Many BudgetLA meetings totaling some 250 people representing 75 neighborhood councils have been held in the past six weeks or so. Ken Draper on Friday facilitated a culmination meeting to present a plan to Deputy Mayor Larry Frank, a longtime labor and community organizer, in the hope of saving the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment and the NC system.

Shawn Simons made her Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition presentation of the Hybrid DONE plan that will reduce expenses and increase efficiency to Frank. The plan requires a reduction in DONE staff to 17 with 30 knowledgeable NC volunteers assisting the four reorganized divisions or teams.

Frank liked the presentation because it talked about functions not job positions, as is customarily done in the City as in senior this or analyst grade that. But he said that would be a hard sell to the Mayor.

Frank said he the Mayor’s office doesn’t know how to interact with NC or self created groups like LANCC. That is why he said the Mayor created a neighborhood council Mayor’s Budget Advisory Committee. That is plain pathetic. If the Mayor’s office had spent any time or effort they should know whom and how to work with us. This Mayor wants to keep a tight leash on NCs and set the rules for their participation in city government.

Larry Frank: “Even in an environment where we [the City] doesn’t have the ability to do the work, our labor partners need to sign off [on taking away the election function from the City Clerk’s office and returning the responsibility to DONE and NCs]”.

The public employee labor unions have us by the jugglies or as former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown said, “civil service runs the show.”

Doug Epperhart voiced the general opinion that NCs want to see DONE remain a distinct and separate department, not rolled up into another city department.

Ron Kaye [ ronkayela.com ] has previously said that if DONE and the NC budgets are gutted, NCs should sever themselves from the city by resigning in protest and becoming independent non-profit community groups.

The new downsized DONE Mayor could be so small that the administrative functions required of all city departments would consume most of the staff’s time without doing one “lick of work for NCs.” Instead Frank though having the Community Development Department oversee NCs could be better.

Politicians tend to be publicly unreasonable optimists, hoping to cajole the voters into going along where logic says otherwise. Whether or not the current City Clerk administered elections are canceled and turned back to NCs will not result in one penny of savings to the City, nor would the number of employees at the City Clerk’s office be reduces as a result. No employees will actually be laid off or “scrubbed” in the city jargon, that alone takes six months to implement.
Smith and the other usual anti-NC Council Members suspects and some confused ones see this as a chance to elbow the NCs in the ribs under the guise of being fiscally responsible. A responsibility they rarely exercised in the past with conviction regarding employee pay raises and perks, and tax give-a-ways for corporate sponsors. The City Council is so economically challenged that in chambers on Tuesday they decided that construction project change orders don’t cost the City any additional money when performed by if city employee, after all, by their logic, they are on the payroll anyway. Only when hen done by outside contractors do they cost more. Bizarro as though overtime and delayed projects
Larry Frank was asked at the Fridays meeting if the City was establishing a two tier pension and health care system t reduce the pension overload on the budget going forward. This was proposed by many experts including the CAO since the pension costs are driving the City into deficit. No, was the answer. Consider: Would this not be an ideal time for the City when laying off some 6,000 employees that will likely be rehired or transferred to create a better system. Well the Mayor doesn’t think so.

Breaking news Monday said the the DONE will disappear and become part of CDD. BongHwan Kim has until June 30th as DONE General Manager.

With our help the NC system will endure, unless the people decide otherwise, not the myopic stiffs in CC.
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DONE expected to be folded into another agency to save money
By Rick Orlov, Staff Writer
Updated: 02/21/2010 06;10;06 PM PST

In the continuing effort to reduce city costs, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is expected to announce plans today to fold the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment into another city agency.

A recommendation to the mayor on Sunday calls for placing the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, or DONE, within the Community Development Department and reducing its staff from 42 to about a dozen.

DONE has a total budget of $3.2 million.

Under the action, DONE General Manger BH Kim is expected to step down as director. Responsibility for the agency will be placed with CDD Director Richard Benbow.

Villaraigosa, who last week folded the city Environmental Affairs Department into other city agencies and ordered the closing of the Human Services Department, is taking the action at the urging of his staff to further save money.

The recommendation was submitted in a memo to Villaraigosa, officials said, and he is expected to formally announce the decision today.

Several Neighborhood Council leaders were briefed about the recommendation last Friday by Deputy Mayor Larry Frank.

The action is not expected to go down easy among the 90 neighborhood councils, which have been increasingly at odds with the city.

Al Abrams, vice chair of the Board of Neighborhood Councils, sent out an open letter over the weekend warning of the impact of the action, especially taking money away from Neighborhood Council elections.

"Their Advertisement goal:

Take the balance of money that is left in the elections account and leave the NCs to `do their own thing,"' Abrams wrote. "They're hiding behind the statements of `giving back the elections to the Neighborhood Councils.' This is a false and insincere attempt to gut the NC system.

"The truth is this will be disastrous for NCs. Without a staffed department there to help them, which is about to be `scrubbed clean' and without any funding for any elections, NCs will be left out in the cold to fend for themselves."

The Board of Neighborhood Councils Commission is expected to remain in place and Abrams is asking the groups to contact council members to keep the election funding.

What is uncertain is how much money will be provided to Neighborhood Councils to fund projects this year. The City Council already has allocated $1.5 million in money it has been holding onto for various other projects.

This year, neighborhood council funding was reduced from $50,000 to $45,000 for each group. Another proposal has threatened to cut that amount further down to $17,500 for the coming year.

Aides to Councilman Paul Krekorian, who chairs the Neighborhood and Elections Commission, said they were unaware of the proposal.

Neighborhood Councils were created in the new City Charter approved by voters in 1999 and began to flourish under former Mayor James Hahn, who provided them with an annual budget.

The councils are composed of volunteer residents and most have been able to operate with little controversy. However, some have had difficulties in conducting their own elections while others were accused of fraud and embezzlement of city funds.

For the most part, the groups were able to band together to fight a number of city proposals, mostly involving the Department of Water and Power. The DWP also created a Neighborhood Council oversight board that has been active in voicing criticism of the agency.

Villaraigosa and the City Council have been moving on a number of fronts to try to save money as the city faces a $212 million shortfall this year and another $484 million next year in balancing the city's $7.01 billion budget.

Among the actions has been the elimination and consolidation of city agencies and a call to lay off up to 4,000 workers.

Krekorian's staff has started a blog (cd2policy.wordpress.com) to keep
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activists up to speed on what he is doing as chairman of the Neighborhood and Education Committee.

"The response has been tremendous," spokesman Jeremy Obserstein said. "We created it to elicit feedback about the future of neighborhood empowerment and are continuing it because of the interest we've received."

Part Part 1: vimeo.com/9646408

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