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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Greg Nelson plays Rock the Boat

Well, actually this plan is more like blowing up the boat and building an entire new one.

Greg Nelson, former General Manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, has issued a 10-point plan to "make City Council work."

1. Hold your meetings at night so people who work can attend, and ask the city commissions to do the same.

Now why on earth should the citizens of Los Angeles force our City Councilmembers to openly ignore us in the evening? Certainly if a member of the public wishes to be ignored, they can take a day off of work, listen to the City Council blow hot air for hours about nothing we care about and then be ignored for one minute of speaker time like everyone else.

2. From time to time, hold meetings in the neighborhoods and sit silently while the public shares its thoughts with you.

Here Mr. Nelson acts as if the City Council gives a damn what anyone not holding a campaign contribution check thinks. Maybe if we sat them behind glass like in one of those peep shows they have in New York. We could drop in a quarter, the curtain would go up and they would be forced to listen to us. It would be more honest than the scheme we have now and since the only thing that makes these puppets listen anyway is money, it could be a win win.

3. Whenever you schedule a meeting with just 24 hours' notice, include on the agenda the reason for the urgency so the public can decide if it agrees.

The problem here is that every "Special" agenda would say "so we can sail this past you and hope you don't notice." Perhaps we could just get them a stamp?

4. While you're developing rules of civility for people addressing you at your meetings, toss in a couple of rules about how you will treat each other and the public speakers.

They have rules, they flat out ignore the speakers. If they could ban public comment they would for they know all and we are merely mortals.

5. Write your agendas in language that people can understand.

This is problematic. It could lead to public outcry at the various shenanigans that goes on at City Hall all day, like all the free money we give away to "connected" campaign contributors in fee waivers.

6. Learn from "American Idol." We've all heard that more people vote for "American Idol" winners than vote for president. So give the public a couple weeks' notice that you will be discussing an important issue. Invite them to watch it on the city's cable channel. Explain that before you vote, a timeout will be taken so the public can cast a yes or no vote through a toll-free number or the Internet. You'd set a record for the greatest number of people who ever paid attention to a City Council deliberation.

Here, Mr. Nelson completely loses his mind. Public input is discouraged at all costs. The only people that matter are campaign donors and lobbyists and they already have each Councilmembers cell phone number to tell them how to vote so why on earth should the City Council be bothered to "poll the audience?" I could hear the laughter from the elevator on this one.

7. Create a blog. Big businesses started doing it. Rumors and misinformation will always float around. Let it all go public and post the truth.

Of course misinformation gets around, usually from the City Council staff. That is part of the plan, keep the masses confused, make government complicated and they won't want to be bothered. The truth is relative to whatever is politically convenient and/or can be spun. Creating a constant record of City Council members positions and ideas will rapidly lead to conflicting statements from the same council member and create reelection issues.

8. Create emergency response teams in every neighborhood. This would give you a way to reach every person in the city and give them a reason to get involved. You might also save lives.

This would require real work on the City Councils part... that's what the Neighborhood Councils are for and if the idea works well enough, the City Council will take the credit for it. If not, the City Council can use it as an example of the Neighborhood Councils inexperience and justify their own, superior, existence.

9. Be relevant. People will get involved if you propose laws and programs that are important to them.

I must refer you to the response for ideas 4 and 6.

10. Ensure that the Neighborhood Councils are trained in the skills they want and need to be more powerful and effective. As the law requires, provide assurances that they will receive an adequate amount of time to weigh in before you make important decisions.

Are you kidding? The City Council hates the very idea of Neighborhood Councils. They love to go on about "whether they represent the community" as if the City Council does. They act as if we don't notice that NC members have a difficult time meeting with Councilmembers but a lobbyist gets the red carpet treatment. The Neighborhood Councils are supposed to fail. Since that isn't happening the City Council must "reign in" these Neighborhood Councils for if they don't how would they be able to say that neighborhood Councils are "an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy filled with gadflies and wannabes?"

Greg, Greg, Greg...

An old political junkie friend of mine used to say when dealing with reporters, "never accept the premise of the question." Here I believe we have to spend allot of energy mustering up the strength to accept the premise of Mr. Nelsons' statement... as if the City Council is interested in working in the first place.

This bunch has proven that they couldn't care less about what the people think. They enact rules to lessen public participation and ignore the State Law, Charter, and City Ordinances whenever they damn well feel like it.

They treat Neighborhood Councils as if they are City Council members when it comes to restricting their ability to do things and then hold them at bay when they attempt to exert any power.

On the other hand, paid lobbyists meet regularly with top staff and the members themselves while the public is completely left out. Why? Because the public doesn't write campaign checks in large enough numbers.

All in all Greg, those were some truly good ideas but I will buy you a steak dinner on August 10 2007 if even one of these ideas is enacted. Until then, the Neighborhood Councils will pick these issues off one at a time and force the system to change.

14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Well, we have to accept the possibility that Mr. Nelson has some idea of how the City Council works, or should work, since he was a Councilmember's Chief Deputy for many years, and worked for Council offices for more than 20!

So if his premise is that it can and should function better and more democratically, we can dig that. Whether his remedies are the right ones may well be another story.

This idea that everyone should be able to vote on everything is especially silly. First, not everyone WANTS to vote on everything. Most of what City government does is too complicated, technical and boring to interest the gaggle of gadflies, NCs and casual observers who'd take advantage of his "instant referendum" idea.

Also, whatever happened to the idea of representative democracy (setting aside the argument that it's been bought off by special interests, of course)? If we-the-people are supposed to make every decision (from the fun big things like development and Sunshine Canyon down to the minutiae of street vacations and authorizations to shred boxes of old paperwork), why have a City Council or even Neighborhood Councils? Have quarterly marathon town hall meetings at the Coliseum and whoever shows up gets to make all the decisions about everything!

