New Leadership, New Priorities for the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners

BONC

The Board of Neighborhood Commissioners unanimously elected Paul Park to serve as its new President and Len Shaffer to serve as its new Vice-President at its most recent meeting.

Park’s first priority as President will be to, “build more infrastructure for the Commission, specifically to connect to other stakeholders in the system.” He wants more formalized and regular meetings between the Commission and other
institutions, including Neighborhood Councils, the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, the City Council, and the Mayor.

Park also envisions a stronger system of regional alliances, and will work to promote more “regional infrastructure” between Neighborhood Councils. He believes the East region is especially in need of attention, since the East alliances do
not meet on a regional basis.

Park’s second priority is to conduct a review of all the rules and laws in the Neighborhood Council system ordinance. He hopes to form a committee to identify and eliminate the “senseless, irrelevant, and contradictory” items. This will be the
next project after the Commission finalizes work on the booklet of Neighborhood Council Standards.

His third priority is to initiate an annual awards program to celebrate exemplary Neighborhood Councils. He explained that the Commission should use its position to oversee the entire system, and to reward the outstanding groups in addition to penalizing the policy violators. It should yield “carrots” to encourage good Neighborhood Councils to be even better, and not limit itself to the “stick” of decertification. The program will also promote sharing of best practices between
Councils by drawing attention to superlative work within Councils.

Shaffer worked with Park on the Standards Committee and he intends to participate in the ordinance review as well. “We will be rewriting the ordinance, the plan,” he said, “and taking out things that are irrelevant and putting some new policies in.”

Shaffer will push for the formation of a new Neighborhood Council Review Commission to measure the system’s progress against the Charter’s intentions, and to make recommendations for moving forward. Previously, a member of the 2006
Review Commission, Shaffer thinks that it’s time for another. He expects a new report by 2014 or 2015.

“Looking back at the 2006 review, I don’t know if we were aggressive enough or too status quo,” he says. “Today, we might look at some different ideas.”

Shaffer said the Commission will also create a taskforce to synchronize the definitions of words and the order of sections in all Neighborhood Council bylaws.

He plans to promote the adoption of a Sunshine Ordinance for Neighborhood Councils that will simplify some of the communication concerns raised by the Brown Act. As President of the Tarzana Neighborhood Council, Shaffer appreciates
the peculiar nuances of the Brown Act and its chilling effect on Council productivity.

Shaffer has been with the Tarzana Neighborhood Council since the beginning, holding the first Formation Committee meeting around his dining room table in July of 2001. He is also currently the Chair of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council
Coalition.

Park is familiar with his local Neighborhood Council of Lincoln Heights, but does not serve on the Board. He had no previous affiliation with the system before Mayor Villaraigosa appointed him to the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners in 2011.

Shaffer believes that what Park lacks in system experience, he makes up for in tenacity, describing him as “aggressive” in his approach. Park confirms that “right from the get-go” he became as active as possible within the Commission,
particularly in pushing forward the Standards project.

Attorneys by trade, both Park and Shaffer will likely reflect that background in their leadership styles. Shaffer explained they are both sticklers for regulations and precise word usage. Park has served as General Counsel for the affordable housing and community education-focused nonprofit, Cesar Chavez Foundation, since 2002.

Shaffer was a Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney for 35 years, finishing his career in the Auto Insurance Fraud Division. He now operates a small private practice in Tarzana.

Shaffer and Park agree that they work well together, and they each plan to have as productive a tenure as possible.

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