From the CD2 website
That big sigh of relief you heard this morning was from the city’s 91 neighborhood councils, who cheered a vote by the City Council Wednesday on a motion to they say will strengthen community empowerment.
The motion, by Councilmember Paul Krekorian, chair of the Education and Neighborhoods Committee, restored five positions to the embattled Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) and transfered $1.3 million to it from the Community Development Department (CDD).
“This is a budget-neutral action that does not cost taxpayers a dime, but still allows the department to function in support of neighborhood councils,” Krekorian said. “DONE’s budget and staffing have been decimated of late, so this fiscally prudent move was an important step to strengthen community participation in governance.”
In fact, DONE itself was close to decimation after the mayor proposed rolling the department into CDD during this year’s budget negotiations. Neighborhood councils railed against that proposal, fearing it would be the death knell for the community empowerment department after its funding – and staff positions – had been steadily siphoned off.
As late as 2008, DONE operated with 72 staff members to help the city’s neighborhood councils flourish. Earlier this year, as the city’s fiscal situation worsened, the department’s budget was greatly reduced as its staff was cut to 36 people. Later, that figure was slashed in half again, to 18, where it stood before Wednesday’s action.
“Today’s vote was very major,” said Barbara Monaghan-Burke, chair of the Studio City Neighborhood Council’s Government Affairs Committee. “This is just the beginning of restructuring [DONE] as an independent system so we can operate most effectively.”
The 2010-11 adopted city budget provides $1.34 million to the CDD for functions that had been performed by DONE. Pursuant to the reccomendation of Krekorian’s committee, that amount of funding was transfered out of CDD and into DONE. The additional positions are to be paid for out of that existing funding.
“We’ve never wavered in our support for this,” said Nina Royal, a member of the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council and chair of the public safety committee. “This is great. It will strengthen DONE and give us better service.”
While many of DONE’s staff fan out across the city, helping the city’s neighborhood councils solve a plethora of problems, the five new positions will work internally to help the department function and maintain a high level of accountability.
While Krekorian cheered Wednesday’s action, he added that it was one step on the road to ensuring greater neighborhood empowerment.
“Today, we sent an important message to Los Angeles that we value the importance of neighborhood councils, and my office will always stand with those who care passionately about community empowerment,” he said. “However, this is not an end, but another important step as we continue to reorganize and improve one of our city’s most important movements.”