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News

Skid Row Neighborhood Council Back On Table After Call For Investigation Into 'No' Vote

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A mural of Skid Row in 2015. (Photo by Ivan Darko via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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In April, the effort to form a Skid Row Neighborhood Council was turned down in a vote, with "no" winning by a tally of 826 to 764, according to Los Angeles Downtown News.

Now, the neighborhood council is up for consideration again, after a three-member panel recommended on Wednesday that the city investigate if campaign improprieties had affected the vote and, if so, reverse the results and install a Skid Row Neighborhood Council (SRNC), according to the L.A. Times. The recommendation also says that if the city can't come to a conclusion, there should be a new vote in 90 days.

The panel, comprised of members from other non-downtown affiliated councils, made this suggestion after fielding a number of complaints in a public forum on Wednesday. The complaints boiled down to an allegation that the Downtown L.A. Neighborhood Council (DLANC) had participated in a campaign against the formation of the SRNC, reports KPCC. As noted at L.A Downtown News, this is a violation of city bylaws.

Advocates at the forum claim that DLANC had used a "front group" called Unite DTLA to oppose the SRNC (which, if formed, would secede about 40 blocks from the DLANC). Complaints noted that Unite DTLA, in their emails urging a "no" vote, had used the DLANC logo, database and server.

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“They definitely need to be disqualified. They need to be punished to the fullest extent,” Skid Row advocate General Jeff Page said to the panel, reports KPCC. “We’re talking total irresponsibility and neglect.”

DLANC President Patti Berman said at the forum that her council had nothing to do with Unite L.A. “Someone seems to have attempted to emulate a valid [downtown council] email,” said Berman, according to the L.A. Times. “No one would like to find out more than me who’s responsible for this." She added that she'd told the sender to stop using the DLANC logo.

The panel, however, sided with SRNC advocates, saying that DLANC made no attempt to renounce Unite LA's actions, therefore leaving the impression that DLANC had indeed opposed the formation of SRNC. The panel also recommended that, should a new vote be held, the balloting should do away with online-voting, as it would put homeless voters at a disadvantage.

The Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, which oversees the 96 neighborhood councils in L.A., will receive the panel's recommendation and is expected to make a decision in about two weeks. “We’ll be looking at this very closely,” Grayce Liu, general manager at the department's office, told the Times. “It’s rare for a challenge to affect a whole election.”

As for what a neighborhood council is, exactly. The councils don't have legislative power but can serve as an influential advisory board for civic matters. "In terms of outreach in a community, [neighborhood councils] do have access to that," Seamus Garrity, who formerly served as vice chair of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, told LAist back in April. "If you have a board that is staunchly opposed to a project, that's the outreach you'll have. And if they're not opposed to it, then that's the outreach you get. It depends on who's on the board." Advocates for the formation of SRNC say that DLANC has failed to take the homeless population into consideration. "[DLANC] has done nothing. We're seeing homelessness explode—not that it's their fault—but our streets need to be cleaned, the people need to be housed," Ann Maria McCall, an organizer who's been working to promote SRNC, told LAist.

LAist called former L.A. City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, who'd represented Unite LA in a letter written to the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners (which certifies neighborhood councils), but he was not immediately available for comment.