Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar has proposed new rules for eligibility to run for seats or vote in neighborhood council elections.
Huizar said the changes would make it more difficult for outside voters and candidates with little community connections to “overtake” a particular neighborhood council election.
Neighborhood councils are community-based bodies that get taxpayer money to spend on parades, festivals and other projects. They also hand up suggestions to the Los Angeles City Council on a range of issues affecting neighborhoods.
Under the city charter, neighborhood council elections are open to people who live, work and own property in the defined area.
Many neighborhood councils allow “factual basis stakeholders” – such as merchants – to participate. Huizar’s motion, made last week, would eliminate that.
Huizar poked fun at the categorization, calling them “Starbucks stakeholders,” saying they needed only to show a receipt for a cup of coffee in the area to call themselves a factual basis stakeholder.
Huizar wants the language changed to “community stakeholder.”
The category would apply to those with a “substantial and ongoing” connection to the neighborhood, such as people who attend church in the area, have children in a neighborhood school or have ties to a nonprofit in the community.
Voters or neighborhood council candidates allowed to participate under the community stakeholder banner would need to provide the same level of proof of their roots as those who live in the neighborhood.
Under Huizar’s proposal, neighborhood councils would have the authority to limit the number of community stakeholders elected as members of the neighborhood council.
The motion also narrows the definition for property owner to those who own real estate.
Huizar initially proposed the idea in October when 300 people who fit the “factual basis stakeholder” category cast votes in the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council election, rivaling the 500 votes cast by those who live, work or own property in Eagle Rock.
Medical marijuana shops were a hotly debated topic among the candidates for the Eagle Rock neighborhood council election, and critics of the dispensaries complained that outside supporters of medical marijuana shops were encouraged to participate in the election.
The previous election in Eagle Rock drew less than a hundred people, according to Huziar spokesman Rick Coca.
Huizar said his proposals were based on feedback from neighborhood council representatives.
The motion asks the City Attorney to revise the ordinance providing for neighborhood councils. The revised ordinance would be reviewed first by the council’s Education and Neighborhoods Committee.
Any change in the language of an ordinance on the books needs the City Council’s approval and the mayor’s signature to become law.