Category Archives: Empower LA

Global Forum 2016 adopts Donostia Declaration


Global Forum 2016 adopts Donostia Declaration

From 16 to 19 November 2016, 200 people from all continents of the world gathered in Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain, to attend the sixth Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy.

This year’s edition of the world biggest conference on participatory democracy addressed the question whether direct democracy is in retreat or on the rise and how to connect social movements around the globe to encounter the backlash against democracy and human rights.

At the end of the Global Forum the participants commonly adopted the “Donostia Declaration” that reads as follows here.

Further information on the Global Forum and coverage at:

Beyond Neighborhood Councils

Beyond Neighborhood Councils

Beyond Neighborhood Councils

You are cordially invited to “Beyond Neighborhood Councils – How to Run for Higher Office, Get Appointed to a City Commission, or Find a Job with the City”.

Featured speakers include Board of Public Works Commissioner Kevin James, Board of Neighborhood Commissioner Len Shaffer, Department of Water & Power Commissioner Jill Banks Barad, and representatives from the Personnel Department and Office of the City Clerk.

Monday, October 24

5:15 pm – Registration/Networking
5:45 pm – Workshop

Marvin Braude Constituent Service Center
Community Room
6262 Van Nuys Blvd.
Van Nuys, CA 91401

This is an open event. Please feel free to invite anyone who may be interested.

Please RSVP at



Registration is now open for the 2016 Congress of Neighborhoods, and space in the workshops is filling up fast, but it can be hard to choose which workshops to take of the 40+ being offered this year. Check out suggestions below for members of committees like Land Use, Public Safety, or Outreach, then visit to sign up. This year’s Congress takes place Saturday September 24th at LA City Hall.

If you are on a Land Use committee, PlanCheckNC – the Citywide education alliance for Neighborhood Council Land Use committees offers a pair of essential workshops. Planning & Land Use 101 will cover the basics of navigating LA’s city planning processes including ZIMAS, stakeholder and committee participation to City Planning and at hearings. Planning & Land Use 102 will discuss and define current topics like affordable housing and short term rentals.

Outreach is the #1 opportunity for Neighborhood Council leaders to engage stakeholders in their government. This year’s Congress will bring the latest in easier and more effective community outreach planning, including Events 101; Community Engagement; Social Media; and Public Relations for NCs.

DWP Reform: The End Game – Proposal Out Next Week

DWP Reform: The End Game – Proposal Out Next Week

By Tony Wilkinson

The Los Angeles City Council’s Rules committee, with input from Mayor Eric Garcetti, will announce its revised proposal for DWP Reform sometime between next Wednesday and Friday, June 1 to 3. This is the last chance for input before the plan gets made.

If you have strong opinions on what should be in the DWP Reform package, send a personal email NOW to Andrew Westall, who is Council President Wesson’s assistant chief deputy (

Here is the planned schedule. These dates are tentative.

May 17 (Friday) – Rules Committee final input hearing (Environmental Issues / CAO-CLA Reports
June 1 to 3 (Wednesday to Friday) – Rules Committee special meeting announces proposal
June 7 (Tuesday) – City Council discussion of DWP Reform
June 8 (Wednesday) – City Council adopts recommendations and instructs City Attorney to prepare
June 17 (Friday) – Rules Committee meeting adopts ballt language resolution and ordinance
June 22 (Wednesday) – City Council adopts ballot language resolution and ordinance
June 29 (Wednesday) – City Council has second reading if necessary

On Thursday, May 26, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and Chief Legislative Analyst (CLA) issued three joint reports on DWP Reform issues. The reports provide options for changing the Department’s Contracting Powers, Board Support, and Board Structure. These reports were heard at a special meeting of the Rules committee at 8:30 am today, Friday, May 27. This Rules meeting will also focus on DWP Reform input from the environmental community.

Check out the documents on Council File 16-0093 for copies of these reports and other documents and public input on the DWP Reform proposal.

Please send your questions and comments on DWP Reform to DWP Reform information will be posted regularly at There is additional information at

Tony Wilkinson is the Chair of the Neighborhood Council – DWP MOU Oversight Committee. He will be contributing information on the DWP Reform process to the EmpowerLA newsletter each week.

