February 14, 2014
Empower LA Newsletter header

General Manager's Update 


I hope this newsletter finds you well. Happy Valentine's Day! I think it's a great day to say, "I heart NCs!" My appreciation for Neighborhood Councils was always high, but it definitely went through the roof after my experience with the Frayser Neighborhood Council (FNC) in Memphis, TN last week. As you know, Empowerment Congress West President, David Winston, and I went to Memphis to assist the FNC through the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative because the stakeholders in Frayser think our Neighborhood Council system is the vehicle to their community empowerment, and they wanted more information from "the experts" as they called us. 


David and I thought we'd be swapping stories of Neighborhood Council successes and challenges over the years with Frayser folks. We know the struggles for influence of Neighborhood Councils in the City of Los Angeles, but Neighborhood Council leaders also understand that they have power because of their ability to organize their communities, and because in 1999, they institutionalized that power with a change in the City Charter creating Neighborhood Councils. In Memphis, things are, well, different, and David and I quickly learned the differences as many community members reminded us over the two days that we were there, "You're in the South now."


What I am going to share with you is what was told to us by community members who wanted to remain anonymous, but who also wanted Los Angeles' Neighborhood Councils to know how fortunate we are with our system in comparison to what they face. I have not spoken with Memphis officials to verify the truth of what was shared, but as we know, perception is often fact in people's eyes so Memphis officials should know that a big part of their community feel that they are disenfranchised by their own government in many ways.


Per the 2010 Census, Memphis has a population of 646,889 with 40,871 people in Frayser. Frayser is predominantly African American and the City of Memphis is 63.3% African American overall. In terms of economic security, while 26% of Memphis is below the poverty line, the percentage jumps to 55% in large areas of Frayser. The community members told us that Memphis is the poorest metropolitan city in the US and that Frayser had the highest number of foreclosures in Memphis and crime in many parts. Read this for more background on Frayser and the start of the FNC.


We were also told that Memphis is part of a blue county in a red state, and that at the state legislature level, they are referred to privately as "Memfrica" in reference to the large number of African Americans there. The community members understood that change in Frayser would not come easy even with the creation of a Neighborhood Council given the historical background of race relations between African Americans and Caucasians. They mentioned that Memphis was where one of the largest slave auction blocks was located pre-Civil War, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, where the first African American Mayor wasn't elected until the 1990s, where school district lines were recently redrawn in what their community interpreted as an attempt to prevent integration of African American and Caucasian children, and where up until a year ago, there was a park named in honor of the creator of the Ku Klux Klan. When that park's name was changed last year, the Ku Klux Klan came in full regalia to protest at Memphis City Hall. Also, in regards to the school districts, they told us it was recently announced without community input that budget cuts were going to result in the closure of up to 15 schools, which all happened to be in the predominantly African American areas of Memphis. To top off all this, Frayser was the only Memphis community that didn't get any city funded Christmas lights last year because the city said it ran out of money in that budget line item. 


I think David and my eyes were opened so wide in disbelief over the perceived inequities there that one of the community members said, "It's like you took a time machine back in time, huh? That's the way it feels here." When David and I shared what LA's Neighborhood Councils do, it was the Frayser community members' eyes that were now opened wide. They couldn't believe the City gave Neighborhood Councils money to support their community empowering efforts and the ability for Neighborhood Councils to file Community Impact Statements to advise their City Councils on Council Files. One person remarked, "It's like Neighborhood Councils put their hand out [for the money] and then turn around to kick you in the butt!"


There were questions on the struggles of effective outreach and on how our City Council members felt about giving up their power to Neighborhood Councils. I said that rather than seeing it as giving up power, it's more sharing power to make all parties more powerful overall in the end. Some people shook their heads that their politicians would see it that way. The Memphis government is set up with the Mayor having more power than their City Councilmembers, who work part time only, but in the end, both David and I reminded them that the community is ultimately the one with the power, particularly if they are organized and can organize. We could see the beginnings of hope in their eyes, and that was one thing the organizers told us was crucial when we got to Memphis: for us to share our stories so FNC leaders could see what was possible in their future. It was the whole "whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve" because too many years of disappointment had resulted in a community feeling of hopelessness that nothing will change despite their efforts.


Because of this mentality, many people in the neighborhood are looking at the FNC with suspicion, but we were impressed by the passion and desire of the board members to make their community better. In the past eight months, since the FNC held elections (where over 350 people turned out to vote, which is higher than those who turned out in that precinct to vote for municipal elections), they have held community town halls to weigh in on issues and the City seems to be listening in regards to budgeting decisions. This is impressive because unlike our Neighborhood Councils, the FNC is outside the Memphis government structure and are looking to form as a nonprofit instead. The FNC also helped organize to stop a sales tax increase (sound familiar?) that was pitched as creating an education fund, but upon further analysis, provided property tax cuts to more affluent areas of the City. It seems that it has gotten so bad for some of the communities, especially in Frayser, that people are saying enough is enough and are willing to do something about it.


