By Lisa Johnson
(as read at the DLANC Board Swearing in Ceremonies)
Early on it began with just a few insightful individuals who had vision and hope for a vibrant and community oriented Downtown.
Little did they know that nearly 18 months later their vision had become a reality. The groundwork has been laid, the boundaries set, but how did we get from there to here?
Outline June 26, 2001 was the first, of what was to be many, General Membership meetings. What has often been, loving called the “large group". After which many more monthly meetings occurred which almost became a ritual for some. On this day, it was to roll out the new vision and plan for the Downtown community. Some meetings accomplished some great work and others…well we’d rather not revisit some of those days.
With little guidance from the City Charter or from the newly created Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, the Formation Committee, then called the Planning Committee, attempted to breakdown the enormous task at hand, into compartmental units that would be more manageable and less overwhelming.
By July of 2001 the General Membership Meeting broke into four (4) committees. The Issues Committee, the Outreach Committee, the Governance or Bylaws Committee, and the infamous Boundaries committee. Boy we were a sight to see at nearly 30 people to each committee. Many of us were unsure if a group this large could work together as a single unit and accomplish the enormous tasks at hand. Many of us remember the incredible debates that were to come over the coming months for the Bylaws & Boundaries committees. By the end many were wishing they had chosen the Issues or Outreach committees.
While the Governance Committee grappled with equal representation, and what does “STAKEHOLDER" really mean anyway. The Boundaries Committee struggled with the difference between “inclusiveness" and “land-grabbing", while also trying to create a boundary that would be truly representative of the downtown community. Both committees took hits and criticism from the public and from the media, but in the end they stayed the course and finished the task.
Then the war began… The Brewery, the Artist Belt, Little Tokyo, and HCNC. We collected the signatures, we distributed the flyers we gained the support. By December we were ready to submit our application. We submitted our application, our evidence, all our facts, and then the wait began… When the news came that we had overlapping boundaries, we were ready… We were diplomatic, amicable and successful in creating mutual agreements with our conflicting neighbors.
Then came the hearing… and the bomb was detonated on April 27th 2002. By the end of the 8 hour hearing the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners was successful in annihilating our boundaries, ignored our mutual agreements, and personally insulted many of our members. Our members stood their ground until the personal assassinations began. However, our committee members stood in unity and had attempted to rescinded our application.
Upon further discussions and long deliberations on what our next steps should be the General Membership determined that we would follow through with the appeal, but that we would in the end accept our Certification. We agreed that at some point in the future, the Board of Directors could appeal the BONC decision on behalf of the excised communities upon the request of the community. In the end, when all was said and done most committee members walked away with a sense of pride. The pride in working through our differences and overcoming the obstacles in order to obtain a truly solid foundation that the community could stand on and fortify the future of the Downtown community.
To that end, the volunteers were once again called upon to carry the ball forward, an Election still needed to be conducted. It was to be a daunting task that fell upon a core of twelve committee volunteers. Tuesday night at The Metropolitan had almost become a ritual. Many of us will think of this period of our lives every Tuesday for sometime to come.
After a short time there was a realization that this cannot possibly be completed in 30 days. Fortunately the General Membership agreed and allowed more time. With the initial panic wearing off, it was down to business. Forms began to be created, a plan began to develop, and debates over to do or not to do began.
Then there was the question of absentee or no absentee. To answer that question we referred to the early days. What always stuck throughout each committee’s mission? INCLUSIVENESS. That principal, decided it. No matter what we might of thought to be easiest or convenient. It was really about wanting to give each homebound person, or disabled person, the ability to vote and be apart of their community. So the rush to produce an Election began.
The word goes out… Posters are distributed, flyers go out in full force, the Town Crier penetrates the city, press releases begin, and an amazing Forty Thousand (40,000) mailers get distributed.
SUCCESS! We achieved it! In less than one week 12 people served 1284 absentee voters and gave them the opportunity to be apart of their community. By that one achievement we had already conquered every other neighborhood council in shear turnout. Now came phase two.
Election Day… September 17th, a historical day for the Downtown community. With color coded Ballots, a Registration Log and plenty of extra Voter Registration forms the volunteers were ready to create another success. Although short of volunteers, the Elections committee overcame the odds and managed to serve an additional 900+ voters.
Although given the overwhelming success of the election each committee member secretly and not so secretly wished that they were more experienced at this and had had more time. Unfortunately, with every negative slander, or less than constructive criticism we are reminded that there are those who will never understand the dedication and commitment it takes to conduct and complete a project of this magnitude. They will never understand because they weren’t there. They did not participate, they did not engage, but chose to judge those who sacrificed their time, commitment and passion for their community.
So here we are… The final act to solidify our future as a community in our local government. To have an impact on the future of Downtown. It is up to you our chosen representatives, to either positively or negatively effect that future. It is up to you the General Membership to keep your representatives focused on the issues. As a community you MUST participate, go to the meetings, sacrifice some of your time, and communicate your opinion.
Lastly, Downtown as a community is vibrant and alive. We are waking from our ten-year slumber and ready to take our place as the “West Coast" New York. We have so much more to offer, to experience, and to contribute than any other major city in the United States. But, we must stand up and make it happen. Through Neighborhood Council we can help create solutions. We can help our Politicians, Developers and our City Service Providers determine the priorities for our community.
Congratulations! Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council.