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WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD
A tip of the hat to Robert Greene for the most comprehensive piece on Los Angeles’ new system of neighborhood councils [“Not in My Neighborhood Council,” August 25–September 2]. It would have been easy to highlight only the goofy experiences of the neighborhood councils, and thereby present readers with a distorted view; however, I will probably have to create an urban-myths list for those who believe that if it’s in print, it is indeed fact. The readers of this story will be happy to know that not one neighborhood council has ever spent money on a limousine.
L.A. Weekly is lucky to have Robert Greene. He deserves a raise, or at least a better office.
Department of Neighborhood Empowerment
I am surprised and disappointed by Robert Greene’s article “Not in My Neighborhood Council.” It seems as if Mr. Greene began with a thesis he wanted to support and no amount of factual information to the contrary could sway his perspective. Certainly, the pull quote by me does not accurately reflect the tone or substance of our conversation. Throughout the discussion, I expressed that, although there have been some minor administrative hurdles, the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council is building a system that is inclusive and accessible, and functions with surprising ease. This remains true.
Similarly, it is false that the SLNC’s position paper on inclusionary zoning supports development of affordable housing “elsewhere.” On the contrary, the paper clearly delineates zones suitable for further development right in the heart of Silver Lake.
Finally, it strikes me as perhaps half a decade too soon to call the N.C. system “broken.” Most councils are scarcely a year old — two at the most. Buildings can’t have structural integrity until construction is complete, and as of now this edifice is scarcely more than a mass of steel girders. To declare it doomed is premature and cynical.
Co-Chair, Governing Board,
Silver Lake Neighborhood Council
As one of the founding members of the Neighborhood Councils Movement back in 1992, I had a ringside seat as the pressure mounted and culminated in the charter-reform victory. Ironically, one of the arguments set forth in favor of advisory, rather than decision-making, councils was that we would not have to drown in the red tape required for decision-making bodies in California; however, that same bureaucracy provides potential relief from another hazard Greene so accurately identifies — the tendency of entrenched neighborhood power brokers to hijack the democratic process to extend their lifetime stranglehold on community-leadership status.
Case in point: My own West L.A. Neighborhood Council is currently going through its first election for its board of directors (BOD). As in most BODs, West L.A. designated a portion of the seats for residents, businesses, churches and schools, with a few at-large seats open to everyone, giving every stakeholder a choice of seats for which to run. But a few “community leaders” decided they shouldn’t have to make their choice before the election — they would simply run for as many seats as they wanted to, see how well they did and then take the seat wherever they got the most votes.
Needless to say, neighbors who have worked long and hard to set up an open and fair election aren’t taking this lying down. Suddenly, another sleepy little exercise in civic-mindedness has become a lot more interesting as people begin taking sides.
Neighborhood Councils Movement
West Los Angeles
I take issue with Marc Cooper equating the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to MoveOn.org in his column “Pimps and Wimps” [Dissonance, August 25–September 2]. While they are both 527s, the Swift Boat group seems to be so only in the letter of the law — a small, concentrated group of people receiving cash from a minute group of people. MoveOn, however, boasts a membership of over 2 million people making contributions of $100 and less — the true spirit of the 527 provision.
These groups are not on equal ground at all, and I for one am tired of media equating them for purposes of balance in reporting. The Swift Boat ad is as close to political libel as one can get. MoveOn ads are based on fact, and demonstrate consequences of this administration’s actions over the last four years. This complaint is not about having the tables turned, it is about fair play.
As some of those who were arrested at the protest in support of hotel workers two weeks ago, we looked forward to the Weekly’s coverage of the event [“Rooms of Dissent,” August 20–26]. Kudos to Robert Greene for asking the hard questions: How was pedestrian traffic impacted? In what order were protesters arrested? How were arrestees transported? Did photographers get good shots? We read this account and wonder if there’s now a Pulitzer for snideness that Greene is gunning for.
You would think that anyone reading about the closing of entire sections of downtown, a demonstration of hundreds and the arrest of dozens might be interested in one other question: Why? Why did community members such as us feel a responsibility to stand in solidarity with overworked and underpaid housekeepers, busboys and other hotel workers? Why have the workers been bullied by their bosses — who, before the arrival of a federal mediator, declared that they would no longer negotiate with workers — to the point where only massive actions in the street would get the attention of a public numb to attacks on workers? What would a defeat for hotel workers mean for our city? Apparently reporters like Greene are too numb to ask the right questions. Shame on him.
—Jon Zerolnick and
The photo of rapper Deadlee in the August 20–26 issue should have been credited to Marla Rutherford.