Boyle Heights Council Back In Action
2012 is the 10-year anniversary of the neighborhood council that was almost broken up.
By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer
Almost exactly one year after the faction deadlocked Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council was placed under the immediate supervision of the Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE), the group has received notice that it has made enough progress to no longer require constant oversight.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Concejo Vecinal de Boyle Heights está de Nuevo en Acción
Kim congratulated the council for its big turnaround, eliminating the danger of decertification.
“Quorum issues, unclear and outdated bylaw amendments, non-functional committees, lack of clarity in terms of main function of Quadrants, lack of cohesive Board leadership, and an inconsistent board,” were among the issues that prompted DONE to take control of the stakeholder group.
DONE suspended BHNC’s funding community projects during the exhaustive effort process, which cost the group $15,616 in 2011.
The decision to revoke the funding suspension leaves the neighborhood council with about $40,000—almost all of it’s funding for the fiscal year ending in four months—available to allocate to projects, according to BHNC Secretary Margarita Amador.
“It was a good experience and it was something that was needed, we had to be put in exhaustive efforts to start fresh,” Amador told EGP, adding she believes the neighborhood council now has a “solid foundation” due to the needed temporary “handholding.”
“This is a good group of individuals who were able to work together, and I think that now that we are together, we’ll be able to conduct business as expected by city and stakeholders,” Amador said, referring to the neighborhood council’s board members.
The Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council turns 10-years-old this year and members would like to hold some type of anniversary event, Amador said. Some stakeholders would also like to see a sign or monument go up that says, “Welcome to Boyle Heights,” she added.
While the council was under exhausted efforts—a sort of conservatorship state under the supervision of DONE—it’s thinning number of board members took required ethics training and additional training imposed by the city-run department.
The number of board members now sits at 19, down from 35 last year, according to Amador. The council still has area representatives though they are no longer labeled “quadrants,” and the BHNC is now evenly split between new and old members, she said.
One of the problems that landed BHNC in exhaustive efforts was its repeated inability to get a quorum, but with the new smaller board, it now only needs 11 members to be present. That’s the smallest number yet for a group that once had over 50 board members, according to Lisette Covarrubias, the DONE project coordinator who helped facilitate the BHNC’s recovery.
Covarrubias said Manny Aldana, a former member of the BHNC, filed numerous grievances while the council was in exhaustive efforts and the majority of them have been resolved, thought it may not be to Aldana’s satisfaction.
Two grievances are still outstanding, Covarrubias said, but noted that alleged violations of the Brown Act and the US Constitution do not fall under the DONE’s jurisdiction.
Last week Aldana published a lengthy blog on a political website detailing his grievances, including what he saw as a coup to remove former BHNC president Jose Aguilar by members who have political ties to elected officials criticized by Aguilar.
Last August Aldana told EGP the BHNC should be decertified to “send a message to the community that the people now on [the board] are incompetent.”
But he also admitted that his less than perfect attendance might have contributed to the BHNC’s quorum problems.
Amador, who Aldana mentions in this blog, claims the former board member only attended two BHNC board meetings while in office. In 2010 she attempted to prevent Aldana from running again by filing a grievance with DONE over his absences, but she says DONE shot down that effort because his absences weren’t documented.
Better meeting attendance documentation is one of the new procedures the BHNC has added to its revamped bylaws, she told EGP.
Aguilar was forced to resign as president last year and became an at-large member along with the other board members, as part of the move to avoid decertification. Yesterday he told EGP he is no longer on the neighborhood council, nor had he been notified that BHNC was out of exhaustive efforts.
While he did not address the specifics of his previous experience with the council or Aldana’s allegations, he did say he believes the neighborhood council should be required to hold elections every two years.
“They should be able to face the public every two years. It’s part of the accountability process,” he said. “The problem I see is that the City Council of Los Angeles has found it unviable to have an election—they might not have an election until 2014,” he said, referring to decision by the city council to reduce its funding to DONE, thereby extending the terms of some board members.
“It’s not just Boyle Heights, but it’s still wrong,” he told EGP.
Speaking on his own behalf and not for the board, BHNC President Edward Padilla told EGP he is looking forward to hearing from the community. Padilla is also a long-time member of Casa 0101’s board of directors.
Hoping to improve its outreach to the community, the board has voted to revamp the BHNC website and has set up a Facebook page. They also plan to print flyers and strengthen ties with local media to encourage public participation.
A common misconception, Padilla said, is that the neighborhood councils are government bodies, but they are actually community volunteers. “We are not the government. We are actually neighbors who want to help them get information and get the government officials to pay attention to our needs,” he said.
“…The reason we are involved is because we care about the community and want the community to be healthier in anyway we can do that. Because we are perceived as government they think it’s okay to attack us and a lot of volunteers are not ready for that,” Padilla said.
BHNC is in the process of setting up working committees, so far they have established committees for planning and land use, budget and finance, outreach and neighborhood issues, Padilla said. There are two vacant seats on the board, but as of Tuesday, the council had nnot received any applications for the spots from interested stakeholders.
DONE has made recommendations to the BHNC, including continued trainings, drafting Standing Rules to clarify procedures for absences, executive committees, and for finances, according to Kim’s letter.
The Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council was certified in 2002, three years after the Neighborhood Council system began as a way to get people involved in city government, and to advise city leaders on budget priorities and local issues.
The BHNC holds its meetings the last Wednesday of the month. The council was expected to review some requests for funding at yesterday’s meeting, held after EGP’s deadline.
The board’s new officers include Vice-President Diana del Pozo-Mora, who is also the executive director of Mothers of East LA, Rudy Salinas, Outreach and Special Events Officer, and Treasurer Vera del Pozo. The board members are Brittany Ponce de Leon, Danny Bozarth, Edward Torrez, Gumaro Oviedo Flores, Joel Ulloa, Kenneth Wyrick, Mike McClure, Sergio Guerrero, Tam Nguyen and William Morrison.Print This Post
March 29, 2012 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.