Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council In Danger of Being Decertified

Ball could getting rolling as early as Wednesday if group fails to again have a quorum

By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer

The future of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council (BHNC) is hinging on the turnout of this Wednesday’s meeting where the board is scheduled to tackle some options aimed at avoiding decertification. However, if not enough board members attend, the consequence could be a recommendation to decertify the council on the grounds that it has chronically failed to make quorum.

With only 16 members present, the BHNC was short two people to make quorum for their installation on July 28, 2010. Photo by Erik Sarkin

“We are in trouble…we are having a quorum emergency” Jose Aguilar, president of the BHNC told EGP.

BongHwan Kim, general manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE), said his department is required by law to submit a recommendation for decertification to the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners if a board fails to make quorum on a consistent basis.

“It’s been going on for many years, some times they make quorum, sometimes they fail to make quorum,” Kim said about the Boyle Heights council.

The neighborhood council is currently composed of 35 board members and quorum is 50 percent plus one. Eighteen board members total must be present for meetings in order to make decisions about how to use funds and to make recommendations about issues or projects of local concern.

The BHNC once had 54 members to represent about 100,000 residents—the largest neighborhood council constituent population in the system, according to Kim. About two years ago, the council followed DONE’s recommendation and dropped the number of board members to 35, but making quorum continues to be a problem, he added.

This Wednesday’s agenda items include amending the bylaws to further reduce the number of board members needed for a quorum, increase the number of at-large representatives and to make it easier to remove board members who don’t attend board meetings.

The BHNC currently has seven representatives per quadrant (4 districts) plus seven elected executive officers. The proposed bylaw amendments could reduce the number of representatives for each quadrant in half plus combine two executive officer positions (Special Events and Outreach) into one, according to Vera del Pozo, who serves as the board’s as early notification oversight officer.

Vera’s daughter, Diana Del Pozo-Mora, is the current special events officer. She said the board has brought in people as “savers” to make quorum temporarily in the past, but that is not necessarily a reflection on the councils’ current leadership.

For the last five years that she has been involved with the BHNC, the council has had difficulty making quorum.

“I can’t put my finger on the pulse…some people might not think its attainable,” she told EGP, noting that she tries to remind people of the vital importance the council plays in providing recommendations to the city and providing community programs.

But decertification could be a blessing in disguise, suggests Kim.

“Decertification would be an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start from the very beginning; they don’t have to take it as a negative,” Kim said. “Their situation is unique—it seems there are enough people interested to keep a certified NC presence in the community, but what [has] them stuck is the bylaws…In order to make decisions they need to make quorum, and because they can’t make quorum, they cannot have a meeting. It’s really a conundrum for them,” he said.

The process for recertification would entail collecting 200 signatures from stakeholders, completing the application and submitting it to the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners for approval, which could take at least two months, said Kim.

But several BHNC members have told EGP they will fight decertification because of the lengthy process to recertify. The community also has a lot to loose.

A Neighborhood Council’s annual budgets is $45,000 and leftover funds don’t roll over. “We are at the nine-month point and we haven’t been able to vote on expenditures, we have about $30,000 to use or loose,” Del Pozo-Mora said.

Wednesday’s agenda includes items for discussion and possible action such as board member resignations. The board will reorganize under a “selection process” administered by stakeholders with the support, assistance and guidance of DONE, the council’s secretary, Margarita Amador, told EGP.

The BHNC can adopt the new bylaws if they have quorum, but DONE’s Board of Neighborhood Commissioners will still have to approve the bylaw changes and that can only happen during a new election process, Amador said.

“So that’s why we all have to resign,” she added, noting current and new members could be nominated to the council.

The idea of forced resignation did not sit well with some who feel they haven’t contributed to the problem. President Jose Aguilar and Treasurer Gumaro Oviedo Flores sounded offended by the proposal, but both said if it were absolutely necessary in order to keep the council certified, they would comply.

“You know what I think is the issue, that we don’t have people showing up and coming to meetings. I haven’t missed, I haven’t been absent,” Aguilar told EGP on Monday. “I’m a team player, I’ll go along with the team, the board.”

A training/retreat scheduled for March 19 would have included a discussion on board members’ obligations and grievances, said Aguilar, however, the training by DONE did not materialize when the council failed to make quorum. Kim, who attended, responded by proposing decertification.

Grayce Liu, DONE project coordinator who will facilitate Wednesday’s meeting, told EGP the neighborhood council’s funds could be frozen if Kim recommends decertification to the commissioners, but first DONE needs to “look at the situation entirely.”

Most of the council members EGP interviewed did not wish to point fingers or place blame, but implied that leadership, personality conflicts or interpersonal relationships may be contributing to the lack of attendance.

At some point or another, all neighborhood councils have these types of issues, according to Kim.

“As I shared with the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, leadership and relationships are the two most important ingredients for a successful neighborhood council, and if you don’t have those, you will be struggling, and if it happens for too long, you will loose your certification rights,” Kim said.

The Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council will meet tomorrow, March 30, 2011, at 6:15 p.m. at the Boyle Heights Senior Center located at 2839 E. 3rd Street, Los Angeles, Ca 90033. 

The meeting will take place after EGP’s time of publication. 

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March 29, 2011  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


2 Responses to “Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council In Danger of Being Decertified”

  1. Vera del Pozo on March 29th, 2011 1:02 pm

    Thanks for a non biased report in stating the facts accurately and correctly. As a current board member we definitely will fight to keep our certification and to assist the community.

  2. Susanna Arellano on April 1st, 2011 8:55 am

    I am appalled as a member of the council that BongHwan Kim, general Manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE), has not provided this community technical assistant, training that members may need to achieve a Quorum,

    Also, it is no secret that we face difficult economic times and membership may be forced to choose work or the meeting care for their family members or the meeting.

    The General manager BongHwan Kim should be open to technical support I thought this is a partnership. I would ask our Mayor to provide direction.

    the general mangers BongHwan Kim quick fix is not technically correct as he stated ‘”department is required by law to submit a recommendation for decertification to the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners if a board fails to make quorum on a consistent basis”

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