The 65th Strategy

Los Angeles City Hall released a report March 2015, “Homelessness and the City of Los Angeles”. The report showed the City had no strategy for dealing with homelessness and the vast majority of the money spent on homelessness was being spent through the Los Angeles Police Department.

A few weeks later, the County Homeless Count, taken every two years, came out. The numbers showed a 12% increase in homelessness, including an 85% increase in tent encampments and vehicles as residences.

These two government reports were the evidence for what Angelenos already bore witness: a broken system with a growing number of folks in tent encampments/vehicles living on the streets of the City of Angels and the City did not know what to do.

Eventually, a ten year plan was written to address homelessness, adopted by the City in February 2016. We are now in Year Two of this ten year plan.

This ten year plan consists of 64 separate strategies. It needs a 65th strategy: create a Skid Row Neighborhood Council.

There is currently a second attempt in Skid Row to create a Skid Row Neighborhood Council.

The first attempt goes back fifteen years, to the beginning of the Neighborhood Council system.

From Wikipedia on Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils: “The vision of a citywide system of independent and influential neighborhood councils, and the creation of a city department to guide that process, was the centerpiece of the new City Charter that was approved by the voters in June 1999. Mission Statement: To promote public participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs by creating, nurturing, and supporting a citywide system of grass-roots, independent, and participatory neighborhood councils.”

A 133 page transcript of testimony tells the epic story of this first attempt. Transcript when Commissioners heard public testimony and comments for them to decide if a Skid Row Neighborhood Council would be part of the make up of this new Neighborhood Council system when it comes to Downtown Los Angeles.

One side said it was in the best interest of Skid Row, and all of downtown, for Skid Row to have its own Neighborhood Council. The other side said it was in the best interest of Skid Row, and all of downtown, for Skid Row to be part of a Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council.

The testimony went back and forth, back and forth, and as comments from some Commissioners suggested they were leaning towards a Skid Row Neighborhood Council, the lawyer for the Downtown effort dropped the bomb on page 129 of 133 pages: “The balkanization of downtown after the good faith effort of so many people over such a long time to simply be undone by the apparently, you know, ad hoc processes used by the commission undermines the entire effort, so I respectfully request that you not certify the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council.”

The “balkanization of downtown”. Balkanization means one large country pitting two smaller countries against each other in order to control them both. It was a brilliant move by the lawyer leading the Downtown effort, paralyzing the City by tossing perhaps the ugliest accusation imaginable in their direction while at the same time dis-empowering the Skid Row grassroots effort by implying they were just political pawns.

After the Downtown lawyer was finished, the final four pages are Commissioners and City Attorneys scrambling to give the Downtown effort what it wanted, namely Skid Row. Mom. Apple Pie. Skid Row Neighborhood Council. Three examples of Americana. For the past fifteen years we’ve had Mom and Apple Pie.

The lack of a Skid Row Neighborhood Council created a vacuum and we all know nature abhors a vacuum — the space that should have been occupied the past fifteen years by a Skid Row Neighborhood Council will continue to be filled by something else. It might be the Los Angeles Police Department. It might be hopelessness. But the space will be filled.

In the By-laws for a Skid Row Neighborhood Council, the Mission has five sections. The first four are standard statements you’ll probably find in the By-laws of all 97 Neighborhood Councils in Los Angeles. The fifth reads: “To create a platform for the empowered voice of traditionally disenfranchised residents of Skid Row”.

For Skid Row, and by extension all of Downtown, to move into a healthier future, a fundamental truth has to be embraced, one that is consistently minimized — Skid Row is primarily an African American residential community.

The Neighborhood Council system is overseen by the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE).

DONE held a public information meeting in Skid Row on February 15th at the James Woods Community Center across from San Julian Park. They announced two more meetings will be held March 9th and March 29th.

The election for a Skid Row Neighborhood Council is on April 6th where Downtown “stakeholders” will vote if there should be a Skid Row Neighborhood Council or not. The Skid Row Neighborhood Council Formation Committee then held a public vote for the polling location and that will be James Woods.

DONE said the ballots, a simple Yes or No, will be counted right after the poll closes and so the public will be able to witness the counting of the ballots, meaning the folks of Skid Row and the rest of Downtown will learn the outcome right then and there.

Vote YES for a Skid Row Neighborhood Council!

And the winner is….

Skid Row lost the vote 826 to 766 and so Welcome to the World of Michaelkohlhass.org

Michael Kohlhaas is the main character from German literature in 1810. A merchant whose family suffers injustice from a corrupt economic system, after exhausting all legal remedies, Kohlhaas takes revenge with a small private army and several people are killed. As he’s about to be executed, he learns his case was unexpectedly ruled in his favor and his family will be compensated.

Michaelkohlhaas.org is a very sarcastic and sophisticated citywide website/blog filled with insightful snarky comments directed towards elected/appointed City Hall officials and their relationship with Business Improvement Districts (BIDS) courtesy of paperwork surfaced through the California Public Records Act along with detailed study of public documents like City Hall committee minutes. Michaelkohlhaas took on the Skid Row Neighborhood Council election in a big way.