Civic Youth Leadership Academy

Civic Youth Leadership Academy

Join Civic Youth Leadership Academy (CYLA), a free six-session program with a mission to equip civically minded youth and young adults (ages 16-21) with useful skills to become the next generation of civic leaders. This opportunity will empower youth and young adults will to create lasting change within their communities. Participants will attend six Saturday sessions, each focusing on a different topic, including community building, public speaking, effective communication, understanding of local government, and practical ways to contribute to your Neighborhood Council. The CYLA is a partnership between the Mayor’s Office and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (EmpowerLA).

Applicants who are actively engaged with their Neighborhood Council, including those who have recently or are currently running for a Board position, will be given first preference. (Important Dates: June 3rd application deadline, June 15th Decision Notification, June 25th First Session, September 24th Final session.)

To learn more and apply online please visit Should you have any questions, please contact Jasmine Elbarbary (City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Office and Department of Neighborhood Empowerment) at

100 & Counting – Lake Balboa NC Offers Free Community CPR Training

100 & Counting – Lake Balboa NC Offers Free Community CPR Training

Every day, more than 1,000 persons fall victim to Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Unfortunately more than 90% of victims do not survive the trip to the hospital. A major reason is the critical lack of people trained to perform CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) – one of the simplest yet most important life skills that a person can learn. “Using CPR in the critical time before EMT’s & Paramedics arrive can mean the difference between life or death of someone you know – even yourself,” said James Brown, chairman of the Lake Balboa Neighborhood Council Public Safety Committee.

Since 4 out of 5 Sudden Cardiac Arrest emergencies happen at home, the life you save with CPR is most likely to be a loved one, a child, a spouse, a parent or a friend.

That’s why the Public Safety Committee of the Lake Balboa NC is sponsoring FREE community First Aid/CPR/AED training for all residents. Since August 2015, more than 100 Lake Balboa area residents have been successfully trained to use CPR/AED, and have received optional CPR certification cards.

A Sudden Cardiac Arrest event can happen to anyone, at any time, and at any place. It is critical that community members step up to help increase survival rates by learning CPR. “If more people learned to use CPR, we can double or even triple the survival rates,” said Brown.

Each month, the Lake Balboa NC Public Safety Committee sponsors free CPR training for all community and SF Valley residents. The training is conducted by a certified American Heart Association training organization using AHA approved training. The training class is open to adults, teen/young adults – ages 12 to 18 years. All training is free. Optional First Aid/CPR/AED certification is also offered, at a small fee. Training is held at:
Flyaway Bus Terminal – 2nd Floor Community Mtg Room
7610 Woodley Ave
Lake Balboa

Training is held every 3rd Saturday of the month. Meetings start at 10 am.

Every Neighborhood Council is urged to join in to help increase survival rates of victims of sudden cardiac arrest — a major cause of death in the U.S. For more information, please contact Public Safety Committee Chairman James Brown at

DWP Reform — Who Is It For? Insiders or Ratepayers?

DWP Reform — Who Is It For? Insiders or Ratepayers?

By Tony Wilkinson

“We’re not interested in what your problem is. We just want you to turn around and stop taking our money and going up on the rates” said Earis Vails, an African-American bus driver who lives in South L.A. She was talking to reporter Gene Maddaus of “LA Weekly”. Earlier Vails had asked a question about rates when Cal State L.A. convened a panel on Tuesday, March 29, to discuss reform at the Department of Water and Power.

Neighborhood Councils are in the middle of this discussion. For the first time in history, both the Mayor (Eric Garcetti) and the City Council President (Herb Wesson) have asked Neighborhood Councils to join with them in determining what will go on a ballot measure. Community discussion and input needs to be done in April and early May. This input will be considered in May when the final ballot proposal is created. The City Council will then consider and vote on the proposal in June. June is the deadline to have the measure appear on the November 2016 ballot.

The big question is, are Neighborhood Councils (in LA Weekly’s terms) insiders or outsiders?

