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is santa bringing more money?

By Eric Richardson
Published: Saturday, December 25, 2004, at 06:58AM

Blogging on Christmas? About actual news? Tisk tisk... Oh well.

The LA Times today has an article on neighborhood council spending. It paints a (favorable) picture of how councils use their money, and quotes several council members who say that the system needs more funding. That's a complicated issue.

From the article:

Nearly two years after the city began giving each of its neighborhood councils $50,000 per year, leaders of the panels throughout Los Angeles have concluded that it's not enough for them to do the meaningful work they would like to accomplish.

Presidents of neighborhood councils have begun urging Mayor James K. Hahn and his opponents in the upcoming election to increase the allocation to between $100,000 and $500,000 so that councils can better address community needs.

"The neighborhood councils are vastly underfunded, and that's a big part of our problem," said Jim Alger, a member of the Northridge West Neighborhood Council, a point he has conveyed to the main mayoral candidates.

In a perfect world, yes, the neighborhood council would have access to the funds that it needs to execute local projects. But the problem is, as Jan Perry says in the article, is that councils first need to establish a credible record of being able to wisely spend the money they do have. Having been on the downtown council for several months now I'm not sure that I would be comfortable with us having a substantially greater budget at this time. A larger budget brings with it larger challenges and more discord over what the sums should be spent on. Were councils to have larger budgets, I think I would support requiring more training for members as well (which, really, I already do). If council members are going to be able to effectively manage and distribute larger sums they would need to put more time into understanding the protocol of meetings and communicating ahead of time in order to keep discussions from devolving into conflict.

Sitting in council meetings, and especially committee meetings, you really get a feel for how this is the grassroots of government. We are not politicians, though indeed we have been elected to office. And right now that's fine, since our ability to get ourselves into trouble is tempered by a lack of funds. But if that were to change, so too would need to change the level of our competence.

Whew, that last bit sounds like trouble...

I'm not saying NC people are incompetent. I have enjoyed working with all the people I have encountered in the NC process. I include myself when I write that we would need additional training in order to effictively manage larger sums.

Also, the NC funding process definitely needs to be altered so that NC's can accept donations from community corporations in order to acheive public/private funding for events and such. But that's different since it's for projects, rather than just a larger budget.


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