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New Neighborhood Council Election Process in the Works

It will be debated again Saturday at a special meeting and possibly presented to the city council by the end of the month.

What many hope is a new, cost-effective, fair and transparent program for conducting Los Angeles' neighborhood council elections could be submitted to the city council for approval this month.  

A special meeting was held Saturday of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils' Election Task Force. It's an advisory group made up of about two dozen representatives from neighborhood councils throughout Los Angeles to examine alternative systems of voting and recommend improvements in the electoral processes of neighborhood councils. 

Since Jan. 26, the group has met four times this year with representatives from the Mayor's office, City Councilman Paul Krekorian and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE). 

CONCERNS ABOUT 2010 ELECTION

The intent of the task force was to respond to concerns raised following the 2010 citywide neighborhood council elections, which were conducted by the City Clerk. 

The task force has echoed the desire of almost all neighborhood council boards to not have the City Clerk participate in the next round of elections, which should be held in 2012 though a delay to 2014 is also being discussed.

Other objectives of the panel include increasing the number of candidates running for local board and officer positions, increasing the number of voters in every election and identifying the most cost-effective methods for achieving these goals. 

Uniform rules and procedures are difficult to achieve because individual neighborhood councils want the flexibility to determine the dates, places and methods of their elections.

Also, some want to be able to hold elections annually rather than being limited to once every two years.   The new election process would involve using Independent Election Administrators (IEA) to supervise each election. 

These volunteers would be trained and certified by the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) to conduct uniform procedures, including candidate verification (meeting the local by-laws requirements), ballot preparation and distribution, and finally, insuring an honest, open count of those ballots. 

DONE WOULD BE FINAL ARBITER OF COMPLAINTS

Any complaints or challenges would be referred to DONE for adjudication by an independent entity.   The task force has previously recommended that neighborhood council elections should include electronic voting, but such a program is estimated to cost up to $800,000. 

DONE's current budget for handling neighborhood council elections is only $120,000.  The cost of the city clerk running the elections was over a million dollars.  

Because of the deadline set by the Los Angeles City Council to consider changing the ordinance that governs these elections, a special meeting of the task force will take place next Saturday, Nov. 12th, at 1 pm, at 114 West 5th Street.

Many expect the final details of the proposal will be approved at this meeting for submission to the city council. 

Mark November 07, 2011 at 11:20 PM
The best thing to do for Neighborhood Council elections is to limit the electorate to only those in the area who are registered to vote in any other election. It was always very misguided to allow non-residents and others otherwise not eligible to vote in any other election to vote in Neighborhood Council elections. Also, standards a candidate must meet need to be greatly changed. For instance, it is very nice to have some 14 year old kid in middle school and living with mommy and daddy have some worldly experience, but this isn't school, is supposed to be an important panel making critical decisions that just simply require plenty of experience, know how, knowledge, and maturity.
Greg Nelson November 08, 2011 at 04:39 AM
It's important to remember that the new City Charter established the primary goal of the NC system the promotion of public participation in government. It's hard increase participation by limiting it. The process through which we elected our city officials requires that voters be residents. The idea of the NC system was not to try and define who has the greatest interest in a neighborhood, or the city, and limit full participation to them, but rather to provide an opportunity for everyone who wants to participate to do so. In other words, the NC system was purposely designed to add a participatory democracy sytems to our long-standing representative democracy system that needs to be held accountable to the public.
Anthea Raymond (Editor) November 08, 2011 at 05:24 PM
@Greg -- Thanks for your comment. Do you think the issue of stakeholder vs. resident is one that is likely to go away any time soon?
Jennifer Solis November 08, 2011 at 10:30 PM
I agree that the so-called "Factual Basis" stakeholders should vote in the NCs in which they live, work or own property. The original Charter Plan did not allow for outsiders to vote (and sometimes control) NC elections, but the City Council extended this franchise five years later, thanks to the Neighborhood Council Review Commission. As for "youth" board members, I don't believe any NC allows board members under 16 -- and most NCs require at least 18 years of age. The Westlake North NC has three very smart and mature 18-year-olds on its board, for whom I would vote for ANY city elected office.
Jennifer Solis November 08, 2011 at 10:49 PM
The word "neighborhood" implies a definable community of people who are residents, workers or property/business owners within certain bounderies. Why would I want someone who fails to meet ANY of the above criteria to vote in my local governing board election? Although Mr. Nelson is the recognized expert on all things about neighborhood councils, I shall continue to believe that "participatory democracy" starts at home. -- Jennifer Solis

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