There are a couple of good reasons why we have a City Council. First, the vast majority of us don't want to be bothered with most of the decisionmaking, so we elect/hire someone else to do all that boring crap for us. Second, the vast majority of us don't know doodly-squat about how all this stuff works and our decisions would probably be every bit as bonehead as those of the current electeds, albeit for a different set of reasons.

An L.A. governed by the everyone-vote-on-everything "mobocracy" would be more dysfunctional than what we have now. Common sense counts for a lot, but all you have to do is listen to (or read) the comments of the people who think they know how to do it better to understand that they have an awfully inflated perception of themselves, and not nearly as much common sense as they would have you believe.

August 10, 2006 7:33 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Why in the hell do you have to post such a long thread? I like Greg's ideas but please those clowns on city council would ever do anything that helps the public.

August 10, 2006 8:01 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

NC's don't matter, they're nothing but gadflies.

August 10, 2006 9:05 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Of course Greg knows how City Council works. That's why neighborhood councils are here.

I think he's been there long enough to determine which remedies would allow council to function better.

I like your town hall idea, 7:33 AM.

You can't possibly think that the bloggers here would all be the actual voters, do you?

Sometimes they make the most racist, unintelligent comments I've ever heard but I think that is just because it's anonymous. If they had to use their real names, things would change around here.

I think I'm very logical and I do have answers to several of the city's problems (the ones that "I" would vote on if the instant referendum idea were rooted), but there is no way in hell I am going to get anyone inside City Hall to listen to me when the special interests are buying off their side of the story. I suppose there are people here who would say I've got an inflated perception of myself, but if they're into the special interest money, how else to better marginalize me?

So spoken like the wonk that you obviously are, you must be open to some of Greg's ideas and remedies. They aren't as far-fetched as they appear. Change sucks sometimes.

August 10, 2006 11:34 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

All this is MOOT-squared when you have a mayor who absolutely disdains the neighborhood councils and will go out of his way to see that nothing truly "grass roots" works its way through them, or the city council. . . not on his Rolex.

In contrast to hizzoner, the city council looks like a horseshow full of neighborhood council groupies.

There isn't any other way of explaining that Nelson allowed in (on his watch) and later, attention-deficit Villaraigosa placed in interim control of DONE, the LEAST empowering person to draw a city paycheck in the last 30 years. That's supposed to be the Department of Neighborhood EMPOWERment.

In her two years in CD14, Lisa Sarno ran up an impressive 24-month-streak record of going out of her way to dismiss, disregard, and disrespect the express and even unanimous wishes of district communities (unless, of course, there was a photo-op in it for her job-shopping boss). Constituent shopping, consensus-shifting, and conflict-baiting every damn day for two years.

NOPE, moot points.

One Sarno at DONE trumps all "populist" thoughts, plans, etc.

If Nelson had wanted NCs, and city council, to work he would have kept that particular ADV hanger-on out of anything but a symbolic position re: NCs. Given that he had that opportunity, and scotched it -- Nelson now just goes to the head of the "gadfly" line, himself.

Sit between McQuiston and Wiseman, Greg. . . and wait for your two minutes per agenda item (the commissioners need some "down" time to file their nails while you ramble).

August 10, 2006 12:45 PM  

Anonymous valleygladfly said:

Let's not forget that Neighborhood Councils were created to derail succession.

There is only one solution for Los Angeles - it needs to succeed from itself. It's time for all of the well-defined/recognized communities, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, West LA, etc., to demand to be set free. It's our only hope otherwise it will be just more of the same - unless, of course, voters decide to fund Council Members' campaigns just like lobbyists do!

August 10, 2006 2:30 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Well, you know what the illiterate (LAUSD educated?) gadfly says:

"Nothing secedes like success."

Anybody else ready to "succeed" from L.A.! Anybody... anybody...???

(Maybe this explains why the majority of voters were opposed to parts of L.A. SECEDING. They thought the Valley was actually going to SUCCEED for once!)

HA!

August 10, 2006 3:58 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

"Rock the Boat"

Pfahhh... the only time this career bureacrat ever rocked the boat was getting in, or getting out.

Other than that, it was
"aye, aye, captain!"

August 10, 2006 6:32 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Idiots!!!! All of you!!!!!!!!!

August 10, 2006 10:19 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Screw Nelson and the whole NC system. The NC's are self-serving hosers who only care about personal agendas and to see how far they can stick their heads up the City Council and Mayor's asses! It is about time to get rid of the NC's!
Get rid of City Council and AV too. None of these monkeys do shit!

August 10, 2006 11:38 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Neighborhood Councils were created to help promote URBANISM as in Smart Growth, Infill and Vertical Sprawl.

Problem is it backfired. Instead of Urban Communism the city got NIMBYISM!

August 11, 2006 12:56 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

If we were really lucky in the valley, we could have seceded and had valley gladfly be our mayor.

August 11, 2006 5:18 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Greg Nelson is the jackass of all jackasses. From the very beginning he led the NC's down the garden path. Keep in mind he was Joel Wachs lover when Joel put forth the motion that created NCs.

As head of DONE he has been instrumental in allowing them to get where we are today--nowhere!

And now that he has left DONE, he is going to help them develop power where power was never intended.

August 13, 2006 11:34 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Greg Nelson is the opposite of a jackass. He did what no human in the city of L.A. could have done and that is gotten 85 neighborhood councils certified.

If you discount that, you're just a gay bashing nut job who couldn't have done it yourself so you bash Greg.

August 14, 2006 12:35 PM  

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