Are LA’s Neighborhood Council Elections Worth the Price?

neighborhood council electionsIt’s Neighborhood Council election season in Los Angeles, a period of time that is marked by the perennial  debate within City Hall over the high cost of representative government and the challenge “Do Neighborhood Council elections matter?”

Elections are a Neighborhood Council’s most significant outreach opportunity, one that allows them to tell their story to their stakeholders, their potential candidates, the city as a whole, their neighborhood partners, and to City Hall. Most of all, it offers an opportunity to evaluate the past and to set a vision for the future.

LA’s City Charter calls on Neighborhood Councils to “Promote more citizen participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs,” a mandate that is best fulfilled with robust elections.

Simply positioning Neighborhood Council elections as an outreach event results in a firm “Yes, Neighborhood Council Elections matter!”

Elections also offer Neighborhood Councils an opportunity to “check their attitude,” a phrase used by airline pilots during landing who refer to their relationship to the ground as “attitude.” Pilots who want to avoid crashes will repeatedly “check their attitude.”

Neighborhood Councils who embrace robust and contested elections have an opportunity to revisit their story, their mission, and their relationship with the community.

Again, if Neighborhood Council Elections were evaluated simply on their ability to “check a council’s attitude,” the result would be “Yes, Neighborhood Council elections matter!”

Elections are a Neighborhood Council’s opportunity to connect with City Hall by engaging the community in a dialogue on the issues that matter to the people, whether they are voters or candidates.

City Hall’s commitment to responding to local needs is contingent on participation from the community. Candidates who can clearly address the issues that motivate them to run will give stakeholders a clear opportunity to communicate their priorities and their values.

This alone makes Neighborhood Council elections a worthwhile endeavor and the result is a clear “Yes, Neighborhood Council elections matter.”

Neighborhood Councils were created in response to local dissatisfaction with the delivery of city services and they came as part of a commitment to engage the people of LA with City Hall.

To that end, Neighborhood Council elections matter most to City Hall because, without them, City Hall’s commitment to involving the people in an open and participatory government is broken.

City Hall’s commitment to the people, as codified in the City Charter, is priceless. As a result, Neighborhood Council elections matter and they are worth the price.

Stephen Box
CityWatch LA

Posted: Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Comments

  1. JoeWeinstein says

    The essence of genuine participation in public decisions is not popularity contests among a comparatively few candidate special decision-makers.  Instead, it’s actually making decisions – whether for a neighborhood or for the city. 

    Elections of officers – whether on the neighborhood level or city-wide – is at best a needlessly costly and indirect way to ensure that a relatively few folk – the ‘winners’ – might participate in the real business of government:  making public decisions.  Instead of costly popularity contests to decide a few ‘winners’,  why not just give all interested folks turns in deliberating on and then making the decisions?    

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