Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Vote for Me
I am trying to think of a short essay in which I state several reasons people should vote for me and not for someone else. It wouldn't be fair to the others to dwell on my good looks or my sweet disposition. It also wouldn't be fair to brag about my education (Ph.D. in Physics, University of Illinois, 1951). None of these good qualities has any bearing on whether I am the best person to be a member of a neighborhood council.
Neighborhood councils were established in Los Angeles a few years ago. Unlike many American cities, our elected council members represent large districts. There are only 15 council seats for a city of at least four million. Each council person represents about 300,000 residents. That's much too large for a representative district. Rather than increase the size of the council, the people of Los Angeles chose instead to create another level of representation. Neighborhood councils have public meetings at least once a month. In addition, they have committees that meet at least monthly to consider specific problems or projects. The function of these bodies is to determine (and perhaps lead) public opinion on various matters, study and try to reach sensible conclusions about the issues and policies, and advise the members of the City Council of their findings and conclusions. A resident who favors or opposes some program may find it difficult to attend meetings of the City Council where the program is considered. The same resident can more easily attend a meeting of the Neighborhood Council for his or her area and speak to the council members about the matter.
Although they have no power, Neighborhood Councils have exerted some significant influence on some policy matters. A year or two ago the city fathers and the local Democratic machine wanted to have the public vote for a ballot proposition that dealt with mounting solar panels on the roofs of buildings within the city. Local activists objected to a detail in the proposed law. The measure specified that the work of installing the solar panels would be done exclusively by the members of a certain labor union. The union had the reputation of gaining very high salaries for its members. Other unions, whose members were capable of doing the same work, would be frozen out. There were other objections to the measure as well. Neighborhood Councils objected that they had not been consulted when the details of the measure were being drawn up. (According to the law that established neighborhood councils, the councils should have been consulted and allowed to express their approval or opposition.) Members of the Neighborhood Councils were able to publicize their objections to the measure. As a result, the measure lost. It was a set-back for the Mayor, the Democratic County Committee, and the union.
I have some issues that I would like to persuade a Neighborhood Council to support. One is to provide specified places for day laborers to congregate while waiting for jobs. The spaces should provide shelter from the hot sun in most of the year, from rain, from cold winds, and other uncomfortable aspects of our weather. I would go so far as to maintain a list of workers, so that they could be chosen in rotation, much like workers in a union hiring hall. The spaces - actually, small buildings - would also provide clean toilets, clean drinking water, and other amenities. I have been told that the Neighborhood Council to which I aspire to be a member has a completely different attitude regarding day laborers. They want them to go away - far away. If I am elected and choose to advance this issue, I may run into some very noisy and probably rude opposition from the other members. I'll wait and see. Of course, I may not be elected.