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Election Process to Neighborhood Councils Set to Change

After another special meeting scheduled to be held this Saturday, the process could be presented to the City Council by the end of November.

What many hope is a new, cost-effective, fair and transparent program for conducting Los Angeles' neighborhood council elections could be submitted to the City Council for approval this month.  

A special meeting was held Saturday of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils' Election Task Force—an advisory group made up of about two-dozen representatives from neighborhood councils throughout Los Angeles—to examine alternative systems of voting and recommend improvements in the electoral processes of neighborhood councils. 

Since Jan. 26, the group has met four times this year with representatives from the office of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, council member Paul Krekorian and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE). 

Concerns About 2010 Election

The intent of the task force was to respond to concerns raised following the 2010 citywide neighborhood council elections, which were conducted by the city clerk. 

The task force has echoed the desire of almost all neighborhood council boards to not have the city clerk participate in the next round of elections, which should be held in 2012, although a delay until 2014 is also being discussed.

Other objectives of the panel include increasing the number of candidates running for local board and officer positions, increasing the number of voters in every election and identifying the most cost-effective methods for achieving these goals. 

Uniform rules and procedures are difficult to achieve because individual neighborhood councils want the flexibility to determine the dates, locations and methods of their elections.

Also, some want to be able to hold elections annually rather than being limited to once every two years. The new election process would involve using Independent Election Administrators (IEA) to supervise each election. 

These volunteers would be trained and certified by the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) to conduct uniform procedures, including candidate verification (meeting the local bylaws requirements), ballot preparation and distribution, and ensuring an honest, open count of those ballots. 

DONE Would be Final Arbiter of Complaints

Any complaints or challenges would be referred to DONE for adjudication by an independent entity. The task force has previously recommended that neighborhood council elections should include electronic voting, but such a program is estimated to cost up to $800,000. 

DONE's current budget for handling neighborhood council elections is just $120,000. The cost of the city clerk running the elections was more than $1 million.

Because of the deadline set by the Los Angeles City Council to consider changing the ordinance that governs these elections, a special meeting of the task force is scheduled on Sat. Nov. 12, at 1 p.m., at 114 West 5th Street.

Many expect the final details of the proposal will be approved at this meeting for submission to the city council. 

Change in ‘Neighborhood Purposes Grant’ Process

In a meeting in Hollywood of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils Coalition last Saturday, DONE General Manager BongHwan Kim announced that it is now mandatory that all neighborhood council funding devoted to public projects be conducted through the so-called “Neighborhood Purposes Grant” application form, a 17-page document that can be viewed in the photos section above.

According to board member Robert Guevara, who attended the meeting, the current process of using a “P-card” (“purchase card” or credit card with a limit) to pay vendors connected with public projects is no longer in compliance with neighborhood council rules because it does not ensure proper tracking of expenses.

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