It's time for neighborhood council (NC) elections. Not many people turn up at these elections, maybe a few hundred at the best ones. This is a pity because the people elected get to spend tons of city of LA money. Each NC has its own rules for how it can spend its money. On the city of LA's website you can see what each NC is spending money on.
These lists of NC expenses are pretty opaque unless, perhaps, youre the treasurer of the NC listed. What is clear, though is that nearly 100 NCs have collectively received and spent tens of millions of dollars since 2001 when NCs first got started. If the non-transparency of NC operations concerns you, you should vote in the upcoming NC elections. But there is an obstacle.
Who is eligible to vote? Stakeholders. Who are they? Is it enough to declare yourself a stakeholder or should you show some proof? Last time, at the Los Feliz (officially the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council is known as the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council, GGPNC) precinct I declared myself a Los Feliz stakeholder because I walk my dog there which I consider proof of interest in the neighborhood. I was shown a map and asked to trace a dog walk route. I did and I was allowed to vote as a "factual basis stakeholder" (FBS) for At Large seats on the Los Feliz NC.
In the last election Los Feliz had the largest number of voters in the history of NCs.*
After Los Feliz I went to Silverlake, where I live and walk my dog every day. The voting clerks wouldnt take my word for it, I had to show a drivers license. This requirement is contrary to what the City Council intended:
The definition of the factual basis stakeholder, also known as the “affirmation” voter seat, was created in 2008 by the Los Angeles City Council. These potential voters are not required to live, work or own property in the area where they wish to vote. As long as they can “affirm” an interest in a particular neighborhood council, the voters are permitted to cast ballots in that local board's elections.
That's from http://www.argonautnewspaper.com/articles/2010/11/11/news_-_features/top_stories/2.txt . It's worth reading because it also lists the arguments against allowing FBSs or even creating a seat for them on NC boards.
Soon after the City Council decision, BONC which oversees the NC system, had a meeting and reviewed the status of FBSs. Here are the minutes:
It seems there is a worry about FBSs being used to engineer NC takeovers. And, in fact, it surely happens. The question is, Is it enough of a problem to restrict or clamp down on voting eligibility rights?
Frightening scenarios of NC "factual basis stakeholder voter fraud", include:
- A miscreant running for an at-Large NC seat gets some friends from a different neighborhood to vote for him/her using an FBS subterfuge.
- A power-hungry pastor urges congregants who live in a different neighborhood to vote as FBSs in the church's NC district.
- A corrupt citizen gives Starbucks coupons to non-locals so theyll vote for him/her, using local Starbucks receipts as proof of FBS status.
- A scumbag found some homeless people and plied them with cigarettes and beer to go to an NC precinct and plead FBS status to vote for the scumbag.
I wonder what kind of person would go to the trouble of cajoling or even bribing people to infiltrate an NC election. How much is at stake? NCs can only advise the city, although they do get to spend about $40K/year. No single board member controls how this largesse gets spent. It still takes a bunch of board members to pass a motion to spend money. Moreover, all these board members are known to the community. Gossip should suffice to guard against takeovers by assholes.
October 6, I intend to vote in as many NCs as I walk my dog in, just as the City Council intended. Not that what the city council intends is necessarily good, I hasten to add.
* I believe GGPNC had 700+ people voting. Silverlake had about 500+. Single votes can make a big differences with so few voters.