People who live, work, pray or maybe even play in areas represented by Region 8 Neighborhood Councils, can vote this coming Saturday, April 26 to elect new members to the citizens advisory boards or reelect those they believe are doing a good job.
The neighborhood councils in the region are: Arroyo Seco, Boyle Heights, Eagle Rock, Glassell Park, Greater Cypress Park, Historic Highland Park, LA-32 and Lincoln Heights.
Neighborhood Councils are city-certified groups made up of volunteers who live, work, own property or have a connection to the neighborhood they are representing. Their role is to promote public participation in government and improve government responsiveness at the local level. They often advise the city in a variety of areas, such as land use issues.
Every neighborhood council has its own set of bylaws and proof of eligibility for voting. For example, Eagle Rock, Historic Highland Park, LA-32, Lincoln Heights and Greater Cypress Park require voters to provide proof are legitimate stakeholders in their respective neighborhood, such as a driver’s license, utility bill, pay stub or school identification.
If they don’t have a proof with them “they get a 3-day provisionary ballot” that gives them time to prove they live, work or own property in the neighborhood, Jay Handal, independent elections administrator with Empower LA told EGP.
Arroyo Seco, Boyle Heights and Glassell Park do not require proof at the time of voting.
Each council also sets its eligible age for voting, according to Handal.
Some allow voters as young as 13, Handal said. Requirements can be found on the council websites.
Lea este artículo en Español: Elecciones de Concejos Vecinales del Este y Noreste de L.A. este Sábado
Stakeholders do not have to be U.S. citizens or registered voters, said Handal who emphasized that undocumented immigrants can vote in neighborhood council elections despite their immigration status. They just need to show whatever form of identification they have, such as a library card, utility bill or matricula consular (identification) card, Handal explained.
It’s important for stakeholders to vote because it gives them the power to define their communities’ position on public issues, said Connie Castro, current president of the LA-32 NC. “[Residents] can influence our elected officials on issues such as land-use/zoning, health, safety and community development that affect us locally and citywide,” Castro told EGP.
Los Angeles’ Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) oversees and provides support to the neighborhood councils. DONE’s Empower LA is charged with promoting civic engagement and citizen-based government through the local councils.
“Neighborhood Councils are an important asset to our city government,” said 14th District Councilman José Huizar in an email. “They help inform my decision making and I strongly encourage people to participate in this weekend’s elections,” he added.
Diana del Pozo Mora, president of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council told EGP that many in the community don’t have the opportunity to take part in elections at the city level, but they can vote for their neighborhood council representatives. “The opportunity to have a voice in the neighborhood is something exiting,” she said.
Every year, each council receives $37,000 to support its activities. It is up to board members to decide how to spend the funds in the best interest of the community.
According to Empower LA’s website, neighborhood council board members duties include, but are not limited to, creating “events and programs that respond to the unique needs of their community or advocate on behalf of issues they care about.”
Del Pozo-Mora said the Boyle Heights group has been focused on street and sidewalk repairs, community clean ups, and issues related to the USC Medical Campus expansion into Hazard Park and murals. “We are constantly trying to keep the community informed with updates on issues [and] with different projects in our community,” she added.
The Complete Streets project is ongoing in Highland Park, according to Monica Alcaraz, president of Historic Highland Park NC. “We want to make the streets more pedestrian friendly, with more crosswalks and bike lanes,” she told EGP.
LA-32 recently sponsored the 4th Annual El Sereno Kite Festival at Ascot Hills Park to celebrate Earth Day, an LAUSD District 2 Board Member candidate forum and the El Sereno/Farmdale Healthy Start Bullying Prevention Program, according to Castro.
Neighborhood Councils also meet with the mayor to discuss their priorities as he develops the city’s annual budget “prior to its submittal and approval by the City Council.”
“Serving on a neighborhood council is a great way to give back to your community,” First District Councilman Gil Cedillo told EGP by email.
“The only way to guarantee true representation is by electing individuals that share a greater vision for our communities. I encourage community folks to come out and vote. The future of your communities depends on it,” he said.
There are 95 neighborhood councils in Los Angeles and each works differently and according to the rules established in their bylaws. Some council board members serve 2-year terms while others remain on the council for 4 years. And “most of them allow board members to be reelected, with no term limits,” Handal said.
“There’s a misconception that if you don’t vote you don’t care,” said Alcaraz, implying the opposite is actually true, but people often think their opinion or vote does not matter. She urged stakeholders to get out Saturday and be heard.
“Vote for the best interest of the neighborhood,” she said.
NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL ELECTIONS REGION 8
April 26, 2014 Polling Locations and Hours:
Arroyo Seco NC – Ramona Hall Community Center Lobby, 4580 N. Figueroa St. 90065; 10 am-4 pm
Boyle Heights NC – Boyle Heights City Hall (Community Room) 2130 E. 1st Street 90033; 10 am-4 pm
Eagle Rock – Eagle Rock City Hall, Community Room–2035 Colorado Blvd. 9004; 10 am-4 pm
Glassell Park - Glassell Park Community & Senior Center, 3750 N. Verdugo Rd. 90065; 10 am-4 pm
Greater Cypress Park – Cypress Park & Recreation Center(Auditorium) 2630 Pepper Ave. 90065; 10 am-4 pm
Historic Highland Park – Highland Park Senior Center, 6152 N. Figueroa Street 90042; 9 am-3 pm
LA- 32 - Farmdale Elementary School, 2660 Ruth Swiggett Dr. 90032. 9 am-5 pm
Lincoln Heights – Aztecs Rising, 3516 N. Broadway Ave. 90031; 11 am-5 pm