LA’s City Council voted unanimously to authorize and direct the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment to conduct Neighborhood Council board member elections on a temporary basis during the 2012 Neighborhood Council Election cycle. The Office of the City Clerk retains the ability to conduct elections in 2014.
This action took place after months of debate and hearings that began last year when the City Clerk announced they would not be conducting the 2012 Neighborhood Council elections due to budget constraints.
During LA’s Congress of Neighborhoods in September of 2011, more than 600 community leaders from throughout the city filled City Hall where they were joined by the Mayor, Councilmembers, Commissioners and City Hall Leadership. Of all the issues that were raised that day, it was Neighborhood Council elections that received the highest priority and the most united support.
In the eight months following the Congress, NC Alliances joined in the conversation and an Elections Task Force was formed to draft policy recommendations for the election process.
During Wednesday’s City Council session, Councilmember Parks reported on the Town Hall sessions he conducted as Chair of the Education and Neighborhoods Committee, noting that of all issues, moving forward with Neighborhood Council elections was the most popular.
Bill Rosendahl elevated the dialogue and spoke passionately of his relationship with the Neighborhood Councils in his district, arguing that elections are the essence of participatory democracy and that he was committed to seeing them take place.
The most important point was made by General Manager BongHwan “BH” Kim when he stated out that the Department was in a position to move forward with NC citywide elections as soon as the City Council “amended the ordinance and funded the process.”
While the City Council action authorizing NC Elections is a tremendous victory for the many Neighborhood Council leaders who sent “Let My People Vote!” messages to the City Council, the ordinance is just one of two important steps.
The next step that the City Council must take will resolve the funding issue, setting aside the funds necessary to conduct the 2012 Neighborhood Council elections.
Neighborhood Council leaders should take note that one of the proposals on the table for election funding is to have the Chief Legislative Analyst (CLA) and the City Administrative Officer (CAO) to determine an appropriate dollar amount for each Neighborhood Council to contribute toward the cost of the elections, currently estimated to be $5000 per council. This would be in addition to funds that councils have allocated for outreach expenses.
The other proposal is the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment’s request for funding in the amount of $659,000 in the proposed fiscal year 2012-2013 budget. This amount would cover hiring the additional staff needed to conduct elections, translation, printing, location fees and any necessary equipment and supplies. This funding request must still be approved by City Council.
In either scenario, Neighborhood Councils will be responsible for the outreach to their local community about the elections.
The fork in the road for Neighborhood Council leaders is to decide if they want to advocate for the election budget to come out of the City of LA’s budget or out of their Neighborhood Council budgets.
Either way, it is imperative that Neighborhood Councils weigh in on the issue and speak up quickly.
The next meeting of the Education and Neighborhoods Committee is scheduled for May 15th at 1:00 pm.
Neighborhood Council elections are scheduled to start August 4, 2012 and will take place through the end of October, 2012. The elections will be administered in twelve regions with an Independent Election Administrator assigned to each region.
Polling locations will be staffed by both paid and volunteer poll workers and each region has been assigned a week in which the Neighborhood Councils in that region will choose one day to hold their election by majority vote. On the day of the election, the Neighborhood Council can set the time in which they would like to hold their election.
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