Councilman Parks looking to better Neighborhood Councils

imageTen years ago the Neighborhood Council system began to try to make city call more responsive to all parts of the city. Volunteers from all over Los Angeles dedicate their own time to tackling problems in their neighborhoods. They are people like Iona Diggs, who is on Chair of the Voices of 90037. Diggs was recently interviewed by Journalist Melissa Leu.

“The reason I’m on there is because I’m dedicated to improving our neighborhood because I care,” Diggs said. “I care about where I live, I care about the people in the neighborhood.”

The councils were started to increase community participation in political processes, but they have faced problems. That’s why 8th district Councilmember Bernard Parks is hosting a series of five meetings throughout the city. Parks was recently named the chair of the Educations and Neighborhoods committee, which oversees neighborhood councils.

“As long as there are concerns out there about how well they spend money, and are the elections fair and was it truly stakeholders that were voting and elected the board members. If there are those outstanding issues, then that kind of gives an excuse for them to not be taken seriously,” said Dennis Gleason, Park’s Press Deputy. “So he’s really hoping that he’ll be able to strengthen the system to they can really have a stronger role in the LA city government.”

Sometimes neighborhood councils have a hard time simply functioning and getting enough people to the meetings. Linda Lucks is on the Board of Neighborhood Commissions and also President of the neighborhood council. She is hoping the meetings address these issues.

“It’s really hard for grassroots organization like neighborhood councils to function and to grow and to be affective. We need help in that regard and in my opinion, tightening up the rules. There needs to be some standardization and conformity to make it easier for people to function on the same page.”

In Los Angeles, 15 council members represent 4 million citizens, which breaks down to 250,000 people per councilmember. Because of this, 8th district Press Deputy Gleason says these neighborhood councils are essential.

“They really help people zero in on what’s important to the community and what needs to be paid attention to,” Gleason said.

John F. John formerly served on the Griffith Park Neighborhood council and has been active in other councils.

“It’s important for neighborhood activists to attend Councilmember Parks outreach meetings because he’s a new Chairman of this committee and we want to impress upon him the importance of neighborhood council,” John said.

Chair of the Voices Iona Diggs says her dedication keeps her going to the meetings.

“I’m committed to what I started and that’s in helping our neighbors,” Diggs said. “We are having problems getting people committed and out. We’re telling people, don’t you care about your neighborhood, don’t you care about the things in your neighborhood?”

After they get comments from the meetings, Parks says he will come up with motions to bring changes to the neighborhood council system.

Voices of 90037: Iona Diggs

imageFor the past four months, journalist and USC student Melissa Leu visited the monthly meetings of the neighborhood council Voices of 90037. During her time, she found out a lot about how hyper-local politics operate in underserved communities. Voices of 90037 represent the a strip just north of Watts. It sits between the 110 and Flower Street, south of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to 62nd Street.

Leu captures the challenges and inspiration of the Voices of 90037 through a series profiling members of the council.

Voices of 90037 Neighborhood Council Chair Iona Diggs has served on the council since its inception 8 years ago. Although she’s retired now, Diggs stays active in her community through volunteer work with the LAPD and neighborhood council duties.