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In Re: City Staffers on Neighborhood Councils

News Analysis: Some notable City Council staffers, like Paul Michael Neuman, also serve on Neighborhood Council boards. This threatens Neighborhood Councils as stand-alone institutions, leaves them vulnerable to gaming by Councilmembers, and works against the democratic principle of checks and balances.

I was looking at this mess of a screed by a Weekly scribe named Amanda Becker, in which she parrots the City's line on the matter of the Sunset Junction Malfunction precisely, vilifying Sunset Junction's promoters and letting the City skate.

The article is a complete fiasco, a pastiche of stale quotes and bad history--usual Weekly news "analysis"--but one thing in particular jumped out at me.

In the piece, she calls Paul Michael Neuman "a 30-year Silver Lake resident and a representative on the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council."

She downplays Neuman's day job--as Councilman Paul Koretz's communications director.

In fact, she breezily quotes Neuman as saying "there's reason not to trust the people running it"--which is not only the position of Neuman's NC, but as it happens precisely the contention of several City Councilmembers too.

The broader issue in the Sunset Junction fiasco may yet emerge to be: should we allow Council staffers to sit on Neighborhood Council boards at all, even while they are receiving privileged information--and likely pressures from City Councilmembers as well--in their roles as City civil servants?

Would we allow, say, a White House staffer to be a standing elected member of the House of Representatives? Who would we expect that person to represent--their constituency or their President?

Would we allow a staffer in Governor Brown's office to be a State Assemblymember? Who would we expect that person represent--their constituency or their Governor?

What happens to checks and balances in these over-privileged arrangements?

The opportunities for foul play here are inordinate. Myself, I don't believe that City Council staffers like Paul Michael Neuman should be allowed to serve on Neighborhood Councils as board members at all. Period. It's certainly a worthwhile debate to have, but I can't imagine many will be willing to take the side of duality. When it comes to civic representation, duality = duplicity in my book.

But what I would also like to know is, in this case, how did so many communications directors for City Councilmembers come to the same conclusion about Sunset Junction--the very same conclusion that Amanda Becker comes to--at the very same time? Did Neuman use his City role--rather than his Neighborhood Council role--to promote the junk memes that have ceaselessly circulated since Andrea Alarcon nixed the Street Fair's permits?

I think City Council should now launch an investigation into how information regarding vilifying a particular vendor came to be known by so many City personnel at the same time. Did Neuman use his City staffer relationships and contacts to promote his Neighborhood Council agenda? Or vice versa? If either is true, given his dual roles, it is nearly impossible to tell which boss he was serving while promoting his notion that "there's reason not to trust the people" running the Street Fair.

We need an investigation into this matter, and we need it while the facts are fresh.

And I also am more broadly wondering if Paul Michael Neuman's relationship to City Councilmembers through his employment in Koretz's office influenced his actions on his own Neighborhood Council. I think the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment should consider invalidating all such dual roles as soon as possible.


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