Ten neighborhood councils are the winners of the 2013 EmpowerLA Awards, announced Sept. 9th at a special meeting of the Board of
The ten took top honors in a field of 45 nominations, said Karen Mack, outreach committee chair for the board. Nominations were received for projects that exemplified the mission of neighborhood councils to engage local stakeholders with government and make government more accountable and responsive to the needs of their communities, she said.
"In evaluating the submissions, we particularly focused on those initiatives that reflect the highest ideals of inclusiveness, non-discrimination, transparency, and independence for the NC system," said Mack. "Our outreach committee led the selection process."
Mack worked with Paul Park, Len Shaffer and Linda Lucks to develop the awards process and finalize the winners along with Department of Neighborhood Empowerment staff members.
"A special shout out to Joe Hari, who worked very hard in supporting our
process including creating the summary of the 45 nominations. It is truly our pleasure to have a window on
the positive contributions that Neighborhood Councils are making in their
communities," she said.
"Of course, selecting the winners was not easy as there is so much
good work going on across the system. However, after robust deliberations, we think we have come up with the
most deserving entrants."
The winners are:
CENTRAL: Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council
EAST: Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council
HARBOR: Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council
NORTH VALLEY: Northridge West Neighborhood Council
Congress West Area Neighborhood Development Council, Park Mesa Heights
Community Council, Empowerment Congress Central Area Neighborhood Development
Council, Empowerment Congress North Area Neighborhood Development Council
SOUTH VALLEY: Reseda Neighborhood Council
WEST: South Robertson Neighborhoods Council
Said Mack, "Our hope with these awards is to celebrate Neighborhood
Councils, furthering positive perceptions of their work, providing a platform
for sharing best practices and encouraging high standards as they work to
engage community members and work with the City to address local needs.
Below are the details relating to each
winner, per Mack.
Downtown Los Angeles
Neighborhood Council took to heart something President Patricia Berman
likes to say: “Don’t wait for the City to do something for you, get out there
and do something for yourself.” With
this in mind, the take charge group has had a string of public policy successes
most notably the opening of Spring Street Park between 4th and 5th
Streets as well as a two parklets along the same corridor! And what is also great is that they are
working with all the populations of downtown – for example, organizing a high
level Town Hall on the TB outbreak of a few months ago and an ongoing Skid Row resident-led
Clean-Up Campaign to address needs on Skid Row. They are helping vulnerable homeless populations in the most powerful of
ways-- through direct engagement, involvement and empowerment.
Historic Highland Park
Neighborhood Council has worked hard over the past year to elevate its
presence and connect with stakeholders in the neighborhood and surrounding areas. They are an inspiration to all neighborhood
councils struggling to engage their communities. Under the new board leadership, including the
very effective President Monica Alcaraz, the community has come out in droves
to candidate forums (one offered in two languages), business mixers and
meetings where they focus squarely on addressing local needs. Since their stepped up focus on outreach
began, hundreds of people have participated in their activities which they
attribute to relevance, savvy social media efforts and sweat equity invested in getting people
to come out.
Northwest San Pedro
Neighborhood Council has effectively galvanized their community to address the
needs of youth. Most impressive was
their work to create, “Pathways to Employment,” an event in partnership with
San Pedro Rotary and Harbor Communities Benefit Foundation to provide this
important population with employment skills through training workshops,
practice interviews, and presentations by many of the 36 businesses present. And,
in addition to addressing the career needs of youth, they are providing
recreational options as well through the soon to be opened skate park at Peck
Park, a project which they initiated and worked with the Council Office and
Department of Recreation and Parks to realize.
Neighborhood Council will celebrate three years of Operation Clean Sweep
with 8 to 15 volunteers showing up every week on Thursday for four
hours to clean sidewalks, parkways, gutters and storm. How many NCs can boost this kind of
consistency in the work to make their community a more beautiful and walkable place?
Subscribing to the broken window theory,
they have had a big impact on the local crime rate by ensuring their
neighborhood is well cared for.
West, Park Mesa Heights, Empowerment Congress Central and Empowerment Congress
North knew something was amiss when they heard that the Space Shuttle
Endeavor parade through their communities was going to cost them a whole lot of
trees. So in an unprecedented effort,
they worked together as the Space Shuttle Task Force to mitigate the negative impact
of the historic event on the neighborhoods. Spearheading negotiations, they reduced the number of trees to be cut
down by hundreds and reached an agreement that included 4 trees replaced for each
of the 253 trees cut down; development of both a park and a tree master plan for South Los
Angeles; $400,000 for tree trimming; 1,000 feet of linear sidewalk repair; ten
scholarships per year for 5 years for NC-area youth to attend the Science Center
Camp program; and five professional development programs for teachers at South
LA schools within the next 3 years.
Council’s Economic Development Committee in 2011 began discussing the
downward trend in the economy and what sort of community level initiatives
could be helpful to small businesses in Reseda. After researching successful small business development efforts across
the country, they launched a local program on their own (Spend $25 on the 25th
in Reseda) which caught the attention of the citywide ShopLA program and
American Express, both of which then partnered with ShopRESEDA. In conjunction with these efforts, the
ShopRESEDA Discount Card was launched at a national news conference and now
includes as 200 local business partners (www.shopresedacity.org). This concept of “shopping local” has
successfully encouraged a lasting sense of community pride and spirit as well
as encouraging more participants in Reseda’s local economy to engage in the NC
process, and the greater City.
Neighborhood Council encompasses several neighborhoods known over the years
by other names: Pico-Robertson, Palms (in some areas), and Beverlywood (in
others). Building a coherent and
recognizable identity out of all the different neighborhoods has been a
challenge, but an important one: neighborhoods decay when no one cares. So they have focused on building local
community pride by increasing the sense of identity by “branding” the
neighborhood as SORO. To this end, they
display street banners which make the SORO name visible on a continuing basis
and host the well attended annual SORO festival. Most notably, they are sponsoring an
innovative partnership with KCET Departures to create a series of video
profiles, articles, and photo journals that will in conjunction with the other
initiatives, tell the story of and strengthen pride in SORO.