While we were there, it was a bit ironic that David and I gave a talk at the National Civil Rights Museum to a group of community members outside the FNC who are also looking at forming Neighborhood Councils in their areas. We basically did a Neighborhood Councils sales pitch to them and were able to video conference in Councilmember Parks so he could give his perspective on the pros and cons of Neighborhood Councils while fielding questions. We left with the feeling that they were impressed with the possibilities of how the Neighborhood Council system could benefit their communities.


On our last day there, David and I spoke briefly at the Frayser Neighborhood Council 20/20 Plan where they were presenting their accomplishments to the community. Over a hundred people showed up despite the small snow fall the night before. Apparently, a little bit of snow shuts down Memphis traffic much like a little bit of rain does in LA. Again, we pitched the Neighborhood Council system and acknowledged the hard work of the FNC. My basic message to everyone was to: Empower Yourself. Empower Your Community. Empower Frayser. We let them know that LA is happy about the FNC and that we will be supportive partners in the future. Memphis Mayor A C Wharton stopped by to assure the Frayser community that they were part of Memphis, too, and that while LA could teach Memphis about Neighborhood Councils, LA will also be learning how they do things "Memphis style." David and I had to leave early to catch our flight, but you can read about what happened here.



So my main takeaway from the FNC and Memphis experience is that we are truly fortunate to have our Neighborhood Council system despite all the frustrations (hello, funding program, but at least we get funded!). We take for granted our over 1700 fantastic volunteer Neighborhood Council leaders and a Mayor, City Councilmembers and City departments that are doing their best to figure out how to bring the local community voice to City Hall. For all our struggles, the Neighborhood Council successes are bringing hope to communities that couldn't comprehend how their voices could matter to their electeds in the way we are doing it in Los Angeles.


The FNC will have a lot of work on its hands, especially when the federal funding runs out in June. I'll be staying in contact with them and offering our support to the youngest member of our Neighborhood Council family, particularly in the area of capacity building with our existing online trainings and possibly video conferencing in the future. We are building up quite a big Neighborhood Council team worldwide. Next week, we'll be welcoming a delegation from 19 different countries with City Attorney Mike Feuer as they learn about the Neighborhood Council system and their role in government ethics.



I know LA is known for exporting Hollywood to the rest of the world, but it looks like we're also exporting the Neighborhood Council system as well because of the amazing work of Neighborhood Council leaders and how neat is that?


Thank you for all the inspiration you provide to me and others around the planet! Have a great resident's Day weekend!



Grayce Liu,

General Manager

Department of Neighborhood Empowerment


Empower Yourself.

Empower Your Community.

Empower LA.



Mayor Eric Garcetti today appointed Ken Ziffren to be his chief advisor on motion picture and television production. Ziffren will build on the foundation laid by Tom Sherak to help Mayor Garcetti strengthen our economy and middle class by increasing local production through expanded state incentives and cutting red tape at City Hall. "Stopping runaway production is about protecting our middle class...


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In our latest update on beekeeping, we're excited to share that the City Council voted on Wednesday to request a report from the Department of City Planning on the feasibility of allowing beekeeping in R1 zones. Not only is this good news for the L.A. bee population, it's a great example of Neighborhood Councils moving an issue forward by voicing their support in the City Council. Council File 12-0785... 


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We're the Technology and User Experience (TUX) Team! Ever wonder where your Newsletter comes from, who's behind Elections events, or who can connect you to Nextdoor.com? That'd be us. Technology, Outreach and Elections are our specialty, so it's high time we introduced ourselves to you personally....


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This is a question we've been getting a lot from our NC Outreach Chairs- how do I link my NC page to the EmpowerLA.org website? If you have WordPress, it's simple. This week, we show you how with a simple step-by-step.

Here is the EmpowerLA button / image, we'd like to see on all NC websites:...


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This week, we're covering the work of the Department of City Planning. The Department has three citywide initiatives on the table, and they want your input. In March and April they will hold Community Planning Forums to address the Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles, re:code LA, and Mobility Plan 2035. First, the Draft Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles is now available for public review and public comment....


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Last week in our Public Advocate column, we told you about the DWP's report on how drought is affecting Los Angeles and efforts to save water in the city. This week Mayor Garcetti and Governor Jerry Brown met with the White House Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. The drought affecting California has set the tone for the meeting and sparked a wider discussion on how Californians...


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One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a horse master. He told me to go slow to go fast. I think that applies to everything in life. We live as though there aren't enough hours in the day but if we do each thing calmly and carefully we will get it done quicker and with much less stress. --Viggo Mortensen Greetings, Neighborhood Council Treasurers, Board Members, and stakeholders! Here's...


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Greetings and a quick update from the Administration Section of the Department. Attached to this report are two new links that will better assist the Neighborhood Council's with information pertaining to the status of Contracts and Leases. The Administration - Neighborhood Council Contract Status Link is...


