, Mayor Vargas called the vote again but allowed discussion on the Ordinance 2136 after.

“There are other ways to do this,” cited Councilman Nilo Michelin. “The state said that the elections need to be on even years by 2022. There’s nothing about extending terms. It could start in 2017 or 2019. It could be shorter terms.”

Councilmember Awad quipped that the residents in opposition were running for political office themselves, and only serving self-interests. After allowing Michelin and Awad time to speak, the Mayor again called for a vote on the ordinance which passed 4-1.

Up for re-election in November 2017 were Councilwomen Olivia Valentine and Angie English-Reyes. Valentine was appointed to council in a special appointment process after losing her seat by election to incumbent Nilo Michelin and newly elected Haidar Awad. Both Valentine and English-Reyes remained silent during the discussion, but ultimately voted to give themselves an additional year to fundraise and campaign.

BECOME INVOLVED

Several residents are gathering outside of City Hall on Tuesday, March 28th, 2017, prior to the City Council Meeting to speak out against sitting elected officials canceling a scheduled election and extending their own terms. Advocates for voting rights are encouraged to come and participate. The address to Hawthorne City Hall is 4455 W. 126th Street, Hawthorne CA 90250.

(Amie Shepard is an activist and a one-time candidate for Hawthorne City Council.)

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NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Thank you for your support Thank you for standing up for your property rights.  Thank you for being someone who wants to allow Los Angeles to flourish. If it were not for you, we would have never brought light to this abuse of the planning system.  We have received calls from other neighborhoods in which HPOZs are in process inquiring how to stop theirs.  The answer is to organize and stand up early enough in the process, not be afraid to speak out.  We did that. Without us taking a stand together, we could not have achieved what we did: a significantly liberalized Preservation Plan. Your energy gave us a voice. 

Yesterday’s Planning Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee was a stark reminder that even when it appears you have a chance, the cards may be stacked against you. It was a stark reminder of the inequalities of politics.  It was a stark reminder that we live in a great city which can make great errors in judgement. Government is a machine oiled with backroom promises and lack of discussion. Yesterday was a reminder of that.   PLUM’s decision to push the Miracle Mile HPOZ to City Council is an indication of everything that is wrong with our City government. 

What have we accomplished?  We prevented a horrible Preservation Plan from being adopted and instead we will have the most lenient in the City.  We made sure you can paint your house any color you like.  We made sure an arborist report will not be required if a property owner decides to remove mature trees.  We made sure that solar panels are permitted as per state law (and if they try to prevent drought tolerant, just let us know).  We replaced the language that would mandate transparent gates with allowances for solid.  Many additions that were prohibited under the old rules will now be allowed, including many second stories. And for those who don’t want to imitate ‘20s architecture, we forced the City to allow contemporary. To be sure, the language is still a mess, but it’s not what it was. 

What did we learn?  We learned that had we been involved and organized earlier, this abuse would likely never have happened. We learned that we could make a difference. And we learned that the people who were drawn to our group saw the future not as something frightening or repugnant, but to be embraced. That is why we are setting up Miracle Mile Forward. We look forward to seeing you all at future meetings - more information to come.

 

(Say No HPOZ is a citizen group formed to fight a proposed Miracle Mile HPOZ. They can be reached at saynohpoz@gmail.com.) 

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NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Less than two months after a horrific warehouse fire killed 36 people at the Ghost Ship artist colony in Oakland, city inspectors came knocking at the Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles’ Fashion District.

On Jan. 18, two officials with the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety showed up unannounced to the art studio and event space, which also was home to 17 artists. As the inspectors made their rounds, residents frantically posted in a community Facebook group to try to find out why two strangers with clipboards were surveying the property and asking to look inside their bedrooms.

This wasn’t the first time city officials had discovered people were living in the commercial warehouse space at 939 Maple Ave. For more than a year, in fact, the city had known Think Tank was illegally housing residents. But it wasn’t until the tragedy in Oakland that the city took more forceful action.

“We knew once the Ghost Ship fire happened, we were like, ‘This is it,’” says Think Tank Gallery executive director Jacob Patterson.

After the inspection, the LA City Attorney’s office served an order-to-comply notice to the property owners, giving the gallery until Feb. 13 to either acquire a certificate of occupancy or have residents removed under threat of a criminal complaint. By the end of the month, all of the artists had moved out.

In the wake of the fire, LA City Attorney Mike Feuer assembled a warehouse task force along with building safety officials, promising an “aggressive response” to illegal-use commercial spaces. The city’s D.I.Y. community has been on edge ever since, and the threat of a widespread crackdown on underground lofts and warehouse spaces has left many artists in fear of eviction. (Read the rest.

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