LADWP is the nation’s largest municipal utility. For the last decade it has been trapped between two forces. State and federal rules require it to make huge changes to its water and power systems. It has no choice, for example, to eliminate coal-fired power plants and add increasing amounts of “green” renewable power. Elected officials don’t like to vote to allow it to recover these costs. As a result, DWP was forced cut back on replacing its aging power poles and water pipes. Instead of small and manageable rate increases each year, ratepayers have been hit with much bigger hikes when politicians realize there is no other choice.

The city recently finished a seven month process of discussing a five-year package of rate increases with the public. They take effect on April 1. The Department held over 80 public meetings. Neighborhood Councils participated through their information access agreement with DWP. This “MOU” (a Memorandum of Understanding) is the only such agreement that Neighborhood Councils have been able to reach with any city department.

With the rate issue out of the way, elected officials are now willing to discuss steps that they can take to make DWP more efficient — if the public agrees. Many different city officials have some control over DWP operations. None of them have direct accountability for results. A set of DWP reform proposals (Felipe Fuentes, Council File 16-0093) give the DWP Board more power to oversee the Department. They also remove some city rules that make DWP less efficient.

At the March 29 forum, DWP General Manager Marcie Edwards said that she can make big improvements in the Department’s efficiency from some of these reforms. That in turn will reduce the pressure to raise rates. Examples included changing the cumbersome city contracting and hiring processes that are now required at DWP.

However, there are some parts of the DWP Reform proposal that might increase access by “insiders” at the expense of ratepayers. That was the concern of the LA Weekly reporter. This is why Neighborhood Council participation in the DWP Reform discussion is so vital.

For a decade, Neighborhood Councils have been largely on the outside looking in. With the DWP Reform proposal, these charter agencies have the opportunity to become something quite different. It’s time to start viewing Neighborhood Councils as “the people’s insider”.

You can start becoming a “people’s insider” yourself by coming to the NC-DWP MOU Oversight Committee meeting this Saturday, April 2, at 8:45 am at DWP Headquarters, 111 North Hope Street in downtown Los Angeles. Every Neighborhood Council should name a representative and an alternate to this committee. The group meets regularly on the first Saturday of every month at LADWP. Everyone is welcome to attend. Of course the topic on April 2 will be DWP Reform.

Please send your questions and comments to Starting on Monday, April 4, DWP Reform information will be posted regularly at There is additional information at

Tony Wilkinson is the Chair of the Neighborhood Council – DWP MOU Oversight Committee. He will be contributing information on the DWP Reform process to the EmpowerLA newsletter each week.

Location, Location, Location

Location, Location, Location

Location is everything for the 2016 Neighborhood Council Elections. As a Neighborhood Council Board, you are responsible for the following three steps:

1. Selecting an appropriate location – work with your IEA and make sure it’s ADA compliant, has plenty of parking, and has sufficient room to support a large voter turnout
2. Reserving the location and completing the paperwork (LAUSD – work with Funding to complete the paperwork)
2. Submit the invoice to attn: Man-Qin He, Sr. Accountant for payment. The Department will pay the bill and charge the Neighborhood Council for any amount over $200. Please indicate on the invoice if your NC has already paid the submitted invoice.

Most importantly, start planning now so that your location turns into a highly visible, well signed, attractive event that draws voters in and results in a meaningful election experience. Imagine hosting an engaging community event and having an election break out!

New Poll Worker Webpage!

New Poll Worker Webpage!

To help Poll Workers get ready for the upcoming Neighborhood Council elections, we’ve created a new webpage just for Poll Workers. This webpage has useful resources such as the Polling Place manual, a flyer on what it means to be a poll worker, instructional videos, and more!

The Poll Worker webpage can be found here:

If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments please email

City Controller illuminates a Dimension of ControlPanel LA to members of the Plan Check Neighborhood Council

City Controller illuminates a Dimension of ControlPanel LA to members of the Plan Check Neighborhood Council

By Connie Acosta PlanCheck Neighborhood Council member

East Los Angeles— On Saturday morning, March 12, at the Police Station Community Room in Boyle Heights, L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin shared —with members of Plan Check NC— Planning and Land Use Audits, reports to be up soon at ControlPanel LA.

