Viewpoint: Pacific Palisades Community Council vs. a Certified Neighborhood Council

By Gina Ladinsky
Special to the Palisades News

When I discovered the Pacific Palisades Community Council was not a city certified neighborhood council I wrote to the News which published my concerns in the Letters section. The PPCC responded with its reasons as to why it thought that it was best to not become city certified. One of the reasons was to retain the right to sue the city.

Yet, in the May 7 Viewpoint article “‘Enjoying’ a PPCC Meeting” the question was raised as to why the PPCC hadn’t sued Councilman Bonin for failure to disclose email conversations as requested by the News last July. These are the emails leading up to the decision to disqualify the Design Review Board, regarding the Caruso project. By not handing over these emails, Bonin is in violation of the Public Information Act. If the intention of not becoming city certified is to retain the right to sue the city, why hasn’t the PPCC insisted on these emails going public?

Community Council board members at the June 23 meeting included (left to right) Reza Akof (Area 8—Riviera), Peter Culhane (Area 2—Highlands), Richard Cohen (treasurer), Jennifer Malaret (secretary), Chris Spitz (outgoing president) and Maryam Zar (incoming president).

Community Council board members at the June 23 meeting included (left to right) Reza Akof (Area 8—Riviera), Peter Culhane (Area 2—Highlands), Richard Cohen (treasurer), Jennifer Malaret (secretary), Chris Spitz (outgoing president) and Maryam Zar (incoming president).

In Maryam Zar’s May 17 response, “PPCC Advantages Highlighted,” she listed many wonderful things about the PPCC, but did not respond to the question as to why the PPCC has not sued Bonin.

The PPCC has worked very hard for many years to create its bylaws, meeting requirements, elections and more. Yet it fails to take the last step and become city certified. Zar wrote that NCs get “the short end of the stick.” I think it’s a matter of perspective.

Becoming city certified would provide a yearly budget of $42,000, up from $37,000, which is given to Neighborhood Councils (NCs) each year. That doesn’t sound like the “short end of the stick” to me. Of course, when money is given by the city, there is accountability, as there should be, referred to by Zar as “strings attached.” Here is the link to “A Guide to Navigating the NC Funding Program. Seems straightforward. You decide. http://clerk.cityofla.acsitefactory.com/sites/g/files/wph606/f/Treasurer-Handbook-rev-6-30-16-1.pdf.

Credit: The Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.

Credit: The Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.

And there are many examples of how the $42,000 can be spent to improve the specific needs of various communities at: http://empowerla.org/category/ncs-making-a-difference/

Here is a map of the NCs in Los Angeles. Only Pacific Palisades and Brentwood do not have NCs. http://empowerla.org/find-your-council/

The “strings” Zar is referring to may be the additional amount of work required to be accountable. For example, even though it’s required that the PPCC follow the Brown Act, it doesn’t. The Brown Act, per the League of California Cities, states that “The Brown Act covers members of virtually every type of local government body, elected or appointed, decision-making, or advisory.” The PPCC considers itself to be advisory. If the PPCC became certified, they would have no choice but to follow Brown. Posting agendas and minutes online, as Zar wrote, does not meet the requirements of Brown, nor does it come close.

Does transparency constitute “the short end of the stick” for the PPCC? Of course not, but even if it did, it’s a California Government Code (54950) enacted by the California State Legislature that is a legal requirement, not a choice based on an opinion.

Equally important, NCs are assigned an Independent Election Administrator (IEA) who works with the elections chair and an outreach chair to be sure the elections are being promoted, enlisting lots of great candidates. This includes the use of a polling place, not the current method used by the PPCC.

In short, by not becoming a certified NC, the PPCC can do what it wants without oversight by any other body.

Of course, becoming a NC would require more work because accountability requires it. Even though the PPCC uses the banner of “Empower LA,” it is not part of it. Zar states change is not needed is because the PPCC has been acting on its own since 1972.

Maybe it’s time to move into the present and join the all the other communities who have NCs, so our community can take advantage of the many resources and offerings available to NCs.

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