Much of the Skid Row election intrigue has to do with voting process and eligibility. United Downtown L.A., a shadowy group out of nowhere but united and connected to downtown, hired the Former City Attorney of Los Angeles to block the election. That effort failed, but it did freak out some folks in City Hall.

An anonymous friend of the Skid Row Neighborhood Council effort sent information to the Skid Row Neighborhood Council Formation Committee about a “Vote No” email sent out using the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council (DLANC) logo even though the DLANC in public remained neutral. Blowing that whistle became grievances filed with DONE which eventually were heard in public by a Regional Grievance Panel of three Neighborhood Council leaders — heard in public during a meeting scheduled for two hours that went five.

At the end of the five hours, here is what the panel said as reported May 4th in the Los Angeles Times:

“The panel upheld all three challenges from skid row council organizers, who had alleged that the election was corrupted by improper campaign materials, impermissable electioneering and inappropriate endorsements.

Panel members recommended that the city investigate whether the campaigning threw the election and, if so, reverse the election results and name the skid row neighborhood council the winner.

If a determination can’t be reached, the panel asked the city to hold new ballots in 90 days, this time without online voting.”

On May 24th, DONE rejected every aspect of the panel recommendation and certified the April 6th vote totals as election complete. Throughout these several weeks, Michaelkohlhaas.org kept posting articles, sometimes speculative, sometimes rock solid facts — this actually is somewhat similar to what’s been going on in Washington D.C though I’m not going to try and identify Donald Trump and James Comey — exploring the murky world of City Hall and BIDS as it relates to undermining the Skid Row Neighborhood Council election effort.

The Skid Row Neighborhood Council Formation Committee now has a crowdfunding page raising money to pursue a lawsuit against the City.

In other words….

Snagle: cross between a snail and an American eagle

The Neighborhood Council system became part of the Los Angeles City Charter in 1999.

Says the Purpose: “…make government more responsive to local needs…”

Skid Row went for a City Certified Skid Row Neighborhood Council when the Neighborhood Councils were first created. It didn’t get one, “thanks” partly to the lawyer representing the Downtown Los Angeles Council Neighborhood Council (DLANC) effort accusing the city of “balkanization”, meaning one large country pitting two smaller countries against each other. In the wake of that accusation, which implies the grassroots folks advocating for a Skid Row Neighborhood Council were political pawns, the City quickly gave DLANC want it wanted, namely Skid Row.

Fast forward fifteen years, with the Neighborhood Council system having no provision on how to create a new Neighborhood Council out of an existing one, and City Hall working on a process to accomplish that goal, named “subdivision”. Skid Row, through the Skid Row Neighborhood Council Formation Committee (SRNCFC), was one of two neighborhoods in Los Angeles pursuing this subdivision process.

The SRNCFC application was approved by City Hall on January 11, 2017, triggering an election within 90 days. Set for April 6th, all Downtown Los Angeles “stakeholders” were eligible to vote to see if Skid Row would gets its own Neighborhood Council or remain with DLANC.

Lots of twists and turns then ensued, carefully tracked by local media. Skid Row lost the April 6th vote 826 to 766.

Lots of twists and turns then ensued, carefully tracked by local media. The SRNCFC is now preparing potential lawsuit(s).

Leading up to the April 6th vote, a major new player got dropped into the mix — United Downtown LA, and they hired the former City Attorney of Los Angeles to block the election.

United Downtown LA was the Sheriff who arrived just in the nick of time to restore order amidst an uprising of crazed Skid Row outlaws known as “activists and advocates”.

United Downtown LA was the front group for a blood-sucking capitalist cabal of Downtown developers and politicians living in their hip pocket.

Or maybe something in the middle. Or maybe not.

Michaelkohlhass.org is a muckraking website going after the murky and mucky relationship between City Hall and Business Improvement Districts (BIDS). Michael Kohlhass is a merchant in an 1810 German novella who killed people in his quest for justice only to see his quest fulfilled as he was about to be executed. (Personally, I would not want to be the founder of that website).

What Michaelkohlhass.org surfaced through the California Public Records Act is the essence of a June 21st LA Weekly article, “Who Killed The Skid Row Neighborhood Council?” In other words, who is United Downtown LA? The slightly murky answer: a network of developers organized by a couple of BIDS.

Radical is a Latin word that means root. With new shovels and a pick ax or two, hopefully snagle will pull up some root issues.

Snagle on the move….

On June 27th, the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council (snail/eagle — I’m throwing a Symbol Party) voted unanimously to send a letter to City Hall requesting an impartial investigation take place into the City Hall decision to certify the April 6th election.

The reasoning behind the letter is the belief City Hall violated its own policies and procedures in certifying the election.

This a big Skid Row deal — Eagle Rock, a completely separate section of Los Angeles than Downtown Los Angeles, sunk their Neighborhood Council teeth deep enough into this injustice to produce a well-researched and well-written letter to City Hall from folks who objectively think what happened sucks.

This is also a big Neighborhood Council deal — the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council vote suggests Skid Row is the tip of the spear in reforming the Neighborhood Council system.

UPDATE….March 2018

The Skid Row History Museum & Archive is about to open an exhibit — Skid Row Neighborhood Council. Located Downtown at 3rd and Broadway, this multi-media exhibit will last till June. Go to lapovertydept.org for details.

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