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Los Angles: Empowerment Report - Council in Retreat

This Article is By: Greg Nelson    On  Jul. - 13, 2007

 As Kingston's City Council grapples with strategic priorities this month it is interesting to see that this problem is an issue in larger centres as well.

 -- Kingston Electors

Empowerment Report - Council in Retreat

By Greg Nelson

City Watch  July 13. 2007 

CityWatch 5-56 for Friday, July 13, 2007

I wish you had been there to see it:  the City Council’s two-day retreat in San Pedro.   The goal was to give the members an opportunity to get to know each other better, understand each other’s priorities and concerns, and perhaps identify a handful of common issues that they, as a whole, could focus on. It was the Council as no one has ever seen it.  Talking on cell phones was only permitted during the breaks. 

Councilman Greig Smith was the first one to violate the “first names only” rule as he attempted to create a “no necktie” rule.  City Council President Eric Garcetti deserves a gold star.  He’s too modest to take credit for this historic event, but it clearly had his fingerprints all over it.  The first achievement was getting 14 members to attend.  Almost all were on time.  Wendy Greuel had to attend to her mother’s funeral preparations. Doug Epperhart, president of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council, welcomed the council members to his ‘hood.”  His suggestion that neighborhood councils be involved more in the City Councils discussions found several sympathetic ears.  

Each member briefly listed his or her most outstanding accomplishment, and their top district priorities.  (CityWatch will make available a more detailed report shortly.) The casual atmosphere allowed the council members to speak somewhat more freely and often more bluntly.  The city did not video or audio tape the retreat, but there were reporters and others in the audience taking notes.  That didn’t go unnoticed by the council members, some of whom mumbled about “that Brown Act.” Bernie Parks reported that his district just got something they’ve been working toward for many years:  market-rate housing … 200 units worth.  

This was met with surprise and shock by the council members who have spent time fighting for or against affordable housing in their areas. A blunt Jack Weiss suggested that the City Council should stop being so quick to unanimously approve mayoral appointments to city commissions.  He began to question the value of the commission system because of its lack of adequate accountability.  Many of the council members felt that they needed a stronger role in the city budget process.  One of them commented that neighborhood councils are more involved in the development of the budget than they are.  

(Greg Nelson participated in the birth and development of the LA Neighborhood Council system and most recently served as the General Manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment. Nelson now provides news and issues analysis to CityWatch.) You can reach Greg Nelson at; n This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it _