The Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa del Rey is considering decertifying from the City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Council system due to frustrations over funding issues with the city Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE).
The Neighborhood Council approved a motion introduced by council member Geoff Maleman Tuesday, September 6th, to create an ad hoc committee that will review the pros and cons of a possible decertification.
The ad hoc committee, which will be prepared by Neighborhood Council president Gwen Vuchsas, will report its findings to the council at a future meeting, Maleman said.
The possibility of the council decertifying from the city Neighborhood Council system has been a “long time coming,” because of numerous issues with the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment in regard to funding, bill paying and elections, Maleman said.
“(The) DONE in our experience has been more of an impediment than a partner and they keep finding ways to put up roadblocks,” Maleman said.
Neighborhood Council member David Voss agreed that the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment has “been an impediment instead of a help” for the council in representing the community.
“We try to get things done and they stand in the way,” Voss said.
Vuchsas, who was absent from the September 6th meeting, said most of the Neighborhood Council’s frustration with the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment is a result of funding issues related to the council budget.
Each certified Neighborhood Council of the City of Los Angeles receives annual funding of $50,000 from the city.
The council has submitted project bills to the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment to be paid, but the department “keeps changing the rules” and does not notify the Neighborhood Council, Vuchsas said.
“It’s a very frustrating process for us,” she said.
When the Neighborhood Council has submitted some bills for payment that had been approved, the city has requested an explanation of the projects, she said.
One such community project was the repaving of a lot at Carl E. Nielson Youth Park in which the Neighborhood Council submitted a bill to pay for the proj-ect but has not received approval from the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, she said.
Greg Nelson, DONE general manager, said the city is “all up to date on funding” and the department is not aware of any funding delays or problems.
Nelson said Neighborhood Council members have also argued that there is “too much paperwork” for the bill-paying process, but his department does not make up the rules.
“We have streamlined the rules tremendously for Neighborhood Councils, but there is minimum accountability for funds,” he said. “The same rules apply to everyone else.”
In response to some Westchester/Playa del Rey council members saying his department has become an “impediment,” Nelson said, “we’re here to assist.”
If a Neighborhood Council proposes to voluntarily decertify, the action would require approval of three-quarters of the council and an application would be submitted to the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, Nelson said.
The department then has ten business days to post public notices about the proposed decertification. The City Board of Neighborhood Commissioners must then schedule a public hearing on the proposal to consider approval, Nelson said.
While some Neighborhood Councils have previously considered decertifying from the city, the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment addressed the Neighborhood Council concerns and resolved the matter, Nelson said.
Maleman referred to the Brentwood Community Council, which he said is not part of the city Neighborhood Council system, but is still one of the “best operating councils.”
Nelson said DONE officials plan to meet with the members of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa del Rey to address their frustrations and try to resolve the issue.
When considering decertifying from the city, Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa del Rey members have acknowledged that a main issue would be the loss of city funding.
“The biggest negative is that we would lose out on $50,000,” Maleman said.
Council members have considered various options to replace the funding, including fundraising by each of the council members.
While Neighborhood Council members said they are confident that the council can function successfully without the city funding, the ad hoc committee will help the council decide if decertification is the right move.
“We’re frustrated enough to explore the option,” Maleman said.