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Monday
Dec242012

L.A. CITY HALL: Neighborhood councils, concerns regarding eligibility to vote in N/C elections, editorial, "Who are your neighbors?"....

* Los Angeles Times (editorial):  "Who are your neighbors?" - "Los Angeles may need to tighten the rules on who is eligible to vote in neighborhood council elections." - From the LAT:

One of the animating forces behind reform of the City Charter in the 1990s was widespread frustration that the city did not effectively encourage or permit communities to participate in setting policy. In the San Fernando Valley, the harbor, Hollywood and other areas of Los Angeles, voters were so angry that they flirted with secession as a way to take control of the decisions that affected their futures.

One result was the creation of a system of neighborhood councils. Today, those entities, which voters approved as part of a larger package of charter reforms in 1999, are something less than their most ardent advocates once wanted but also something less than their detractors once feared. They are purely advisory. Other than controlling small budgets for neighborhood improvements, their only power is to persuade. They have no authority to veto proposed developments or otherwise control land use in their areas, an idea that some advocates once pressed for but that alarmed others who worried that projects would be blocked out of a sort of institutionalized NIMBYism.

And yet, despite the restrictions on their authority, the councils have managed to become significant, if uneven, sources of influence at City Hall. They helped create the pressure, for example, that led to a ratepayer advocate at the Department of Water and Power. Indeed, one measure of their influence is that they have in some cases been the object of gamesmanship — no one plays dirty to take over a powerless body.

One way that special interests have done that is by stacking neighborhood council elections — turning out large numbers of voters with little connection to the neighborhood and encouraging them to vote for particular candidates. . . . . . . . .

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It's not an accident, or necessarily a bad thing, that people with a relatively loose connection to a neighborhood are allowed to participate. This is a subject that was much discussed when the councils were established, and along with the decision to make the councils relatively powerless came a decision to open their elections to a broad group of stakeholders.

But today's councils may have taken that notion too far. It defies common sense to say that a person who stops for coffee at a Starbucks or fills his tank at a service station has the same investment in a community as a person who owns a home or business there. And if anyone with a Starbucks receipt can vote, then those elections will always be subject to manipulation. . . . . . . .

The city has grappled with this issue before, but it remains unsettled. The latest effort is being spearheaded by City Councilman Jose Huizar — and it is to be commended if also to be pursued with some caution................