Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, October 1, 2001


Page 10


Neighborhood Councils Due to Sign Up Today on Streamlined Forms


By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer


The Board of Neighborhood Empowerment Commissioners on Tuesday scrapped a complex 22-page application form for neighborhood councils in favor of a five-page version, much to the relief of community groups anxious to get their paperwork in when city officials begin accepting it today.

Meeting for the first time since the City Council confirmed Mayor James Hahn’s new appointees, the board elected architect William Christopher its president, welcomed new interim General Manager Greg Nelson, adopted the streamlined form and called for a fresh start after a year of frustrations and controversy.

The session came less than a week before groups line up to be the city’s first officially recognized neighborhood councils.

“It’s a brand new day, and I think we ought to take it as such,” Commissioner Tammy Membreno told a crowd of organizers and activists at Narbonne High School in Harbor City.

Membreno is one of three appointees of former Mayor Richard Riordan to the seven-member commission, created in the 2000 city charter that mandates creation of neighborhood councils around the city to help empower residents and communities and to build better access to City Hall.

Other continuing Riordan appointees are Pat Herrera-Duran, who was elected vice president, and Mary Louise Longoria.

Hahn’s appointees, confirmed Sept. 19, are Christopher, Jimmie Woods-Gray, Tony Lucente and Ronald Mark Stone.

Christopher has a long track record in neighborhood activism, planning, and City Hall. He served as a member of the city Planning Commission under Mayor Tom Bradley and later as a member of the now-defunct Board of Zoning Appeals.

He also launched neighborhood organizations in the Miracle Mile area and headed the Westside Civic Federation.

More recently, he helped form the Los Angeles Citywide Alliance of Neighborhood Councils, an organization that has fostered communication among nascent neighborhood groups at a time when the commission and its staff, the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, came under heavy criticism for a series of false starts and failed outreach efforts.

“Neighborhoods are out there a little bit in front of the department right now,” Christopher said last week. “We’ve been organizing for 18 months now. We are definitely encouraged by the number of people who are interested in making neighborhood councils a reality. It will be the department’s challenge to keep up.”

At the Harbor City meeting, activists applauded the trimmed-down version of the certification application form but warned of continuing confusion. Several members asked for an additional month before the department begins considering applications.

But the commission rejected further delays.

“Oct. 1 is not a deadline,” Herrera-Duran noted. “It simply opens the gate when the department will start accepting applications.”

In fact, the first of five workshops to help groups through certification is slated for Saturday, five days after at least a dozen groups are expected to file their applications.

The department and commission then have 60 business days to review and certify each application. With holidays, hearings and City Council review, the first councils will likely see certification in the final weeks of December.

Nelson, who was named a week earlier to fill the general manager’s post, is expected to be confirmed to the permanent position at a City Council hearing Tuesday. A committee hearing was waived by Councilwoman Janice Hahn, the mayor’s sister.

Nelson replaces Rosalind Stewart, the department’s general manager through its turbulent first year. Stewart resigned the post in August and is slated to fill a new post this month as the director of cultural affairs for the city of Santa Clarita.

The department’s assistant general manager, Michelle Banks-Ordone, resigned late last month.


Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company