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There Goes the Neighborhood Council

Neighborhood NoiseRegarding "Bureaucrats Move to Silence South L.A. Black Neighbor­hood Group" [Jan. 25-31]: It's amazing that after my long conversation with Steven Leigh Morris, he authors a complete misrepresentation of the facts having to do with the decertification of a neighborhood council in my district. Both the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment and the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners made the determination to decertify the Vernon/Main Neighborhood Council. I never contacted either, nor did I ever request that this be done. As for the assertion about the new South Los Angeles Wetland Park project, the facts are completely off-base. This project will convert a contaminated maintenance yard into a green space for South Los Angeles and provide a natural and beautiful means by which we can clean our waterways. Funds used for this purpose are not housing dollars — they are available specifically for the development of park space and storm-water management. Furthermore, the community meeting referenced in the article was a legally mandated Environmental Impact Report meeting and was not cut short at any time.

 Jan PerryLos Angeles City Councilwoman

 

There is more to the story about the decertification of the Vernon/Main Neighborhood Council than was reported in the article by Steven Leigh Morris. There is significant evidence, going back several years, that this neighborhood council was not functioning in a lawful manner. The real story is how the thousands of stakeholders in this neighborhood had been disenfranchised for so many years and how the community was deprived of improvements that the Neighborhood Council did not pursue.

The article says that I and three other commissioners voted to decertify the Neighborhood Council, "even after the group refuted, with detailed documentation, a litany of thin charges by DONE." The group did not have detailed documentation to refute the charges, and the charges were not thin. There was ample documentation and evidence to support the charges, while the documentation that the Neighborhood Council provided did not prove that the people who attended the meeting were duly elected or appointed at a meeting with a quorum — which is required. Rather, it proved the Department's point that the council was not operating in a legal manner based on its bylaws. To let the abuses continue would have sent the wrong message to all the neighborhood councils which are following both their bylaws and the Citywide Plan, are representative of their stakeholders and are doing good work in their communities.

 Tsilah BurmanBoard of Neighborhood Commissioners and L.A. Neighborhood Land Trust

 

The process for decertification of neighborhood councils is a long and arduous one; it takes years, not months, to get to this point. In fact, in the entire history of neighborhood councils in Los Angeles, only three have been decertified. I can attest to this reality personally. I was a member of the Vermont Harbor Neighborhood Council, which was decertified in May 2006. Years of mismanagement within the group led to this action, which has resulted in the creation of a new council: The Voices 90036. Decertification is not the end. It can be the start of a new beginning. It has been for us: We have learned from our past mistakes and now function in a more inclusive, democratic and civil manner. I know that the Vernon/Main community can and will do the same.

 Carole WhiteLos Angeles

 

 Steven Leigh Morris responds: The city raised similar charges against the North Hills West Neighbor­hood Council — another decertification attempt in which the city could not substantiate its charges. Written evidence shows that many of the charges heard by the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners are questionable. Burman's claim of "misuse of funds," for example, refers to an incident in which the city revoked the Vernon/Main Neighborhood Council's purchasing privileges because they bought food at Smart & Final for meetings. Yet city documents say that's exactly what those funds are for. Burman has admitted that no written lines exist to ensure standards when the city tries to decertify a neighborhood group. The one clear standard is that "exhaustive efforts" must be made to help a neighborhood council repair itself. Commissioner Lewis Logan, who tried hard to work with the Neighborhood Council and asked that it get another chance, was ignored. Burman admitted to me that her board had made up its mind months ago to decertify the group.

As for Councilwoman Perry, she's livid that the article reported questions raised by someone at the meeting. I was not stating those questions as facts, just that they were raised. Perry countered them in my article, as well as the accusation that she cut the meeting short. The main purpose of Perry's proposed park is, as I wrote, to purify toxic storm runoff. Finally, nowhere did my article claim that housing funds were being used for the park.

 

CorrectionThe story "Firehouse Flameout" [Jan. 25-31] by Christine Pelisek erroneously stated that attorney Genie Harrison was advertising on the Web site Lawyersandsettlements.com in search of employees of the Los Angeles Fire Depart­ment who are seeking to file lawsuits against the city.

The content on Lawyersandsettlements.com advertising for LAFD complainants to step forward, the use of Harrison's name as the contact person, and a questionnaire seeking information from potential complainants were all in fact posted on Lawyersandsettlements.com by the Web site's operators without the permission of Harrison or her law firm. L.A. Weekly did not talk to Harrison or her firm before publishing the information. We regret the error.

 

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