Advocacy 101: Get Involved with Your Neighborhood Council
Many have been talking about the presidential election in 2016. In the City of Los Angeles, we have another important election coming up very soon this year: 95 neighborhood councils will be electing their board of directors. Do you know your neighborhood council? Are you interested in getting more involved with your community and bicycle advocacy, but don’t know how? Here is your guide to neighborhood councils and 2016 election process.
What is a Neighborhood Council?
Neighborhood Councils (NC) are city-certified local groups made up of people who live, work, own property or have some other connection to a neighborhood. Neighborhood Council board members are elected or selected to their positions by the neighborhoods themselves. There are currently 95 neighborhood councils throughout the City of Los Angeles.
Neighborhood Council board size varies across the City from 7 to over 30 individuals depending on what the neighborhood believes will meet its needs. They hold regular meetings—at least one every three months. Many Councils hold meetings more often and have working committees as well. Committees often meet more often than the entire Governing Board and discuss various local issues related to their committee. Many NCs have transportation, mobility, planning, or land use committees that consider transportation related issues in their neighborhood.
Why it is important to get involved with a neighborhood council?
A neighborhood council is a place for residents to openly discuss about various local issues, including infrastructure projects, new developments, safety issues and such. Decisions made in an NC meeting are often considered to be from the collective political voices of the community whether they truly represent their stakeholders or not. NCs have better access to public information, the city agencies, and their elected officials than individuals could. Even though NCs do not possess any legal authority, they can affect city decisions by submitting community impact statements (CIS) to the City Council, talking directly to elected officials, or advocating for causes that they care about. Elected officials tend to maintain close relationships with NCs in their council district and take their opinions seriously because NCs (are supposed to) play the role of messenger between individual constituents and the City.
When the City is doing community outreach for a project, often they reach out to NCs which will be affected by the project. Bicycle infrastructure projects are not exceptions. When the City tries to implement a bike lane on the Bicycle Master Plan, it is required to go through a community outreach process that includes public hearings, open houses, and written comments. City staff often goes to NC meetings to present a project to get their support. Without support from NCs, it is very hard to convince a council member (the decision maker) to approve the project because it can be interpreted that his/her constituents do not want the project to move forward. For example, the Westwood Neighborhood Council and nearby homeowners associations oppose proposed bike lanes on Westwood Blvd and have effectively lobbied their council member to block the project from implementation and try to remove it from Mobility Plan 2035.
As Mobility Plan 2035 moves forward and real projects are considered, the City will reach out to each NC to get input and feedback on projects in its area. When the conversations happen, bicycle advocates should be ready to participate actively to demonstrate support in their community. This election is a great opportunity for bicycle advocates to lead the discussion about street safety projects in their community. Some NCs are more bicycle-friendly than others. Many are not familiar with concepts and benefits of complete streets. You can be a local leader that facilitates open conversation about safety of our streets and gathers support for upcoming projects.
How do I find my Neighborhood Council?
– Click HERE and type in an address and look for your Neighborhood Council.
Watch this video about what is a neighborhood council and what it means to become a NC candidate.
LA Neighborhood Council and Service Region Map by EmpowerLA.org
2016 Neighborhood Council Election
Every two years, most neighborhood councils elect a new board of directors.
Am I qualified to run for an election?
Yes, if you live, work, or have a stake in a neighborhood, you are qualified to run for your NC.
How and when do I register as a candidate?
The City is divided into 12 Service Region and each region has a different election date. Candidate filing is open for 45 days and will close 60 days prior to each NC election. All potential candidates will file for candidacy online on the EmpowerLA website. For example, the election date for Region 1 is April 2nd, which means that their registration deadline is February 2nd. If you’re interested in running for a NC board in the San Fernando Valley, you have only one week left to register. Read these guidelines carefully and visit HERE to register as a candidate now.
Can I vote and how?
Absolutely. Neighborhood Council elections are open to voters who are qualified stakeholders within the boundaries of the Neighborhood Council. You are a stakeholder if you live, work, own property, go to school, are involved in a community-based organization, or a member of a religious organization within the boundaries. The City is divided into 12 regions as shown in the map, and each region has a different election date. Your neighborhood council may have one or more polling locations. Check their website for more details. Voter turnout is very low for most NC elections. Your vote can really make an impact.
Starting this year, EmpowerLA is introducing online voting. In the City of L.A., 35 of the 96 Neighborhood Councils (listed below) are piloting online voting for their elections, which provides an opportunity for voters to register in advance of the election day and vote from a desktop computer, a tablet, or a smartphone. If your neighborhood council offers online voting, please register to vote and make sure to vote on a election day. Also, 12 of the 35 (denoted with an * below) offer Interactive Voice Response (touch-tone phone) voting for their stakeholders.
Canoga Park | Central Alameda* | Del Rey | Downtown LA | Empowerment Congress North*| Empowerment Congress Southeast* | Empowerment Congress Southwest | Empowerment Congress West | Encino | Glassell Park | Greater Valley Glen | Harbor Gateway North| Historic Cultural | Historic Highland Park | LA 32* | Lake Balboa | Lincoln Heights* | Mid City* | Mid City West* | North Hills West | North Hollywood Northeast | Northridge East| Northridge West | Olympic Park* | Palms | Panorama City | Porter Ranch | Reseda* | Silver Lake | South Robertson | Studio City* | Sylmar* | West Hills | Wilmington | Zapata-King*