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In Neighborhood Councils, the real power comes from the voters

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Today's Daily News discusses yesterday morning's Congress of Neighborhoods where city's 89 neighborhood councils met in a convention style environment to learn skills such as media relations and working with city departments.

Throughout the day, one major focus of chatter surrounded how to "wield their increasing influence." The Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council recently succeeded in a community effort in halting a Home Depot from coming to their neighborhood. The Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council is fighting a major development with two other councils.

While certainly an important issue, land use will and always be a hot-button issue, with or without Neighborhood Councils. Development successes should be touted, but do not necessarily mean an increase of influence to the city... yet.

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So what if only a few (and literally, a few) of 10,000 possible constituents vote someone into a Neighborhood Council position? What does that say to the leaders down at City Hall? It's definitely not, "I'm a force to be reckoned with all the people who stand behind me." Unfortunately, this is the case for many, if not most, elected neighborhood councilmen and women.

The true power for Neighborhood Councils will come with voter participation. And to get that voter participation, a Neighborhood Council must walk the talk first to get noticed by the public, which leads us full circle back to how Sunlund-Tujunga got noticed.

It is this revolving circle that will eventually make Neighborhood Councils a strong and powerful entities with influence. Until the voters really start churning out, everything they do today is resume building, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Do you know what your local neighborhood council has done for your neighborhood?

Photo of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council (disclosure, author is a member of this council) by Zach Behrens/LAist