Greg Nelson plays Rock the Boat
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.