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10 days after your
February NC Board Meeting
January Monthly Expenditure Reports due




Let the Fire Department know what services are most important to you

Tell Recreation and Parks what the Greek Theatre means to you





Neighborhood Council Parking Passes


Congress 2014 Planning Committee

Sat, Feb. 15
Time: 10 am - 12 noon

Denny's (outside patio)
530 Ramirez St.
Los Angeles  90012


Region 4 Candidate Workshop

Sat, Feb. 15
Time: 1:30 - 3:30 pm

North Hollywood Senior Citizen Center

5301 Tujunga Ave.

North Hollywood 91601


Education and Neighborhoods Committee Meeting
Tues, Feb. 18
Time: 1 - 3 pm

City Hall

10th Floor Conference Rm. 1010

200 North Spring Street

Los Angeles 90012



Poll Worker Workshop
Tues, Feb. 18
Time: 6 - 8 pm

Fire Station 87
Community Room
10124 Balboa Blvd
Granada Hills 91344

Westside Regional Alliance of Councils Monthly Meeting

Wed, Feb. 19

Time: 8:30 - 10 am

Lenny's Deli
2379 Westwood Blvd 
Los Angeles 90064



South Los Angeles Alliance of Neighborhood Councils Meeting

Thurs, Feb. 20
Time: 6:30 - 8:30 pm

Community Health Councils
3731 Stocker - Suite 201
Los Angeles 90008




Email City Hall at
Council File
Hot Sheet


Active Council Files that affect Neighborhood Councils citywide, which your Neighborhood Council may want to weigh in on:


Neighborhood Council System:

Scheduled in Education and Neighborhoods Committee  2/18  


13-1685 Information and Communication Network / Neighborhood Council and Public Use / Creation and Maintenance

Scheduled in Education and Neighborhoods Committee  2/18


11-1017-S1 Investigate Allegations of Discrimination and Harassment; Training of NC Board Members

11/19  Education and Neighborhoods Committee  continued to date TBD  


12-1682-S1 New Neighborhood Council Stakeholder Definition

Pending in Education and Neighborhoods Committee   
11/19 Education and Neighborhoods Committee continued to date TBD

11/19 Education and
Neighborhoods Committee continued to date TBD; Department report dated 11/19 received

11-1018  Neighborhood Council Grievance Policy and Process
Approved by City Council 12/3; City Attorney to draft ordinance to be effective 7/1/14 

Citywide Issues:


Referred to Planning and Land Use Management Committee 1/28

1/14 Department to report to Planning and Land Use Management Committee in 60 days


13-1152-S1 Hydraulic Fracturing / Fracking / Prohibition of Well Stimulation Activities

Referred to Energy and Environment Committee and Planning and Land Use Management Committees 9/4


13-1374 Prohibit growth of genetically modified crops within City

Referred to Arts, Parks, Health, Aging, and River

Committee 12/3 


13-1513 Increase Number of Cats Allowed Per Residence From Three To Five 

11/19 Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee

continued to date TBD 


13-0025-S1 Rewards for Hit-and-Run Crimes 

Referred to Budget and Finance; 2/14 Public Safety Committee continued for 60 days  

2/12 City Council  adopted Planning and Land Use Management Committee report as amended for Planning and Animal Services to report back to PLUM in 60 days

08-2020 Sign Ordinance Revision
Proposed ordinance pending in Planning and Land Use Committee; 10/17 Planning Director's and City Attorney's reports received 

13-0046 Consolidation of Planning and Building and Safety Departments, etc.    

Approved by City Council 5/29; Motion to delay consolidation introduced 9/13; Approved by City Council 11/6; Planning and Land Use Committee approved as amended 12/3; 12/11 City Council approved; Mayor approved 12/17 

13-1300-S1  Street Repair and Safety General Obligation Bond Program 

 24 recommendations approved by City Council 8/21; CLA and CAO report approved by Council 9/17; Mayor signed 9/27 


13-0953 Citywide Municipal WiFi Initiative

Approved as amended by City Council 11/5


 13-0941  Sidewalk Repair Adjoining Property Owner  Fee Elimination  

 Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee approved as amended 12/4; Budget and Finance Committee approved 2/10; Scheduled in City Council 2/18  


13-0909  DWP Unlimited
Sick Pay Policy

Referred to Energy and Environment Committee  7/26

09-2645 - Cell Tower (AGF) Regulations in Public
Right of Way

Approved as amended by  Planning and Land Use and Public Works and Gang Reduction Committees 10/8; City Attorney requested to prepare ordinance


Five year effort underway; updates at recode.la


11-0262 - State Licensed Facilities/Community Care Facilities

1/15 Ad Hoc Committee on Community Care Facilities continued to date TBD

Review all new 
City Council Files


City Clerk's Referral Memoranda


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City Council Files


Council File
Management System

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