Is it time to pull the plug?
PHOTO: Headington Media
A tarnished commission sits atop a tarnished agency.
The sudden, shocking resignation of Board of Neighborhood Commissions president Al Abrams, owing to child pornography possession allegations, certainly marks personal a crisis for Abrams and his family. But the way the Neighborhood Council movement unfolds from this point forward must also certainly be considered in the wake of Abrams' resignation, if only because the news draws further attention to the many problems at the City's most beleaguered agency.
Presently, there are now two vacancies on the commission (the City's website does not reflect this as of this writing). Presently, there are four motions pending in City Council that seek to revamp the system. And presently, Brown Act grievances already strain a system that simply does not represent, in many cases, even one percent of a neighborhood.
Remember, it was only a week ago, before this shocking resignation, that one watchdog in the City was already calling for a conservator for the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE).
It must also be acknowledged that after 10 years of "empowerment," the neighborhood council system has not enhanced numbers at the polls in City elections.
It may be that the system is simply too unwieldy, too under-constructed, too much of a City afterthought to manage. But the City is spending nearly $5 million dollars on this decade-old experiment, which is now in need of substantial overhaul if it is to work at all, and for which none of the proposed remedies include bringing checks and balances to a system that has none. The problems of BONC, of DONE, of the City's 95 neighborhood councils are now at minimum a distraction, and more likely than not an enormous drain on the City's resources.
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