Wednesday September 4th marks a watershed moment for our silver lake neighborhood council as we have finally been tasked in no uncertain terms to change our council culture.
Now, both saddened & inspired by the community rebellion unfolding at Wednesdays governing board meeting, I am moved to continue sharing my opinions as i feel them. Please see my earlier post on neighborhood council culture for context.
Once again it appears to me we have marginalized neighbors, and voices inside the council whose ideas differ from the status quo. Once again we have hidden cynically behind the comfort, the power and the institutional violence of our privilege. The community rebellion that occurred on Wednesday evening indicates this is no longer an effective strategy for running council meetings.
“What is institutional / structural violence,” you ask?
Check out this wike page that describes the idea:
So rather than point fingers elsewhere or blame others to justify the aftermath of our council co-chairs leadership, I prefer to ask for introspection and acceptance of our institutional responsibility for creating the community rebellion of September 4th.
1) because with injunction our caring but misdirected Los Angeles police force - over-armed and over-funded - are asking for more power (and untold dollars) to fight an un-winnable, extra-legal ‘war on crime’ that most actively effects people of color, young people and those underserved and disenfranchised by our society.
2) because a dysfunctional and overstuffed prison industrial complex profiteers on the human beings being fed to it by mis-directed policing and an archaic justice model.
3) because a person of color is being killed by police or armed guards every few days in these United States (as I learned Wednesday night from a community rebellion participant.)
4) because large-scale, corporate real estate profiteering is vested in keeping this whole process moving in our neighborhood. and because from the federal government on down we are still blindly dedicated to perilous growth and expansion in spite of new economic paradigms bubbling up everywhere.
I must ask the following hard question:
How could the neighborhood council leadership have reasonably expected community rebellion not to be the outcome when shutting down further dialogue on the topic of expanding police powers?
Perhaps I was ignorant of parliamentary rules and remiss in not asking effectively enough that the council co-chair allow those assembled to resist the injunction be allowed to speak. This responsibility I accept. I further wonder about the responsibilities of our board parliamentarian who failed to inform the neighborhood council as a whole of the Roberts rules that might have helped serve the needs of all board members and all assembled, empowering us to fight to let the community be heard. But co-chair Renee Nahum's initial decision not to ‘not hear’ community comments re the motion in question - and not publicly notify those assembled of her decision until after ‘public comments’ closed - set the stage for the community rebellion to occur by silencing the many on the outside in service of the few on the inside.
So it is of utmost importance in understanding the community rebellion that followed to acknowledge the context of institutional violence being put upon us by the city, state and federal governments - as well as those working tirelessly in the room to ensure outcomes - in order to hold proper space for empathizing with the situation unfolding and understanding why it did.
The decision ‘not to hear’ community input, even as our institution – the neighborhood council – was being honored by 125 plus concerned community members in attendance was unfriendly, un-neighborly and discouraging at best. At worst it was a systematic and pre-conceived strategy to maintain, serve and protect the status quo. Worse still it felt orchestrated by city insiders who effectively shut down an oppressed peoples righteous moment to orderly self express. All parties in this debate are asking for safety on our streets – and when we’re feeling unsafe, we are always within boundaries to call out-loud for help and be heard. The key here will be finding solutions that serve to help everyone feeling threatened – not only those with connection to power, privilege or money.
I have sat through three years of SLNC governing board meetings mostly attended by no one at all, or a smattering of extremely dedicated and persistent die-hards (bless them all, may they multiply). So it’s a big deal when people show up, and they ought always be respected, honored and allowed to speak. To institutionally and bureaucratically shut down conversation of the many in the auditorium on Wednesday night in the name of expediency for those few assembled behind desks (a hierarchical arrangement I abhor); or in the name of a ‘packed agenda’ of items; felt like a de-humanizing slap in the face to those dedicated friends and neighbors who bothered to bring us their concerns, their fears, their vulnerabilities and show up to also ask for safety for everyone in our streets.
It is my personal path - and I represent in this situation not for the council but for those folks who elected me to serve them - to point out that neighborhood councils are not chartered to ape yet another state institution where hierarchy trumps dialogue with human beings and where strong willed, politically connected deciders make fast, loose decisions in service of efficiency. Rather, we are neighborhood volunteers tasked with making our cities governance more permeable to people who live here, especially those marginalized or less empowered by privilege. We are also tasked to show the city its own dysfunction and help field grass roots concerns. We might even, one day, experiment with structural change in our government models and institutions through exploring deep, open dialogue, new kinds of group process and innovative conversation. In fulfilling these tasks and expectations, SLNC leadership last night gets an “F” for inciting rebellion through a combination of stubbornness, arrogance and behind the scenes technical shenanigans.
Finally and after all this, the SLNC voted three times: first 8-7 in favor of the motion - a victory for those assembled to resist, then 8-8 calling a tie, then 9-8 to defeat the motion and tacitly support escalation through injunction. The unfolding of these voting numbers and my resulting uncertainty re what they actually are is material for a whole other post. So I will leave it here.
I am very grateful to everyone in the room on Wednesday night – neighbors, concerned citizens, fellow council family, police and all. It was not an easy night for anyone, but nothing broke and nobody got hurt and I am confident that good will come of it. As my sister is fond of reminding, ‘the truth will find its way.’
In solidarity and with love for all.
Ps – there’s tons of data re injunctions on line. I urge you to search ‘injunction’ and tool around.