Development Impact Fees Audit

“We conducted an audit on Development Impact Fees, fees the city charges per state law,” explained City Controller Ron Galperin.

Galperin started with an overview of an audit where 17 different funds with a balance of $50-Million have been sitting stagnant for the last 3 years in the city treasury. Each fund has its own rules and uses that are so narrow the money can’t be spent he said.

“We identified the funds that were more stagnant and looked at some of the issues that were a blockage for spending that money,”

Galperin worked with the City Attorney’s Office when the audit was released to change the interpretation of the rules governing those funds. Now those funds can be put to use. “It creates a liability for the city to collect money and do nothing with it,” he said.

He said that when we do audits, I require my auditors to benchmark as best as they possibly can. In 2013 -2014, we compared Los Angeles to other cities and found that:

  • “San Francisco had $3.6 Billion in permitted construction and collected $96 Million in impact Fees.”
  • “Portland had $1.5 Billion in permitted construction, and collected $31 Million in Impact Fees.”
  • “Los Angeles had $5.3 Billion in permitted construction and collected $5 million in Impact Fees.”

“I’m not suggesting that we should ‘sock it’ to developers nor make it so expensive to build that we don’t see anything created,” said Galperin. “I am suggesting that we look at the practices of other cities, so we can have the money we so desperately need for mitigation purposes, for doing the things we need in the city of Los Angeles. It’s reasonable to see what other’s charge.”

“Watch for this coming to the PLUM committee in the near future,” he added.

Density Bonuses Audit

“There are a lot of questions about Density Bonuses that are asked,” said Ron Galperin.

Auditors from the City Controller Office are working on a Density Bonuses audit, to be completed soon. Galperin said that there are a variety of requirements that a developer needs to do in exchange for a Density Bonus. But, what has the follow-up been to those requirements?

“I don’t need to tell you that it’s been poor at best, and sometimes nonexistent,” he said.

The controller office has gone back to review the Density Bonuses that were granted and will give an analysis of what has occurred.

“I think you will find that quite interesting,“ Galperin emphasized

We could just analyze what occurred and use the findings to get answers to, “Why did you do it!” Galperin clarified that instead we begin to understand what are the systems that are not in place but need to be in place, so we can get answers and be transparent for everyone to see.

Subvention Agreements Audit

The City Controller Office will be finishing up an audit in the near future on Subvention Agreements—agreements that the City entered into with developers in terms of subsidies and incentives such as tax reliefs—notably for hotels and other projects that include Warner Center.

“Part of it, is what does and doesn’t get built. Part of it, is the way this whole thing is calculated— whether we’re getting a good deal or not, and what kind of follow-up is there?” said Galperin.

“I’ve had some real issues and problems with some of these subvention agreements because there has been a lot of money that’s been given away.”

On the other hand, Galperin noted that if a project is one that’s going to be of real benefit to the community and will not otherwise happen without the city providing an incentive, “then I’m very open to us doing that. There needs to be a real high and meaningful threshold for that to be the case and needless to say that has not occurred,” he said.

How Can Audits have Legs?

“I ‘ve focused not on having as many recommendations in an audit as possible but on how to make them as meaningful as they possibly can be,” said the city controller.

Galperin gave an example of when he hired an established accounting firm to look at “change orders” at the L.A. Airport. The firm ranked the departments by their adherence to the rules of “change orders”. One recommendation was for the departments to follow the rules with much more accuracy.

“I took issue with that recommendation,” Galperin said. If a construction project is in progress and an excavation problem arises on Friday requiring a “change order,” and if the problem is more than $10,000 —comparisons are required with other comparable jobs to find reasonable costs. So to save $500 you might stop construction for two weeks, increasing the cost to $50,000. “I have been focused on making the recommendations as business-like and as practical as possible,” said Galperin.

Page Viewers

Online at there is an Audit section where recommendations can be tracked.

City Controller Ron Galperin, who has tallied 7 million public page views since ControlPanel LA went up, was pleased to say: “This tells me, people are interested in this data.” He considers himself to be the luckiest person he knows doing a job he loves.

He concluded, “It’s endlessly interesting. I get to stick my nose into a lot of things. There are many opportunities to improve the way that our City operates.

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