City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates
2010-11 Budget Statement
As Los Angeles prepares to enter the 2010-11 fiscal year, the neighborhood councils’ budget advocates have been busy working on a variety of issues related to—and voiced concerns about—the city’s current financial crisis, reports of impending insolvency, and the creation of a realistic budget for the coming 12 months. Beyond that lie the dangers inherent in looming pension shortfalls and contractual obligations which bind the city.
The budget advocates—elected by their neighborhood council peers to represent the 90 community organizations—are responsible for gathering the concerns, opinions, and suggestions of the councils and forwarding them to city officials. On March 19, the advocates presented their views about the fiscal situation to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and offered ideas about balancing the budget.
Among those ideas:
- Reorganizing the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment to save taxpayers as much or more than recommended by the city administrative officer and replacing a non-responsive bureaucracy with a support system based on the needs of neighborhoods councils;
- Decreasing expenditures by reducing the pay of workers on a sliding scale that would not affect lower-wage employees;
- Improving efficiency via eliminating duplication of services, implementing better methods to perform tasks, and merging specific services and departments;
- Increasing revenue by adjusting licenses, permits, fines and fees to cover cost of services, and establishing a program to identify and recover delinquent and unpaid taxes, licenses, fines, and permit fees.
- Encouraging greater economic development, maintaining a balanced approach preserving industrial uses where appropriate.
Specific examples included eliminating the Department of Transportation and reassigning its components to other departments. Another was creating a system to set up an administrative code enforcement program which would streamline the process for collecting revenue from nuisance crimes and quality of life infractions.
Because of the ongoing financial crisis the city is facing, the 2010-11 budget advocates are meeting with the mayor’s staff every other week to address means of continuing the delivery of critical services, maintain the city’s fiscal well-being, and find and implement greater efficiencies to save money. Restructuring the neighborhood council system and improving support services is a priority of the budget advocates. They are also working on some specific solutions to increase volunteer participation to provide support for city services, including continuing programming in parks and libraries despite budget cuts.
Until recently, this group was referred to as neighborhood council budget advisors and dealt exclusively with the mayor. This year, these individuals are “advocates” and are working not only with the mayor and his staff, but also city council members, the city controller, city attorney, and entities such as employee unions.
The advocates are also reaching out and reporting to regional alliances and individual neighborhood councils in their respective areas. Many of the budget advocates have also participated in sessions of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition, Alliance of Neighborhood Councils, and BudgetLA.
In the coming weeks, these individuals will attend the city council’s budget and finance committee hearings and provide comments on the proposed spending and revenue proposals.
The budget advocates, by region, are:
Central: Stephen Box (East Hollywood), Scott Bytof (Downtown Los Angeles);
East: Ginger Damon (Atwater Village), Heinrich Keifer (Historic Highland Park);
Harbor: Erik Beermann (Harbor Gateway South), Doug Epperhart (Coastal San Pedro);
North Valley: Kelly Lord (Northridge East), Ed Novy (Sunland Tujunga);
South: Ernesto Arias (Voices of 90037), Shawn Simons (Empowerment Congress North);
South Valley: Al Abrams (Tarzana), Daniel Wiseman (West Hills);
West: Ron Galperin (Bel Air Beverly Crest), Terrence Gomes (South Robertson);
Youth Representatives: Christopher Robleto and Lauren Kang are;
Alternates: Kristi Blicharski (Woodland Hills-Warner Center), Michael Cohen (Reseda), and Craig Goldfarb (Northwest San Pedro)